After a midnight raid against a force that far outnumbered his own, Abram defeated a handful of kings and rescued his nephew Lot from their possession. Following his triumph, he returned back to the land of Canaan and was met by two unlikely men in the Valley of the Kings. One of these men was the king of Sodom. The other was the king of Salem (Jerusalem). Abram’s response to each of these men provides a strong indication of his trust in the Lord. Here’s a breakdown of Abram’s response to the king of Sodom and Melchizedek, king of Salem, from the Bible Knowledge Commentary.

Abram Receives the Blessing by Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-24)

This is one of the most fascinating encounters in the Old Testament. Two kings met Abram on his return from the battle, and they could not possibly have been more different. In contrast with the wicked city of Sodom and its ruler Bera (v. 2), who also was undoubtedly wicked, was Melchizedek king of Salem (i.e., Jerusalem, Ps. 76:2), a priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:18). Melchizedek’s name (which means “king of righteousness”) suggests a righteous ruler who was God’s representative. (Some Bible students believe Melchizedek was a theophany, an appearance of the preincarnate Christ.)

Melchizedek is the only person whom Abram recognized as his spiritual superior. Abram accepted blessing from him (v. 19), and paid him a 10th (a tithe) of all he had (v. 20). He did this deliberately, in full awareness of what he was doing. It shows how unthreatened and humble Abram was, even after a victory. He recognized that God’s revelation was not limited to him. While the reader’s attention is focused on Abram carrying the whole spiritual hope of the world, there emerged out of an obscure Canaanite valley a man nearer to God than Abram was, who blessed Abram. That valley was the Valley of Shaveh (v. 17), possibly the Kidron Valley near Jerusalem (cf. 2 Sam. 18:18).

The arrangement of Abram’s confrontation is chiastic: (a) the king of Sodom met Abram (Gen. 14:17), (b) the king of Salem met Abram (v. 18), (b’) the king of Salem blessed Abram (vv. 19-20), (a’) the king of Sodom offered Abram a deal (v. 21). The fact that the offer from the king of Sodom came after Melchizedek’s blessing helped Abram keep things in perspective.

Abram Rejects the Offer of the King of Sodom (Gen. 14:22-24)

Abram swore before the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth (cf. v. 19), that he would take nothing that belonged to Sodom, lest the king of Sodom take credit for making Abram rich.

This incident was a test of Abram’s faith after a great victory. Bera, Sodom’s king, offered a most appealing deal. But Abram, knowing what he did about the king of Sodom, felt that keeping Sodom’s loot which he captured would make him subject to Bera. He wanted something far more enduring than possessions and wealth; he wanted the fulfillment of God’s miraculous and enduring promise. Faith looks beyond the riches of this world to the grander prospects God has in store.

Abram knew that he would become more prosperous, and he knew who was blessing him. He intended to receive everything from God and not even a thread from Sodom. Obedient believers frame their lives so that for all success, joy, comfort, and prosperity they depend on God — but their faith is like Abram’s, deeply rooted and growing stronger rather than brief and weak. The king of Sodom was obviously a wicked man over a wicked empire; Abram discerned that dealing with him might be dangerous. Abram could have reasoned that God was seeking to bless him by means of this offer. But he could not bring himself to equate the blessing of God with the best that Sodom had to offer.

The Priest-King Melchizedek

Melchizedek is an important figure in the Bible. Preceding Abram, he was not a Levitical priest. When David, the first Israelite king to sit on Melchizedek’s throne, prophesied that his great Descendant, the Messiah, would be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4), David looked beyond the Levitical priesthood which would be done away with. The Book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus Christ in His death fulfilled the Levitical order and began a better high priesthood. In referring to Melchizedek as the perfect type of Christ, the writer of Hebrews capitalized on Melchizedek’s anonymity: in a book (Gen.) filled with genealogies and ancestral notations, this man appeared without family records (Heb. 7:3). Melchizedek is remembered as a high priest. Because Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek, the order of Melchizedek is superior to Levi, who descended from Abram (Heb. 7:4-10).

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