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[Gr. Melchisedek , from the Hebrew meaning "King of righteousness (Gesenius)] was King of Salem (Gen. xiv, 18-20) who, on Abraham's return with the booty taken from the four kings, "bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the priest of the most high God, blessed him", and received from him "the tithes of all" (v. 20). Josephus, with many others, identifies Salem with Jerusalem, and adds that Melchisedech "supplied Abram's army in a hospitable manner, and gave them provisions in abundance. . .and when Abram gave him the tenth part of his prey, he accepted the gift" (Ant., I, x, 2). Cheyne says "it is a plausible conjecture that he is a purely fictitious personage" (Encyc. Bib., s.v.), which "plausible conjecture" Kaufmann, however, rightly condemns ( Jew. Encyc., s.v.). The Rabbins identified Melchisedech with Sem, son of Noah, rather for polemic than historic reasons, since they wished to set themselves against what is said of him as a type of Christ "without father, without mother, without genealogy " ( Hebrews 7:3 ). In the Epistle to the Hebrews the typical character of Melchisedech and its Messianic import are fully explained. Christ is "a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech" ( Hebrews 7:6 ; Psalm 109:4 ); "a high priest forever", etc ( Hebrews 6:20 ), i.e. order or manner (Gesenius), not after the manner of Aaron. The Apostle develops his teaching in Heb., vii: Melchisedech was a type by reason
- of his twofold dignity as priest and king,
- by reason of his name, "king of justice ",
- by reason of the city over which he ruled, "King of Salem, that is, king of peace" (v. 2), and also
- because he "without father without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but likened unto the Son of God, continueth a priest forever." (v. 3).
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