|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:17-20 Melchizedek is spoken of as a king of Salem, supposed to be the place afterwards called Jerusalem, and it is generally thought that he was only a man. The words of the apostle, Heb 7:3, state only, that the sacred history has said nothing of his ancestors. The silence of the Scriptures on this, is to raise our thoughts to Him, whose generation cannot be declared. Bread and wine were suitable refreshment for the weary followers of Abram; and it is remarkable that Christ appointed the same as the memorials of his body and blood, which are meat and drink indeed to the soul. Melchizedek blessed Abram from God. He blessed God from Abram. We ought to give thanks for other's mercies as for our own. Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, is the Mediator both of our prayers and praises, and not only offers up ours, but his own for us. Abram gave him the tenth of the spoils, Heb 7:4. When we have received some great mercy from God, it is very fit we should express our thankfulness by some special act of pious charity. Jesus Christ, our great Melchisedek, is to have homage done him, and to be humbly acknowledged as our King and Priest; not only the tithe of all, but all we have, must be given up to him.
Verse 18. - And Melchisedeck. "King of righteousness" (Hebrews 7:2); an indication that the Canaanitish language was Shemitie, having been probably 'adopted from the original Shemite inhabitants of the country. Not a titular designation, like Augustus, Pharaoh, or Malek-ol-adel (rexjustus) of the Mohammedan kings (Cajetan), but the name of a person; neither an angel (Origen), nor the Holy Ghost (Hieracas), nor some great Divine power (the Melchisedecians), all of which interpretations are baseless conjectures; nor Christ (Ambrose), which is contrary to Hebrews 6:20; Norghem (Targums, Lyre, Willet, Luther, Ainsworth), which Hebrews 7:3 sufficiently negatives; but most probably a Canaanitish prince by whom the true faith was retained amid the gloom of surrounding heathenism (Josephus, Irenaeus, Eusebius, Calvin, A Lapide, Delitzsch, Keil, Rosenmüller, Candlish, Bush), though it has been suggested that "the enlightenment of the king of Salem was but a ray of the sun of Abram's faith" (Kalisch), an opinion difficult to harmonize with Hebrews 7:4. King of Salem = "king of peace (Hebrews 7:1). The capital of Melchisedeck was either Jerusalem, of which the ancient name was Salem, as in Psalm 76:2 (Josephus, Onkelos, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Bush); or a city on the other side Jordan en route from Damascus to Sodom (Ewald); or, though less likely, as being too remote from Sodom and the king's dale, Salem in the tribe of Ephraim, a city near Scythopolis, where the ruins of Melchisedeck's palace were said to exist (Jerome), and near to which John baptized (Bochart). Brought forth bread and wine. As a refreshment to the patriarch and his soldiers (Josephus, Calvin, Clarke, Rosenmüller), which, however, was the less necessary since the spoils of the conquered foe were in possession of Abram and his men (Kalisch); hence mainly as a symbol, not of his transference of the soil of Canaan to the patriarch, bread and wine being the chief productions of the ground (Lightfoot), or of his gratitude to Abram, who had recovered for the land peace, freedom, and prosperity (Delitzsch), or of the institution of the Supper by the Lord Jesus Christ (Bush); but of the priestly benediction which followed and of the spiritual refreshment which it conferred upon the soul of Abram (Kalisch, Murphy). The Romish idea, that the act of Melchisedeck was sacrificial, is precluded by the statement that he brought forth the bread and wine before the people, and not before God. And he was the priest. Cohen; one who undertakes another's cause, hence one who acts as mediator between God and man, though the primary signification of the root is doubtful and disputed. The necessity for this office has its ground in the sinfulness of man, which disqualifies him for direct intercourse with a holy Being (cf. Kurtz, 'Sacrificial Worship,' ch. 1. b.). The occurrence of this term, here mentioned for the flint time, implies the existence of a regularly-constituted form of worship by means of priests and sacrifice. Hence the Mosaic cultus afterwards instituted may only have been a resuscitation and further development of what had existed from the beginning. Of the most high God. Literally, El-Ellen, a proper name for the Supreme Deity (occurring only here, in the narrative of Abram's interview with the kings); of which the first term, El, from the same root as Elohim (Genesis 1:1, q.v.), signifies the Strong One, and is seldom applied to God without some qualifying attribute or cognomen, as El-Shaddai, or El, the God of Israel; and the second, 'Elion (occurring frequently afterwards, as in Numbers 24:16; Deuteronomy 32:8; Psalm 7:18 [Psalm 7:17]; Psalms 9:2), describes God as the High, the Highest, the Exalted, the Supreme, and is sometimes used in conjunction with Jehovah (Psalm. 7:18 [Psalm 7:17]), and with Elohim (Psalm 57:3 [Psalm 57:2]), while sometimes it stands alone (Psalm 21:8 [Psalm 21:7]). Most probably the designation here describes the name under which the Supreme Deity was worshipped by Melchisedeck and the king of Sodom, whom Abram recognizes as followers of the true God by identifying, as in Ver. 22, El-Elion with Jehovah (cf. Quarry, p. 426).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine,.... Both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem say, this is Shem the son of Noah, and which is the sense of the Jewish writers in general, and of many Christian ones; but, though it is highly probable he was living at this time, yet it is not easy to account for it why his name should be changed, or that he should reign in a country in the possession of his brother's son; or that he should meet Abram, and congratulate him on the slaughter of one of his own descendants, as Chedorlaomer was; and especially it cannot be said of him that he was without father or mother, or that those were not known, since Shem's parentage and pedigree are famous enough; some have thought him to be more than a mere man, even the Son of God himself, but he is manifestly distinguished from him in Hebrews 7:3; he seems to be what Josephus (k) says he was, a Canaanitish prince, a pious and religious man, eminently raised up by God, and whose genealogy was kept a secret, that he might be in this as in other things a type of Christ; but that he should be Canaan himself, as Dr. Clayton (l) thinks, a brother of Metsir, or Mizraim, the second son of Ham, being by Sanchoniatho called Sedec, is not likely, since he was cursed by Noah. Salem, of which he was king, is by the above Targums said to be Jerusalem, and which is the opinion of many writers, Jewish and Christian, and of which opinion I myself was formerly; see Gill on Hebrews 7:1; Jerusalem being plainly called Salem, Psalm 76:2, but it seems clear from hence that it must be near to Sodom, and lay in the way between Damascus and Sodom; whereas Jerusalem was in a contrary situation, and lay nearly forty miles from Sodom; for Josephus says (m), the lake Asphaltites, where Sodom once stood, was three hundred furlongs from Jerusalem, which is about thirty eight miles; and Jerom relates (n), that Salem was a town near Scythopolis, which was so called in his times, and where was showed the palace of Melchizedek, which, by the largeness of the ruins, appeared to have been very magnificent, and takes it to be the same place with Shalem in Genesis 33:18; and Salim, near to which John was baptizing, John 3:23, this great man "brought forth bread and wine"; not as a priest for an offering, but as a munificent king, to refresh Abram and his weary troops, and which the king of Sodom could not do, because the victuals of that place were carried off by the four kings, Genesis 14:11; and as Abram had the land of Canaan by promise, and now had made conquest in it over the invaders of it, Melchizedek, sensible of his right unto it, brings forth the best fruits of it, and, as Dr. Lightfoot observes (o), tenders them to him as "livery and seisin" of it: in this Melchizedek was a type of Christ, who comforts and refreshes his hungry and weary people with himself, the bread of life, and with the wine of his love, as well as his name and title agree with him, who is a righteous King and Prince of Peace, Jeremiah 23:5,
and he was the priest of the most high God; a priest as well as a king, as in many countries princes were both (p); and in this he was a type of Christ in his kingly and priestly offices, who is a priest upon the throne, both king and priest, Zechariah 6:13. Melchizedek was a priest not of any of the Phoenician deities, but of the true and living God, who is above all gods, dwells in the highest heaven, and is the most High over all the earth; by him was he called to this office and invested with it, and he ministered to him in it.
(k) De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 10. (l) Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 100. (m) Autiqu. l. 15. c. 6. sect. 2.((n) Ad Evagrium, tom. 3. fol. 13. E. (o) Works, vol. 1. p. 694. (p) "Rex Anius, rex idem hominum Phoebique sacerdos", Virgil. Aeneid. l. 3. vid. Servium in loc.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. Melchizedek—This victory conferred a public benefit on that part of the country; and Abram, on his return, was treated with high respect and consideration, particularly by the king of Sodom and Melchizedek, who seems to have been one of the few native princes, if not the only one, who knew and worshipped, "the most high God," whom Abram served. This king who was a type of the Saviour (Heb 7:1), came to bless God for the victory which had been won, and in the name of God to bless Abram, by whose arms it had been achieved—a pious acknowledgment which we should imitate on succeeding in any lawful enterprise.
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