on Genesis 14 :18
And Melchizedek, king of Salem - A thousand idle stories have been told about this man, and a thousand idle conjectures spent on the subject of his short history given here and in Hebrews 7.At present it is only necessary to state that he appears to have been as real a personage as Bera, Birsha, or Shinab, though we have no more of his genealogy than we have of theirs.
Brought forth bread and wine - Certainly to refresh Abram and his men, exhausted with the late battle and fatigues of the journey; not in the way of sacrifice, etc.; this is an idle conjecture.
He was the priest of the most high God - He had preserved in his family and among his subjects the worship of the true God, and the primitive patriarchal institutions; by these the father of every family was both king and priest, so Melchizedek, being a worshipper of the true God, was priest among the people, as well as king over them.
Melchizedek is called here king of Salem, and the most judicious interpreters allow that by Salem, Jerusalem is meant. That it bore this name anciently is evident from Psalm 76:1, Psalm 76:2 : "In Judah is God known; his name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion." From the use made of this part of the sacred history by David, Psalm 110:4, and by St. Paul, Hebrews 7:1-10, we learn that there was something very mysterious, and at the same time typical, in the person, name, office, residence, and government of this Canaanitish prince. 1. In his person he was a representative and type of Christ; see the scriptures above referred to. 2. His name, מלכי צדק malki tsedek, signifies my righteous king, or king of righteousness. This name he probably had from the pure and righteous administration of his government; and this is one of the characters of our blessed Lord, a character which can be applied to him only, as he alone is essentially righteous, and the only Potentate; but a holy man, such as Melchizedek, might bear this name as his type or representative. 3. Office; he was a priest of the most high God. The word כהן cohen, which signifies both prince and priest, because the patriarchs sustained this double office, has both its root and proper signification in the Arabic; kahana signifies to approach, draw near, have intimate access to; and from hence to officiate as priest before God, and thus have intimate access to the Divine presence: and by means of the sacrifices which he offered he received counsel and information relative to what was yet to take place, and hence another acceptation of the word, to foretell, predict future events, unfold hidden things or mysteries; so the lips of the priests preserved knowledge, and they were often the interpreters of the will of God to the people. Thus we find that Melchizedek, being a priest of the most high God, represented Christ in his sacerdotal character, the word priest being understood as before explained. 4. His residence; he was king of Salem. שלם shalam signifies to make whole, complete, or perfect; and hence it means peace, which implies the making whole the breaches made in the political and domestic union of kingdoms, states, families, etc., making an end of discord, and establishing friendship. Christ is called the Prince of peace, because, by his incarnation, sacrifice, and mediation, he procures and establishes peace between God and man; heals the breaches and dissensions between heaven and earth, reconciling both; and produces glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will among men. His residence is peace and quietness and assurance for ever, in every believing upright heart. He governs as the Prince and Priest of the most high God, ruling in righteousness, mighty to save; and he ever lives to make intercession for, and save to the uttermost all who come unto the Father by him. See the notes on Hebrews 7 (note).
on Genesis 14 :18
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.
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.
on Genesis 14 :18
14:18 The Rabbins say, that Melchizedek was Shem the son of Noah, who was king and priest to those that descended from him, according to the patriarchal model. 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 this name. But as nothing is expressly revealed concerning it, we can determine nothing. He brought forth bread and wine - For the refreshment of Abram and his soldiers, and in congratulation of their victory. This he did as a king. As priest of the most high God he blessed Abram, which we may suppose a greater refreshment to Abram than his bread and wine were.