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Long ago when I first contemplated Genesis 14:17-20, I found it strange that
in the middle of a passage about Abraham and the king of Sodom, Melchizedek
made his one and only, notwithstandingly highly momentous, incursion into
our imaginations, uniting the role of king and priest into the one figure. I
hadn't even heard of the book of Jubilees at that time.
The importance of Jubilees here is that it doesn't seem to know anything
about Melchizedek though the writer(s) (neither is it aware of the
interactions between Abraham and the king of Sodom). Paolo Sacchi the
Turinese Second Temple scholar writes the following: "Evidently Melchizedek
was a figure about whom the author preferred not to say anything or even
wanted the reader to believe had never existed." (Storia del Secondo Tempio,
p367). This seems to be the main line of analysis of the situation -- that
the loquacious writer for some inexplicable reason decided to omit the
reference to Melchizedek, the sort of passage that begs for an imaginative
mind to expand upon.
Among the dss fragments of Genesis this part is not testified to. The
strange thing is that the first document to testify to this important figure
is the so-called Genesis Apocryphon that even specifies that the city of
Melchizedek, Salem, was in fact Jerusalem.
Notwithstanding the views of the many scholars who have discussed this
information the evidence suggests that Melchizedek was not in fact in
Genesis when the book of Jubilees was written. It smacks of a case of
Genesis here being rewritten Genesis Apocryphon.
It should be noted that this is not the only place in the dss that we find
Melchizedek. 11Q13 also testifies to Melchizedek as an eschatological figure
of the highest importance. He is the coming saviour who "will carry out the
vengeance of God's judgements".
Naturally the name Melchizedek is of utmost importance for an understanding
of the implications -- the king of righteousness. This is a figure that
unifies the older ideas of the two messiahs, no longer the priest and the
king, but now the priest king. The older dss texts like 1Q28a & 1Q28b make
the duel roles clear, yet by the time 11Q13 was written they had been
combined. The historical implications are reasonably clear: the dss no
longer mentioned the sons of Zadok. The Temple Scroll tells us about the
king and about the urim and thummim, which are usually carried by the high
priest, but the high priest is nowhere in sight as the king consults them.
This is not strange if one thinks of the Hasmonean priest kings -- they
would be carrying them. The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifices are filled with
kingly imagery but no high priest in sight. Again this would fit neatly into
the time of the Hasmonean priest kings. Gone are the ideas of the dss being
anti-Hasmonean, especially when one thinks of 4Q448 with its praise for King
Jonathan (Alexander Jannaeus, whose coins used the name Jonathan). The dss
are in fact much in favour of the Hasmoneans.
Melchizedek actually appears a second time in the HB/OT, in Psalm 110, the
well-named "Royal Psalm", which I take to have been written for a Hasmonean
king. Where else in the history of Israel could one say of a king "You are a
priest forever after the order of Melchizedek"?
It should be noted in the passage in Genesis that features the appearance of
Melchizedek, a special term for God is used: "the Most High God", a term
only to be found in that part of Genesis as well as the Book of Daniel and
Psalm 78. It however is quite popular in Jubilees as well as the "Genesis
Apocryphon". It would seem that this special name for God is contemporary
with the Hasmoneans.
Hyrcanus II is called "the high priest of the most high God" in Josephus's
Antiquities XVI.6.2. The one sentence that talks of the Maccabeans in the
Assumption of Moses (from the interpolated chapter 6), they are described as
follows: "Then shall arise kings to rule over them, and they shall be called
priests of the Most High God (they will be responsible for much ungodliness
in the holy of holies)."
Given these facts:
1) The Melchizedek passage in Gen 14 is not attested to until the dss,
having mysteriously been neglected by Jubilees. When it appears it is in a
non-biblical work. This dates the Melchizedek passage to the time of the
dss, though after the writing of Jubilees.
2) The Genesis Melchizedek passage comes with the special term for God, "the
Most High God", that is strongly associated with the Hasmoneans.
3) Melchizedek doesn't appear in the dss that talk of the two messiahs, and
is either a different tradition or a later one -- naturally I go for the
4) Melchizedek coincides with the disappearance of the Zadokites, which
would suggest after Onias IV's move to Egypt.
5) The significance of the name and the role of the figure of Melchizedek
combines the two messiahs, as the Hasmonean kings combined the two roles of
priest and king.
I would have to conclude that the Melchizedek passage in Genesis 14 was
added under the rule of the Hasmonean priest kings, a fact that is
corroborated in the dss.