Following an Ancient Custom
by Ronald W Robey
An ancient Babylonian practice may be relevant to the events we read in Genesis 14 of Abraham giving tithes of war spoils to Melchizedek.
How is an ancient Babylonian practice relevant to Abraham’s tithe? Because, prior to moving to Mamre on the lower east side of the Dead Sea, Abraham (then Abram at the time) lived in Ur of the Chaldees…a country in ancient Babylonia.

Genesis 15:7 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.

Abram worked in his father’s idol shop in Ur of the Chaldees. He would have been aware of the customs that were observed and practiced. It is possible that Abram’s giving tithes to Melchizedek was simply him trying to observe the custom of the day.
That Abraham was following a custom can easily be seen when one considers both Historical records along with the text of Genesis 14.
On the Historical aspect, the British Museum houses two clay tablets dating circa 2200 BC. The cuneiform etchings tell how victors of war gave tithes of the spoils to kings. Sound familiar?
Prof. G. Maspero of Oxford authored a book in 1896 titled “The Struggle of the Nations”. This book records that ancient Babylonians tithed war spoils to their kings.
For the Biblical aspect, we need only look at Genesis 14:16-23 & Hebrews 7:4.
Genesis 14:16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

Hebrews 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

Where did Abraham give the tithes of war spoils? In Shaveh…also known as the “the kings’ valley
Why would Shaveh be called “the kings’ valley“?  The text seems to imply that kings met at Shaveh after a battle was won. We do see in the text that two kings, Bera and Melchizedek, went to the valley to meet with Abraham after Abraham’s successful battle against the five kings..
Melchizedek left his home in Salem and traveled to Shaveh. The Biblical text tells us also that Bera king of Sodom went out before him.
So, we have two kings going to the kings’ valley. For what purpose? Again, we see Abraham gave Melchizedek tithes of all. (the all is defined by Genesis 14:16 and Hebrews 7:4) After giving tithes to Melchizedek, Bera confronts Abraham and tells him to “Give me the people and keep the goods“.
I see in the text of Genesis 14:16-23 that both kings went out to meet Abraham after Abraham had slaughtered the wicked kings in Hobar. I believe they both went for the purpose of collecting that tithe that was due to a king. Melchizedek was the one Abraham chose to give the expected tithe to…possibly because Melchizedek was known as “priest of the Most High God.”
Abraham had already promised God that he would not take any of the spoils as his own property. And so, after tithing to Melchizedek, Abraham returned all of Bera’s property to Bera…”save that which the men have eaten“.