Thank you to the book Eternity in Their Hearts for opening my mind (and spirit) not only to the following ideas, but even to this way of thinking.
Have you ever noticed how odd the story of Melchizedek is?
Let’s start by getting past our English words, and let’s look at the story using the Hebrew names for God in the story.
In Genesis 12:8 and 13:4 we read that Abraham called on the name of Yahweh. (LORD or GOD in all caps is always the “tetragrammaton” in Hebrew: YHWH, usually rendered in English as Yahweh, occasionally as Jehovah.) This is the only name we are given throughout Genesis chapters 12 and 13.
In chapter 14 we read about the war between the kings of Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, and “nations” and the kings of the plain (the five cities that were destroyed by God in chapter 19, including Sodom and Gomorrah). Sodom was plundered, and with them Lot was plundered. Abraham brought 318 men to rescue Lot and his family, and in the process, rescued the plunder of Sodom as well.
Three hundred eighteen is a great symbolic number in Greek. “Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred. The ten and the eight are thus denoted: ten by Ι and eight by Η. You have Ιησουσ [Jesus]. And because the cross was to express grace by the letter Τ, he also says, ‘Three hundred.’ He signifies Jesus by by two letters, and the cross by one.” (Letter of Barnabas 9, AD 80-130)
When he returns, the king of Sodom comes out to greet him. That’s to be expected. His was one of the cities defeated in the war.
The king of Salem also shows up. What? Who is he? Salem is never mentioned before. What is this king doing.
Then we’re told this is the priest of El Elyon, the most high God. He brought bread and wine, and he blessed Abraham, and he called him “Abram of El Elyon.”
He takes tithes from Abraham, and then he’s gone. Three verses. That’s it.
He’s never seen again in any of the histories.
He’s mentioned one more time, in Psalms of all places:
Yahwheh has sworn and will not repent, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
The writer of Hebrews expounds on all this and how the priest after the order of Melchizedek is Jesus. That’s all important, more important than what I have to say, but I want to expand your mind the way Eternity in Their Hearts expanded mine.
The God of Melchizedek
Melchizedek is the priest of El Elyon, a deity that it appears Abraham has never heard of. Neveretheless, when Abraham addresses the king of Sodom, he says, “I have sworn to Yahweh, El Elyon, that I will not take anything that is yours” (Gen. 14:22).
Remember, Abraham was a Babylonian. He was from Ur of the Chaldees, and the Chaldees are the Babylonians. God called him out of the polytheism of the society around him, but Abaraham did not have all the social and religious mores that we have. Monotheism was unusual in his day.
There was no reason for Abraham to equate Yahweh and El Elyon. Yahweh spoke to Abraham in Ur and in Haran, lands far away from Sodom. The cities of the plain would have had a pantheon of gods, and there was no reason for Abraham to believe anything other than that Salem had a pantheon of gods as well. Why should he embrace this high priest of El Elyon?
Whatever the reason is, he did.
My guess is that Melchizedek was one of those earthly appearances of the Word of God (a Christophany). His presence is enough to convince the hearts of the chosen ones, like Abraham. Somehow, Abraham knew that this was man to follow.
One of the things that makes me think that is not only that Melchizedek appears, unexplained, out of nowhere, from a city to which we are not yet introduced, but also that he brings with him bread and wine. You don’t need me to explain the symbology of that. The story still gives me chills and brings me to a state of awe.
The other question is, “What in the world would prompt David to bring Melchizedek up centuries later?”
Psalm 110 is full of incredible revelation. In the Septuagint, verse 3 says, “I have begotten you from the womb before the morning.” To the early Christians, this was as clear a reference as there could be to the birth/generation of the Son of God in eternity past before the beginning began. That statement is immediately followed by, “The Lord swore, and will not repent, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
David writes about the generation of the Λογοσ (Word, Reason, Logic, Thought) of God before the creation of the world. Then he writes about his becoming a priest after the order of Melchizedek.
What incredible revelation!
It’s shocking that David would write anything about a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Three verses in Genesis?
David was a prophet who became a prophet by his love for God. It started …
Whoa. I was headed down a rabbit trail. I like the rabbit trail, so I’ll use it for tomorrow’s blog.
For today, I’ll just finish with that clumsy ending. I do not feel at all impressed with the way I wrote this, but I hope that my awe and love for the whole issue of Melchizedek comes across a bit. We all need revelation from God anyway (Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:9). May he grant you insight into this King of Righteousness despite my feeble words.