Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/65

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The Voice of the Sto7te of Destiny. 53

oracles are barbarous. We do not know how Melchizedek was appointed King of Salem. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers tohim as "without father, without mother, without genealogy," as if there were something peculiar in the omission of his pedigree, though in this respect he did not differ from the other kings mentioned in the narrative. However, the discovery at Tel-el-Amarna of letters from Ebed-tob, King of Salem in the fifteenth century B.C., to his suzerain the King of Egypt, has rendered it possible to suppose that Melchizedek did not come to the throne by inheritance, and consequently that his parentage was unim- portant. Ebed-tob, protesting his loyalty as an ally and a tributary of the King of Egypt, says : " Neither my father, nor my mother, (but) the oracle of the mighty king, estab- lished (me) in the house of (my) father." In other words he states, as Professor Sayce interprets the expression, " that his authority was not based on the right of inheritance ; he had been called to exercise it by a divine voice. "^ We must beware of drawing too large an inference from a single phrase. Assuming that "the mighty king" is the god 'Shalim, and not the suzerain whom he is addressing, there remains the question what is meant by " the house of his father." Evidently it is the royal office ; but is it not the royal office previously filled by his ancestors? The correct view would seem to be that the kingship was, like that of Karague, descendible to any scion of the royal house, subject to the decision of the oracle. The pedigree then would be important, but not all-important. The god would decide among the candidates. Some such arrange- ment would seem to have been recognised in the heroic age of Greece, if we may trust the somewhat obscure expressions of the Odyssey. There are examples in the Homeric poems of kings who have succeeded to the inherit- ance of their sires. Agamemnon is one. On the other hand, the position of Ulysses is enigmatical. It is enig-

' Records ef the Past, 2nd series (London, N.D.), vol. v, [1S91], pp. 68, 62.