Genesis 14: Lessons from the War of the Nine Kings

Introduction: Genesis chapter 14 describes a war between a coalition of eastern and western kings. During this war, Abraham’s nephew Lot was captured and imprisoned. With only 318 armed servants and a coalition of Amorite allies, Abraham defeated a coalition of four enemy armies and freed Lot. He then met with and received the blessing of a king and high priest named Melchizedek.

To Bible skeptics, this story defies belief. They doubt the story is real because they cannot find references to it outside of the Bible. They further doubt that Abraham, a sheepherder in his advanced age, could have defeated four armies with such a small number of men. Thus, some imagine that an unknown author added this story at a later time to the book of Genesis. Yet, the absence of references in other literary sources does not disprove the Bible. Moreover, the pious Jews never would have tolerated an unknown scribe rewriting a text that they had memorized. Civil conflict would have erupted. Archeologists would have also found different versions of the book of Genesis. They also would have uncovered evidence of a conspiracy to rewrite the book. Finally, all things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26). He is sovereign over all. He frequently uses the weak, the old (like Abraham), and the poor to confound those who are mighty and the proud.

In addition to revealing God’s power and Abraham’s faith, this account also foreshadows the end times when the Messiah will come and defeat a mighty invading army in the Promised Land. Like Abraham, the Messiah will come to free the captives. He will also establish His righteous reign. From the chapter, God reveals seven lessons about the end times and Jesus the Messiah.

First, the story begins with the subjugation of five western kingdoms by four eastern kingdoms. None of them were godly. All nine kingdoms were under the influence of the ruler of this world. The nine kingdoms symbolized the counterfeit fruit of the Spirit. Their people lived in oppression, fear and misery. From this war and the subjugation of the western kingdoms, God reveals that the ruler of this world seeks to imprison his own people. Second, the five western kingdoms rebelled against their eastern rulers. This resulted in their defeat and the loss of their possessions. From this, God reveals that only He can free you from the ruler of this world. Third, the defeat of the five western kings also resulted in Lot’s captivity. At the time, he lived in Sodom. He symbolizes the carnal believers who choose the world over the things of God. From this, God reveals that carnal believers are at risk of being placed under Satan’s captivity. This captivity can include multiple types of addiction. Fourth, although Lot did not deserve to be rescued, Abraham took a small force and defeated the eastern alliance and freed Lot. This foreshadowed the return of the Messiah during the end times. He will defeat a coalition of armies controlled by the evil one. The Messiah will also come to free believers from their captivity. Fifth, after Abraham’s victory, he dined with a mysterious man named Melchizedek. Melchizedek was both the ruler of ancient Jerusalem and its high priest. He foreshadowed the return of the Messiah who will rule as both King and High Priest, positions that normally could not be merged together under the Law given by Moses. Their dinner also symbolized both the Last Supper and the wedding ceremony between Jesus and His Church. Sixth, Melchizedek blessed first Abraham and then the one true God. Abraham responded by tithing a tenth of his best belongings out of gratitude. This foreshadows the blessing that will come to believers in heaven and the devout worship that believers will give back to Jesus the Messiah. Finally, the king of Sodom attempted to gain influence over Abraham by allowing Abraham to keep his captured possessions. Abraham turned down this offer. The King of Sodom had no control over him. This foreshadows a time when believers will be freed from the influence of the evil one.

1. The Ruler of this World Seeks to Imprison His Own People. Gen. 14:1-4.

  • The subjugation of the four eastern kings over the five western kings. After Lot moved to Sodom, an alliance of five eastern kings (stretching as far as modern Iran) subjugated the kingdoms that once lived in modern Jordan and Sodom: “1 And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled.” (Gen. 14:1-4). Archeologists have not found mention of these kings or this battle in sources outside of the Bible. Thus, some skeptics dismiss this account has having been slipped into the book of Genesis by unknown authors after the book was drafted.1 But the absence of references outside of the Bible is not proof that these kings or this battle were invented. Moreover, we can infer their kingdoms by their names: “the names and events ring authentic, fitting best in first half of the second millennium. [Author] Kitchen poses an eastern ethnography for the names of the eastern coalition: ‘Kedorlaomer’ is Elamite [Southern Iran] (Kuir + deity); ‘Tidal’ is Hittite (Tudkhalia); ‘Amraphel’ may be Semitic; ‘Arioch’ has parallels at Mari (Arriwuk / Arriyuk) and Nuzi (Ariukki).”2 Thus, the names of the kings confirm their locations. It requires more faith to believe that the Jews would tolerate an unknown scribe rewriting the sacred Torah than it does to believe that these kings and kingdoms existed.

  • Satan seeks to imprison his own people. Like King Chedorlaomer, Satan imprisons his own people. Although his days are numbered, Jesus referred to him as “the ruler of this world.” (Jo. 12:31). Paul also called him both the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) and the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). He has real power to deceive others. But he provides no refuge for those who commit evil. He can only offer them more evil. His ability to offer only evil will cause even his own followers to turn on each other. This will also be his downfall. As Jesus explained: “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!” (Mk. 3:25-26). When Jesus returns, Satan’s followers will turn on each other and on him. His temporary rule over the Earth will collapse like a house of cards.

The war of the kings3

2. The Ruler of this World Cannot be Defeated Without Christ. Gen. 14:5-11.

  • The unsuccessful rebellion of the five western kings against the four eastern kings. In the Bible, the number 13 symbolizes rebellion. After a rebellion in the 13th year of Chedorlaomer’s reign, the eastern alliance defeated the five western kings and took their food and possessions to punish them: “In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed.” (Gen. 14:5-11). Although description of these battles may seem foreign and meaningless to modern readers, they provide an independent confirmation of the accuracy of this account: “The catalogue of the six places defeated by the eastern kings progresses generally from a north to south direction along the King’s Highway (Nu. 20:17; 21:22) in Transjordan. (1) Ashtaroth Karnaim in Bashan, where the Rephaites resided, corresponds to Tell Ashtaroth in south Syria, near Karnaim (= Tell Sa’d). Ashtaroth and Edrei were the cities of Og, king of Bashan, who was the last of the Rephaites (Deut. 1:4; 3:11, 13). (2) The exact location of the second site Ham, the habitation of the Zuzites (= Zamzummim, Deut 2:20), is unknown but can be placed between Bashan and Moab’s Shaveh Kiriathaim (= ‘plain of Kiriathaim’). (3) This later site was the home of the Emites; it probably names the ‘plain’ near Kiriathaim, a town in Moab (Num 32:37; Josh 13:19; Jer 48:1, 23; Ezek 25:9)”4 These place confirmations again show that the Bible is accurate (1 Tim. 3:16).

  • Satan brings down his own leaders to create conflict. The route of the eastern kings likely foreshadows the route that Satan will take when he leads the unholy armies Gog and Magog. (Rev. 19:11–21:8). Yet, like King Chedorlaomer, his plans will ultimately fail. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. He first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen 3:16). Jesus once quoted a prophecy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mark 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Peter 2:10). From this account, we learn that he will bring down his own leaders through civil war to create conflict and misery for all. Thus, it is part of his plan for evil persons, cults or evil nations to fight with each other.

  • Satan cannot be defeated without Christ. Just as the western alliance could not break free from King Chedorlaomer on their own, you also cannot break free from him without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why you are warned to flee Satan’s temptations (2 Tim. 2:22). Yet, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you need not fear Satan’s power. The Bible promises: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4). “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.” (1 Jo. 2:13). Are you trying to face Satan alone?

3. The Ruler of this World Will Imprison Worldly, Carnal Believers. Gen. 14:12.

  • The eastern coalition’s imprisonment of Lot. While seizing the possessions of the western kings, the eastern alliance also seized Lot and his possessions from his home in Sodom: “12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.” (Gen. 14:12). Lot was imprisoned while on a carnal walk. He received God’s blessings while he lived with Abraham and followed him in faith (Gen. 12:3). Yet, living outside the Promised Land and away from Abraham, he lived outside of God’s protection.

  • Satan will imprison carnal believers who allow him to control their lives. Lot had given into covetousness in choosing to live in Sodom. But the pleasure Satan offers to the person who gives into covetousness never lasts long (Heb. 11:25; Luke 12:19-20). The coveting that the devil offers can only be satisfied through more coveting. Eventually, coveting becomes a prison of addiction. Like Lot, the greed or coveting of money can also never be satisfied with more money: “And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” (Is. 56:11). “Sheol, and the barren womb, earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, ‘Enough’.” (Prov. 30:16). Alcohol and drugs are further examples of this: “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied . . .” (Hab. 2:5). Lust can also likewise be defined as “living under Satanic temptation.” It also can never be satisfied. Coveting only leads to grief and sorrow: “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10; Ps. 40:12; Ps. 116:3). If you turn from God and fail to ask for His help to be freed from bondage, Satan will imprison you in that addiction: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, . . .” (Ro. 1:28). Are you allowing any unholy desires of the flesh to grow unchecked?

4. The Messiah Will Defeat the Ruler of this World to Free His Captives. Gen. 14:13-16.

  • Abraham’s rescue of Lot with only 318 men. Upon hearing of Lot’s captivity, Abraham assembled 318 armed servants and rallied his Amorite neighbors to drive out the eastern invaders and free Lot: “13 Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.5 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.” (Gen. 14:13-16). This is the first reference in the Bible to Abraham or anyone else being referred to as a “Hebrew.” (Gen. 14:13). Some believe that the reference comes from his ancestor Eber: “‘Eber’ (‘eber) whose name may be the source for the term, appears prominently in the Table of Nations (10:21, 25) and Abram’s genealogy (11:16; 1 Chr 1:18-19). Alternatively, ‘Hebrew’ may have been related to ‘—b-r, ‘to cross over (from the other side,’ Josh. 24:3).”6 This was Abraham’s fourth of ten tests of faith. As his faith grew, he passed this test. He pursued the enemy as far as the northern edge of the Promised Land, into southern Syria. He was 75 years old with no military training when God called him (Gen. 12:4). Thus, many have trouble imagining how he could lead a mere 318 armed servants and his Amorite allies to defeat a mighty coalition of eastern kings. But God is sovereign, and He can do all things: “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jer. 32:27). Like the skeptics of the Bible, is your faith in what God can do limited in any way?

Abraham rescues Lot7

  • God’s promise to free the trapped remnant of the Jews after four periods of exile. According to one Jewish interpretation, Abraham’s victory over the four enemy kings foreshadows the Jews who became imprisoned and later freed after four separate exiles. “Abraham’s war with the four kings alludes to redemption. The four kings allude to the four exiles of the Jewish people under the four empires.”8 On multiple occasions, the prophets predicted the release of the Jewish exiles before it came to pass: “And it will come about that after I have uprooted them, I will again have compassion on them; and I will bring them back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land.” (Jer. 12:15). “Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.” (Is. 11:11). “Therefore say, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’” (Ezek. 11:17). “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.”’ (Jer. 24:5-6). “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old;” (Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16). Like the Jews, believers in Christ also rebel and then receive His discipline. If He has been faithful to restore the Jewish people after they rebelled, is there any reason to doubt that He will restore you after you repent?

  • God will judge the evil one during the end times. Abraham’s defeat of the enemy kingdoms on the edge of the Promised Land foreshadows Jesus’ judgment during the end times when He will drive out the ruler of this world: “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (Jo. 12:31). “[A]nd concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” (Jo. 16:11). During the end times, Jesus will bring death to the unrighteous in a battle at the valley of Armageddon (Rev. 16:12-21). He will also punish, with eternal death, those who refuse to submit to Him after a trial at the Great White Hall Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). God does not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Nevertheless, because He is just, He must eventually judge sin. No individual or nation is exempt from being judged for their sins. Faith in Jesus is the only means to be saved (Acts 4:12). If the death of the unsaved causes you sorrow, are you motivated to tell them the good news about what they need to do to be saved? (Matt. 28:16-20). If not, will you support a missionary who is willing to warn others about the judgment that is coming?

  • Cling to Jesus and He will bless you with protection. When you are faithful and obedient, God promises to be an enemy to your enemies: “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7; Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22, Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17; Gen. 22:17). Joshua also promised the Jews that those who cling to God would see their enemies flee (Josh. 23:10). For those who are obedient and take refuge in Him in the face of the enemy, He promises to be a shield against the enemy’s fiery darts: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5(b); 2 Sam. 22:31). He used Gideon’s small army of 300 soldiers to kill 120,000 enemy Midianites (Jdgs. 7:16-22; 8:10). With His help, Jonathon killed 20 enemy soldiers (1 Sam. 14:14). Likewise, it was He who allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). Are you clinging to Jesus when you need protection?

  • God will rescue you when you call upon Him in your time of trouble. Like Lot, God will also rescue you when you call to Him in faith: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Ps. 50:15). “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.” (Ja. 5:13). “But as for me, I would seek God, and I would place my cause before God;” (Job 5:8). “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Ps. 50:15). “Rescue me and deliver me out of the hand of aliens, whose mouth speaks deceit and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” (Ps. 114:11). If you are trapped in despair, fear or addiction, have you called upon Him to help you?

  • Free a brother or sister who is trapped in spiritual bondage. Abraham did not view Lot as the foolish nephew that he was. Instead, he called Lot his “brother.” (Gen. 13:8). Like Abraham did for Lot, you are called upon to free your brothers and sisters who are trapped in spiritual bondage: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1-2). “[A]nd make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (Heb. 12:13). Jesus will also reward those who help to restore a brother or sister who has fallen into sin: “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (Ja. 5:19-20). When you learn of a brother or sister trapped in bondage, do you judge them and spread gossip about them? Or, do you seek to restore them in a spirit of gentleness?

  • Don’t use your freedom in Christ to return to your old sins. Unfortunately, Lot did not use his freedoms to live apart from the unholy things that entrapped him. Instead, he returned to the evil city of Sodom where Abraham would come to free him a second time from bondage and judgment. Those who are freed and willingly return to sin face the greater judgment: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” (2 Pet. 2:20-21). “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Prov. 26:11; 2 Pet. 2:22). Jesus has also freed you from the consequences of your sins. Are you misusing your freedom as a license to sin more?

5. The Messiah Will Rule as Both King and High Priest Like Melchizedek. Gen. 14:17-18.

  • Melchizedek, the unique King and High Priest of Jerusalem. After Abraham’s victory, he met a mysterious man named Melchizedek, who was both King of Salem (ancient Jerusalem) and the High Priest of God the Most High: “17 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). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.” (Gen. 14:17-18). Melchizedek is the first person in the Bible to hold the title of “priest.” But he was not a Jew. Throughout time, Jews and Christians alike have struggled with Melchizedek’s true identity and the meaning of his encounter with Abraham. According to the Jewish midrash, Melchizedek was the second priest to follow Adam. Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Melchizedek was born circumcised.9 According to another tradition, he further handed down Adam’s robes to Abraham.10 Some Jews further believe that he was Shem, Noah’s son.11 Yet, this view is mistaken. Possibly to correct this error, the book of Hebrews stresses that he (unlike many in the Bible) had no listed genealogy. In this way, he foreshadowed the birth of the eternal Messiah. Jesus was born without an Earthly father, and His reign is eternal: “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” (Heb. 7:3). Thus, Melchizedek was a unique man who foreshadowed Jesus.

Peter Paul Rubens 1577 – 1640 (Abraham Meets Melchizedek) (1627)12

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo 1696 – 1770 (The Sacrifice of Melchizedek) (1740-42)13

  • Melchizedek’s foreshadow of the future King of Righteousness. The word Melchizedek מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק malkī-ṣeḏeq, includes the word melek(h), which translates as “king”. His name also includes the word ṣedeq, which translates as “righteous(ness)”. Together, his name foreshadowed the future “King of Righteousness”: “Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly.” (Is. 32:1). Jesus is the author and perfecter of both your faith and your righteousness (Heb. 12:2; Is. 62:12). Is Jesus the source of your righteousness?

  • Melchizedek’s foreshadow of the future King of Peace. Melchizedek’s kingdom also foreshadowed the future reign of the Messiah at Mount Zion. He reigned over the City of Salim. In Hebrew, the city’s name means peace. According to Hebrews, he was therefore the “King of Peace”. (Heb. 7:2). This foreshadowed the Messiah’s role as the King or Prince of Peace. (Is. 9:6). “Salim” will also be the location of His tabernacle in Zion: “God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel. His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion.” (Ps. 76:1(b)-2). While the world offers only temporary peace, Jesus offers eternal peace (Jo. 14:27). But the name Melchiedeck or “righteousness” precedes the name Salem or peace. Thus, you need to be made righteous through faith in Jesus before you can experience His true “peace.” Is Jesus the source of the peace in your life?

  • Melchizedek’s foreshadow of the future King of Kings. Abraham, the father of the faithful, submitted to Melchizedek. He knew that Melchizedek was greater than him. Thus, Melchizedek foreshadowed the future “King of Kings.” (Rev. 19:16; 17:14; 1 Tim. 6:15). “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” (Rev. 1:5). The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah both prophesied that the Messiah would rule as King over all the Earth and that He would come from David’s line: ‘“Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.”’ (Jer. 23:5). “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Is. 9:7). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by coming from the line of Judah through David: “[A]nd one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” (Rev. 5:5; Is. 11:1, 10). You may claim that Jesus is your Savior. Yet, is He also Lord over all aspects of your life?

  • Melchizedek’s foreshadow of the future High Priest. Melchizedek had a dual role as King and High Priest. The prophet Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would rule as High Priest in a dual office title: “Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.” (Zech. 6:13). Yet, under the law given by Moses, this created a problem. In the Torah, only a Levite could be priest: “So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.” (Nu. 3:10; 1:51; Ex. 29:9). Moreover, a Levite priest could not also serve as King. God infected King Uzziah with leprosy when he tried to take on the dual roles of King and High Priest: “They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.”’ (2 Chron. 26:18, 19-21). Jesus was not a Levite. Thus, it might seem at first blush that He could not serve as High Priest. But David answered this dilemma when he prophesied that the Messiah would become the High Priest without being a Levite. He did not claim that Melchizedek would return as the Messiah. Instead, the Messiah would be from the ancient “order of'' Melchizedek. Like Melchizedek’s mysterious priesthood, the Messiah’s priesthood will have no beginning or end: “The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”’ (Ps. 110:4). The writer of Hebrews reveals that Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 3:1). He was able to serve as both King of Kings and as High Priest because He was of the ancient “order of” Melchizedek: “So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you’; just as He says also in another passage, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (Heb. 5:5-6). “[W]here Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:20). “For it is attested of Him, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (Heb. 7:17). The Greek word “kata” means “after the fashion or likeness of.” “And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek,” (Heb. 7:15). Thus, with the exception of Origen, the early Church fathers and Reformation leaders argued that Melchizedek was not a pre-incarnate Jesus.14 He instead was part of Jesus’ first priesthood. Jesus also wants others to join His priesthood.

  • You can also become part of permanent priesthood through Christ. David prophesied that the priesthood of Melchizedek would last “forever.” (Ps. 110:4). Jesus fulfilled this by establishing a priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek'' that will last forever: “but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.” (Heb. 7:24). Because this relates back to Melchizedek’s order and not the Aronic order, you don’t need to be a Jew or a Levite to join it. You also don’t need to be ordained by mankind or wear special clothes to hold the title of “royal priest”. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Pet. 2:9; Is. 61:6). Are you living a life worthy of being called one of Jesus’ royal priests?

  • The foreshadow of Jesus’ Last Supper. Melchizedek offered Abraham “bread and wine”. (Gen. 14:18). This foreshadowed the Last Supper or Seder. He commanded His disciples to eat the symbolic bread of His body and the wine that represented His blood: “While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’” (Matt. 26:26-7). He is your living bread: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (Jo. 6:51; 6:48). The blood symbolized His blood, which you must symbolically accept to have eternal life: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.’” (Jo. 6:53). When you eat and drink during Communion, you are asking Him to put your life into alignment with His will. Is there any area of your life where you are out of fellowship and in need of communion?

  • The foreshadow of the future wedding feast with Jesus in heaven. Melchizedek’s meal with Abraham also foreshadows the wedding supper between Jesus and His Church. Abraham represents the Church because both are saved by faith (Eph. 2:8; Gal. 3:6). The book of Revelation, states that Jesus will one day marry His Church (Rev. 19:7-14). As part of the wedding ceremony, there will be a great joyful banquet. Yet, only those clothed in the righteous wedding garments of Jesus will be permitted to join Him (Matt. 22:11-13). As a believer in Christ, you will be able dine with both Christ and all the resurrected patriarchs: “Jewish eschatology teaches that in the Messianic Era, the Messiah will host a great banquet in Jerusalem. The resurrected righteous will sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the meaning of the passage that says, (Abraham) was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham sought the eternal city that was to come. He sought the Jerusalem of the Messiah. In Genesis 14, he received a foretaste of the great Jerusalem banquet as the ‘king of righteousness’ came out from and set a table of ‘bread and wine’ before Abraham and his men.”15 When Jesus revealed the parable of the wedding banquet, He revealed that He called upon His servants to extend invitations to everyone (both good and bad) along the highways and byways. ‘“Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.”’ (Matt. 22:9). Have you traveled anywhere to invite strangers to His wedding banquet?

6. Like Abraham, Believers Will Praise, Bless, and Honor God. Gen. 14:19-20.

  • Melchizedek’s blessing to Abraham and God the Most High. After dining together, Melchizedek blessed Abraham and then the one true God: “19 He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand. He gave him a tenth of all.” (Gen. 14:19-20). By delivering a message to Abraham, Melchizedek showed that he was also a prophet. Thus, he held the three titles of King, High Priest, and Prophet. Some might find it odd for him to have “blessed God”. God already has everything good. Yet, to bless Him is to acknowledge that He is worthy. Do your prayers include blessings for God?

  • Melchizedek’s foreshadow of the restoration of true worship. Melchizedek referred to God the Father by the name El Elyon, which translates as “God Most High”. David later used this same name to refer to God as “the Redeemer”: “And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God [El Elyon] their Redeemer.” (Ps. 78:35). In a world of pagan idolatry, Melchizedek sought to restore worship in the one true God. This again foreshadowed Jesus. During the Millennial Reign, He will restore true worship: “‘from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the Lord.” (Is. 66:22-23; Ez. 20:12-26). Do you call upon Jesus’ holy name in prayer and worship?

Melchizedek blessed God and Abraham16

  • Abraham’s worship included a tithe of a tenth of his best possessions. After receiving God’s blessing, Abraham gave a tenth of what he won in combat: “He gave him a tenth of all.” (Gen. 14:20(b)). The book of Hebrews clarifies that Abraham gave a tenth of his best spoils from the war for Melchizedek’s priesthood: “Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.” (Heb. 7:4). Following Abraham’s example, his grandson Jacob gave a tenth to God as a tithe (Gen. 28:22). The duty to tithe part of a person’s produce or earnings later became part of the Mosaic law in the Torah (Dt. 14:22; 12:16; Lev. 27:30; Nu. 18:21). Like Abraham, the Jews were further to tithe only their best things to God: “You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God.” (Ex. 23:19(a); 34:26). “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.”’ (Lev. 23:10; Nu. 18:13; Dt. 26:2, 10). “Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce;” (Prov. 3:9). When giving is done without any expectation for reward, He will give back more than you gave Him (Mal. 3:10). Out of gratitude, do you give Him the best of your time, talent and treasure?

7. Like Abraham, People Will Not be Bound by the Ruler of This World. Gen. 14:21-24.

  • Abraham’s refusal to become indebted to the King of Sodom. After receiving Melchizedek’s blessing, the King of Sodom tempted Abraham by offering to let him keep the king’s possessions in exchange for receiving back his indentured people: “21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.’ 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 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.’ 24 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.” (Gen. 14:21-24). The King of Sodom represented the anti-Christ. “According to the Hebrew, he literally said, ‘Give the souls to me and take the goods for yourself.’”17 Abraham sought to avoid any deal with him. For the same reason, Elisha later refused Naaman’s gift. (2 Kgs. 5:16). You must also reject anything that Satan offers you.

  • Satan’s desire to rule over all mankind. Like the king of Sodom, Satan desires to rule over your soul. “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Is. 14:13-14). Any time you refuse to submit to God, you let him rule over your life. Yet, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior you need not fear (1 Jo. 4:4). Thus, even though he can cause you pain, the Holy Spirit inside you can protect you from his schemes.

  • Satan has nothing real to offer because everything belongs to God alone. Like the King of Sodom, Satan will try to entice you with the things of this world. He later used the same type of deceit when he tried to offer Jesus the world if only Jesus would worship him: “and [Satan] said to [Jesus], ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”’ (Matt. 4:9). Yet, Satan has only temporary custody of the world. God is the rightful owner of everything on Earth. “Moses said to [pharaoh], ‘As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’S.”’ (Ex. 9:29). David also revealed that the Earth belongs to Yahweh: “A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26). In heaven, you will finally be freed from Satan. Like Abraham, he will no longer have any hold over you. Have you given thanks for the incredible heaven that Jesus has prepared for you through His death?

  1. Soggin, “Abraham and the Eastern Kings: On Genesis 14,” Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield, (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 283-91.↩︎

  2. Kenneth Mathews, The New American Commentary, Gen. 11:27-50:26, Vol. 1B (B & H Publishing Group Nashville, TN 2005) p. 142; K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Cambridge, UK 2003), 320.)↩︎

  3. Mathews p. 142-3.↩︎

  4. The city of Dan was called “Laish” up until the time of the Judges: “They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father who was born in Israel; however, the name of the city formerly was Laish.” (Jgs. 18:29.) People who scoff at Moses’ authorship claim that he could not have written this text and referred to a city name that did not yet exist. Yet, English translations are frequently updated as the language changes over time. It is likely that scribes updated this city name for readers who would have had no knowledge of the name “Laish.” (Mathews p. 147)↩︎

  5. Mathews p. 146.↩︎

  6. First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah (2016) p. 54, citing Yalkut Moshiach: Lech Lecha, 60 section 46.↩︎

  7. Genesis Rabbah 43:6.↩︎

  8. Numbers Rabbah 4:8.↩︎

  9. Targum Yonathan and Targum Yerushalmi to Bereishith 14:18-20. Talmud Bavli to tractate Nedarim 32b et al.↩︎

  10. Mathews p. 152-3.↩︎

  11. First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah (2016) p. 55-6, citing Raphael Patai, “The Banquet” in The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1988), 235-245.↩︎

  12. First Fruits of Zion p. 58.↩︎