that aged man, Shem, consecrated by God to be His priest, when he fled to him in his cave from the tyranny of Nimrod.
Shem reigned now in the city of Salem, which was in later years called Jerusalem, and from his righteous government he was named Melchizedek (king of righteousness). And Abraham thought, "Will Shem ever forgive me for having drawn the sword against his grandsons, the sons of Elam?"
But Shem was of no less noble and considerate temper than Abraham; and he mused within himself, and said, "What sort of opinion can Abraham have formed of me, that such godless and violent hosts should have sprung from my loins, and have devastated the fair plain of Jordan, and carried away captive even his near kinsman!"
Then Shem, full of noble resolution to reconcile himself with Abraham, rose up and went forth, bearing bread and wine as tokens of friendship.
The words of God flowed from his mouth; he instructed Abraham in all that appertained to the high priest's office, which was in future times to belong to his family; and before he left, he blessed Abraham with these words, "Blessed be Abraham of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand."
But in so saying, Melchizedek erred grievously, for he blessed Abraham before he blessed God, and the Creator should be blessed first, and the creature blessed afterwards; therefore the high priesthood was taken from him, and was given to Aaron in after-times.
Of all the spoil which Abraham had taken, he separated a tenth part, and he gave it to Melchizedek, as the offering due to the priest, and this was the first tithe paid in the history of the world. All the booty of Sodom Abraham returned to the king thereof, and he took an oath, "I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou should say, I have made Abraham rich, save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion."
On account of this unselfishness, the remembrance of which was to be continued through all generations, God gave the
- Gen. xiv. 19, 20.
- Gen. xiv. 23, 24.