Genesis 14:17-24 “Who Was Melchizedek?”

Posted on October 24, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

Genesis Class

Genesis 14:17-24 “Who Was Melchizedek?”

Sunday 10-25-2009

Bryan E. Walker

 

Read Gen.14:17-24

17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor  of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

 

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. 21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand  to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”

Psalm 110:1-4

The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

 

2 The Lord sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power, 
in holy garments; 
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours. 
4 The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.

 

Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

 

Pray

 

Introduction:

We come now to the fascinating character of Melchizedek, whose story we just touched on last week. This passage is one of the most studied and written about passages in all of Genesis with much speculation from a variety of directions. Certainly this passage plays a messianic role in the rest of scripture from Psalm 110 to Matt. 22:41-46 which quotes Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5-7 which deals extensively with Melchizedek as a type of Christ.

 

Who is this Priest of God Most High and why is this passage included here? What relevance does it have for the story of Abram we have been studying? In this passage we see the prophecy of 12:1-3 being carried out and we see Abram facing yet another threat to the promises of God and we see a contrast between how Melchizedek and the king of Sodom treat Abram.

 

  1. I.                   Literary Analysis of 14:17-24
    1. A.      Structure
      1. 1.           Chiasmus in vss.17-21 is shown by A-vs 17 the King of Sodom Comes. B-vs.18 Melchizedek King of Salem brings. B1- vss.19-20 Melchizedek speaks. A1- vs.21 King of Sodom speaks.
      2. 2.           The outline of vss.17-24 would be (1) Vs. 17 King of Sodom comes empty handed and silent; (2) Vs.18 King of Salem brings provision for Abram and his men; (3) Vss.19-20 King of Salem blesses Abram; (4) Vs.21 King of Sodom makes demands of Abram; (5) Vss. 22-24 Abram’s testimony before the King of Sodom.
      3. 3.           Key words- King, God Most High, blessed.
      4. 4.           Bookends- Sodom is mentioned back in 14:2 and again at the end in 14:22, thus linking the Melchizedek story with the rest of the chapter in a clear unit.

 

  1. II.                Comments
    1. A.      Vs. 17 King of Sodom Comes Empty Handed and Silent
      1. 1.           Who is this King of Sodom? In vs. 2 his name is given as Bera, meaning to triumph or conquer, which, in the present circumstances makes a mockery of his name and his wicked city. The wicked will not, ultimately, conquer. But back in vs. 10 we see that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into the bitumen pits. Vs. ten can be interpreted to mean they “hid” in the pits, and the text does not say they died, though it can be interpreted that way. If so, then this king of Sodom who greets Abram is the new king. Either way, he is king over a wicked city. I prefer to think it is the same king from vss. 2 and 10, which makes his name more of mockery.
      2. 2.           Notice that the king of Sodom simply “went out to meet” Abram. The last time the Sodom king went out was to fight Chedorlaomer…and he lost. Now he went out to meet the man who defeated the king who defeated him. He is silent and he bears no gifts, neither does he prostrate himself or humble himself before Abram who just rescued all of his subjects and wealth. This silence speaks of the arrogance and pride of Sodom.
      3. 3.           “the Valley of Shavehthis valley is below and to the east of Jerusalem, at the confluence of the Kidron, Hinnom and Tyropoeon valleys. The given interpretation of the King’s Valley may be related to the fact that this is where Melchizedek also came to greet Abram and Salem would be the closest city.
    2. B.      Vs. 18 King of Salem Brings Provision for Abram and Men
      1. 1.           Melchizedek- the name means King of Righteousness. He appears suddenly without explanation other than geographic proximity perhaps. It is this suddenness that is picked up by the author of Hebrews who observes in ch.7 that he has no father or mother listed, and this points to Christ who is eternal. Genesis is a book of genealogies so it is strange that here, a key character, is given without any reference to ancestry.
      2. 2.           King of Salem- Some commentators point out that Salem is an unusual abbreviation for Jerusalem, but it can fit, and geographically as well as typically fits. Salem does mean peace, so you have righteousness and peace joined in this one man, again pointing to Christ. You can have righteousness without peace, but you cannot have real peace apart from righteousness. The Jewish ideal of peace is shalom, meaning not simply the absence of conflict, but the presence of wholeness, things are not just not messed up, they are positively the way they are supposed to be. Psalm 85:10 “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Isa. 32:17 “And the effect of righteousness will be peace…” When you have the righteousness of Christ applied, by his blood, then you will have peace with God.
      3. 3.           Bread and wine- He brought out provisions for not just Abram, but for the men. The implication is of a royal banquet, Psalm 23:5 comes to mind, “You prepare a table before me
        in the presence of my enemies…” Bread and wine, though certainly normal for the situation, also happens to go along with the Lord’s Supper, though this phrase is not used by the author of Hebrews in that way. We are reminded that the Lord is preparing a banquet for his bride, and that we shall all sit down at his table to celebrate His victory.
      4. 4.           He was priest of God Most High- while in the ancient world it was not uncommon for a man to be both king and priest, it was forbidden in Israel. The tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe while the tribe of Judah was the kingly tribe. Saul was a Benjaminite and was severely chastised by Samuel and the Lord for performing a sacrifice, a priestly duty, in 1 Sam. 13:8 at Gilgal. In 2 Chronicles 26 is the story of Uzziah the King of Judah who wrongly entered the Temple to burn incense, a priestly function, and he broke out in leprosy. The only Israelite who was both a priest and king was Jesus, and this is another reason Melchizedek is a type of Christ. Though Abram is never called a priest or a king, he does build an altar and “called on the name of the Lord” thus serving as a priest for his family and servants, and he is considered to be the equivalent of a king (23:6) by his contemporaries. Combine these traits with his sharing in worship the same God as Melchizedek and you find that Abram has a peer in Melchizedek.
      5. 5.           God Most High- El Elyon, El is the basic Semitic word for God, but Elyon is the greatest, the highest. See excursus below on God Most High.
      6. 6.           Who was Melchizedek? The ancient Jewish scholars claimed he was Shem, who would actually outlive Abram by 35 years, if you take the dates of the genealogies literally with no gaps. There is no biblical evidence for this. Luther goes along with the Shem thesis. Others said that he was an angel; some even went so far as to say he was the archangel, Michael. Some in the early church thought he might be a pre-incarnate Christ, but the Hebrews text seems to negate that. In all likelihood he is a Canaanite whom God had revealed himself too, or who had kept the tradition and worship alive since Shem. Notice that there are others in the Bible who know God but who are not Israelites: Job and his friends, and Balaam. The author of Hebrews clearly uses Melchizedek as a type of Christ, but he remains a mere man. I have no doubt we shall meet him in heaven and get some of our questions answered.
      7. 7.           The Contrast between Melchizedek and the king of Sodom could not be greater. You have a king of righteousness vs. a king conqueror who lost everything. You have a king over Salem, peace, as opposed to a king over Sodom, a wicked city. One king comes silently, then makes demands while the other king comes with a blessing for Abram. One king comes empty handed and the other with bountiful provisions.
    3. C.      Vss.19-20 The King of Salem Blesses Abram
      1. 1.           And he blessed him- this is a link to 12:3 “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Melchizedek is shown to be blessing Abram while the king of the Sodomites is shown to be one who dishonors Abram, and reaps a curse in chapter 19.
      2. 2.           Blessed be Abram by God Most High- this blessing comes before the offer by the king of Sodom and is a contrast of seeking a blessing from the LORD or from the world. Since it is Melchizedek giving Abram the blessing we can infer that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. This is huge since Jews looked to Father Abraham as the founder of their race, yet here is one greater than Abraham. Jesus said in John 8:48-59 “The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’  55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” In this passage in John we see that Jesus may possibly be referring to this encounter with Melchizedek, but I have not carefully researched this passage, so I do not know for sure.
      3. 3.           Possessor of Heaven and Earth- you can also translate that as Creator of heaven and earth. The emphasis is that God most High not only created the universe but he is still involved in it on a daily basis which points us to Col. 1:16-17 16 For by  him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Psalm 115:15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
        who made heaven and earth!
      4. 4.           and blessed be God Most High- he blesses, or praises God, for “delivering your enemies into your hand.” Praying for and praising God for, victory in a just war is a good thing. After 9/11 I started praying not just for the safety of our troops, but for victory over our enemies. WE can do that. Do you do that? Any victory that a Christian experiences is a direct gift from God Most High. Any defeat still falls under God’s sovereign providence whether it is a result of our failure or not. The Hebrew word for “delivering” is the same root as “shield” in 15:1, thus providing another link to the following chapter, a typical sign of Mosaic authorship and again showing that this Melchizedek section belongs with the greater whole.
      5. 5.           And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The principle of tithing, then, comes prior to the giving of the law. Here is another proof that Abram is recognizing the superiority of Melchizedek which is amazing considering that Israel was about to enter the Promised Land and kill all the Canaanites. What did Abram tithe? In all likelihood he took a tenth of the war loot and gave it to Melchizedek.
    4. D.      Vs. 21 The King of Sodom Makes Demands of Abram
      1. 1.           Give me the persons- in the Hebrew this is an imperative, an order or demand and is quite brusque and rude. Consider the place of this king of Sodom: he was defeated in battle, his city was sacked while he hid in a bitumen pit, and he basically has nothing left. He contributed nothing to Abram’s victory and owes Abram everything. Yet, he treats Abram with contempt. Melchizedek gives food and blessings, Bera gives demands. By asking only for the persons, and allowing Abram to keep the loot, he is acknowledging the rights of the victor. But he does so with an imperious tone. Abram did not have to give back the people.
      2. 2.           take the goods for yourself- HERE IS THE NEXT THREAT TO THE PROMISES OF GOD TO ABRAM!!! There is a temptation here to accept the booty from Sodom instead of trusting in God. At first glance we might ask why would it be wrong to accept the treasure from Sodom if it was won fairly at war? If Abram accepted it, it would unnecessarily link him to Sodom and basically tarnish his reputation, and thereby, the LORD’s. Here is another proof that this story fits in with the broader context of the Abraham narrative and it provides a moral link to the Lot narrative by way of contrast too.

 

 

 

  1. E.       Vss.22-24  Abram’s Testimony Before the King of Sodom
    1. 1.           But Abram said to the king of Sodom- notice that Abram is not impressed, Abram is not intimidated by royalty, Abram does not just sit there quietly and take what the king wants to dish out. He gives an unwavering, strong reply to the king of Sodom. Application: how often do we as Believers just sit there meekly, cowardly really, and fail to speak up when we should? We have confused politeness with cowardice I am afraid! The world wants to dish it out and we sit there and take it quietly or go ahead and compromise. Thus we have lost western civilization. It was lost not to a major military defeat, but because Christians wanted to be polite, thinking others would somehow, somewhere, speak up. Folks, there is a time for being meek, polite and quiet, but those days are past.
    2. 2.           I have lifted my hand to the LORD- Abram is saying that he has taken an oath to YHWH, that he would not take anything that belonged to the Sodomite king. This is a huge slap in the face of Bera; Abram is saying, “I don’t need your stinking, tainted, corrupt belongings!” Furthermore, he doesn’t wimp out by just not taking the stuff and appearing like the tough guy, he does this in the name of the LORD. This is a strong testimony of God’s grace in his life. “Bera, I don’t need what you have, but you need what I have!” this is moral judo.
    3. 3.           Abram allows for his allies to have their share- Abram dictates the terms for the Sodomite king and says that the men have eaten from the supplies and his allies will have their fair share of the loot.
    4. 4.           Warren Wiersbe, Be Obedient: Learning the Secret of Living By Faith, Victor Books,1991, p.38 “Abraham did not accept king Bera’s offer. Instead, it is likely that Abraham gave everyone he had rescued opportunity to come with him and trust the true and living God. Abraham was a powerful sheik, and his neighbors knew about his tent and his altar. But there is no indication that any of them (including Lot’s family) accepted his invitation. Except for Lot and two of his daughters, they all perished in the destruction of Sodom.”

Conclusion: All too often, after a great spiritual victory, another, more subtle temptation occurs that snares us. Abram here resisted the temptation to be co-opted by the worldly riches of Sodom. He not only resisted, he gave a testimony of God’s grace. The idea here is SEPARATION, Abram wants nothing to do with the Sodomites including being rewarded by them with their dirty money.

***************

Prayer for the Genesis Sunday School Class

Sunday, October 25, 2009

 

Heavenly Father, El Elyon- our God Most High, we come to you this morning because you alone are God, there are no others. We pray to you because you are Creator and Possessor of all the earth and the heavens above. You are our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was, and is, and is to come; we praise you this morning for who you are and for what you have done, are doing, and will do.

 

God Most High, you have blessed us with the victory, you have delivered our enemies into your Son’s hand as he has conquered sin, death, the devil and hell. Lord Jesus you are our Righteousness. Because you are totally sinless, always obeying the Father, your sacrifice on the cross has brought us salvation. You are our King of Righteousness. Lord, you are our King of Peace. We were at enmity with God and your willing sacrifice brought us peace; peace between us and God so that we could even be adopted into your family, making us children of God and making you are brother.

 

Lord, may we too practice Righteousness. We know that your righteousness is applied to us, covering over our sin, but we also know that you send your Holy Spirit to indwell us and transform us, conforming us into your image so that we can actually live a holy and righteous life. Help us to emulate Abraham by trusting in you and not in the world. Help us to say “No” to the temptations of this world and focus on worshiping You with our whole lives.

 

Lord, may we not just do the right thing, but, like Abraham, give a verbal testimony before the world of why we are doing the right thing. May we not remain silent any longer as the world promotes its Sodom like behaviour. Lord, this very week, our US Congress passed a law that will give special privilege, status and protection to our modern day Sodomites, and our President will sign it. Lord, help us to repent as a nation. Lord change the hearts and lives of the Sodomites with the power of your Gospel. And may we love the individuals we meet who are Sodomites and show them the Gospel while opposing their lifestyle. We admit Lord that this battle cannot be won politically, though we should be engaged in that battle, but it can only be won if you bring a nationwide revival within your church, for it is the Church that has failed. Forgive us O Lord.

 

Lord, God Most High, we ask that you bless this time of study as we examine your Word. Grant us ears to hear and eyes to see, grant us willing hearts that we would obey in faith, out of love for you. Be with Dr. Mudliar as he preaches this morning, give him unction! May we be challenged by Your Word.

 

We pray for our service men and women overseas, that you would protect them, grant them courage, and give them hope. Be with the wounded in the hospitals and heal their hurts, Comfort those who are grieving the losses of our soldiers. Amen.

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