Why did Melchizedek meet Abram in Genesis 14?


In Genesis 14:17-18, Melchizedek brings forth bread and wine. Was he residing in Sodom?  If not, where did he come from, and why was he on the scene?

Let’s read Genesis 14:17-18: “And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.”  When Abram returned from the battle, the king of Sodom met him at the King’s Valley.  It might have been a place where kings of that day gathered to conduct business of one kind or another.  It might also have been a place of refuge to which they fled when under attack.  Genesis 14:10 tells us that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled during the battle.  After Abram returns, he brings back the people of Sodom to their king.  Melchizedek, also a king, is present in this valley as well.  The text doesn’t say why he is there.  Perhaps there was some kind of political alliance between Melchizedek and the king of Sodom.  The text doesn’t say, only that this was the Valley of the Kings.

Melchizedek came from the city of Salem, which is the city that would eventually be known as Jerusalem.  Not only was he the king there, but he was also a priest of the Most High God.  He appears here in the text not as a king, but as a priest.  It was common for those coming back from victorious battle to offer sacrifices and give thanks for the victory.  Melchizedek was there to facilitate those actions.  He may also have been there to bear witness to whatever deal that took place between Abram and the King of Sodom.  He would have been an impartial witness.  We know that the King of Sodom offered all of the spoil of the battle to Abram, but he refused it since he didn’t want the King of Sodom to claim that he had made Abram rich.  Melchizedek did take tithes from Abram and he also blessed Abram showing that he was superior to Abram in terms of the priesthood.

Nevertheless, while Melchizedek may have been there for all of these reasons, we know that God had him there for another reason, namely, to show that an alternate priesthood existed prior to that of Levi.  Another priesthood was needed in order for the Messiah to fulfill the role of permanent High Priest.  This was prophesied in Psalm 110:4, “The Lord has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.’”  The Holy Spirit tells us in Hebrews 7 that the priesthood of Melchizedek served as the standard through which Jesus Christ would be our high priest.  Moreover, it is a superior system of priesthood because it doesn’t succumb to all of the problems the Levitical priesthood had.  Hebrews 7 tells us that the priesthood of Melchizedek was unending, superior to Aaron’s, received tithes from Abram, blessed Abram, and makes it possible for the Christ to be a high priest.  So, while we may not know specifically why Melchizedek decided to show up after Abram returned from battle, we know that God wanted him there for other reasons.