Verses 17–20

This paragraph begins with the mention of the respect which the king of Sodom paid to Abram at his return from the slaughter of the kings; but, before a particular account is given of this, the story of Melchizedek is briefly related, concerning whom observe,

I. Who he was. He was king of Salem and priest of the most high God; and other glorious things are said of him, Heb. 7:1-10 1. The rabbin, and most of our rabbinical writers, conclude that Melchizedek was Shem the son of Noah, who was king and priest to those that descended from him, according to the patriarchal model. But this is not at all probable; for why should his name be changed? And how came he to settle in Canaan? 2. 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, as, afterwards, Hagar called him by another name, Gen. 16:13. He appeared to him as a righteous king, owning a righteous cause, and giving peace. It is difficult to imagine that any mere man should be said to be without father, without mother, and without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, Heb. 7:3. It is witnessed of Melchizedek that he liveth, and that he abideth a priest continually (Heb. 7:3, 8); nay (Heb. 7:13, 14), the apostle makes him of whom these things are spoken to be our Lord who sprang out of Judah. It is likewise difficult to think that any mere man should, at this time, be greater than Abram in the things of God, that Christ should be a priest after the order of any mere man, and that any human priesthood should so far excel that of Aaron as it is certain that Melchizedek’s did. 3. The most commonly received opinion is that Melchizedek was a Canaanitish prince, that reigned in Salem, and kept up the true religion there; but, if so, why his name should occur here only in all the story of Abram, and why Abram should have altars of his own and not attend the altars of his neighbour Melchizedek who was greater than he, seem unaccountable. Mr. Gregory of Oxford tells us that the Arabic Catena, which he builds much upon the authority of, gives this account of Melchizedek, That he was the son of Heraclim, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, and that his mother’s name was Salathiel, the daughter of Gomer, the son of Japheth, the son of Noah.

II. What he did. 1. 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, teaching us to do good and to communicate, and to be given to hospitality, according to our ability; and representing the spiritual provisions of strength and comfort which Christ has laid up for us in the covenant of grace for our refreshment, when we are wearied with our spiritual conflicts. 2. 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. Thus God, having raised up his Son Jesus, has sent him to bless us, as one having authority; and those whom he blesses are blessed indeed. Christ went to heaven when he was blessing his disciples (Luke 24:51); for this is what he ever lives to do.

III. What he said, Gen. 14:19, 20. Two things were said by him:—1. He blessed Abram from God: Blessed be Abram, blessed of the most high God, Gen. 14:19. Observe the titles he here gives to God, which are very glorious. (1.) The most high God, which bespeaks his absolute perfections in himself and his sovereign dominion over all the creatures; he is King of kings. Note, It will greatly help both our faith and our reverence in prayer to eye God as the most high God, and to call him so. (2.) Possessor of heaven and earth, that is, rightful owner, and sovereign Lord, of all the creatures, because he made them. This bespeaks him a great God, and greatly to be praised (Ps. 24:1), and those a happy people who have an interest in his favour and love. 2. He blessed God for Abram (Gen. 14:20): and blessed be the most high God. Note, (1.) In all our prayers, we must praise God, and join hallelujahs with all our hosannahs. These are the spiritual sacrifices we must offer up daily, and upon particular occasions. (2.) God, as the most high God, must have the glory of all our victories, Exod. 17:15; 1 Sam. 7:10, 12; Jdg. 5:1, 2; 2 Chron. 20:21. In them he shows himself higher than our enemies (Exod. 18:11), and higher than we; for without him we could do nothing. (3.) We ought to give thanks for others’ mercies as for our own, triumphing with those that triumph. (4.) Jesus Christ, our great high priest, is the Mediator both of our prayers and praises, and not only offers up ours, but his own for us. See Luke 10:21.

IV. What was done to him: Abram gave him tithes of all, that is, of the spoils, Heb. 7:4. This may be looked upon, 1. As a gratuity presented to Melchizedek, by way of return for his tokens of respect. Note, Those that receive kindness should show kindness. Gratitude is one of nature’s laws. 2. As an offering vowed and dedicated to the most high God, and therefore put into the hands of Melchizedek his priest. Note, (1.) When we have received some signal mercy from God, it is very fit that we should express our thankfulness by some special act of pious charity. God must always have his dues out of our substance, especially when, by any particular providence, he has either preserved or increased it to us. (2.) That the tenth of our increase is a very fit proportion to be set apart for the honour of God and the service of his sanctuary. (3.) That Jesus Christ, our great Melchizedek, is to have homage done him, and to be humbly acknowledged by every one of us as our king and priest; and not only the tithe of all, but all we have, must be surrendered and given up to him.