Abraham – Melchizedek (Notes)

(Genesis 14, Psalm 110, Hebrews 7)

The Church, drawing on the traditions of the rabbis and Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) Jews like Philo of Alexandria, continued to interpret Scripture as having different layers – which are generally classified as literal, allegorical (spiritual), moral, and anagogical (end-times). An early Latin poem says:

The letter shows us what God and our fathers did;
The allegorical shows us where our faith is hid;
The moral meaning gives us rules of daily life;
The anagogy shows us where we end our strife.

This week we are going to work through the different layers of meaning of the narrative of Abram and Melchizedek found in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 7.


The story of Melchizedek is found in Genesis 14, and specifically verses 17-20. The word “king” (Hebrew “melekh”) is mentioned 27 times within the 24 verses of this chapter, and the majority of this chapter tells of a battle between various kings in which Abram participated. This chapter ends with the appearance of Melchizedek, King of Salem. (Hebrew “zedek” means “righteous” and “salem” means “peace”). Melchizedek is also the first person to be called a “priest” in the Bible. Read through Chapter 14 (the names and places, other than Melchizedek, are unimportant to our discussion) and have a general understanding of what has occurred in the narrative.

At first reading, Melchizedek appears out of nowhere as he is not mentioned anywhere else in Genesis. However, from a Jewish perspective, Melchizedek is the same person as Shem – one of Noah’s sons and the eponymous ancestor of all Semites/Shemites such as the Israelites. For example, in the Palestinian Targum (a 1st century Aramaic translation/commentary of the Hebrew Scriptures) Genesis 14:18 reads: “And Melchizedek, king of Jerusalem – he is Shem the Great – brought out bread and wine, for he was the priest who ministered in the high priesthood before the most High God.” The basis for this reasoning is that in Genesis 11:10-26, Shem lives 500 years after the birth of his first son, Arphaxad. There are 290 years between the birth of Arphaxad and the birth of Abram, so that when Abram was born, Shem lived for another 210 year. (If you have time, try the math.) The rabbis also saw a parallel between Noah’s blessing of Shem in Genesis 9:26 (“Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem”) and Melchizedek’s blessing of Abram in Genesis14:19 (“Blessed be Abram by God Most High”). Therefore, from a Jewish perspective, Shem/Melchizedek provides the continuity between Noah and Abraham.

What are your thoughts on Genesis 14? Does the narrative alter your opinion or conception of Abraham? How does Melchizedek compare to the other kings? What is your opinion on the identification of Melchizedek with Shem? Is this identification supported by Scripture?


Most Biblical narratives have a moral lesson that can be drawn from them. In this case, what is the immediate moral lesson that can be drawn from Abram’s reaction to military victory? How can this moral lesson be generally applied to your life? Also, compare the response of Abram with that of the king of Sodom. How is the king of Sodom’s reaction the antithesis of the appropriate response?

Anagogical (End-times):

In 1946 a Bedouin discovered a cache of writings in what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls in caves located in the Quran community about 24 miles from Jerusalem. Most scholars agree the scrolls belonged to a Jewish ascetic communal sect known as the Essenes who existed from the 2nd century B.C. until being destroyed by the Romans in 69 A.D. These scrolls have been dated from as early as the 3rd century B.C. through the time of Jesus. One of the scrolls is called “The Coming of Melchizedek.” (Scroll 11Q13). This scroll speaks of the deliverance of the predestined “Sons of Light” through the atonement of Melchizedek at the Last Days as follows:

And concerning what Scripture says, “In this year of Jubilee you shall return, everyone of you, to your property” (Lev. 25:13) And what is also written; “And this is the manner of the remission; every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because God’s remission has been proclaimed” (Deut.15:2) the interpretation is that it applies to the Last Days and concerns the captives, just as Isaiah said: “To proclaim the Jubilee to the captives” (Isa. 61:1) (…) just as (…) and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, for Melchizedek will return them to what is rightfully theirs. He will proclaim to them the Jubilee, thereby releasing them from the debt of all their sins. He shall proclaim this decree in the first week of the jubilee period that follows nine jubilee periods.

Then the “Day of Atonement” shall follow after the tenth jubilee period, when he shall atone for all the Sons of Light, and the people who are predestined to Melchizedek. For this is the time decreed for the “Year of Melchizedek`s favor”, and by his might he will judge God’s holy ones and so establish a righteous kingdom, as it is written about him in the Songs of David; “A godlike being has taken his place in the council of God; in the midst of divine beings he holds judgement” (Ps. 82:1).
Scripture also says about him; “Over it take your seat in the highest heaven; A divine being will judge the peoples” (Ps. 7:7-8) Concerning what scripture says; “How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality with the wicked?” (Ps. 82:2), the interpretation applies to Belial and the spirits predestined to him, because all of them have rebelled, turning from God’s precepts and so becoming utterly wicked. Therefore Melchizedek will thoroughly prosecute the vengeance required by God’s statutes. Also, he will deliver all the captives from the power of Belial (“Beliel” is Hebrew for “worthless” and was used to describe ungodly men in scripture. (“Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” 1 Sam. 2:12 (KJV)). Later, the terms became identified with the demonic) and from the power of all the spirits destined to him. Allied with him will be all the “righteous divine beings.”(Isa. 61:3).

(The …) is that which all the divine beings. The visitation is the Day of Salvation that He has decreed through Isaiah the prophet concerning all the captives, inasmuch as Scripture says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion “Your divine being reigns”.” (Isa. 52:7) This scriptures interpretation: “the mountains” are the prophets, they who were sent to proclaim God’s truth and to prophesy to all Israel. “The messengers” is the Anointed of the spirit, of whom Daniel spoke; “After the sixty-two weeks, an Anointed shall be cut off” (Dan. 9:26) The “messenger who brings good news, who announces Salvation” is the one of whom it is written; “to proclaim the year of the LORD`s favor, the day of the vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (Isa. 61:2)

This scripture’s interpretation: he is to instruct them about all the periods of history for eternity (… and in the statutes) of the truth. (….) that passes from Belial and returns to the Sons of Light (…) by the judgment of God, just as it is written concerning him; “who says to Zion “Your divine being reigns” (Isa. 52:7) “Zion” is the congregation of all the sons of righteousness, who uphold the covenant and turn from walking in the way of the people. “Your divine being” is Melchizedek, who will deliver them from the power of Belial. Concerning what scripture says, “Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; in the seventh month . . .” (Lev. 25:9).

What does this writing say about the coming of Melchizedek? How does Melchizedek in the scroll relate, if at all, to the Genesis’s account or the mention of Melchizedek in Psalm 110?


The Church often looks back at events and characters in the Old Testament as a type or foreshadowing of Jesus. In Hebrews chapter 7, the writer says that Melchizedek prefigures Jesus in numerous particulars. Read through Hebrews 7 and see how many connections the writer makes between Melchizedek and Jesus. What is the significance of Melchizedek being both priest and king? Why does Hebrews says that Jesus’ priesthood in the order of Melchizedek is better than the Levitical priesthood? Does the Jewish understanding of Melchizedek being Shem (and thus having a genealogy in contradiction to Hebrews 7:6) undercut the argument in Hebrews 7 that Jesus is Melchizedek? Does “The Coming of Melchizedek” shed any light on Hebrews 7?

Finally, in the below exchange, do you believe that Jesus implicitly appropriates the priest/king identity of Melchizedek’s to himself though his quotation of Psalm 110? In Psalm 110:4, to whom is God promising that he will be “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek?” Is it the speaker (i.e. David) or David’s lord (i.e. the Christ)?

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’’?
45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22:41-46

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