Morey Schwartz
The Third Story

Abram’s 318: The Moral Decision to Go to War

IDF soldiers from the Nahal Brigade operating in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, Creative Commons, Public Domain

A family member kidnapped.

A massive war is raging.

The moral decision is made quickly – there is no time to waste.

The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they left. They also carried off with them Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew…. When Abram heard that his kin had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his nephew Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.  (Genesis 14:11-16)

Abram the Hebrew – the one from the other side, the one who was different – our ancestor who had devoted his life to offering everyone he met a different way of life, an alternative outlook on the value of living, a holy life with a mission to bring blessing into the lives of all the families of the earth – found himself suddenly confronted with a moral dilemma. His nephew had been abducted, taken captive by armies that had ransacked and looted the city of Sodom. A refugee of the attack had come and given word to Abram – for he knew that the kidnapped victim was, like Abram, a Hebrew -someone “from the other side” – a man who behaved and believed differently than others.

And then Abram, the man of peace, the father of all nations, prepared to do anything and everything necessary to bring back the captives and to bring an end to this tyranny.

There is a time for peace, and there is a time for war.

Abram took all 318 of his men – students, devotees who were committed to Abram’s mission, and they set out to do whatever needed to be done – no matter the cost.

Although I have never been big into biblical codes, the fact that the Torah tells us the exact number of fighters – 318 – has got to make one wonder about the significance of that number.  And so, I discovered, that 318 is actually a significant number – it is the sum total of the 12 prime numbers between 7 and 49 (also two very significant numbers in the Bible).  That is to say, the sum of 7+11+13+17+19+23+29+31+37+41+43+47=318.

Prime numbers are numbers with one unique quality – they are not able to be divided.

And specifically, to get to the number 318, we are adding up 12 numbers – perhaps a reference to the descendants of Abram who would make up the 12 tribes of Israel.

So maybe this is the message:

Abram set out on his mission to return his kidnapped nephew and to set his world back into order.  He set out with a unified, indivisible army united in their commitment to the mission of Abram – to make the world a better place for all of humankind.  No doubt there were casualties, not all 318 survived – but their righteous cause was destined to triumph.

As Abram emerged from the battle, he was approached by King Melchizedek, the King of Shalem (which means whole or complete – thought by the rabbis to be another name for Jerusalem.) Melchizedek had born witness to the miraculous battle and the ensuing victory, as Abram and his 318 soldiers took on four nations and emerged victorious.  He praised Abram, calling out “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth. And blessed by God Most High, who has delivered your foes into your hand.” (14:19-20)

As God was with Abram, God is with all those who stand up now – every nation around the world, every citizen and soldier of Israel united against this malicious and brutal attack that has been brazenly carried out in the name of Allah.  Like the 318, let us ALL move forward united in our not-to-be-deterred objective of returning the kidnapped and destroying Hamas once and for all.

God Most High, the architect of all life and source of all blessing is on our side.

12 tribes – one God – indivisible.

About the Author
As International Director. Rabbi Dr. Morey Schwartz, advances the work of the Florence Melton School as he seeks out and assesses new opportunities to enhance Melton’s global impact through communal, national and international partnerships and other strategic relationships. He is also an author, teacher and registered mohel, living in Israel since 2000.
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