Read Genesis 14:18-24 and Hebrews 7:1-10. Who was Melchizedek? Why did Abram give his tithe to this priest who seems to appear out of nowhere?
The sudden appearance of the mysterious Melchizedek is not out of place. After Abram has been thanked by the Canaanite kings, he now thanks this priest, a thankfulness revealed by his paying his tithe to him.
Melchizedek comes from the city of Salem, which means “peace,” an appropriate message after the turmoil of war. The component tsedek, “justice,” in the name of Melchizedek, appears in contrast to the name of the king of Sodom, Bera (“in evil”), and Gomorrah, Birsha (“in wickedness”), probably surnames for what they represent (Genesis 14:2).
Melchizedek appears after the reversal of the violence and evil represented by the other Canaanite kings. This passage also contains the first biblical reference to the word “priest” (Genesis 14:18). The association of Melchizedek with “God Most High” (Genesis 14:18, NKJV), whom Abram calls his own God (Genesis 14:22), clearly indicates that Abram saw him as priest of the God Abram served. Melchizedek is, however, not to be identified with Christ. He was God’s representative among the people of that time (see Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, Pages 1092, 1093).
Melchizedek officiates, indeed, as a priest. He serves “bread and wine,” an association that often implies the use of fresh-pressed grape juice (Deuteronomy 7:13, 2 Chronicles 31:5), which reappears in the context of the giving of the tithes (Deuteronomy 14:23). In addition, he extends blessing to Abram (Genesis 14:19).
Abram, meanwhile, “gave him a tithe of all” (Genesis 14:20, NKJV) as a response to God the Creator, the “Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19, NKJV). This title alludes to the introduction of the Creation story (Genesis 1:1, NKJV), where the phrase “heavens and earth” means totality or “all.” As such, the tithe is understood as an expression of gratitude to the Creator, who owns everything (Hebrews 7:2-6; compare with Genesis 28:22). Paradoxically, the tithe is understood by the worshiper not as a gift to God, but as a gift from God, because God gives us everything to begin with.
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