The Life of Abraham: A Tale of Two Kings
When we last looked at Abram’s life, a war had broken out between some of the local nations and Abram’s estranged nephew, Lot, had been captured. We saw that Abram forgot about their dispute and the disrespect Lot had shown him and immediately took his well-trained men and rescued, not only Lot, but all those who had been taken captive.
Now, we see Abram returning from the rescue mission. On his journey home, he is met by two kings. How his interaction with each king plays out is very different and very interesting.
Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.” (Genesis 14:17-24)
Who are these two kings?
The last we heard of the king of Sodom, he and the king of Gomorrah were running from the invading armies and had fallen into the tar pits (Genesis 14:10). It seems that this may be the deceased king’s heir. Regardless, this king represents an evil nation.
We are also introduced to this king of Salem called Melchizedek. We have never heard of this man and we never really hear of him again. There is a brief mention of him in a Messianic prophecy in Psalm 110 and he is mentioned again in Hebrews 7. There is much regarding his link to Christ that I will not go into today but suffice it to say that it is very interesting. I have provided some additional reading on the topic at the end of this article if you are interested in reading more. However, today, I am just going to stick to what is revealed in this passage.
First, his name, Melchizedek, “comes from the Hebrew words for king (melek) and righteousness (zedek).”3 He is also the king of Salem (later called Jerusalem). Salem means peace. So this man is referred to as both the king of righteousness and the king of peace. These titles alone make us think about Jesus Christ, our King of righteousness and our King of peace.
Second, this passage also informs us that Melchizedek was also a “priest of the God Most High.” This is very exciting. Up to this point, we have not heard of another worshiper of God. It has seemed that Abram alone was a follower of God. He came from a family and land of idol worshipers to sojourn in a land of idol worshipers. Now suddenly we meet a king and priest of God Most High!
There are so many Christians that often feel as though they are alone in following God. We are promised hardship and persecution for following our Savior. We often rejected or ridiculed by family and friends when we choose to pursue the holy life God calls us to.
This reminds me of the story of Elijah. At one point in his life, he was on the run from Jezebel. He felt as though he alone was the only person left on earth serving the Lord. He became very depressed and cried out to God to let him die. But God came to him and let him know that there were 7,000 people in Israel who were still servants of God.
Serving the Lord can be lonely at times. Some people in this world must hide their conversion because their life and/or their family’s lives are at risk. You may go somewhere you do not know any Christians. But, occasionally, God will providentially cause you to meet a fellow believer. In these moment, you feel an instantaneous connection and a brotherly affection for this person. You soul is refreshed and you are encouraged.
I am sure Abram felt this same connection upon meeting Melchizedek. He now finds out that not only is there people locally that serve his God but there is a priest leading others in following Him. Not only that but he is a king of people! This nation of people are led by a devout believer. Not a someone that just makes a profession of faith for political points but one who is fully devoted to the God Most High.
The actions of each king
First, Melchizedek approaches Abram with nourishment and provisions. He comes to Abram with bread and wine. This makes me think of when you invite someone to your home and they bring a token of their thanks like a bottle of wine or a dessert. He is showing hospitality and respect to Abram.
We are also told of this beautiful blessing of Melchizedek. He blesses Abram but most of his honor and glory goes to God. He makes it a point to show that while he is thankful for Abram, he recognizes that the glory ultimately goes to God.
The king of Sodom, on the other hand, comes empty handed. Not only is he not bringing anything to show his thankfulness for Abram rescuing his people and possessions but he comes with demands. He demands that Abram return to him his people. He thinks he is compromising by allowing Abram to keep some of the spoils of war but he is still making demands on the one who saved his kingdom. It is also interesting to note that this evil king is making demands on the one who this land has been promised.
Abrams response to the king of Sodom
Abram tells the king of Sodom that he had made a promise to God that he would not keep any of the spoils of war. He returns his share to the king. Everything with the exception the food that his men have eaten.
Abram informs the king of Sodom as to why he has made this vow to God. He does not want the king to claim that he is the reason Abram was wealthy. This is so wise on Abram’s part. The king of Sodom could have used that as a form of bribery or as a “you owe me” move later on. So many have made alliances to later regret them. In 1 Corinthians 6, we are warned about making alliances with people who do not have the same world-view as us.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
“I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. (1 Corinthians 6:14-18)
It is worth mentioning that Abram does point out that this is a vow only he has made and he does not speak for the other leaders of men who went out with him. It is important to remember, in our own lives, that we should not hold others to vows which we have made with God ourselves. If the Bible does not specifically say to do or not do something, yet we feel convicted in one way or another, we should not require or expect others to be held to our same convictions.
“Those who are strict in restraining their own liberty yet ought not to impose those restraints upon the liberties of others, nor to judge of them accordingly. We must not make ourselves the standard to measure others by. A good man will deny himself that liberty which he will not deny another, contrary to the practice of the Pharisees, Matt. 23:4.” ~ Matthew Henry
This meeting of two kings is a very interesting look at how two world-views interact with followers of God. Here we have the king of righteousness and peace and on the other side we have a kind of evil. Let us be encouraged when we meet fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and let us also be careful of alliances we form.
Additional reading regarding the link between Melchizedek and the Messiah:
- Melchizedek: A Type of Christ
- Was Melchizedek a theophany or a real man?
- Abraham, Melchizedek, and Messiah (Hebrews 7:1-10)
- Why You Need to Know About Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-10)
1. Calvin, John. 2018. “Genesis 14 – John Calvin’S Bible Commentary – Bible Commentary”. Christianity.Com. Accessed January 9. https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=clvn&b=1&c=14.
2. Henry, Matthew. 2018. “Chapter 14 – Matthew Henry’s Commentary – Bible Gateway”. Biblegateway.Com. Accessed January 9. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.14.1-Gen.14.24.
3. “Ligonier Ministries”. 2018. Ligonier Ministries. Accessed January 9. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/melchizedek-blesses-abraham/.
4. Lindsay, Scott. 2007. “Genesis 14:1-24”. Reformedperspectives.Org. http://reformedperspectives.org/newfiles/sco_lindsay/sco_lindsay.Gen.14.1_24.html.