Genesis 14:18-20 Abram And Melchizedek.
As with any passage of scripture, it is important to remember the context in which we find this account of Melchizedek. It comes in the larger context of the LORD’s call to Abram to leave his country and family and to go to a land he was promised. This was in effect a great commission to Abram. It was a covenantal call-people would either be blessed or cursed in how they responded to Abram (Gen. 12:1-3). The LORD appeared to him on his journey, and when Abram and Lot parted ways the LORD again reiterated His promise to Abram of land and an innumerable seed (13:14-17), and he built an altar to the LORD (v. 18). Then in what seems like an interruption in this journey, Abram is called upon to deliver Lot from the kings who had defeated the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah who reigned in the area in which Lot had chosen to live. It was then after the defeat of these kings and the deliverance of Lot in the process, that Melichizedek appears.
It is also important to note what follows this encounter with Melchizedek. The LORD had already given Abram a great commission, with covenantal consequences of blessing and cursing, and now after this encounter with Melchizedek, the LORD establishes his covenant with Abram-a new administration of the one covenant of grace (Ch. 15). The promise of land and an innumerable seed come in the context of this covenant (vv. 17-20). So as mysterious as Melchizedek is, it is no mystery as to what he did. Upon Abram’s faithful deliverance of his kinsmen, “the priest of God Most High” blesses him (vv. 18-19). Melchizedek also blesses God Most High who in fact was the One who granted this deliverance through Abram (v. 20ab). Then we read that Abram gave Melchizedek “a tithe of all” (v. 20c). However, we do not find Abram bowing down to worship Melchizedek, like we do with other pre-incarnate appearances of the Son in the personage of the Angel of the LORD (18:1-3).
So Melchizedek was not an appearance of the Son of God. However, he was a genuine priest-king of God Most High, and this was the reason why Abram gave him a tithe. The tithe was given in support of Melchizedek’s ministry. We should not forget that this priestly ministry was in operation before the Aaronic order was established, and we have no indication that it continued alongside of the Aaronic order when it was established. We should also not lose sight of the fact that Melchizedek “brought out bread and wine” (v. 18). It would become part and parcel of the worship of God’s people, in particular the priestly class, that the sharing of a meal, and in particular bread and wine, was an integral part. It is particularly significant that this comes between Abram’s call and the establishment of the covenant. These ideas are echoed later when Jesus shares the Passover meal with His disciples (Luke 22:7-23). *
The writer to the Hebrews brings out the key points in this appearance of Melchizedek. His name means he was a king of righteousness and peace. As a type of Christ he also remained a priest continually (7:3). Since he was before Levi, his appearance shows that there was a priesthood which existed before that of the Aaronic order. Unlike that order, this priest was also a king. He in effect exercised his kingship through his priestly ministry. The writer to the Hebrews also keys in on the fact that this was also a messianic promise-of a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). Then we see the connection drawn to the covenant, showing that Jesus’ priesthood was established with an oath-a bond being at the very heart of the covenant relationship. In effect he is saying that the better covenant required a better priesthood (v. 22). This is the significance Melchizedek’s appearance and ministry.
* Many suggest that Jesus established something completely new with the institution of the LORD’s supper. However, it is clear from all the gospel accounts that they were in fact celebrating the Passover, so that when Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me,” He was referring to the Passover meal (Lk. 22:19). The very same meal was used to give expression to both old and new covenant administrations of the one covenant of grace.