For this Melchisedec, king of Salem
Various have been the opinions of writers concerning Melchizedek; some have thought him to be more than a man; some, that he was an angel; others, that he was the Holy Ghost; and others, that he was a divine person superior to Christ, which needs no refutation; others have supposed that he was the Son of God himself: but he is expressly said to be like unto him, and Christ is said to be of his order; which manifestly distinguish the one from the other; besides, there is nothing said of Melchizedek which proves him to be more than a man: accordingly others take him to have been a mere man; but these are divided; some say that he was Shem, the son of Noah, which is the constant opinion of the Jewish writers F26: but it is not true of him, that he was without father, and without mother, an account of his descent being given in Scripture; nor is it probable that he should be a king of a single city in Ham's country, and Abraham be a stranger there: others say, that he was a Canaanitish king, of the posterity of Ham; others affirm him to be a perfect sinless man, and that all that is said of him in Genesis, and in this context, is literally true of him; but that he should be immediately created by God, as Adam, and be without sin as he, are things entirely without any foundation: others take him to be a mere man, but an extraordinary one, eminently raised up by God to be a type of the Messiah; and think it most proper not to inquire curiously who he was, since the Scripture is silent concerning his genealogy and descent; and that as it should seem on purpose, that he might be a more full and fit type of Christ; and this sense appears best and safest. Aben Ezra says, his name signifies what he was, the king of a righteous place: Salem, of which he was king, was not Shalem, a city of Shechem, in the land of Canaan, ( Genesis 33:18 ) afterwards called Salim, near to which John was baptizing, ( John 3:23 ) where is shown the palace of Melchizedek in its ruins, which cannot be, since that city was laid to the ground, and sowed with salt by Abimelech, ( Judges 9:45 ) but Jerusalem is the place; which is the constant opinion of the Jews F1, and is called Salem in ( Psalms 86:2 ) . The interpretation of this word is given in the next verse; some of the Jewish writers referred to say, that it was usual for the kings of Jerusalem to be called Melchizedek and Adonizedek, as in ( Joshua 10:3 ) just as the kings of Egypt were called Pharaoh. This king was also
priest of the most high God,
as he is said to be, ( Genesis 14:18 ) for he was both king and priest, in which he was an eminent type of Christ; and his being a king is no objection to his being a priest, since it was usual for kings to be priests; and though the Hebrew word "Cohen" sometimes signifies a prince, it cannot be so understood here, not only because the word is rendered "priest" by the Septuagint, and by the apostle, but because he is called the priest of God; and Christ is said to be of his order: and he is styled the priest of God, because he was called and invested by him with this office, and was employed in his service; who is said to be the most high God, from his dwelling on high, and from his superior power to all others, and to distinguish him from idol gods; this is a character of great honour given to Melchizedek;
who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings;
the four kings, whose names are mentioned in ( Genesis 14:1 ) whom Abraham slew, and over whom he got an entire victory, with only three hundred and eighteen men of his own house, after they had conquered the kings of Sodom, Gomorrha, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela: which shows that war is lawful; that enemies may be slain in war; that kings may fall as well as other men; and that those who have conquered others, may be conquered themselves: and as he was returning with his spoils, Melchizedek met him; not alone, which is not to be supposed of so great a person; nor empty, for he brought with him bread and wine, not for sacrifice, as the Papists would have it; but as Jarchi, a Jewish interpreter on the place observes, they used to do so to such as were fatigued in war; for this is to be considered as a neighbourly action, done in point of interest and gratitude, and was a truly Christian one, and very laudable and commendable; and doubtless had something in it typical of Christ, who gives to hungry and weary saints the bread of life, and refreshes them with the wine of divine love and grace:
and blessed him;
Abraham, and the most high God also: the form of blessing both is recorded in ( Genesis 14:19 Genesis 14:20 ) . This was not a mere civil salutation, nor only a congratulation upon his success, nor only a return of thanks for victory, though these things are included; nor did he do this as a private person, but as the priest of the most high God, and blessed him in his name authoritatively, as the high priest among the Jews afterwards did, ( Numbers 6:23-27 ) and in this he was a type of Christ, who blesses his people with all spiritual blessings, with redemption, justification, pardon, peace, and all grace, and with eternal glory.
(Gill changed his mind on the location of Salam when he later wrote the Old Testament portion of the Expositor. (See Gill on Genesis 14:18). Ed.)
F26 Targum in Jon. & Jerus. Jarchi, Baal Hatturim, Levi ben Gersom & Abendana in Gen. xiv. 18. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 4. fol. 182. 4. Pirke Eliezer, c. 8. Juchasin, fol. 135. 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 16. 2. Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 1. 2. Peritzol. Itinera Mundi, p. 17.
F1 Targ. Onk. Jon. & Jerus. Levi ben Gersom, Aben Ezra & ben Melec in Gen. xiv. 18. Tosaphot T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 16. 1.