Gleanings In Genesis

19. Abraham And Melchizedek


Genesis 14

Our last chapter was concerned with Abraham and Lot. We touched upon the first part of Genesis 13, which records the strife that came between their herdsmen, the prompt measures taken by the patriarch to put an end to the friction, the generous offer which he made his nephew, and Lot's leaving Abram and journeying to Sodom. In this present paper we continue our study of the career of the father of all that believe, resuming at the point where we left him in our last.

"And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee" (Gen. 13:14-17). Abraham was now alone, and yet not alone, for the Lord was with him and gracious was the revelation that He made of Himself. It was with a true concern for God's glory that Abram had suggested Lot's separating from him. "There was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land" (v. 7). Abram could not endure the thought of "strife" between brethren in the presence of the Lord's enemies- would that God's children today were equally reluctant to bring reproach upon the holy name they bear.

God did not allow His child to lose by his magnanimous offer to Lot, made, as we have said, out of consideration for God's glory. To Lot Abram had said, "Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right hand; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan," etc. (vv. 9, 10); and now Jehovah appears to Abram and says, "Lift up now thine eyes and look" (v. 14). O, what a contrast! Lot "lifted up his eyes" at the dictate of worldly interests; Abram lifted up his to behold the gift of God. Thus does our ever faithful God delight to honor those who honor Him. The student will note there are three passages in Genesis where it is said that Abram "lifted up his eyes." First, here in Genesis 13:14, when he beheld "the land"; Second, in Genesis 18:2, when he beheld "three men," one of whom was the Lord Himself; Third, in Genesis 22:13, when he beheld the substitute- "a ram caught in a thicket."

Above we have said that Abram was now alone. At last the purpose of God is realized. God "called him alone" (Isa. 51:2). He had said "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee" (Acts 7:3), but to this command Abram had rendered but a tardy and partial obedience. Both his father and nephew accompanied him as he left Chaldea, and instead of journeying straight to Canaan, he stopped short at Haran where he "dwelt" until the death of Terah (Gen. 11:31, 32). Yet even now the Divine command was not fully obeyed- into the land of God's call Abram came, Lot still with him. But now, at the point we have reached, Lot has taken his departure and Abram (with Sarai) is left alone with God. And is it not deeply significant that not until now did the Lord say, "For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever" (v. 15); Observe carefully the ascending scale in God's promises to Abram. In Chaldea God promised to "shew" Abram the land (Gen. 12:1). Then, when Abram had actually entered it and arrived at Sichem the Lord promised to "give" the land unto his seed- "And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land (Gen. 12:7). But now- now that he is at last separated from the last of his " kindred "- God promises to give "all the land" unto Abram himself. Furthermore, it is to be noted that not until now does God say to Abram, "Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it" (v. 17), which intimated that God would have Abram appropriate His gift. Abram was to "feel at home" in the land as though the title deeds of it were already in his hands. Do we not discover in all this a striking illustration of an all important principle in God's dealings with His own people. How often our unbelief limits the outflow of Divine grace! An imperfect and circumscribed obedience prevents our enjoying much that God has for us. As a further illustration compare and contrast Caleb and the inheritance which he obtained for "following the Lord fully" (Num. 14:24).

In the words "Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it" (v. 17) another important truth is suggested- appropriation. It was as though God had said to Abram,! have called you into this land, I have given it to you and your seed, now enjoy it. He was to travel through it, to look upon it as already his- his by faith, for he had God's word for it. As another has said, "He was to act towards it as if he were already in absolute possession." And is not this what God invites His people to do today? We, too, have received a call to separate ourselves from the world. We, too, have been begotten unto an inheritance, an inheritance which is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven." And now we, too, are bidden to "walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it." In other words, we are called to the exercise of faith; to look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are unseen; to set our affection upon things above, and not upon things below. In brief, we are to make our own, to appropriate and enjoy the things which God has promised us. It is unbelief which hinders us from enjoying to the full what is already ours in the purpose of God. Mark that word through the prophet Obadiah, "But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions" (v. 17). In the Millennium Israel will fully "possess their possessions." We say "fully possess" for they have never done so in the past. And why? Because of unbelief. Then let us fear, lest there be in us also an evil heart of unbelief.

"Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord" (Gen. 13:18). The connection between this statement and the immediate context is also full of instruction. "Mamre" signifies fatness and "Hebron" means fellowship. Notice the opening word "then": it was not until Lot had left him and Abram was fully in the will of the Lord that Hebron- fellowship- is now mentioned for the first time! It is disobedience that hinders full fellowship with Jehovah. And, note, too, that Abram "built there an altar unto the Lord." Fellowship resulted in worship! This is ever the order: obedience, fatness of soul, fellowship, worship. Confirmatory of these remarks, is it not significant that this very "Hebron" became the inheritance and portion of Caleb who "followed the Lord fully!- "Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day; because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel" (Josh. 14:14).

Genesis 14 opens with a brief account of the first war mentioned in Scripture. It would be beside our purpose to pause and examine in detail what is here recorded of the four and five kings,[1] our present purpose is to note Abram's connection and dealings with them. The outcome of the conflict was the capture of Lot and his possessions (v. 12). As another has said, "He had laid up treasures for himself on earth, and the thieves had broken through." One who had escaped brought intelligence to Abram that his nephew had been captured.

It is beautiful to observe the effect of this intelligence upon our patriarch. Abram was not indifferent to his nephew's well-being. There was no root of bitterness in him. There was no callous, "Well, this is none of my doing: he must reap what he has sown." Promptly he goes to the aid of the one in distress. But note it was not in the energy of the flesh that he acted. It was no mere tie of nature that prompted Abram here- "When Abram heard that his brother (not his ‘nephew') was taken captive.'' A brother- a spiritual brother- was in need, and so he "armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan" (Gen. 14:14). And has this no voice for us today? Surely the spiritual application is obvious. How often is a "brother" taken captive by the enemy, and the word comes, "Ye, which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Gal. 6:1). But only too often the call falls upon ears that are dull of hearing. Only too often, our prided separation from evil leads to independence and indifference. Alas! that it should be so. How different from our blessed Lord, who leaves the ninety and nine and goes after the sheep that has strayed, and rests not until it is found and restored!

"The righteous are bold as a lion" (Prov. 28:1). When the news came that Lot was a prisoner in the hands of a mighty warrior, Abram showed no hesitation but immediately set out in pursuit of the victorious army, and taking the initiative was quickly successful in rescuing his nephew. "And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him, after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the kings' dale" (Gen. 14:15-17).

It is just at this point that a very remarkable personage is brought before us, namely, Melchizedek. Much has been said and written about him. Some have thought he was Shem who was a contemporary of Abram's for a hundred years; but this cannot be, for we are distinctly informed concerning Melchizedek that he was "without father, without mother" (Heb. 7:3), which, as we shall see, means that Scripture is absolutely silent concerning his genealogy. This then disposes of the Shem theory, for we do know who his father was. Others have concluded that he was Christ Himself, but this supposition is equally unscriptural for we are told that Melchizedek is "made like unto the Son of God" and that Christ's priesthood is "after the similitude of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7:3, 15), which could not be said if Melchizedek were Christ Himself. Still others have supposed that he was some mysterious celestial being, but that is emphatically negatived by Hebrews 7:4, where Melchizedek is expressly called a "man."

In the words "made like unto the Son of God" (Heb. 7:3) we have the key to the mystery which centers around Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a type of Christ, and particularly a type of our Lord's priesthood. There are other points of resemblance which we shall consider below, but the first point of analogy between Melchizedek and the Son of God singled out by the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 7 is that he is "without father, without mother, without descendant, having neither beginning of days nor end of life." This does not mean that Melehizedek was a supernatural, a divine being, but that he is presented to us in the Old Testament as without father or mother, etc. In other words, the silence of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning his parentage has a designed significance. The entire omission of any reference to Melchizedek's ancestry, birth or death, was ordered by the Holy Spirit (who "moved" Moses both in what he inserted and what he left out of the Genesis narrative) in order to present a perfect type of the Lord Jesus. No information concerning the genealogy of Melchizedek is recorded in Genesis, which is a book that abounds in genealogies. This is an instance where speech is silvern and silence golden. The silence was in order that there might be a nearer approximation between the type and the glorious antitype.

Not only was Melehizedek a type of our Lord in the fact that he is presented to us in Genesis as being "without father, without mother," but also in a number of other important particulars. Melchizedek was a priest- "the priest of the Most High God" (Gen. 14:18). But not only so, he was a king- "King of Salem "- and therefore a royal priest. In the person of Melchizedek the offices of priest and king were combined, and thus was he a notable type of our great High Priest who according to the flesh was not of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah, the royal tribe (see Heb. 7:14). Not only was Melchizedek a type of the royal priesthood of Christ by virtue of his office as King of Salem (which means "peace") but his name also had a typical significance. "Melehizedek" means "king of righteousness." Here again there is a wonderful and blessed bringing together of things which out of Christ are divorced. Not only did Melchizedek combine in his person the offices of king and priest, but in his titles he united righteousness and peace. Melchizedek was both king of righteousness and king of peace and thus did he foreshadow the blessed result of the cross work of our adorable Lord, for it was at the Cross that "mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10).

Observe the order of mention in Hebrews 7:2, "to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace." This is ever God's order. God cannot be at peace with guilty rebels until the claims of His throne have been met. Only upon a righteous basis can peace be established. "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever" (Isa. 32:17). This is unfolded at length in the Epistle to the Romans, and particularly in Romans 3:21-26, God's righteousness was "declared" at the Cross where the Lord Jesus made propitiation and fully satisfied every demand of the thrice holy God. There it is that the great "work of righteousness" was accomplished, the effect of which is peace. As it is written, "Having made peace through the blood of His Cross" (Col. 1:20). The benefits of this accrue to the believer through the channel of faith, for "being justified (pronounced righteous) by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). The same order is found again in Romans 14:17- "For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit."

In Hebrews 7:4 attention is called to the greatness of this man Melchizedek, his "greatness" being recognized and acknowledged by Abraham who "gave him tithes." In this also he is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, our "great High Priest"- the only Priest so denominated in the Scriptures. The greatness of our Lord's priesthood inheres in His intrinsic glory which is in contrast with the feebleness of the perishable priests of the Levitical order who could not save. Two things prominently characterized the Levitical priests: first, they were personally unclean, and therefore needed to "offer for their own sins" (Heb. 7:27); and second, they were mortal, and therefore death put an end to their ministrations. Now in contradistinction, not only is our great High Priest sinless, but He is made "after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16), and hence it is written concerning Christ, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7:21).

It is important to remark here that it is as risen and ascended that the Lord Jesus has received the eternal excellency of the Melchizedek title. His never-ending ministry of blessing dates its effectual beginning from the finished work of the Cross. Here again we note the accuracy of our type, for not only is the Genesis narrative silent concerning the origin of Melchizedek, but it makes no mention of his death.

Finally, it is to be noted that Melchizedek is termed "priest of the Most High God" (Gen. 14:18), a title which looks beyond all national relationships. Here is the final contrast between the two orders of priesthood the Melchizedekian and the Aaronic. Aaron's priestly ministry never transcended the limits of Israel, and he was ever the priest of Jehovah as the God of Israel. But Melchizedek was priest of Jehovah under His more comprehensive title of the Most High God, "Possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:19), and therefore Melchizedek foreshadowed the millennial glory of Christ when "He shall be a priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6:13) and reign in righteousness and peace. As it is written, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jer. 23:5, 6). Then shall the Divine Melehizedek rule as King of Righteousness and King of Peace. As it is written again, "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice (righteousness) from henceforth even for ever" (Isa. 9:6, 7).

That Melchizedek foreshadowed the millennial glory of Christ is further to be seen from the occasion when he appeared before Abram. The typical picture is wonderfully complete. Melchizedek met Abram as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings, having rescued from them his nephew Lot who foreshadows the Jewish remnant in the tribulation period.[2] Then it was that Melehizedek met Abram and blessed him (Gen. 14:19). Thus it will be when our Lord returns to usher in the Millennium. He will overthrow the Beast and his forces in this same "King's dale," deliver Israel out of their hands and bless the descendants of Abraham, and just as Abram acknowledged the superiority of Melchizedek by paying him tithes, so will Israel acknowledge their Divine Melchizedek and own Him as their Priest and King.

It now only remains for us to consider here the immediate effects upon Abram of the appearing of Melchizedek before him and the blessing he had received from him. "And the King of Sodom said unto Abram, give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself" (Gen. 14:21). In the King of Sodom's offer we may discover one of the "wiles" of the devil for we are not ignorant of his "devices." The world is only too ready to offer God's children its subsidies so as to bring them under obligation to itself. But Abram was preeminently a man of faith and faith is "the victory that overcometh the world" (1 John 5:4).

"And Abram said to the King of Sodom, I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the Possessor of heaven and earth.[3] That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say I have made Abram rich. Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion"
(Gen. 14:22-24). What noble words were these! With quiet dignity our patriarch refuses to be dependent in anywise upon the King of Sodom- what a contrast was Balaam and the offer made him by Balak! Abram knew that in heaven he had a "better and an enduring substance" (Heb. 10:34). The words, "I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord" (compare Deut. 32:40) signify a vow or solemn oath, and seem to show that when he started out in pursuit of Lot's captors he promised the Lord that if He would give him success he would not enrich himself by his campaign; but it is beautiful to note that he did not forget or overlook the claims of those who had accompanied him and shared his perils. In the giving of tithes to Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God, Abram acknowledged God's grace in giving him the victory.


ENDNOTES:

[1] A careful study of the order of mention and the meaning of the various proper names mentioned in Genesis 14:1-10 will well repay the devout student.

[2] In the federation of the kings under Chedorlaomer we have foreshadowed the ten kingdomed Empire over which the Beast will rule, and surely it is more than a coincidence that here we find mentioned nine kings- “four kings with five” (v. 9)- which with Abram and his armed servants make in all ten contesting forces!

[3] The use of this Divine title here gives the lie to the wicked teaching of the higher critics who erroneously declare that the god of the patriarch and of Israel was a tribal or tutelary god. The God of Abram was no mere local deity but “The Possessor of heaven and earth.”


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