In Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek is introduced as the king of Salem and priest of God Most High (El Elyon). During the return home from war with the enemies of Sodom and prior to his meeting with the king of Sodom, Abram has an encounter with Melchizedek. During this encounter, Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and then proceeds to bless Abram. After being blessed, Abram gives Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of the battle. Who was Melchizedek? Many scholars have pondered this question. Some scholars present him as a theophany of the reincarnate Christ while others identify him as a historical figure with varying viewpoints. John Skinner, Franz Delitzsch, and Moshe Reiss have written their position on the matter, which will be examined in this paper.
John Skinner was a Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at the College of Presbyterian Church of England in Cambridge, England. According to the liberal perspective found in the classical work, Genesis (International Critical Commentary) Skinner interprets the passage as having poetic charm uniting the holy people and the holy city. Thus, Melchizedek is presented as a historical or traditional figure.
Skinner begins his analysis of Melchizedek by noting the link between Salem, which Melchizedek is king, to Jerusalem. This gives Melchizedek credibility as actual king over Salem as “such priest-kings in Canaan in very early times is perfectly credible, though not historically attested.” Skinner admits however “it is more probable that M. is, if not a historical figure, at least a traditional figure of great antiquity, on whom the monarchy and hierarchy of Jerusalem based their dynastic and priestly rights.”
Additionally, Skinner argues Melchizedek’s title, as priest of God Most High (El Elyon) does not necessarily denote Melchizedek as deity. In fact, he points out that the Maccabees were called “high priests of the Most High God” concluding that the Melchizedek legend had influence on their title. Thus, Melchizedek title is of poetical nature.
Skinner’s presupposition of Melchizedek as poetic assumes that the writer of Psalm 110, typified Melchizedek as “a type, concreted by antiquity, to which the ideal king of Israel, ruling on the same spot, must conform.” Likewise, Sinner states that Hebrews 7 was written partly from other sources other than Genesis, noting the formula is repeated several times in the letters of Abdhiba of Jerusalem.
FRANZ DELITZSCH-CLASSICAL CONSERVATIVE
Franz Delitzsch was a German Lutheran theologian and Hebraist. In A New Commentary on Genesis: Vol. I., Franz Delitzsch provides a classical conservative perspective on Melchizedek. Delitzsch interpretation of the passage is a more prosaic approach.
Delitzsch does questions whether the Salem of Melchizedek is Jerusalem (Salim in the plain of Jezreel and Salumias, lying 8 Roman miles south of Scythopolis). However, he concludes that Abram’s route though...