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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 14

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verses 18-20


Genesis 14:18-20. And Melchizedec king of Salem brought forth tread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

WAR is a calamity arising out of the state of fallen man. We have innumerable lusts which cannot be satisfied without trespassing on others, and which lead us to retaliate injuries with vindictive ferocity. Hence there is no nation, whether savage or civilized, which is not frequently engaged in war: and if there were any one nation determined to cultivate peace to the uttermost, it would still be necessary for them to learn the art of war, in order that they might be ready, when attacked, to repel aggression, and to maintain their liberties. The first war of which we read in history, was that recorded in the chapter before us. Chedorlaomer king of Elam, with three confederate kings, invaded the cities of the plain, who had combined for their mutual defence; and, having defeated the combined armies, took Sodom and Gomorrha, and plundered them of all that was valuable or useful. Abram, as we have already seen in his conduct to Lot, was a man of peace: and from the history before us it is clear, that he was not under the influence either of covetousness or ambition; but, living in the midst of hostile nations, he had wisely trained his servants, 318 in number, to the use of arms: and finding that his nephew Lot had been carried captive by the victorious invaders, he determined, with God’s help, to rescue him. Accordingly he armed his little band, and, with a few allies, pursued the victors. He speedily came up with them, and, by a stratagem suited to the inferiority of his force, prevailed against them. Having dispersed or slain his enemies, he recovered all the captives and the spoil; and returned in triumph to those whose cause he had espoused. In his way to them he received the testimonies of God’s approbation mentioned in the text. To elucidate these, together with the circumstances connected with them, we shall consider,


The respect which Melchizedec paid to Abram—

Melchizedec was a person of most singular and mysterious character—
[Some have thought that he was the same as Shem: but Shem’s parentage was known; whereas Melchizedec’s was not. Others have thought that he was Christ, who just for that occasion assumed the appearance of a man: but he was a person “made like unto the Son of God;” and therefore could not be the Son of God himself. Whoever he was, he was certainly a very eminent type of Christ. His name imported that he was king of righteousness, while at the same time, as king of Salem, he was king of peace [Note: See Hebrews 7:1-2.]. He was also “a Priest of the most high God,” ministering, not to one peculiar people, as the Levites afterwards did, but to mankind at large without any distinction. In these respects he typified the Lord Jesus, whose “sceptre is a right sceptre [Note: Psalms 45:6.],” who “maketh peace for us by the blood of his cross [Note: Colossians 1:20.],” and who is “the great High Priest” that once ministered on earth, and is “now passed into the heavens” to offer incense before the throne of God [Note: Hebrews 4:14.]. In him alone, after Melchizedec, were combined the offices of King and Priest: He and he only is “a Priest upon his throne [Note: Zechariah 6:13.].”

Moreover, Melchizedec was a type of Christ in those things which we do not know concerning him, as well as in those things which we do know: yea, there were many things concealed from us, on purpose that he might be a more illustrious type of Christ. We are not informed of his birth, or parentage, or death. We are not told who preceded him in his office, or who followed him. He is merely introduced on this occasion as “without father, without mother, without beginning of life or end of days,” that he might fitly represent that adorable Jesus, who was without father, as Man, and without mother, as God, and who abideth a priest continually [Note: Hebrews 7:3.].]

As God’s servant, he came forth on a remarkable occasion to honour Abram—
[Abram was returning with his victorious bands, laden with the spoil that he had recovered from the slaughtered kings. For the refreshment of his weary troops, Melchizedec brought forth bread and wine. It is certainly a striking coincidence, that this, even bread and wine, is the provision which our great High Priest has appointed to be received by all his people to refresh them after their conflicts: but we do not on the whole apprehend that there was any thing more intended by the bread and wine, than to administer suitable nourishment to Abram and his attendants after their fatigues. But from the other tokens of respect which Melchizedec shewed to Abram, there is much instruction to be derived.
Melchizedec blessed Abram for the zeal he had manifested, and blessed God for the success he had given. In blessing Abram he shewed what obligations we owe to those who go forth to fight in our defence, and by their valour procure to us the peaceful enjoyment of our possessions. If Abram had not stood forth on that occasion, what misery would have been entailed on those who had been taken captive, and on those who were left behind to bewail the loss of their dearest relatives, and experience the pressure of want and famine! And we also may easily conceive to what a deplorable state we of this nation should soon be reduced by our envious and ambitious neighbours, if we had not fleets and armies ready to maintain our cause. It is to be lamented indeed that all our warriors are not so pacific in their principles, and disinterested in their patriotism, as Abram was; but still they are instruments of good to us; and we ought to acknowledge with gratitude the benefits they confer upon us.

Had Melchizedec rested there, he had ill performed the office of a priest. But he proceeded to bless God also; shewing thereby, that all success must ultimately be traced to God, “the giver of every good and perfect gift.” It would have been impiety indeed not to give him the glory of so complete a victory, obtained by so small a force over four confederate and triumphant kings, without the loss of one single follower. But he should be acknowledged in every instance of success, whether more or less complete, and whether more or less dearly purchased: for “it is He who giveth victory unto kings;” “he raiseth up one and casteth down another;” “he saves whether by many or by few.”]
Let us now turn our attention to,


The return which Abram made him—

Had we been told that Abram gave Melchizedec a present in return for his kindness, we should merely have considered it as a proper compliment suited to the occasion. But we are informed that” he gave him tithes of all.” This circumstance is peculiarly important. If we attend to it, and consider it according to the light reflected upon it in other parts of Scripture, we shall find in it,


An acknowledged duty—

[Melchizedec was God’s Minister. In the performance of his high office, he had taken a lively interest in the concerns of Abram: he had not merely congratulated him as a friend, but blessed him officially as a priest; and had rendered thanks also to God for him as his Minister and representative. In short, he had been a kind of Mediator between God and Abram, acting, as Priests are ordained to do, for each, with and towards the other [Note: Hebrews 5:1.]. Abram, viewing him in this light, gave him the tithes, not as a friend, but as God’s representative. Doubtless Abram accompanied the present with unfeigned expressions of personal respect and gratitude: but still, though he might intend it in some measure as a token of love to man, he designed it principally as a tribute of piety to God. And herein he has shewn us our duty towards the Priests and Ministers of God. If they perform their office, as Melchizedec did, with a tender concern for those amongst whom they minister, and with real piety towards God, they ought to be “esteemed very highly in love for their work’s sake:” “While they serve at the altar, they ought to live of the altar;” and “while they minister unto us of their spiritual things, we should feel happy in imparting to them of our temporal things.” What if our property be earned with the sweat of our brow, or purchased, as Abram’s was, at the risk of our life; we should account a portion of it due to God, who has enabled us to acquire it; and we should consider the support of his Ministry and his religion as having the first and most urgent demand upon us.]


A hidden mystery—

[We should have seen nothing particular in this transaction, if God had not been pleased to reveal it to us. But by the light of the New Testament we see in it nothing less than the abolition of the whole Jewish polity, and the establishment of Christianity upon its ruins.

The tribe of Levi were by God’s special command ordained to be priests; and the tithes of every thing (which God claimed as his property) were to be given to them for their support. They were to be considered as God’s representatives; and therefore they had, in this respect, a superiority above all the other tribes. But Melchizedec ministered in the priesthood four hundred years before they had any designation to the office; and an hundred and fifty years before Levi himself existed: and to him Abram, the father of all the tribes, paid tithes. The same superiority therefore which the tribe of Levi claimed on account of the priesthood above their brethren, Melchizedec claimed above Abram himself, and consequently above Levi also: for “Levi being in the loins of his father Abram, may be considered as paying tithes in Abram.” Here then at once we see, that Melchizedec’s priesthood was superior to that of Levi. Now the priesthood of Christ was to be, not after the order of Levi, but after the order of Melchizedec; (for God foretold, even while the Levitical priesthood was in all its plenitude of sanctity and power, that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedec [Note: Psalms 110:4.].) Christ therefore had a priesthood of a higher order than that of Levi. This further appears from the circumstance of his being appointed to the priesthood with an oath, (“The Lord sware, and said, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec:”) whereas the Levitical priests were appointed without any such solemnity. Moreover, as we before hinted, there was no successor to Melchizedec in his priestly office; which intimated, that Christ should have none in his; but that his priesthood should be everlasting: whereas the Levitical priests could not continue in their office by reason of death. From all this it appears, that Christ’s priesthood was intended to supersede that which was appointed by the law; and consequently, that the law itself, which was so intimately connected with the priesthood, was to yield to the dispensation which Christ should introduce. For if Melchizedec’s priesthood, which was only typical, was superior to that of Levi, much more must Christ’s priesthood be superior; because the things which exalted the person and office of Melchizedec, were merely figurative and shadowy; whereas those which dignify the person and office of the Lord Jesus, are real and substantial; he is really in his person the eternal God, and will execute to all eternity the office he has undertaken [Note: See the whole seventh chapter to the Hebrews.].

Behold, then, how deep a mystery is contained in that which appears at first sight so unimportant! O that we may all bear it in mind, and present to him, not a portion of our property only, but “our bodies and our souls also to be a living sacrifice unto God!”]

To improve this subject, we would earnestly entreat of you these two things:

Study the Scriptures with earnest prayer to God for the teaching of his good Spirit—

[In every part of God’s word there are many important truths which cannot be discerned, unless God be pleased to “open our eyes to see them, and our understandings to understand them.” “We do not mean by this observation to refer to mysteries merely, but to great practical truths. We may understand the letter of Scripture, and yet be extremely ignorant of its spirit. Take, for instance, such an expression as this, “God is love:” What, I ask, can we understand of it without humble meditation and prayer? Yet if we have meditated and prayed for ever so long a time, there would still be unsearchable riches in those words to reward our continued search; yea, eternity itself will not suffice to explore their full meaning. Exactly as we might have meditated a thousand years upon the text, and not found out the truths which by the light of subsequent revelations we discover in them, so it is with ten thousand other passages, which we cannot duly comprehend or feel, till God is pleased to reveal them to us by his Spirit. The Bible is “a sealed book;” and neither the unlearned nor the learned can open it of themselves [Note: Isaiah 29:11-12.]. It contains inexhaustible “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” which God alone can impart. Let us then search the Scriptures with humility and diligence, lifting up at the same time our voice to God for understanding: for it is God alone who giveth wisdom; “out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding [Note: Proverbs 2:1-6.].]


Let every mercy you receive, lead you to God the giver of it—

[Ungodly men would have been rioting upon the spoil, and abusing the gifts which God had bestowed upon them [Note: 1 Samuel 30:16.]. But Abram and Melchizedec made this victory an occasion of glorifying God. O that we could learn of them! Our successes too often lead to intemperance and riot: yea, mercies of every other kind have but little effect to solemnize the spirit, or to change the heart. Deliverances from sickness, how little are they improved as they ought to be! Instead of devoting our renewed strength to the service of our God, we too commonly lose the impressions that were upon us, and forget the vows which we made in the day of our calamity. But let it not be thus in future: let the honour of God be dear to us: let it be the first desire of our hearts to render unto him our tribute of praise and thanksgiving: and the more visible his interpositions have been in our favour, the more earnest let our endeavours be to live to his glory.]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 14". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/genesis-14.html. 1832.
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