Hebrews 7:2
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
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(2) Gave a tenth part.—Literally, divided a tenth. This point is fully treated of in Hebrews 7:4-9.

King of righteousness.—Josephus notes the significance of this name: “The first founder of Jerusalem was a chief of the Canaanites, who in our tongue is called Righteous King; for indeed such he was.” Philo also interprets King of Salem as “King of Peace.” The special interest of these titles for the writer lies in the application to Jesus the Messiah. (See Hebrews 1:8-9; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 32:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 9:9; Ephesians 2:14.) On this, as obvious to every Christian reader, he does not further dwell.



Hebrews 7:2.

THAT mysterious, shadowy figure of the priest-king Melchizedec has been singularly illuminated and solidi-fled by recent discovery. You can see now in Berlin and London, letters written fourteen centuries before Christ, by a king of Jerusalem who describes himself almost in the very words which the Old and the New Testaments apply to Melchizedec. He says that he is a royal priest or a priestly king. He says that he derived his royalty neither from father nor mother, nor by genealogical descent; and he says that he owes it to ‘the great King’ - possibly an equivalent to the ‘Most High God’; of whom Melchizedec is in Scripture said to have been a worshipper. The name of the letter-writer is not Melehizedec, but the fact that his royalty was not hereditary, like a Pharaoh’s, may explain how each monarch bore his own personal appellation, and not one common to successive members of a dynasty.

And are not the names of King and city significant - ‘King of righteousness... King of peace’? It sounds like a yearning, springing up untimely in those dim ages of oppression and strife, for a royalty founded on something better than the sword, and wielded for something higher than personal ambition. Such an ideal at such a date is like a summer day that has wandered into a cold March.

But the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews imposes a meaning not only on the titles, but on their sequence, of course therein he is letting a sanctified imagination play round a fact, and giving to it a meaning which is not in it. None the less in that emphatic expression ‘first King of righteousness, and after that also King of peace,’ he penetrated very deeply into the heart of Christ’s reign and work, and echoed a sentiment that runs all through Scripture. Hearken to one psalmist: ‘The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.’ Hearken to another: ‘Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’ Hearken to a prophet: ‘The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever.’ Hearken to the most Hebraistic of New Testament writers: ‘The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace.’ Hearken to the central teaching of the most Evangelical, if I may so say, of New Testament writers: ‘Being justified’ - made righteous ‘by faith, we have peace with God.’ So the ‘first’ and the ‘after that’ reveal to us the very depth of Christ’s work, and carry in them not only important teaching as to that, but equally important directions and guides for Christian conduct; and it is to this aspect of my text, and this only, that I ask your attention now.

The order which we have here, ‘first of all King of righteousness, and after that King of peace,’ is the order which I shall try to illustrate in two ways. First, in reference to Christ’s work on the individual soul; second, in reference to Christ’s work on society and communities.

First, then, here we have laid down the sequence in which

I. Christ comes with His operations and His gifts to the soul that clings to Him.

First ‘righteousness... after... peace.’ Now I need not do more than in a sentence remind you of the basis upon which the thoughts in the text, and all right understanding of Christ’s work on an individual, repose, and that is that without righteousness no man can either be at peace with God or with himself. Not with God - for however shallow experience may talk effusively and gushingly about a God who is all mercy, and who loves and takes to His heart the sinner and the saint alike; such a God drapes the universe in darkness, and if there are no moral distinctions which determine whether a man is in amity or hostility with God, then ‘the pillared firmament itself is rottenness, and earth’s base built on stubble.’ No, no, brethren; it sounds very tender and kindly; at bottom it is the cruellest thing that you can say, to say that without righteousness a man can please God. The sun is in the heavens, and whether there be mist and fog down here, or the bluest of summer skies, the sun is above. But its rays coming through the ethereal blue are warmth and blessedness, and its rays cut off by mists are dim, and itself turned into a lurid ball of fire. It cannot be - and thank God that it cannot - that it is all the same to Him whether a man is saint

or sinner.

I do not need to remind you that in like manner righteousness must underlie peace with oneself. For it is true to-day, as it was long generations ago, according to the prophet, that ‘the wicked is like the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters throw up mire and dirt,’ and, on the other hand, the promise is true still and for ever; ‘O that thou hadst hearkened unto me, then had thy peace been like a river,’ because ‘thy righteousness’ will be ‘like the waves of the sea.’ For ever and ever it stands true that for peace with God, and for a quiet heart, and a nature at harmony with itself, there must be righteousness.

Well, then, Jesus Christ comes to bring to a man the righteousness without which there can he no peace in his life. And that is the meaning of the great word which, having been taken for a shibboleth and ‘test of a falling or a standing Church,’ has been far too much ossified into a mere theological dogma, and has been weakened and misunderstood in the process. Justification by faith; that is the battle-cry of Protestant communities. And what does it mean? That I shall be treated as righteous, not being sop That I shall be forgiven and acquitted? Yes, thank God! But is that all that it means, or is that the main thing that it means? No, thank God! for the very heart of the Christian doctrine of righteousness is this, that if, and as soon as, a man puts his trembling trust in Jesus Christ as his Saviour, then he receives not merely pardon, which is the uninterrupted flow of the divine love in spite of his sin, nor an accrediting him with a righteousness which does not belong to him, but an imparting to him of that new life, a spark from the central fire of Christ’s life, ‘the new man which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.’ Do not suppose that the great message of the gospel is merely forgiveness. Do not suppose that its blessed gift is only that a man is acquitted because Christ has died. All that is true. But there is something more than that which is the basis of that other, and that is that by faith in Jesus Christ, I am so knit to Him - ‘He that is joined to the Lord’ being ‘one spirit’ - as that there passes into me, by His gift, a life which is created after His life, and is in fact cognate and kindred with it.

No doubt it is a mere germ, no doubt it needs cultivating, development, carefully guarding against gnawing insects and blighting frosts. But the seed which is implanted, though it be less than the least of all seeds, has in itself the promise and the potency of triumphant growth, when it will tower above all the poisonous shrubs and undergrowth of the forest, and have the light of heaven resting on its aspiring top. Here is the great blessing and distinctive characteristic of Christian morality, that it does not say to a man: ‘First aim after good deeds and so grow up into goodness,’ but it starts with a gift, and says,’ Work from that, and by the power of that. "I make the tree good,"‘ says Jesus to us, ‘do you see to it that the fruit is good.’ No doubt the vegetable metaphor is inadequate, because the leaf is wooed from out the bud, and ‘grows green and broad, and takes no care,’ but that effortless growth is not how righteousness increases in men. The germ is given them, and they have to cultivate it. First, there must be the impartation of righteousness, and then there comes to the man’s heart the sweet assurance of peace with God, and he has within him ‘a conscience like a sea at rest, imaginations calm and fair.’ ‘First, King of righteousness; after that, King of peace.’

Now if we keep firm hold of this sequence, a great many of the popular objections to the gospel, as if it were merely a means of forgiveness and escape, and a system of reconciliation by some kind of forensic expedient, fall away of themselves, and a great many of the popular blunders that Christian people make fall away too. For there are good folks to whom the great truth that ‘God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing to them their trespasses,’ and welcoming them to all the fulness of an overflowing love, has obscured the other truth that there is no peace for a Christian man continuous through his life, unless equally continuous through his life are his efforts to work out in acts the new nature which he has received.

Thus my text, by the order in which it places righteousness and peace, not only illuminates the work of Christ upon each individual soul, but comes with a very weighty and clear direction to Christian people as to their course of conduct. Are you looking for comfort? Is what you want to get out of your religion mainly the assurance that you will not go to hell? Is the great blessing that Christ brings to you only the blessing of pardon, which you degrade to mean immunity from punishment? You are wrong. ‘First of all, King of righteousness’ - let that which is first of all in His gifts be first of all in your efforts too; and do not seek so much for comfort as for grace to know and to do your duty, and strength to ‘cast off the unfruitful works of darkness,’ and to ‘put on the armour of light.’ The order which is laid down in my text was laid down with a different application, by our Lord Himself, and ought to be in both forms the motto for all Christian people.

‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things’ - comfort, sense of reconciliation, assurance of forgiveness, joyful hope, and the like, as well as needful material good - ‘shall be added unto you.’

And now, secondly, my text gives the order of.

II. Christ’s work in the world, and of His servant’s work after Him.

Of course, our Lord’s work in the world is simply the aggregate of HIS work on individual souls. But for the sake of clearness we may consider these two aspects of it somewhat apart. In regard to this second part of my subject, I would begin, as I began in the former section, by reminding you that the only basis on which harmonious relations between men in communities, great or small, can be built, is righteousness, in the narrowest sense of the word, meaning thereby justice, equal dealing as between man and man, without partiality or class favouritism. Wherever you get an unjustly treated section or order of men, there you get the beginnings of war and strife. A social order built upon injustice, just in the measure in which it is so built, is based upon a quicksand which will suck it down, or on a volcano which will blow it to pieces. Injustice is the grit in the machine; you may oil it as much as you like with philanthropy and benevolence, but until you get the grit out, it will not work smoothly.

There is no harmony amongst men unless their association is based and bottomed upon righteousness.

Jesus Christ comes into the world to bring peace at the far end, but righteousness at the near end, and therefore strife. The herald angels sang peace upon earth. They were looking to the deepest and ultimate issues of His mission, but when He contemplated its immediate results He had to say, ‘Suppose ye that I bring peace on earth? I tell you nay, but rather division.’ He rode into Jerusalem ‘the King, meek, and having salvation,’ throned upon the beast of burden which symbolised peace. But He will come forth in the last fight, as He has been coming forth through all the ages, mounted on the white horse, with the sword girt upon His thigh in behalf of meekness and righteousness and truth. Christ, and Christianity when it keeps close to Christ, is a ferment, not an emollient. The full and honest application of Christ’s teaching and principles to any society on the face of the earth at this day is bound to result in agitation and strife. There is no help for it. When a pure jet of water is discharged into a foul ditch, there will be much uprising of mud. Effervescence will always follow when Christ’s principles are applied to existing institutions. And so it comes to pass that Christian men, in the measure in which they are true to their Master, turn the world upside down. There will follow, of course, the tranquillity that does follow on righteousness; but that is far ahead, and there is many a weary mile to be trod, and many a sore struggle to be undertaken, before the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and strife ends for ever.

Now, if this be so, then in this necessary characteristic of Christ’s operation on the world, viz., disturbance arising from the endeavour to enthrone righteousness where its opposite has ruled ‘there results very plainly important teaching as to the duties of Christ’s servants to take their full share in the fight, to be the knights of the Holy Ghost, the champions of righteousness. The Church ought to lead in the van of all assaults on hoary wrongs or modern forms of unrighteousness in municipal, political, national life. And it is the disgrace of the Church that so largely it leaves that contest to be waged by men who make no pretence to be Christians. There is, unfortunately, a type of Christian thinking and life, of which in many respects one would speak with all sympathy and admiration, which warns the Christian Church against casting itself into this contest, in the alleged interest of a superior spirituality and a loftier conception of Evangelical truth. I believe, as heartily as any man can - and I venture to appeal to those who hear me Sunday by Sunday, and from year to year, whether it is not so - that the preaching of Jesus Christ is the cure for all the world’s miseries, and the banishment of all the world’s unrighteousness; but am I to be told that the endeavour to apply the person and the principles of Jesus Christ, in His life and death, to existing institutions and evils, is not preaching Christ? I believe that it is, and that the one thing that the Church wants to-day is not less of holding up the Cross and the Sacrifice, but more of pointing to the Cross and the Sacrifice as the cure of all the world’s evils, and the pattern for all righteousness.

It is difficult to do, it is made difficult by our own desire to be what the prophet did not think a very reputable position, ‘at ease in Zion.’ It is also made difficult by the way in which, as is most natural, the world, meaning thereby godless, organised society, regards an active Church that desires to bring its practices to the test of Christ’s word- Muzzled watchdogs that can neither bark nor bite are much admired by burglars. And a Church that confines itself to theory, to what it calls religion, and leaves the world to go to the devil as it likes, suits both the world and the devil. There was once a Prime Minister of England who came out of church one Sunday morning in a state of towering indignation because the clergyman had spoken about conduct. And that is exactly how the world feels about an intrusive Church that will push its finger into all social arrangements, and say about each of them, ‘This must be as Christ commanded.’

Brethren! would God that all Christian men deserved the name of ‘troublers of Israel.’ There was once a prophet to whom the men of his day indignantly said, ‘O sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself in thy scabbard, rest and be still.’ And the answer was the only possible one, ‘How can it be quiet, seeing that the Lord hath appointed it?’ If you and I are Christ’s servants, we shall follow the sequence of His operations, and seek to establish righteousness first and then peace. The true Salem is above.

‘My soul, there is a country

Afar beyond the stars.’

There ‘sweet peace sits crowned with smiles.’ The swords will then be wreathed with laurel and men ‘shall learn war no more,’ for the King has fought the great fight, ‘and of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end... in righteousness and justice, from henceforth even for ever.’ Let us take Him for ‘the Lord our righteousness,’ and we shall blessedly find that ‘this Man is our peace.’ Let us take arms in the Holy War which He wages, and we shall have peace in our hearts whilst the fight is sorest. Let us labour to ‘be found in Him... having the righteousness which is of God by faith,’ and then we shall ‘be found in Him in peace, without spot, blameless.’Hebrews 7:2-3. To whom also Abraham gave a tenth of all — Namely, of all the spoils of the vanquished kings, (Hebrews 7:4,) but not a tenth also of the goods that had been taken from the king of Sodom and from Lot; for of these Abraham took nothing to himself. By paying tithes to Melchisedec, Abraham acknowledged him to be a priest of the true God. It seems, indeed, his being supernaturally appointed a priest by God, was known through all that country. Being first — According to the meaning of his own name; king of righteousness; and after that also — According to the name of his city; king of peace — So that in him, as in Christ, righteousness and peace were joined. And so they are in all that believe in him. “In ancient times, it was usual to give names to persons and places expressive of their qualities, or in commemoration of some remarkable events. Thus Abram’s name was changed into Abraham, to signify that he was made the father of many nations; and Sarai was named Sarah, because she was made the mother of nations; and Jacob obtained the name of Israel, because he had power with God. Viewed in the light of this ancient practice, the apostle’s argument, from these names, is conclusive, to show what an excellent person Melchisedec was, and how fit to be made a type of the Son of God. Without father, without mother — Without any mention of his parents; without descent — Or rather, without genealogy, or pedigree, recorded; for so the word here used, αγενεαλογητος, signifies; not a person who hath no descent or genealogy, but one whose descent and pedigree is nowhere entered on record. This was the case with Melchisedec. He was assuredly born, and did no less certainly die than other men; but neither his birth nor his death are recorded. Or the apostle’s principal meaning may be, that there is no account of his being descended from any ancestors of the priestly order, and that therefore he did not derive his priesthood from his parents, but was a priest of the most high God by a particular appointment. Having neither beginning of days nor end of life — Mentioned by Moses. But whence was it that Moses should introduce so great and excellent a person as Melchisedec, without making any mention of his race or stock, of his parents or progenitors, of his rise or fall, contrary to his own custom in other cases, and contrary to all rules of useful history? The true cause of the omission of all these things was the same with that of the institution of his priesthood, and the introduction of his person in the story. And this was that he might be a more express and signal representative of the Lord Christ in his priesthood. But in all these respects, made like the Son of God — Who was really without father as to his human nature, without mother as to his divine; and in this also, without pedigree; and not descending, even in human nature, from any ancestors of the priestly order; abideth a priest continually — That is, no mention is made of the end of the priesthood of his order, nor of the termination of his own personal administration of his office by death; and so he stands in the story as a kind of immortal priest, without any successor being mentioned. And this is that which the apostle chiefly designed to confirm from hence, namely, that there was in the Scripture, before the institution of the Aaronical priesthood, a representation of an eternal, unchangeable one, namely, that of Christ, who, as he was without beginning of days, alone does really remain without death and without successor.7:1-3 Melchizedec met Abraham when returning from the rescue of Lot. His name, King of Righteousness, doubtless suitable to his character, marked him as a type of the Messiah and his kingdom. The name of his city signified Peace; and as king of peace he typified Christ, the Prince of Peace, the great Reconciler of God and man. Nothing is recorded as to the beginning or end of his life; thus he typically resembled the Son of God, whose existence is from everlasting to everlasting, who had no one that was before him, and will have no one come after him, in his priesthood. Every part of Scripture honours the great King of Righteousness and Peace, our glorious High Priest and Saviour; and the more we examine it, the more we shall be convinced, that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all - That is, a tenth part of all the spoils which he had taken Genesis 14:20, thus acknowledging that in dignity of office Melchizedek was greatly his superior; Hebrews 7:4, Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 7:8. This does not appear to have been on the part of Abraham so much designed as a present to Melchizedek personally, as an act of pious thankfulness to God. He doubtless recognized in Melchizedek one who was a minister of God, and to him as such he devoted the tenth of all which he had taken, as a proper acknowledgment of the goodness of God and of his claims. From this it is evident that the propriety of devoting a tenth part of what was possessed to God, was regarded as a duty before the appointment of the Levitical law. "Some" expression of this kind is obviously demanded, and piety seems early to have fixed on the "tenth" part as being no more than a proper proportion to consecrate to the service of religion. For the propriety of the use which the apostle makes of this fact, see the notes on Hebrews 7:4, Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 7:8.

First being - The "first" idea in the interpretation of his name and office, etc. First being mentioned as king of righteousness, and then as king of peace.

King of righteousness - The literal translation of the name Melchizedek; see the notes on ver. 1. The "argument" implied in this by the remarks of the apostle is, that he bore a name which made him a proper emblem of the Messiah. There was a propriety that one in whose "order" the Messiah was to be found, should have such a name. It would be exactly descriptive of him, and it was "worthy of observation" that he of whose "order" it was said the Messiah would be, should have had such a name. Paul does not say that this name was given to him with any such reference; or that it was "designed" to be symbolical of what the Messiah would be, but that there was a "remarkable coincidence;" that it was a fact which was worth at least "a passing thought." This is a kind of remark that might occur to anyone to make, and where the slight use which Paul makes of it would not be improper anywhere; but it cannot be denied that to one accustomed to the Jewish mode of reasoning - accustomed to dwell much on hidden meanings, and to trace out concealed analogies, it would be much more obvious and striking than it is with us.

We are to place ourselves in the situation of those to whom Paul wrote - trained up with Jewish feelings, and Jewish modes of thought, and to ask how this would strike "their" minds. And this is no more unreasonable than it would be in interpreting a Greek classic, or a work of a Hindu philosopher, that we should endeavor to place ourselves in the situation of the writer and of those for whom he wrote, and ascertain what ideas would be conveyed to them by certain expressions. It is not meant by these observations that there was really no intrinsic force in what Paul here said respecting the import of the "name." There was force; and all the use which he makes of it is proper. His meaning appears to be merely that it was a fact worthy of remark, that the "name" had a meaning which corresponded so entirely with the character of him who was to be a high priest of the same "order." "And after that." He is mentioned after that with another appellation equally significant.

King of peace - A literal translation of the appellation "king of Salem;" Hebrews 7:1. The idea of Paul is, that it was "worthy of remark" that the appellation which he bore was appropriate to one whose ministry it was said the priesthood of the Messiah would resemble.

2. gave—Greek, "apportioned"; assigned as his portion.

tenth … of all—namely, the booty taken. The tithes given are closely associated with the priesthood: the mediating priest received them as a pledge of the giver's whole property being God's; and as he conveyed God's gifts to man (Heb 7:1, "blessed him"), so also man's gifts to God. Melchisedec is a sample of how God preserves, amidst general apostasy, an elect remnant. The meeting of Melchisedec and Abraham is the connecting link between to two dispensations, the patriarchal, represented by Melchisedec, who seems to have been specially consecrated by God as a KING-PRIEST, the highest form of that primitive system in which each father of a household was priest in it, and the Levitical, represented by Abraham, in which the priesthood was to be limited to one family of one tribe and one nation. The Levitical was parenthetical, and severed the kingdom and priesthood; the patriarchal was the true forerunner of Christ's, which, like Melchisedec's, unites the kingship and priesthood, and is not derived from other man, or transmitted to other man; but derived from God, and is transmitted in God to a never-ending perpetuity. Melchisedec's priesthood continueth in Christ for ever. For other points of superiority, see Heb 7:16-21. Melchisedec must have had some special consecration above the other patriarchs, as Abraham, who also exercised the priesthood; else Abraham would not have paid tithe to him as to a superior. His peculiar function seems to have been, by God's special call, KING-priest whereas no other "patriarch-priest" was also a God-consecrated king.

first being—Paul begins the mystical explanation of the historical fact (allegorical explanations being familiar to JEWS), by mentioning the significancy of the name.

righteousness—not merely righteous: so Christ. Hebrew "Malchi" means king: "Tzedek," righteousness.

King of Salem—not only his own name, but that of the city which he ruled, had a typical significance, namely, peace. Christ is the true Prince of peace. The peace which He brings is the fruit of righteousness.

To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; by which tithing to him. Abraham owns him to be God’s priest. As he had received blessing from God by him, so he returns to God, through him, his acknowledgments; he divided, shared, and gave out his part to him, even the tenth part of all the spoils, Hebrews 7:4. This is the first scripture, Genesis 14:20, that gives us any account of paying the tenths of goods to God in his priests; which custom afterwards obtained among most nations, to give the tenths of the spoils after victory to God. And this Abraham did, as due to the office by Divine institution, having received a blessing from it.

First being by interpretation King of righteousness: the mystery of his name, title, and descent, the Holy Ghost now opens to them. His name is a compound of Kym or yklm which signifieth a king or governor, or my king, and Kwu righteousness. A supreme governor, not only formally righteous in his own disposition, but efficiently by just and excellent laws making his subjects righteous; a king working righteousness in a Canaan, and in such a time of universal degeneracy from it. This God ordered for some special use, viz. to type out his own Son, God-man, the great gospel minister, to be the King of righteousness, who purchased it for, imputeth it to, and infuseth it into, sinners; who is so fully the Lord our righteousness, that we are made the righteousness of God in him, Isaiah 32:1 Jeremiah 23:6 33:16 Zechariah 9:9 2 Corinthians 5:21.

And after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace: the mystery of his title of office, King of Salem. The due order of this is observable; he is first King of righteousness, and after that he is King of Salem, that is, of peace; the fruit of whose righteous government was peace. He kept this among his people, and round about him, while others were wasting and destroying their kingdoms by lusts and wars. This is eminently true of Christ The Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6,7, who gave some signal of his government, and begun his priesthood, in the same Salem, or Jerusalem, where Melchisedec reigned, Matthew 21:5,9,10. He is eminently the royal purchaser, maker, and distributer of peace, reconciling all things to God, angels and men in heaven and in earth, and all persons, Jews and Gentiles, and the creation itself to recovered man, Colossians 1:20,21; compare Ephesians 2:13-17. The Prince and price of our peace, setting peace within souls, giving it to them without, peace spiritual, temporal, and eternal: his kingdom aboundeth in it, Psalm 72:1,3,7 Isa 54:10,13Jo 14:27 Jam 3:18. To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all,.... Or tithes, as in Genesis 14:20. Philo the Jew (b) renders the Hebrew phrase, , just as the apostle does , "a tenth part of all", or "out of all"; not of all that he brought back, as Lot's goods, or the king of Sodom's, or any others; only of the spoils of the enemy, as in Hebrews 7:4 which is no proof of any obligation on men to pay tithes now to any order of men; for this was a voluntary act, and not what any law obliged to; it was done but once, and not constantly, or every year; it was out of the spoils of the enemy, and not out of his own substance, or of the increase of the earth; nor was it for the maintenance of Melchizedek, as a priest, who also was a king, and was richly provided for; but to testify his gratitude to God, for the victory obtained, and his reverence of, and subjection to the priest of God.

First being by interpretation king of righteousness; or a "righteous king", as Melchizedek was; not the king of a righteous place, as Aben Ezra thought, a place wherein dwelt righteousness, or righteous persons; but it was his proper name, which so signifies, and in which he was a type of Christ; who is righteous, not only as God, and as man, and as Mediator, but particularly in the administration of his kingly office: his kingdom lies in righteousness, as well as peace; the subjects of it are righteous persons, and all his ways are just and true; his Gospel, by which he rules, is a declaration of righteousness; and he himself is the author of righteousness to all his people:

and after that also king of Salem, which is king of peace; and may respect his peaceable government; and is very applicable to Christ, the Prince of peace; whose kingdom is a kingdom of peace; his sceptre is a sceptre of peace; his royal proclamation is the Gospel of peace; and his subjects are the sons of peace; and he himself is the author of peace, not only between Jew and Gentile, but between God and his people; and he is the donor of peace, external, internal, and eternal. So Philo the Jew (c) interprets this name, "king of peace", just as the apostle does.

(b) De Congressu, p. 438. (c) Leg. Alleg. l. 2. p. 75.

To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Hebrews 7:2. To whom also Abraham portioned out the tenth of all (sc. that he had gained as booty; comp. ἐκ τῶν ἀκροθινίων, Hebrews 7:4).

πρῶτον μὲν ἑρμηνευόμενος βασιλεὺς δικαιοσύνης] he who first, interpreted (i.e. if one translates his Hebrew name מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק into Greek), is King of Righteousness. Comp. Josephus, Antiq. i. 10. 2 : Μελχισεδέκης, σημαίνει δὲ τοῦτο βασιλεὺς δίκαιος.

Bell. Jud. vi. 10 : ὁ δὲ πρῶτος κτίσας (Ἱεροσόλυμα) ἦν Χαναναίων δυνάστης, ὁ τῇ πατρίῳ γλώσσῃ κληθεὶς βασιλεὺς δίκαιος· ἦν γὰρ δὴ τοιοῦτος. The author of the epistle, however, following more closely the sense of the Hebrew words, renders the name by βασιλεὺς δικαιοσύνης (instead of rendering it βασιλεὺς δίκαιος, as Josephus does), and thereby brings out more clearly the part sustained by Melchisedec as a type of Christ, inasmuch as the latter is not only Himself righteous (comp. Zechariah 9:9; Jeremiah 23:5), but also the mediatorial author of righteousness for others. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:30; Jeremiah 23:6; Malachi 4:2; Daniel 9:24.

ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ βασιλεὺς Σαλήμ, ὅ ἐστιν βασιλεὺς εἰρήνης] and then also king of Salem, which is (denotes) king of peace. Comp. with regard to Christ as our peace and peace-bringer, Ephesians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:17; Romans 5:1; also Isaiah 9:6-7.

ὅ ἐστιν] corresponds to the ἑρμηνευόμενος of the previous clause.

There is no reason for taking Salem, with Böhme and Bleek, after the precedent given by Petrus Cunaeus, de Rep. Hebraeorum, Hebrews 3:3, as not being the name of a place at all, but βασιλεὺς Σαλήμ together as forming the further name of the man, since the author of the epistle might discover a typical reference to Christ not only in the personal name of Melchisedec, but also in the name of the state over which he ruled as king and prophet. The author, for the rest, interprets the name of the place as though not שָׁלֵם (peaceful) but שָׁלו̇ם (peace) had been written in the Hebrew,—a mode of rendering in which Philo had already preceded him. Comp. Legg. allegor. iii. 25, p. 75 (with Mangey, I. p. 102 f.): καὶ Μελχισεδὲκ βασιλέα τε τῆς εἰρήνης

Σαλὴμ τοῦτο γὰρ ἑρμηνεύεται

ἱερέα ἑαυτοῦ πεποίηκεν ὁ θεός.Hebrews 7:2. ᾧ καὶ δεκάτην … “to whom also Abraham divided a tenth of all” [the spoil]. The startling conclusion which this act carried with it is specified in Hebrews 7:4-10. The offering of a tithe of the spoils to the gods was a custom of antiquity. See Wetstein for examples and especially Arnold’s note on Thucydides, 3:50. “Frequently the ἀναθήματα were of the nature of ἀπάρχαι, or the divine share of what was won in peace or war.… The colossal statue of Athena Promachos on the Athenian Acropolis hill was a votive offering from a tithe of the booty taken at Marathon” (Gardner and Jevon’s Greek Ant., 181.) For the O.T. law of tithe see Numbers 18:21-24; Leviticus 27:30-32. In offering to Melchizedek a tithe Abraham acknowledged him as priest.

The following clauses ought not to be in brackets, because they are inserted as indicating the ground of the main affirmation, μένει εἰς τὸ διηνεκές. The name and description of Melchizedek already given are now interpreted, and are so interpreted as to illustrate the clause ἀφωμοιωμένος τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ and thus prepare for the closing statement. πρῶτον μὲν ἑρμηνευόμενος … “being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness and then also King of Salem, which is King of peace”. The form of the sentence is significant. [Cf. Plutarch, Timoleon, iv. 4, τοῦ δὲ Τιμοφάνους πρῶτον μὲν αὐτῶν καταγελῶντος, ἔπειτα δὲ πρὸς ὀργὴν ἐκφερομένου] “first” by his very name, “then” by his actual position; probably the peace of his kingdom is considered as a consequence of its righteousness. Righteousness and peace are characteristic properties of the Messianic Kingdom. “In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth,” Psalm 72:7; similarly Isaiah 9:6-7; Zechariah 9:9; cf. Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 2:17. In Genesis 14:18 the name and title occur together מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם. The chief point in this is that the priest is also a king. ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος “without father, without mother, without genealogy,” that is, he stands in Scripture alone, no mention is made of an illustrious father or mother from whom he could have inherited power and dignity, still less can his priestly office and service be ascribed to his belonging to a priestly family. It is by virtue of his own personality he is what he is; his office derives no sanction from priestly lineage or hereditary rights; and in this respect he is made like to the Son of God. Of course it is not meant that in point of fact he had neither father nor mother, but that as he appears in Scripture he is without father. [τὸ δὲ ἀπάτωρ κ.τ.λ. οὐ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν αὐτὸν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐν τῇ θείᾳ γραφῇ κατὰ τὸ φανερώτατον ἐπωνομάσθαι. Epiphanius in Wetstein.] On Philo’s use of the silence of Scrip see Siegfried’s Philo., p. 179. Philo is quite aware that this kind of interpretation will be said γλισχρολογίαν μᾶλλον ἢ ὠφέλειάν τινα ἐμφαίνειν (De Somn., ii. 45). ἀπάτωρ, Wetstein quotes from Pollux.: ὁ μὴ ἔχων μητέρα, ἀμήτωρ, ὥσπερ ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ· καὶ ἀπάτωρ, ὁ μὴ πατέρα ἔχων, ὡς ὁ Ἥφαιστος. So Appollo was αὐτοφυὴς, ἀμήτωρ. Other examples in Wetstein. In a slightly different sense the word occurs in Iph, in Taur., 863; in Soph, Elec., 1154 we have μήτηρ ἀμήτωρ; and Ion (Eur. Ion, 109) says of himself ὡς γὰρ ἀμήτωρ ἀπάτωρ τε γεγώς.2. first being] This seems to imply that of his two names or titles “Melchisedec,” and “King of Salem,” the first means “King of Righteousness” and the second “King of Peace.” In a passage of mystic interpretation like this, however, the writer may intend to suggest that there is a direct connexion between the two titles, and that “Righteousness” is the necessary antecedent to “Peace,” as is intimated in Psalm 72:7; Psalm 85:10. Comp. Romans 5:1.

by interpretation King of righteousness] The name Melchisedek may mean “King of Righteousness.” This is the paraphrase of the Targums, perhaps with tacit reference to Isaiah 32:1, where it is said of the Messiah “Behold a king shall reign in righteousness.” (Comp. Zechariah 9:9; Jeremiah 23:5.) In the Bereshith Rabba Tzedek is explained to mean Jerusalem with reference to Isaiah 1:21, “Righteousness lodged in it.” Josephus (Antt. i. 19 § 12; B. J. vi. 10) and Philo, however, render it “Righteous King.” Later on in Jewish history (Joshua 10:3) we read of Adonizedek (“Lord of righteousness”) who was a king of Jerusalem. Apart from any deeper meaning “Righteousness” or “Justice” was one of the most necessary qualifications of Eastern Kings who are also Judges. In the mystic sense the interpretation of the names Melchizedek and Salem made him a fit type of “the Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6) and “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6): and he was also a fit type of Christ because he was a Kingly Priest; a Priest who blessed Abraham; a Priest who, so far as we are told, offered no animal-sacrifices; and a Priest over whom Scripture casts “the shadow of Eternity.” See Bishop Wordsworth’s note on this passage.

King of peace] “The work of Righteousness shall be Peace, and the effect of Righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17; Ephesians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:17; Romans 5:1. Comp. Philo Leg. Alleg. iii. 25, Opp. i. 102).Hebrews 7:2. Δεκάτην ἀπὸ πάντων—4. ἔδωκεν) LXX. ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ δεκάτην ἀπὸ πάντων.—πρῶτον, first) from his own name: ἔπερτα, then, from the name of the place. There are often mysteries even in the proper names of men and places.—δικαιοσύνης· εἰρήνης) So righteousness and peace are often mentioned together by Paul, Romans 5:1.—δὲ καὶ) viz. ὤν: for ὅ ἐστι corresponds to ἑρμηνευόμενος.First being by interpretation King of righteousness (πρῶτον μὲν ἑρμηνευόμενος βασιλεὺς δικαιοσύνης)

The first designation is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew name. Being interpreted belongs only to this designation. So Joseph Ant. 1:10, 2: σημαίνει δε τοῦτο βασιλεὺς δίκαιος "and this (the name Melchisedec) signifies righteous king."

And after that also (ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ)

Then follows a designation derived from his character, king of peace. Supply being; not being interpreted.


Commonly regarded as the site of Jerusalem. It has also been supposed to represent Σαλείμ Salim, mentioned in John 3:23. Jerome says that the place retained that name in his day, and that the ruins of Melchisedec's palace were shown there. The ancient name of Jerusalem was Jebus. Others, again, suppose that Salem is not the name of a place, but is merely the appellation of Melchisedec. The passage in Genesis, however, points to a place, and the writer might naturally have desired to indicate the typical meaning of the city over which Melchisedec reigned.

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