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Paul J. Bucknell
The High Priest Melchizedek was operating behind the scenes. Genesis 14:18-20 opens the door so that we can see how Abram won the battle, and King Melchizedek was a key force.
This last point about King Melchizedek is puzzling due to its brief and surprise introduction here. Melchizedek’s office, his action and teaching about him throughout the Bible is all so intriguing. Let’s first see what these two verses state about him here.
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tenth of all” (Genesis 14:18-20).
Abram returns from battle with all the loot, people and even the King of Sodom coming to offer Abram everything. Can you imagine how happy everyone there was.Then suddenly this king out of nowhere, Melchizedek king of Salem, comes out to greet him (them?) with bread and wine.
His introduction astonishes us for several reasons. He is described as a priest of God Most High’. Salem, meaning ‘peace’ like Shalom, is the old name for Jerusalem. He was evidently the king of Salem, but also high priest.
This king was also a high priest to the God Most High, that is, the same God that made the earth and heaven. Melchizedek was priest to the same God that Abram served. Without speculating too much, we are to assume here that this paying of a tithe became a special heart response from Abram to physically express his appreciativeness of God’s help.
There does not seem to be any law dictating this giving of ten percent. The Old Testament does speaking tithes and gifts much later. Abram’s deal with God only seemed to go as far as not taking any loot so that the others would know that Abram did not gain his riches from others but from God Himself. He did not do it for the reward but by God’s grace for the sake of helping others.
By the high priest’s visit, Abram had a way to practically show his appreciation to God via the high priest.