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Meaning and etymology of the name Melchizedek

Melchizedek Melchizedek

Melchizedek is the king of Salem and priest of El Elyon (Genesis 14:18). He has a small but far stretching role in the War of Four against Five Kings, in the aftermath of which Abraham's nephew Lot is abducted by the survivors of that war and subsequently freed by Abraham and his coalition. Melchizedek gives Abraham bread and wine and blesses him, and Abraham gives Melchizedek a tenth of the goods that he retrieved from the looters. This action gave rise to the law of tithing.

King David seems to have access to Scriptures (or direct revelation) that are lost to us when he cites God in Psalm 110:4, "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek." That there used to be a strong tradition about this Melchizedek becomes evident in Paul's letter to the Hebrews (Hebr 5:6, 5:10, 6:20 etc). In this sense there is a huge difference between Melchizedek and Jethro, another famous priest, although at first he is perhaps not a priest of the God of Israel. Jethro is the father of Zipporah, the first wife of Moses, whose allegiance to God becomes evident only after he sees the success of Israel (Exodus 18:11).

The use of a hyphen in a name is highly unusual, and although Melchizedek seems a personal name, it looks more like a title. It consists of two elements:

1) The word malak (malak) means to be or become king/ queen (see the name Milcah). The obvious derivation malak (melek) means king.

2) The verb sadeq (sadeq) means to be just, righteous. According to HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, "This root basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard." Such an important verb obviously occurs all over the Bible. It's used in the sense of having a just cause (Job 9:15), being justified (Job 11:2, Isaiah 43:9), or being just in general (Psalm 51:4, Job 10:15). It's used in a statutory sense (2 Samuel 15:4), a verdictive sense (Deuteronomy 25:1), even vindicative sense (Isaiah 50:8) and redemptive sense (Daniel 12:3, Genesis 44:16).

Besides this verb, the root yields a few other important derivatives:

The adjective saddiq (saddiq) means just or righteous (Genesis 7:1, 2 Samuel 23:3); The masculine noun sadeq (sedeq), meaning justice or rightness (Deuteronomy 25:15, Leviticus 19:15); and the feminine noun sedaqa (sadaqa), meaning righteousness (Isaiah 5:7, Psalm 36:6).

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and NOBS Study Bible Name List agree on the meaning of Melchizedek: King Of Righteousness.

Much later in the narrative we meet another king of Salem (or Jerusalem, as it is now called). His name is also derived from the verb sadeq: Adonai-zedek.

Other names derived from the verb sadeq are Jehozadak, Jozadak, Zadok and Zedekiah.

Other names derived of the word for king are Abimelech, Adrammelech, Ahimelech, Allammelech, Anammelech, Ebed-melech, Elimelech, Hammoleketh, Jamlech, Mahli, Malcam, Malchiel, Malchijah, Malchijahu, Malchiram, Malchi-shua, Malluch, Malluchi Melech, Milcah, Milcom and Molech.



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