The Promise to the Patriarchs

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Abram and his fighting men defeat the armies of the 4 Kings, rescue Lot and free the other captives [ Genesis ]. Abram is now the most powerful ruler in the region. Please read Genesis Abram's tithe to Melechizedek. Question: After Abram's return from battle he is met by two kings.

Who are these kings? Abram meets these kings in the Valley of Shaveh, literally in Hebrew, the "valley of the oath". Notice this is another connection to the number 7, to swear an oath is "to 7 oneself" in Hebrew, and both covenants and covenant renewal are established and passed on to the next generation by "oath-swearing".

This valley is also mentioned in 2 Samuel and according to the 1 st century AD historian Flavius Josephus it lay within a quarter mile of Jerusalem. Melchizedek is the Priest-King of Salem. The place name "Salem", which means "peace" in Hebrew, is identified in ancient Jewish tradition and by many of the Fathers of the Church as the ancient name for Jerusalem, a city located on Mt.

Moriah in central Canaan. Psalms also seems to make this connection: "God is acknowledged in Judah, his name is great in Israel, his tent [dwelling place] is pitched in Salem, his dwelling is in Zion Question: There is a contrast in Abram's response to these kings. How does the Priest-King of Salem respond to Abram and how does Abram, the most powerful king in the region having defeated all the other armies, respond to the Priest-King of Salem?

Answer: Abram humbles himself before the King of Salem who offers Abram bread and wine as a priestly act [Genesis ] and in blessing Abraham acknowledges that it was the "Most High God", in Hebrew "El-Elyon, creator of heaven and earth" who delivered the enemy into Abram's hand [Genesis ].

In response Abram acknowledges the King of Salem's priestly and kingly authority by paying a tithe of 1 tenth of all his accumulated wealth during the conflict.

God's Story: Abraham and Sarah

Answer: It must be Yahweh because Abram acknowledges no other God. Question: How does Abram respond to the powerful king of Sodom's offer of friendship and alliance? Answer: His offer is rejected. Melchizedek is the king of the same Jerusalem where Yahweh will choose to dwell in His Holy Temple, but at this time Melchizedek is a priest of the Most High before the Levitical priesthood was established. Psalms represents Melchizedek as a figure of David: " Yahweh declared to my Lord, 'Take your seat at my right hand, till I have made your enemies your footstool. Royal dignity has been yours from the day of your birth, sacred honor from the womb, from the dawn of your youth.

Yahweh has sworn an oath he will never retract, you are a priest for ever of the order of Melchizedek. This Psalms passage is the most frequently quoted and referenced Psalms in the New Testament. Jesus quotes this Psalms in Matthew and St. Peter will quote this Psalms and apply it to Jesus in his homily on Pentecost Sunday in Acts of Apostles 2: [also see Hebrews ]. The sacred writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote that the passage in Psalms was a prophetic passage about Christ who would come to serve as both our King and our High Priest [see Hebrews chapter , ].

The Fathers of the Church also taught that Melchizedek is himself a figure or "type" of the Messiah whose priesthood comes directly from God and not by virtue of heredity. Question: What is the symbolic significance of the gift of bread and wine that God's righteous priest-king brings to Abram?

Answer: It can be seen as a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. As God's priestly representative the King of Salem brings this symbol of the Eucharist to the man God has selected to be the father of a nation that will bring forth the Messiah.

Question: Who is this Priest-King who acknowledges the One True God and to whom Abram, the most powerful man in the entire region acknowledges as priest as well as king? Who is this man who carries God's priestly and kingly authority? Answer: The identity of this man is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. According to Jewish tradition this priest-king of Salem is Shem, the righteous firstborn son of Noah through whom God has continued His Covenant.

The modern Jewish Tanach [Old Testament] includes a notation of this tradition in the footnotes [see the Tanach Stone edition , note on page 29 , and it is also found in the 1st century Targums, the Aramaic commentaries that accompanied the Old Testament text i. There is also historical precedent: kings in the ancient Near East and most kings took a throne-name other than their birth name i. Both St. Ephraim in the 4 th century AD and St.

Jerome in the 5 th century AD acknowledge Shem's link to Melchizedek:. You may recall that Shem is the first man identified in Scripture as "God's man", and Shem is also the righteous "firstborn" son of Noah with whom God's Covenant with Noah continues. Genesis records that " When Shem was a hundred years old he fathered Arpachshad, two years after the flood. After the birth of Arpackshad, Shem lived years..

If you calculate the age of Shem from the toledoth of Genesis chapter 11 you will discover that Shem was years old when Abram was born. Genesis records that Abraham [his name is changed by then] is 99 years old when Ishmael is circumcised at age At that time Shem would be a healthy years old-- still alive after the events of Genesis chapter If Shem is Yahweh's Covenant representative it makes perfect sense for Abram to acknowledge his leadership and to pay a tithe. Abraham died when he was [Genesis ]. At that time Shem would have been a venerable years old, outliving his "son" Abraham and dying in his th year!

Ephraim wrote: Shem lived not only to the time of Abraham, as Scripture says, but even to the time of Jacob and Esau, the grandsons of Abraham. It was to him that Rebekah went to ask and was told, "Two nations are in your womb, and the elder shall serve the younger. Rebekah would not have bypassed her husband, who had been delivered at the high place, or her father-in-law, to whom revelations of the divinity came continually and gone straight to ask Melechizedek unless she had learned of his greatness from Abraham or Abraham's son. Abraham would not have given him a tenth of everything unless he knew that Melchizedek was infinitely greater than himself.

Would Rebekah have asked one of the Canaanites or one of the Sodomites? Would Abraham have given a tenth of his possessions to any one of these? One ought not even entertain such ideas. Ephraim, Commentary on Genesis.

Commission Similarities

What parallels can you see between this righteous King of Salem and Jesus of Nazareth? Answer: Both Melchizedek and Jesus serve Yahweh as:. Biblical references to Melchizedek: Psalms ; Hebrews ; ; [7 times in Hebrews]. Catholic scholars also taught in this tradition: St.

Patriarchs (Bible)

I gladly agree with their opinion" [Luther's Works II, page ]. Question: If Abram had indeed become the most powerful ruler in the Land of Canaan why didn't he just subdue all the other Canaanite kingdoms and take the land for himself? Answer: In this aspect of God's promised blessings, at least, Abram is submitting to God's plan. In the case of God's promise of descendants, however, Abram and Sarai will not be so obedient.

Question: What is the significance of Abraham paying a 10 th of everything we had acquired as a tithe and receiving a blessing from Melchizedek? What are the last two occasions prior to this event in Genesis when a blessing was given and received? Answer: The last blessings are mentioned in Genesis chapter 12 in God's three-fold promise to Abraham and God's blessing on Shem in Let Canaan be his slave. May God expand Japheth, so that he dwells among the tents of Shem The paying of the tithe and the blessing show Abraham acknowledges Melchizedek's authority.

Concerning Melchizedek-Shem's blood connection to Abraham and the action of both paying a tenth tithe and receiving a blessing, St. Ephraim saw this as a prefigurement of the Levitical priesthood. Ephraim, 4 th century doctor of the Church wrote: Through Abraham, who gave him the tenth part, the house of Levi, which had to be generated by him, took the tenth part in him.

The Old Testament Patriarchs

The Levites, even though they took the tenth part, did not take it from strangers but received the tenth part from themselves; in fact, they took the tenth part from their brothers, the sons of Abraham. Therefore, Abraham, to whom the promise of priesthood was made, gave the tenth part to Melchizedek, who was not inscribed in the Levitic generation.

And to Abraham it had been promised that all nations would have been blessed in him. So why did he need the blessing of an uncircumcised man? Does not this show and prove that, if Abraham had not been inferior to Melchizedek, he would not have demanded to be blessed by him?

And so the mortal sons receive the tenth part, and in the same manner Melchizedek, who was mortal, lived at that time to be a witness for Abraham, for the indisputably true Melchizedek's blessing destined to the seed of Abraham.

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Ephraim, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. God's Covenant with Abram Part 1. In Genesis chapter 15 Yahweh reminds Abram of the 3-fold promise and Abram brings up a major obstacle to those promises being fulfilled. Answer: He and his wife have no children. Question: What promise does God give Abram in Genesis 15 verse 5?

Answer: Abram's descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky! Question: What was Abram's response to God's renewal and clarification of this promise? See Genesis Answer: " Abram put his faith in Yahweh and this was reckoned to him as uprightness.