MELCHIZEDEK (mel-lciz'e-dok), (Heb. "072 p-p), mal-kee-tseh'dek, king of righteousness).
A 'priest of the most high God,' and king of Salem, who went forth to meet Abraham on his return from the pursuit of Chedorlaomer and his allies, who had carried Lot away captive. He brought refreshment, described in the general terms of 'bread and wine,' for the fatigued war riors, and bestowed his blessing upon their leader, who, in return, gave to the royal priest a tenth of all the spoil which had been acquired in his ex pedition (Gen. xiv:i8, 2o).
This statement seems sufficiently plain, and to offer nothing very extraordinary ;yet it has formed the basis of much speculation and controversy. In particular, the fact that Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek attracted much attention among the later Jews. In one of the Messianic Psalms (ex:4), it is foretold that the Messiah should be 'a priest after the order of Melchizedek': which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (vi: 2o) cites as showing that Melchizedek was a type of Christ, and the Jews themselves, cer tainly, on the authority of this passage of the Psalms, regarded Melchizedek as a type of the regal priesthood. higher than that of Aaron, to which the Messiah should belong. The bread and wine which were set forth on the table of shew bread was also supposed to be represented by the bread and wine which the king of Salem brought forth to Abraham (Sehottgen, Hor. Heb. ii. 645). A mysterious supremacy came also to be assigned to Melchizedek, by reason of his having received tithes from the Hebrew patriarch ; and on this point the Epistle to the Hebrews (vii:i-to) expatiates strongly, as showing the in feriority of the priesthood represented, to that of Melchizedek, to which the Messiah belonged. 'Consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils ;' and he goes on to argue that the Aaronic priesthood, who themselves received tithes of the Jews, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek in the person of their great ancestor. This superiority is, as we take it. inherent in his typical rather than his personal character. But the Jews, in admitting this official or personal superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham, sought to account for it by alleging that the royal priest was no other than Shem, the most pious of Noah's sons, who, according to the shorter chronology, might have lived to the time of Abraham. But such con
jectures do not need to be refuted in the light of the discoveries made by the monuments. Prof. A. H. Sayce in his Patriarchal Palestine has cleared up the mystery regarding Melchizedek. He says: It is only since the discovery and decipher ment of the cuneiform tablets of Tell Ainarna that the story of Melchizedek has been illustrated and explained. Hitherto it had seemed to stand alone. The critics, in the superiority of their knowledge, had refused credit to it, and had de nied that the name even of Jerusalem or Salem was known before the age of David. But the monuments have come to our help, and have shown that it is the critics and not the Biblical writer who have been in error.
Several of the most interesting of the Tell Amarna letters were written to the Pharaoh Amenophis IV, Khu-n-Aten, by Ebed-Tob the king of Jerusalem. Not only is the name of Uru-salim or Jerusalem the only one in use, but the city itself is already one of the most important fortresses of Canaan. It was the capital of a large district which extended southwards as far as Keilah and Karmel of Judah. It commanded the approach to the vale of Siddim, and in one of his letters Ebed-Tob speaks of having repaired the royal roads not only in the mountains but also in the kikar or "plain" of Jordan (Gen. xiii :to). The possession of Jerusalem was eagerly coveted by the enemies of Ebed-Tob, whom he calls also the enemies of the Egyptian king.
Now Ebed-Tob declares time after time that he is not an Egyptian governor, but a tributary ally and vassal of the Pharaoh, and that he had re ceived his royal power, not by inheritance from his father or mother, but through the arm (or oracle) of "the mighty king." As "the mighty king" is distinguished from the "great king" of Egypt we must see in him the god worshiped by Ebed-Tob, the "most high God" of Melchizedek and the prototype of the "mighty God" of Isaiah. It is this same "mighty king,' Ebed-Tob assures the Pharaoh in another lettter, who will over throw the naviesof Babylonia and Aram-Naharim. Here then as late as the fifteenth century be fore our era we have a king in Jerusalem who owes his royal dignity to his god. He is in fact a priest as well as a king. His throne has not descended to him by inheritance; so far as his kingly office is concerned, he is like Melchizedek, without father or mother.