For this Melchisedec, king of Salem - See the whole of this history largely explained in the notes, See Genesis 14:18; (note), etc., and the concluding observations at the end of that chapter.
The name Melchisedec, צדק מלכי is thus expounded in Bereshith Rabba, sec. 43, fol. 42, יושביו את מצדיק matsdie eth Yoshebaiv, "The Justifier of those who dwell in him;" and this is sufficiently true of Christ, but false of Jerusalem, to which the rabbins apply it, who state that it was originally called Tsedek, and that it justified its inhabitants.
Salem is generally understood to be Jerusalem; but some think that it was that city of Shechem mentioned Joshua 20:7. St. Jerome was of this opinion.
For this Melchisedek; - compare the notes on Hebrews 5:6. The name Melchizedek, from which the apostle derives a portion of his argument here, is Hebrew, מלכי־צדק Malkiy-Tsedeqand is correctly explained as meaning “king of righteousness” - being compounded of two words - “king and righteousness.” Why this name was given to this man is unknown. Names, however, were frequently given on account of some quality or characteristic of the man: see the notes on Isaiah 8:18. This name may have been given on account of his eminent integrity. The apostle calls attention to it Hebrews 7:2 as a circumstance worthy of notice, that his name, and the name of the city where he reigned, were so appropriate to one who, as a priest, was the predecessor of the Messiah. The account of Melchizedek, which is very brief, occurs in Genesis 14:18-20. The name occurs in the Bible only in Psalm 110:4, and in this Epistle. Nothing else is certainly known of him.
Grotius supposes that he is the same man who in the history of Sanchoniathon is called Συδύκ SudukIt has indeed been made a question by some whether such a person ever actually existed, and consequently whether this be a proper name. But the account in Genesis is as simple a historical record as any other in the Bible. In that account there is no difficulty whatever. It is said simply that when Abraham was returning from a successful military expedition, this man, who it seems was well known, and who was respected as a priest of God, came out to express his approbation of what he had done, and to refresh him with bread and wine. As a tribute of gratitude to him, and as a thank-offering to God, Abraham gave him a tenth part of the spoils which he had taken. Such an occurrence was by no means improbable, nor would it have been attended with any special difficulty if it had not been for the use which the apostle makes of it in this Epistle. Yet on no subject has there been a greater variety of opinion than in regard to this man.
The bare recital of the opinions which have been entertained of him would fill a volume. But in a case which “seems” to be plain from the Scripture narrative, it is not necessary even to enumerate these opinions. They only serve to show how easy it is for people to mystify a clear statement of history, and how fond they are of finding what is mysterious and marvelous in the plainest narrative of facts. That he was Shem, as the Jews suppose, or that he was the Son of God himself, as many Christian expositors have maintained, there is not the slightest evidence. That the latter opinion is false is perfectly clear - for if he were the Son of God, with what propriety could the apostle say that he “was made like the Son of God” Hebrews 7:3; that is, like himself; or that Christ was constituted a priest “after the order of Melchisedek;” that is, that he was a type of himself? The most simple and probable opinion is that given by Josephus, that he was a pious Canaanitish prince; a personage eminently endowed by God, and who acted as the priest of his people.
That he combined in himself the offices of priest and king, furnished to the apostle a beautiful illustration of the offices sustained by the Redeemer, and was in this respect, perhaps, the only one whose history is recorded in the Old Testament, who would furnish such an illustration. That his genealogy was not recorded, while that of every other priest mentioned was so carefully traced and preserved, furnished another striking illustration. In this respect, like the Son of God, he stood alone. He was not in a “line” of priests; he was preceded by no one in the sacerdotal office, nor was he followed by any. That he was superior to Abraham. and consequently to all who descended from Abraham; that a tribute was rendered to him by the great Ancestor of all the fraternity of Jewish priests was just an illustration which suited the purpose of Paul. His name, therefore, the place where he reigned, his solitariness, his lone conspicuity in all the past, his dignity, and perhaps the air of mystery thrown over him in the brief history in Genesis, furnished a beautiful and striking illustration of the solitary grandeur, and the inapproachable eminence of the priesthood of the Son of God. There is no evidence that Melchizedek was “designed” to be a type of the Messiah, or that Abraham so understood it, Nothing of this kind is affirmed; and how shall “we” affirm it when the sacred oracles are silent?
(Doubtless great care and sobriety are requisite in the interpretation of types, and we admire the caution that, in every instance, demands the authority of Scripture, expressed or distinctly implied. From want of this caution, the greatest extravagancies have been committed, the most fanciful analogies established, where none were intended, and every minute circumstance in the Old Testament exalted into a type of something in the New. The very boards and nails of the tabernacle of Moses have been thus exalted.
Yet in our just aversion to one extreme, it is possible we may run into another. Of the typical character of Melchizedek, we had thought no doubt could be entertained. The canon of typical interpretation, indeed, demands, that in order to constitute the relation between type and antitype, there be, in addition to mere resemblance, “precious design,” and “pre-ordained connection.” And the commentary affirms, that “there is no evidence, that Melchizedek was designed to be a type of the Messiah, or that Abraham so understood it.” Let it be observed in reply, that in the Psalm 110:1 Psalm the typical character of Melchizedek “seems” expressly acknowledged. It may be alleged, that the prophet simply states resemblance, without affirming that such resemblance was designed or intended. But that a prophet should be commissioned to declare, that Christ‘s priesthood should be “after such an order,” and yet that in the institution of that exalted order there should have been no designed reference to Christ, is improbable.
The prediction seems to involve the original design. And this order of priesthood, too, is far superior to that of Aaron, the typical character of which is admitted. Moreover, the last clause of verse third, in this chapter, according to our English translation as a designed connection. Melchizedek was “made like unto the Son of God.” The translation is accurate. Ἀφομοιωμενος Aphomoiōmenosaccording to Parkhurst, is “made very like.” So also Scott: “The composition is probably intended to add energy; made very like.” And Bloomfield adopts, “being made by the divine decree a type of that great High Priest, who, &c,;” see the notes in Greek Testament. Lastly, on any other principle than that of “designed” typical relation, it is difficult, if not impossible, to give any just account of the remarkable omissions, the apparently studied silence, in the history of Melchizedek, in regard to those things that are commonly related in notices of lives, however brief.
He is introduced to us with an air of impenetrable mystery. He appears on the stage as Priest of the most High God, and then disappears, leaving us in complete darkness concerning his birth, parentage, and death. “In all these respects,” says Mr. Scott, “the silence of the Scripture is intentional and refers to the great antitype.” Melchizedek, therefore, we may remark, seems not only to have been designed as a type, but “special care” has been taken, that the record of him should be in all things suited to that design. That the apostle lighted on a happy coincidence, deserving of a passing thought, is not probable, whether this remark be meant to apply to the name, or to other particulars in this remarkable story. Indeed, divest it of its designed typical character, and the grandeur of the passage vanishes. A simple resemblance has been discovered between Christ and a certain character in the old Testament. This is all the apostle means to affirm! And for this too, he introduces Melchizedek, with such wondrous caution in Hebrews 5:11; “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, but ye are dull of hearing.” What was hard to be uttered, or difficult to be comprehended about a mere “illustration,” or “resemblance?”
The following remarks of Owen are pertinent and beautiful. “The true cause of all these omissions was the same with that of the institution of his (Melchizedek‘s) priesthood, and the introduction of his person into the story. And this was, that he might he the more express and signal representative of the Lord Christ in his priesthood. And we may herein consider the sovereign wisdom of the Holy Spirit in bringing forth truth unto light, according as the state and condition of the church doth require. And first he prophesieth only a naked story of a person that was a type of Christ. Something the people of the age wherein he lived, might learn by his ministrations, but not much. For what was principally instructive in him, for the use of the church, was not of force until all his circumstances were forgotten. Yea, the contrivance of any tradition concerning his parents, birth, and death, had been contrary to the mind of God, and what instruction he intended the church by him.
Afterward, when, it may be, all thoughts of any use or design in this story were lost, and the church was fully satisfied in a priesthood quite of another nature, the Holy Spirit in one word of prophecy instructs her, not only that the things spoken concerning Melchizedek were not so recorded for his own sake, or on his own account, but with respect to another priest, which was afterward to arise, by him represented. This gave a new consideration to the whole story; but moreover gave the church to know, that the priesthood, which it then had, was not always to continue, but that one of another nature was to be introduced, as was signified long before the institution of that priesthood which they enjoyed, Psalm 110:4. Yet the church was left greatly in the dark, and, at the coming of our Saviour, had utterly lost all knowledge of the mystery of the type, and the promise renewed in the Psalm. Wherefore, our apostle entering on the unfolding of this mystery, doth not only preface it with an assertion of its difficulty, but also by a long previous discourse, variously prepareth their minds to a most diligent attention.”
The excellence of this quotation will, in the reader‘s estimation, excuse the length of it. On the whole, he who reflects how all things in the ancient economy were ordered of God, and how great a part of that economy was meant to adumbrate the realities of the gospel, while he will be cautious in admitting typical analogies of a doubtful kind, will be slow to believe that the resemblance between Christ‘s priesthood, and that of the “most” exalted order previously instituted, is casual, or undesigned - slow to believe, that the apostle would make so large use of such accidental analogy, and found on it an argument so great.)
King of Salem - Such is the record in Genesis 14:18. The word “Salem” - שׁלם shalēm- means “peace;” and from this fact the apostle derives his illustration in Hebrews 7:2. He regards it as a fact worth remarking on, that the “name” of the place over which he ruled expressed so strikingly the nature of the kingdom over which the Messiah was placed. In regard to the “place” here denoted by the name “Salem,” the almost uniform opinion has been that it was that afterward known as Jerusalem. The reasons for this opinion are,
(1)that it is a part of the name Jerusalem itself - the name “Jerus,” altered from “Jebus,” having been afterward added, because it was the residence of the “Jebusites.”
(2)the name “Salem” is itself given to Jerusalem; Psalm 76:2, “In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.”
(3)Jerusalem would be in the direction through which Abraham would naturally pass on his return from the slaughter of the kings. He had pursued them unto Dan Genesis 14:14, and he was returning to Mamre, that is, Hebron; Genesis 14:13, on his return, therefore, he would pass in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
Rosenmuller, however, supposes that by the name here, Jerusalem is not intended, but the whole region occupied by the Jebusites and Hittites, or the royal seat of this region, situated not far from the cities of the plain - the vale of Siddim where Sodom and Gomorrah were situated. But I see no reason for doubting that the common opinion that Jerusalem is intended, is correct. That place was favorably situated for a capital of a nation or tribe; was easily fortified; and would be likely to be early selected as a royal residence.
Priest of the most high God - This is the account which is given of him in Genesis 14:18. The leading office of “priest” was to offer sacrifice. This duty was probably first performed by the father of the family (compare the notes on Job 1:5; see also Genesis 8:20; Genesis 22:2), and when he was dead it devolved on the oldest son. It would seem also that in the early ages, among all nations whose records have reached us, the office of priest and king were united in the same person. It was long before it was found that the interests of religion would be promoted by having the office of priest pertain to an order of men set apart for this special work. That Melchizedek, who was a king, should also be a priest, was not, therefore, remarkable. The only thing remarkable is, that be should have been a priest “of the true God.” In what way he became acquainted with Him, is wholly unknown. It may have been by tradition preserved from the times of Noah, as it is possible that the arrival of Abraham in that land may have been in some way the means of acquainting him with the existence and character of Jehovah. The “fact” shows at least that the knowledge of the true God was not extinct in the world.
Who met Abraham - He came out to meet him, and brought with him bread and wine. “Why” he did this, is not mentioned. It was probably as an expression of gratitude to Abraham for having freed the country from oppressive and troublesome invaders, and in order to furnish refreshments to the party which Abraham headed who had become weary and exhausted with the pursuit. There is not the slightest evidence that the bread and wine which he brought forth was designed to typify the Sacrament of the Lord‘s Supper, as has been sometimes supposed; compare Bush on Genesis 14:18. What did he know of this ordinance? And why should we resort to such a supposition, when the whole case may be met by a simple reference to the ancient rites of hospitality, and by the fact that the deliverance of the country by Abraham from a grievous invasion made some expression of gratitude on the part of this pious king in the highest degree proper?
Returning from the slaughter of the kings - Amraphel, king of Shinar, Arioch, king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and “Tidal, king of nations,” who had invaded the valley where Sodom and Gomorrah were, and had departed with a great amount of booty. Those kings Abraham had pursued beyond Dan, and to the neighborhood of Damascus, and had smitten them, and recovered the spoil.
And blessed him - For the important service which he had rendered in taking vengeance on these invaders; in freeing the land from the apprehension of being invaded again; and in recovering the valuable booty which they had taken away. From Hebrews 7:6-7, it appears that this act of “blessing” was regarded as that of one who was superior to Abraham. That is, he blessed him as a priest and a king. As such he was superior in rank to Abraham, who never claimed the title of “king,” and who is not spoken of as a “priest.”
Those who would overcome must put to the tax every power of their being. They must agonize on their knees before God for divine power. Christ came to be our example, and to make known to us that we may be partakers of the divine nature. How?—By having escaped the corruptions that are in the world through lust. Satan did not gain the victory over Christ. He did not put his foot upon the soul of the Redeemer. He did not touch the head though he bruised the heel. Christ, by His own example, made it evident that man may stand in integrity. Men may have a power to resist evil—a power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master; a power that will place them where they may overcome as Christ overcame. Divinity and humanity may be combined in them. 1SM 409.1
It was the work of Christ to present the truth in the framework of the gospel, and to reveal the precepts and principles that He had given to fallen man. Every idea He presented was His own. He needed not to borrow thoughts from any, for He was the originator of all truth. He could present the ideas of prophets and philosophers, and preserve His originality; for all wisdom was His; He was the source, the fountain, of all truth. He was in advance of all, and by His teaching He became the spiritual leader for all ages. 1SM 409.2
It was Christ that spoke through Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. Melchizedek was not Christ, but he was the voice of God in the world, the representative of the Father. And all through the generations of the past, Christ has spoken; Christ has led His people, and has been the light of the world. When God chose Abraham as a representative of His truth, He took him out of his country, and away from his kindred, and set him apart. He desired to mold him after His own model. He desired to teach him according to His own plan. The mold of the world's teachers was not to be upon him. He was to be taught how to command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. This is the work that God would have us do. He would have us understand how to govern our families, how to control our children, how to command our households to keep the way of the Lord. 1SM 409.3Read in context »
As soon as David was established on the throne of Israel he began to seek a more appropriate location for the capital of his realm. Twenty miles from Hebron a place was selected as the future metropolis of the kingdom. Before Joshua had led the armies of Israel over Jordan it had been called Salem. Near this place Abraham had proved his loyalty to God. Eight hundred years before the coronation of David it had been the home of Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. It held a central and elevated position in the country and was protected by an environment of hills. Being on the border between Benjamin and Judah, it was in close proximity to Ephraim and was easy of access to the other tribes. PP 703.1
In order to secure this location the Hebrews must dispossess a remnant of the Canaanites, who held a fortified position on the mountains of Zion and Moriah. This stronghold was called Jebus, and its inhabitants were known as Jebusites. For centuries Jebus had been looked upon as impregnable; but it was besieged and taken by the Hebrews under the command of Joab, who, as the reward of his valor, was made commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel. Jebus now became the national capital, and its heathen name was changed to Jerusalem. PP 703.2
Hiram, king of the wealthy city of Tyre, on the Mediterranean Sea, now sought an alliance with the king of Israel, and lent his aid to David in the work of erecting a palace at Jerusalem. Ambassadors were sent from Tyre, accompanied by architects and workmen and long trains laden with costly wood, cedar trees, and other valuable material. PP 703.3
The increasing strength of Israel in its union under David, the acquisition of the stronghold of Jebus, and the alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre, excited the hostility of the Philistines, and they again invaded the country with a strong force, taking up their position in the valley of Rephaim, but a short distance from Jerusalem. David with his men of war retired to the stronghold of Zion, to await divine direction. “And David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the Lord said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand.” PP 703.4Read in context »
In Sodom there was mirth and revelry, feasting and drunkenness. The vilest and most brutal passions were unrestrained. The people openly defied God and His law and delighted in deeds of violence. Though they had before them the example of the antediluvian world, and knew how the wrath of God had been manifested in their destruction, yet they followed the same course of wickedness. PP 157.1
At the time of Lot's removal to Sodom, corruption had not become universal, and God in His mercy permitted rays of light to shine amid the moral darkness. When Abraham rescued the captives from the Elamites, the attention of the people was called to the true faith. Abraham was not a stranger to the people of Sodom, and his worship of the unseen God had been a matter of ridicule among them; but his victory over greatly superior forces, and his magnanimous disposition of the prisoners and spoil, excited wonder and admiration. While his skill and valor were extolled, none could avoid the conviction that a divine power had made him conqueror. And his noble and unselfish spirit, so foreign to the self-seeking inhabitants of Sodom, was another evidence of the superiority of the religion which he had honored by his courage and fidelity. PP 157.2
Melchizedek, in bestowing the benediction upon Abraham, had acknowledged Jehovah as the source of his strength and the author of the victory: “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” Genesis 14:19, 20. God was speaking to that people by His providence, but the last ray of light was rejected as all before had been. PP 157.3
And now the last night of Sodom was approaching. Already the clouds of vengeance cast their shadows over the devoted city. But men perceived it not. While angels drew near on their mission of destruction, men were dreaming of prosperity and pleasure. The last day was like every other that had come and gone. Evening fell upon a scene of loveliness and security. A landscape of unrivaled beauty was bathed in the rays of the declining sun. The coolness of eventide had called forth the inhabitants of the city, and the pleasure-seeking throngs were passing to and fro, intent upon the enjoyment of the hour. PP 157.4Read in context »
Yet again the Spirit of God speaks to Jerusalem. Before the day is done, another testimony is borne to Christ. The voice of witness is lifted up, responding to the call from a prophetic past. If Jerusalem will hear the call, if she will receive the Saviour who is entering her gates, she may yet be saved. DA 578.1
Reports have reached the rulers in Jerusalem that Jesus is approaching the city with a great concourse of people. But they have no welcome for the Son of God. In fear they go out to meet Him, hoping to disperse the throng. As the procession is about to descend the Mount of Olives, it is intercepted by the rulers. They inquire the cause of the tumultuous rejoicing. As they question, “Who is this?” the disciples, filled with the spirit of inspiration, answer this question. In eloquent strains they repeat the prophecies concerning Christ: DA 578.2
Adam will tell you, It is the seed of the woman that shall bruise the serpent's head. DA 578.3
Ask Abraham, he will tell you, It is “Melchizedek King of Salem,” King of Peace. Genesis 14:18. DA 578.4
Jacob will tell you, He is Shiloh of the tribe of Judah. DA 578.5
Jeremiah will tell you, The Branch of David, “the Lord our Righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:6. DA 578.7Read in context »