Bible passage: Genesis 14:18-20
Written: As early as 1400 BC
Genesis 14 begins with a war among various kings in the region, including the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. During the course of this war, Abraham's nephew, Lot, who was residing in Sodom at the time, is taken as a captive.
Abraham, a man of apparently great wealth, was able to put together an army of 318 of his servants. That army pursued, fought and defeated the army that had taken Lot, and Lot was rescued.
When Abraham returned to Hebron in Canaan, where he had been residing, he was greeted by a priest named Melchizedek:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Gen. 14:18-20, NIV)
Melchizedek is a mystery. His name appears in none of the genealogies that are listed in the Old Testament. And no details are given as to who he was or where he had come from, aside from what is mentioned in Gen. 14:18-20.
In those verses, Melchizedek is described in a way that foreshadows the roles and attributes of Jesus as the Messiah. Melchizedek is said to be priest of God and King of Salem. Some Bible scholars believe that Melchizedek was the king of the same Salem that later became known as Jerusalem. Other scholars believe it was a different Salem.
In any event, Salem means "peace," and Melchizedek means "King of Righteousness." This is significant in the study of Messianic prophecy because two of the Messianic titles that are listed elsewhere in the Bible are King of Righteousness and King of Peace.