Genesis 14:11 says the four kings plundered Sodom and “left”. The next verse says they took Lote, “the brother of Abraham, and left”. Why did they leave twice? We already know Lote is Abraham’s brother (nephew) - why tell us this again? The next verse says that this news was told to Abraham the “Ivri”. Why in this verse alone is Abraham given the appellation “Ivri”? (As we said last week, Ivri means he was of a different philosophy than the idolaters.) Finally, in verse 16, Abraham returns “the spoils, and Lote his brother”. Shouldn’t the verse first mention Lote, and then mention the spoils? After all, is this not why Abraham retaliated?
I believe there is one answer: Abraham retaliated primarily as a defense of monotheism. Recognizing that the kings captured Lote, a secondary act, unconnected with their initial plunder of Sodom, Abraham understood Lote’s capture as an act of attacking Abraham’s fame, his monotheism, expressed in kidnapping Abraham’s brother. This is why Abraham is referred to only here as Ivri: here, he was acting in the capacity of a monotheist. This also explains why Lote is not mentioned first upon Abraham’s return of the spoils: Lote was not the focus; rather, it was the defense of monotheism. Had Lote been mentioned first, the reader might assume Abraham was merely protecting an individual life, or that he was partial to a relative. In fact, Abraham’s mission here, was much broader: he retaliated to protect not one life, but all of mankind by defending monotheistic beliefs, insuring that no attack of God’s fame is successful.