And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tenth of all. (Genesis 14:15-20).
Genesis 14 is a chapter from the family history of the origins of Israel. It tells the story of how Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was swept up into the military doings of the ancient world and of how Abraham himself played a role in that history.
Lot and Abraham had parted company. Uncle Abraham had given Lot free reign to choose whichever part of the land he wished and he chose the Valley of Siddum, known today as the Dead Sea. But it was not dead in that day. Rather it was a lush, fertile valley, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. Lot settled in Sodom, the sin city of antiquity.
And then a day came when a messenger arrived at the tent of Abraham with terrible news. A coalition of kings from the east had invaded and had taken Sodom and enslaved all of its inhabitants — including Lot. Abraham immediately organized a rescue party. In a brazen display of faith and courage, he caught up with the raiders and attacked them by night, putting them to route and recovering not only his nephew, but all of the wealth and citizens of Sodom.
However the most unusual part of this tale took place on the return journey. It was here that Abraham was met by a new figure; a mysterious priest-king known as Melchizedek. The Scriptures tell us that they met, that Melchizedek brought bread and wine and a blessing, and that Abraham rewarded him with a tenth of all. And that is all. Melchizedek is not mentioned again in the rest of Genesis nor anywhere in any of the historical books of the Old Testament. And although there is a veiled prophecy in the Psalm concerning him, the significance of this figure is an unsolved mystery. Until now.
The writer to the Hebrews has already made mention of Melchizedek and that Jesus is a priest after that ancient order (Hebrews 5:6; 5:10: 6:20). The last such mention was in the last verse of the previous chapter. And this time, the writer will explain fully what he means.
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.
3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. (Hebrews 7:1-3).
The theme of the epistle to the Hebrews is that Jesus is better. He is better than the prophets and He is better than the angels and He is better than Moses and He provides a better rest than that which was promised by Joshua. In the last several chapters, we have seen that Jesus is a better high priest. This automatically brings a objection: How can Jesus be a better priest if He is from the tribe of Judah? All priests in the Old Testament were required to be of the tribe of Levi and specifically from the descendants of Aaron. The answer to this objection will be that Jesus is of a priesthood which predates that of Aaron — one which goes back all the way to Abraham.
We don’t know a lot about Melchizedek. He emerges from the pages of antiquity to have his brief encounter with Abraham, he pronounces a blessing, accept Abraham’s gift, and then once again disappears into the pages of history. We don’t know much about Melchizedek, but there are several things that we do know.
1. His name: By the translation of his name, king of righteousness (7:2).
The name "Melchizedek" is a compound of two Hebrew words which have been joined together.
Melech is the Hebrew word for "king."
Zedek means "righteousness."
What’s in a name? When we name children, it is often only because we like the sound of it. But names in the ancient world were full of meaning, especially among the Jews. Names were given to tell something about the character of the person.
This is why you occasionally see a person whose name is changed. This was the case of Abraham - his name was changed from Abram ("father of high places") to Abraham ("father of a multitude").