Parashat Lech L’chah

Saturday 28 October 2017 Cheshvan 8 5778

Parashat Lech L’chah - Melchizedek's Banquet

Genesis 12:1-17:27; Isaiah 40:27-41:16; Romans 4:1-25

As Abraham returned from war, a local chief came out to meet him. He offered Abraham and his men provisions, and he blessed Abraham. The chief is called Melchizedek, the king of Salem.

The Torah does not tell us much about Melchizedek. We know that • Melchizedek ruled as a king; • he ministered as a priest of God; • he ruled a city called Salem; • he worshipped God Most High; • he blessed Abraham, and • he received tribute from Abraham.

The Torah does not provide any further information beyond those few, sparse details. Like Enoch’s character in Genesis 5, the mysterious Melchizedek invites embellishment, and both Jewish and Christian traditions have generously bestowed it.

Melchizedek was not a personal name. It seems to have functioned as an honorific, enthronement title, like the name Abimelech (Father of a King). We do not know the personal name of the Melchizedek who met Abraham in Genesis 14. Similarly, the word Messiah (i.e., Christ) functions as a title, not a personal name. The Bible refers to any king over Israel as “messiah” (anointed one). In the same way that we call Yeshua the Messiah, one might call Him the Melchizedek. He is the King of Righteousness.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the coming Messiah as the King who will accomplish righteousness:

Behold, the days are coming … 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. (Jeremiah 23:5)

The Torah tells us that Melchizedek is the King of Salem. The Bible identifies Salem as the ancient name for Jerusalem. Psalm 76:3(2) equates Salem with Zion (i.e., Jerusalem), saying, “His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion.” The association with Jerusalem heightens the messianic imagery. The idea of a “king of righteousness” ruling over Jerusalem points toward the Messianic Era. When Messiah comes, Jerusalem will be the capital city of the kingdom of heaven on earth, and the Messiah will reign in righteousness.

Furthermore, the writer of the book of Hebrews points out that the term “King of Salem” could be read as “King of Peace” (Hebrews 7:2). The prophets tell us that when Messiah does come to rule and reign out of Jerusalem He will usher in an era of peace on earth.

Melchizedek hosted Abraham and his men at a great banquet: "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine" (Genesis 14:18). 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 Messiah. In Genesis 14, he received a foretaste of that great Jerusalem banquet as the king of righteousness came out from Jerusalem and set a table of “bread and wine” before Abraham and his men.

Melchizedek's bread and wine allude to the Last Seder at which the Master broke the unleavened bread and shared the cup, declaring a remembrance of Himself. At that meal, the Master promised His disciples that He would take the Passover meal and the cup again with them at the banquet in the kingdom of God.

We look forward with ever-increasing anticipation to the day when the eternal Melchizedek will again serve bread and wine to Abraham and his followers—those who are of the faith of Abraham. Next year in Jerusalem!

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