And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine,
&c.] Both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem say, this is Shem the son of Noah, and which is the sense of the Jewish writers in general, and of many Christian ones; but, though it is highly probable he was living at this time, yet it is not easy to account for it why his name should be changed, or that he should reign in a country in the possession of his brother's son; or that he should meet Abram, and congratulate him on the slaughter of one of his own descendants, as Chedorlaomer was; and especially it cannot be said of him that he was without father or mother, or that those were not known, since Shem's parentage and pedigree are famous enough; some have thought him to be more than a mere man, even the Son of God himself, but he is manifestly distinguished from him in ( Hebrews 7:3 ) ; he seems to be what Josephus F11 says he was, a Canaanitish prince, a pious and religious man, eminently raised up by God, and whose genealogy was kept a secret, that he might be in this as in other things a type of Christ; but that he should be Canaan himself, as Dr. Clayton F12 thinks, a brother of Metsir, or Mizraim, the second son of Ham, being by Sanchoniatho called Sedec, is not likely, since he was cursed by Noah. Salem, of which he was king, is by the above Targums said to be Jerusalem, and which is the opinion of many writers, Jewish and Christian, and of which opinion I myself was formerly, (See Gill on Hebrews 7:1); Jerusalem being plainly called Salem, ( Psalms 76:2 ) , but it seems clear from hence that it must be near to Sodom, and lay in the way between Damascus and Sodom; whereas Jerusalem was in a contrary situation, and lay nearly forty miles from Sodom; for Josephus says F13, the lake Asphaltites, where Sodom once stood, was three hundred furlongs from Jerusalem, which is about thirty eight miles; and Jerom relates F14, that Salem was a town near Scythopolis, which was so called in his times, and where was showed the palace of Melchizedek, which, by the largeness of the ruins, appeared to have been very magnificent, and takes it to be the same place with Shalem in ( Genesis 33:18 ) ; and Salim, near to which John was baptizing, ( John 3:23 ) : this great man "brought forth bread and wine"; not as a priest for an offering, but as a munificent king, to refresh Abram and his weary troops, and which the king of Sodom could not do, because the victuals of that place were carried off by the four kings, ( Genesis 14:11 ) ; and as Abram had the land of Canaan by promise, and now had made conquest in it over the invaders of it, Melchizedek, sensible of his right unto it, brings forth the best fruits of it, and, as Dr. Lightfoot observes F15, tenders them to him as "livery and seisin" of it: in this Melchizedek was a type of Christ, who comforts and refreshes his hungry and weary people with himself, the bread of life, and with the wine of his love, as well as his name and title agree with him, who is a righteous King and Prince of Peace, ( Jeremiah 23:5 ) ( Isaiah 9:6 ) : and he [was] the priest of the most high God;
a priest as well as a king, as in many countries princes were both F16; and in this he was a type of Christ in his kingly and priestly offices, who is a priest upon the throne, both king and priest, ( Zechariah 6:13 ) . Melchizedek was a priest not of any of the Phoenician deities, but of the true and living God, who is above all gods, dwells in the highest heaven, and is the most High over all the earth; by him was he called to this office and invested with it, and he ministered to him in it.
F11 De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 10.
F12 Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 100.
F13 Autiqu. l. 15. c. 6. sect. 2.
F14 Ad Evagrium, tom. 3. fol. 13. E.
F15 Works, vol. 1. p. 694.
F16 "Rex Anius, rex idem hominum Phoebique sacerdos", Virgil. Aeneid. l. 3. vid. Servium in loc.