Genesis 14:18
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Melchizedek king of Salem.—There is a Salem near Scythopolis in the tribe of Ephraim, near to which John baptised (John 3:23, where it is called Salim), and Jerome mentions that some local ruins there were said to be the remains of Melchizedek’s palace. But such traditions are of little value, and we may eel certain that the place was really Jerusalem (Psalm 76:2); for it lay on Abram’s route homeward, and was within a reasonable distance of Sodom, which, as we have seen, lay in the Ciccar of Jericho, at the northern end of the Dead Sea. Salem is a common name for towns in Palestine (Conder, Tent-work, i. 91), and the village in Ephraim is too remote to have been the place of meeting.

In Melchizedek we have a type of Christ (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 7:1-21), and so venerable is his character and aspect that Jewish tradition identified him with the patriarch Shem, thus reconciling also to themselves his superiority over their forefather Abraham. But this idea is contradicted by Hebrews 7:3. He was more probably the king of some Semitic race who still occupied Salem, but from whom it was at a subsequent period wrested by the Jebusites, who called it Jebus, after the name of their ancestor (Judges 19:10-11). Up to David’s days it seems to have still had a titular king (2Samuel 24:23), and upon his conquest of it its old name reappears, but with a prefix, and henceforward it was known as Jeru-salem, that is (probably), the possession of Salem.

The typical value of Melehizedek’s priesthood lies not merely in his being “king of righteousness and king of peace,” but even more in his priesthood being universal, limited by no external ordinances, and attached to no particular race or people. Moreover, he is a king-priest (Psalms 110), and by taking precedence of Abram. and blessing him, and receiving of him tithes, he became the representative of a higher priesthood than any that could spring from Abram’s loins.

Bread and wine.—The representatives of food of all kinds, both liquid and solid. Though the primary object of this offering was the refreshing of the bodies of Abram’s men, and of the prisoners wearied with their long march to and fro, yet we cannot but recognise in it a foreshowing of the bestowal by Christ, the antitype, upon His Church of the spiritual food of His most blessed Body and Blood.

Priest of the most high God.—Heb., of El ‘elyon. The mention of the term priest (used here for the first time) shows that some sort of sacrificial worship existed at Salem. Sacrifice had, however, been practised before; for Abel had acted as a priest when offering his firstlings, and Abram at the various altars which he built. Apparently, however, Melchizedek had been set apart for the priesthood in some more definite way. El ‘elyon means “the supreme God,” and though the two words are so similar in English, they are altogether unlike in Hebrew. In Psalm 7:17 the epithet ‘elyon is applied to Jehovah. With that precision in the use of the names of Deity which we have so often noticed before, Melchizedek is described as a priest of El ‘elyon, the Supreme Ruler of the universe; but Abram swears by Jehovah El ‘elyon, thus claiming that Jehovah was that Supreme Deity whom Melchizedek served, though without the special knowledge of Him which the patriarch possessed.

Genesis 14:18. It has been a great question among expositors, who Melchizedek was. The Jewish rabbins say that he was Shem, the son of Noah, who was king and priest to those that were descended from him, according to the patriarchal model. And it must be allowed to be probable that Shem was alive at this time, and that he was a great prince. But as Shem’s genealogy and birth are recorded in Scripture, and were well known, it could, with no propriety, be said of him, as the apostle says of Melchizedek, that he was “without father (namely, mentioned in the sacred history) and without mother, without beginning of days or end of life:” nor is it at all probable that Moses should introduce Shem under the name of Melchizedek, without any apparent reason, or any the least intimation of his meaning. Many Christian writers have thought that this was an appearance of the Son of God himself, our Lord Jesus, known to Abram at this time by the name of Melchizedek. But this is not consistent with what the same apostle affirms in the same place, Hebrews 7:3, who says, not that he was the Son of God, but that he was “made like him,” αφωμοιωμενος, that is, was made a type of him; nor is it consistent with his affirming that Christ was constituted “a priest after the order of Melchizedek.” Besides, it is said that Melchizedek was “king of Salem:” but we are sure Christ never reigned over any particular city as a temporal prince. It seems sufficiently evident that he was a mere man; but from whom he was descended, or who were his immediate parents or successors, God has not seen fit to inform us: nay, it is probable that God designedly concealed these things from us, that he might be the more perfect type of his eternal Son. He brought forth bread and wine — For the refreshment of Abram and his soldiers, and in congratulation of their victory. This he did as king. “As priest of the most high God he blessed Abram,” which, no doubt, was a greater refreshment to Abram’s soul than the bread and wine were to his body.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.An incident of the deepest interest here takes us by surprise. The connecting link in the narrative is obviously the place where the king of Sodom meets with Abram. The King's dale is plainly adjacent to the royal residence of Melkizedec, who therefore comes forth to greet and entertain the returning victor. This prince is the king of Shalem. This is apparently an ancient name of Jerusalem, which is so designated in Psalm 76:8. The other Shalem, which lay in the vicinity of Shekem (Genesis 33:18, if this be a proper name) is far away from the King's dale and the town of Sodom. Jerusalem is convenient to these localities, and contains the element Shalem in its composition, as the name signifies the foundation of peace (Shalom).

The king of Shalem, by name king of righteousness, and by office king of peace, "brought forth bread and wine." These are the standing elements of a simple repast for the refreshment of the body. In after times they were by divine appointment placed on the table of the presence in the tabernacle Exodus 25:29-30. They were the accompaniments of the Paschal lamb Matthew 26:26-27, and they were adopted by the Messiah as the sacred symbols of that heavenly fare, of which, if a man partake, he shall live forever John 6:48-58. The Author of revelation has made all nature intrinsically good and pure. He has realized therein a harmony of the laws of intelligence and design; everything meets and matches all that comes into contact with it; and all together form a cosmos, a system of things, a unity of types and antitypes. His word cannot but correspond to His work. Bread and wine are common things, familiar to the eye, the touch, and the taste of men. The Great Teacher takes them up out of the hands of man as emblems of grace, mercy, and peace, through an accepted ransom, of the lowliest as well as the loftiest boon of an everlasting salvation, and they have never lost their significance or appropriateness.

And he was priest to the most high God. - From this we are assured that the bread and wine refreshed not only the body, but the soul of Abram. In close connection with the preceding sentence, it seems to intimate that the bringing forth of bread and wine was a priestly act, and, accordingly, the crowning part of a sacred feast. The כהן kohen, or priest, who is here mentioned for the first time in Scripture, was one who acted in sacred things on the part of others. He was a mediator between God and man, representing God holding out the hand of mercy, and man reaching forth the hand of faith. The necessity of such an orifice grew out of the distance between God and man produced by sin. The business of the priest was to offer sacrifice and to intercede; in the former making amends to the law, in the latter appealing to the mercy of God. We do not learn by express statement what was the mode of intervention on the part of Melkizedec. But we know that sacrifice was as early as Habel, and that calling on the name of the Lord was commenced in the time of Enosh. These were early forms of approach to God. The offices of king and priest were combined in Melkizedec - a condition of things often exemplified in after times.

The most high God. - Here we meet with a new name of God, El, the Lasting, the Mighty, cognate with Elohim, and previously occurring in the compound proper names Mebujael, Mahalalel, and Bethel. We have also an epithet of God, "Elion the most high," now appearing for the first time. Hence, we perceive that the unity, the omnipotence, and the absolute pre-eminence of God were still living in the memory and conscience of a section at least of the inhabitants of this land. Still more, the worship of God was not a mere domestic custom, in which the father or head of the family officiated, but a public ordinance conducted by a stated functionary. And, lastly, the mode of worship was of such a nature as to represent the doctrine and acknowledge the necessity of an atonement, since it was performed by means of a priest.

Genesis 14:18

And he blessed him. - Here it comes out clearly that Melkizedec acts not only in a civil but in a sacred capacity. He blesses Abram. In the form of benediction employed we have two parts: the former of which is strictly a blessing or asking of good things for the person in question. "Blessed be Abram." It is the part of the father to bless the child, of the patriarch or superior to bless the subject or inferior, and of the priest to bless the people Hebrews 7:7. Here, accordingly, Melkizedec assumes and Abram concedes to him the superiority. The Most High God is here further designated as the Founder of heaven and earth, the great Architect or Builder, and, therefore, Possessor of all things. There is here no indistinct allusion to the creation of "heaven and earth," mentioned in the opening of the Book of God. This is a manifest identification of the God of Melkizedec with the one Creator and Upholder of all things. We have here no mere local or national deity, with limited power and province, but the sole and supreme God of the universe and of man.

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.Quest. Who was this?

Answ.

1. Shem, as the Jews and many others think, who probably was alive at this time, and, no doubt, a great prince. But neither is it probable that Shem should be a king among the cursed race of Ham; nor will this agree with the apostle’s description of Melchizedek, Hebrews 7:3, without father and mother, & c. Whereas Shem’s parents, and the beginning and end of his days, are as expressly mentioned by Moses as any other.

2. A Canaanitish king, by the Divine Providence made both a king over men, and priest unto the true God, brought in here in this unusual manner, without any mention of his parents, birth, or death, for this end, that he might be an illustrious type of Christ. Of this matter see more upon Hebrews 7:3.

King of Salem, i.e. of Jerusalem, called elsewhere Jebus, and Salem, Psalm 76:2.

Bread and wine; not for sacrifice to God; for then he had brought forth beasts to be slain, which were the usual and best sacrifices: but partly to show the respect which he bore to Abram, and principally to refresh his weary and hungry army, according to the manner of those times. See Deu 23:3,4 25:18 Judges 8:5,6,15 1 Samuel 17:17.

He was the priest of the most high God: thus in succeeding ages the same persons were often both kings and priests, as the learned note out of Virgil and other authors. And this clause is here added, as the cause and reason, not for his bringing forth or offering bread and wine, as some would have it, (for that is ascribed to him as a king, as an act of royal munificence), but of the following benediction and decimation. In those times God had his remnant scattered here and there even in the worst places and nations. 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.

And Melchizedek king of Salem {h} brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

(h) For Abram and his soldiers refreshment, not to offer sacrifice.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. Melchizedek king of Salem] The name Melchizedek was considered by the Jews to mean “the king of righteousness” (Hebrews 7:2), or “my king” (malchi) “is righteousness” (zedek). The name should be compared with that of Adoni-zedek (Joshua 10:1). It appears most probable that Zedek was the name of a Canaanite deity, and that the names Adoni-zedek, Melchizedek, meant “my Lord is Zedek,” “my king is Zedek,” just as Adonijah, Malchijah, meant “my Lord is Jah” and “my king is Jah.”

Salem] In all probability to be identified with Jerusalem, as evidently by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 7:1-2). The objection, that Jerusalem was too far south for the present incident, is of no value. The objection that in Jdg 19:10 the ancient name of Jerusalem was “Jebus” is not conclusive. “Jebus,” as a name, seems only to have been inferred from the Jebusites. See Driver, H.D.B., s.v. “Jebus”; G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, i. 266. The following points deserve consideration: (a) In the Tel-el-Amarna tablets Jerusalem appears with the name Uru-salim. (b) Salem is the poetical, or archaic, name for Jerusalem, in Psalm 76:2. (c) Melchizedek is compared to the king of Zion in Psalm 110:4. (d) Abram’s paying of tithe to Melchizedek gains greatly in symbolical significance, if Salem is the same as Jerusalem. (e) The tradition of this identification is favoured by Josephus (Ant. i. 10, 1) and the Targums.

The alternative suggestion, made by Jerome, that Salem is the place mentioned in John 3:23, in the Jordan Valley, seems very improbable. On the other hand, if Salem be Jerusalem, it is the only mention of Jerusalem in the Pentateuch.

brought forth bread and wine] As a friendly king, Melchizedek provides food and drink for the returning victor, and, as a priest, gives to him his blessing. In the mention of bread and wine there is no idea of religious offerings. It is the gift of food to weary and famished soldiers. Jewish commentators have regarded these gifts as symbolizing the shew-bread and the drink-offering: Christian exegesis has often associated them with the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. But the bread and wine are not offered to God; they are given to Abram as a token of good-will and as a means of refreshment. There is nothing sacrificial in the gift.

he was priest of God Most High] Melchizedek was not only king (melek) of Salem, but also a priest (ḳohen). The combination of the priestly with the kingly functions was common in the East; though amongst the Israelites it is not found until the Maccabean period.

This is the first mention of a priest in Holy Scripture. It is clearly intended that Melchizedek should impersonate pure Monotheism.

Melchizedek is a, not the priest of “God Most High” (Heb. El Elyon). Some have thought that El Elyon denotes here the name of an ancient Canaanite deity, and quote, in favour of this view, the statement of Philo of Byblus (Euseb. Prep. Ev. i. 10) that there was a Phoenician divinity Ἐλιοῦν καλούμενος Ὕψιστος = “Elyon called Most High.” But El in the O.T. is one of the most common names of God, especially frequent in poetical and archaic usage. It is often combined with some qualifying epithet denoting an attribute, e.g. Genesis 17:1, “God Almighty” = El Shaddai: Genesis 21:33, “the Everlasting God” = El ‘olâm: Exodus 20:5, “a jealous God” = El ḳanna. Again Elyon, “Most High,” is an epithet often applied to Jehovah, e.g. Numbers 24:16; and combined with El, Psalm 78:35. Melchizedek seems, therefore, to be regarded by the writer as a priest of God Almighty, the God of the Universe. The fuller knowledge of God as Jehovah, the God of Revelation, was the privilege of Abram and his descendants. The conception of Melchizedek as the representative of a primitive phase of Natural Religion, in the Canaan of 2000 b.c., idealizes his figure. Very probably, in the scene before us, his interposition will best be interpreted symbolically. Josephus (Ant. xv. 6, 2) mentions that the Maccabee princes assumed the title of High Priest “of God Most High.” Cf. Assumption of Moses, Genesis 6:1, “There shall be raised up unto them kings bearing rule, and they shall call themselves priests of the Most High God.”

18–20. Abram and Melchizedek

SPECIAL NOTE ON MELCHIZEDEK

1. Its significance. The episode of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20) is one of the most interesting in the Book of Genesis. Its extreme brevity heightens the sense of mystery in which it is involved. It may be taken for granted that the incident is introduced on account of its profound religious significance. It describes the meeting between the Priest-King of “the Most High God” of the Human Race and the Father of the Chosen People, the Servant of Jehovah, the God of the new Revelation. The moment chosen for this meeting is instructive. Abram, the Hebrew stranger, is returning from victory over the foes of the land: Melchizedek, the Canaanite Priest-King, has had no part in the campaign. Abram represents the new spiritual force that has entered the world’s history: Melchizedek represents the ideal of the permanent communion of mankind with God. The new family and the new nation, through whom that communion is ultimately to be perfected, render their homage to the representative of the Universal and the Omnipotent.

To the Israelite reader Jerusalem was the centre of pure religion and spiritual aspirations. Abram, impersonating the people of which he was to be the founder, receives from Melchizedek, the Priest-King of Jerusalem (Salem), not riches, nor offers of reward and possessions, but firstly bread and wine, sustenance and refreshment, and secondly his blessing, in the name of the Most High God, upon the servant of Jehovah. Abram, in his turn, renders tithe to Melchizedek, typifying thereby the obligation of every true son of Abram to recognize the full claims of the spiritual life upon his loyal service.

II. Details for study. 1. The Name. Though originally the name may have meant “Zedek is king,” it suggested to Israelite readers or hearers “the king of righteousness,” cf. Hebrews 7:2, or “righteous king,” cf. Joseph. B. J. vi. 10, Μελχ. ὁ τῇ πατρίᾳ γλώσσῃ κληθεὶς βασιλεὺς δίκαιος. For the Messianic significance of which, cf. Psalm 45:4 ff.; Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Daniel 9:24; Malachi 4:2.

2. His Royal Office. He is King of Salem; and, while this title denoted to the Israelite the personal character of “a king of peace” (cf. Hebrews 7:2), it can scarcely be doubted that in the identification of Salem with Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 76:2; Joseph. Ant. i. 180) lies the peculiar typical significance of the event. The name of the city in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets (circ. 1400) is Urusalim: the king of Jerusalem in Joshua 10:1 is Adoni-zedek.

3. His Priestly Office. He is Priest as well as king. He is Priest of the Most High God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who is identified, according to the text of Genesis 14:22, by Abram with Jehovah. There is no suggestion of anything evil, impure, or polluting, in the worship of which Melchizedek, a native Canaanite, is a priest. Abram treats him as the official representative of the true God. It was not until the age of the Maccabees that the High Priest was also king.

4. His Blessing. As the representative of the true God, Melchizedek invokes upon Abram a message of Divine blessing. He blesses God; the victory of Abram over his foes is a ground for grateful praise. He presents the patriarch with bread and wine as the pledge of good-will and as an expression of honour and gratitude.

5. He receives tithe from Abram, cf. Hebrews 7:7-10. The receiver is greater than the giver of tithe. The impersonator of the ideal worship at Jerusalem receives tithe from the father and founder of the Israelite people.

6. Melchizedek disappears from the page of history as suddenly as he appears. Nothing is recorded of his family or lineage, of his life or actions. He “stands unique and isolated both in his person and in his history … his life has no recorded beginning or close” (Westcott, Ep. Hebrews, p. 172). It is not the man Melchizedek, but the Scripture portrait of Melchizedek in Genesis 14, which causes the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews to designate him as “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.”

7. The Messianic passage in Psalm 110:4 (quoted in Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 7:21), “Thou art a priest after the order (or, manner) of Melchizedek,” seems to mean that the Messiah is not a priest of the tribe of Levi, or of the family of Aaron, but, like the Priest-King of Jerusalem in the story of Abram, is, according to a more primitive conception of priesthood, the king of a kingdom of priests (cf. Exodus 19:6).

8. Melchizedek is not mentioned in the Apocryphal Books. There is a lacuna in the Book of Jubilees at this passage (13:25). Abram has evidently made his offering of tithe; and the next words are “… for Abram, and for his seed, a tenth of the first-fruits to the Lord, and the Lord ordained it as an ordinance for ever that they should give it to the priests who served before Him, that they should possess it for ever. And to this law there is no limit of days; for He hath ordained it for the generations for ever that they should give to the Lord the tenth of everything, of the seed and of the wine and of the oil and of the cattle and of the sheep. And He gave it unto His priests to eat and to drink with joy before Him” (Charles’ Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, vol. ii. p. 33).

9. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews regards Melchizedek as the type of Christ; as (a) King of Righteousness; (b) King of Peace; (c) Priest, not of the line of Levi or Aaron; (d) greater than Abraham, receiving tithes from him; (e) eternal. See chap. 7 with Westcott’s notes.

10. Philo allegorizes the person of Melchizedek, who, he considers, represents the priesthood of “right reason,” offering to the soul the sustenance of gladness and joy in the thoughts of absolute truth (Leg. Allegor. iii. § 25).

11. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. iv. 25) regards the offerings of bread and wine as typical of the Eucharist, adding, “And Melchizedek is interpreted ‘righteous King’; and the name is a synonym for righteousness and peace”: cf. Strom. ii. 5, “He (the Saviour) is Melchizedek, ‘the king of peace,’ the most fit of all to head the race of men.”;

12. Jerome (Ep. lxxiii. ad Evangelum), summarizing opinions about Melchizedek, mentions that Origen and Didymus held him to have been an Angel; many others thought he was a Canaanite prince, exercising priestly offices, like “Abel, Enoch, Noah, Job”; the Jews very commonly identified him with Shem. Again, it appears to have been held by some writers, that Melchizedek was a manifestation of the Son; by others, that he was an appearance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Quaest. ex V. et N. Test. Augustini Opera, tom. iii. App. § cix.: ed. Migne, P. L. 35, p. 2329).

13. Westcott (Ep. to the Hebrews, p. 203) gives an account of the interesting legend respecting Melchizedek preserved in “the Book of Adam.” “To him (Melchizedek) and Shem … the charge was given to bear the body of Adam to Calvary, and to place it there where in after time the Incarnate Word should suffer, so that the blood of the Saviour might fall on the skull of the Protoplast. In the fulfilment of this mission Melchizedek built an altar of twelve stones, typical of the twelve apostles, by the spot where Adam was laid, and offered upon it, by the direction of an angel, bread and wine ‘as a symbol of the sacrifice which Christ should make’ in due time. When the mission was accomplished, Shem returned to his old home, but Melchizedek, divinely appointed to this priesthood, continued to serve God with prayer and fasting at the holy place, arrayed in a robe of fire. So afterwards when Abraham came to the neighbourhood he communicated to him also ‘the holy Mysteries,’ the symbolical Eucharist.”

14. That the episode of Melchizedek has been introduced from a distinct source of tradition is very probable. (a) It interrupts the narrative in Genesis 14:17, which is continued in Genesis 14:21. (b) Its contents are not in harmony with the context. In Genesis 14:22, Abram refuses to take anything from the spoil: in Genesis 14:20, Abram is said to give Melchizedek “a tenth of all.” If “a tenth of all” refers to the spoil, it contradicts Genesis 14:22 : if it refers to “all” his own property, then it assumes for Abram quite different surroundings from those of the story in chap. 14.

No late tradition of Abram is likely to have represented him as offering a tithe “of all” to a Canaanite king. But the short passage may illustrate a large class of traditions, religious and symbolical in character, which in early days had collected round the name of the patriarch. Psalm 110:4 is evidently based upon the present passage.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). After conquering all these tribes to the east and west of the Arabah, they gave battle to the kings of the Pentapolis in the vale of Siddim, and put them to flight. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell there, the valley being full of asphalt-pits, and the ground therefore unfavourable for flight; but the others escaped to the mountains (הרה for ההרה), that is, to the Moabitish highlands with their numerous defiles. The conquerors thereupon plundered the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and carried off Lot, who dwelt in Sodom, and all his possessions, along with the rest of the captives, probably taking the route through the valley of the Jordan up to Damascus.
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