I recently stumbled over the following article on the Web. It is written by Dr. Ellen Birnbaum, published on October 17, 2018, and last updated on March 18, 2023:
‘What Caused the War Between the Kings? Philo’s Dual Interpretation,’ TheTorah.com.
Birnbaum presents her article thus: “In his account of Abraham’s life, the first-century thinker Philo of Alexandria skillfully interprets the bewildering details in the story of the war between the four and five kings. Understanding the tale on a literal and allegorical level, he offers intriguing suggestions about what motivates both powerful rulers and forces within the soul.”
Furthermore, Dr. Birnbaum writes (excerpted by me:TS): “Modern scholars have noted a disjunction between the story of the war between the four and five kings in Genesis 14 and the surrounding narrative about Abraham. E. A. Speiser, for example, observes: “Genesis xiv stands alone among all the accounts in the Pentateuch, if not indeed in the Bible as a whole. The setting is international, the approach impersonal, and the narration notable for its unusual style and vocabulary.”
“Beyond its incompatibility with the surrounding narrative, the chapter itself presents a number of bewildering details. It opens with a list of kings with strange names from unfamiliar places. A group of these kings served one of them, Chedorlaomer, for twelve years but rebelled in the thirteenth. Before we learn more about this uprising, though, we must first wade through another confounding list of peoples and lands subdued by Chedorlaomer. It is a relief to reach the end of Gen 14:9, which summarizes the conflict simply as “four kings against the five.”
“Who are all of these kings and where are these various places? Moreover, why did five kings revolt against the other four, and why and how is this battle relevant to the rest of the stories in Genesis?”
Philo of Alexandria: “These problems did not go unnoticed by the first-century biblical interpreter Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.E.-50 C.E). Living in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, Egypt, Philo was thoroughly immersed in both Jewish tradition and Greek culture. In fact, he firmly believed that the best of Greek teachings were already anticipated by the Jewish lawgiver Moses.
Influenced by the Platonic distinction between body and soul, Philo believed that besides their literal meaning, the Mosaic writings contained deeper truths about the soul. To uncover these truths, he used allegorical interpretation, whereby he understood concrete details to symbolize abstract values. According to this approach, for example, Abram’s departure from the land of the Chaldeans symbolizes the soul’s leaving behind a way of thinking that equates creation with the Creator.
Philo fully demonstrates this dual approach when he discusses the war between the kings in a biographical treatise on Abraham known as On the Life of Abraham (Abr.). It appears that he intends this treatise for a broad audience, which may have included both Jews and non-Jews, whether friendly or hostile. Since he wishes to present the Mosaic teachings in the best possible light, Philo reshapes the biblical narratives to make them as interesting and appealing as he can, while at the same time showing them to convey moral or religious lessons.”
The reader should read the rest of the article, using this link: https://www.thetorah.com/article/what-caused-the-war-between-the-kings-philos-dual-interpretation#