For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings…
There are various relations in which human greatness is a fit object of consideration.
1. It is to be considered in relation to the providence of God. All real greatness — intellectual, moral, and circumstantial — is intimately associated with the sovereignty of Heaven. In certain recorded instances, the connection of God with the attainment of such greatness is very distinctly indicated. It is so in the instances of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Saul, David, and many other Scripture-characters. In these, the direct interference of the Divine Being is at certain points, definitely marked; and the thoughtful reader of the narrative is thus prepared to acknowledge His hand throughout the whole tissue of the events that led the individual on to greatness. But the Scriptural doctrine of God's universal providence involves the fact that, even in more ordinary cases, His superintending care and administrative wisdom are employed (1 Chronicles 29:11, 12). Now, it is reasonable, and fitted to be practically useful, to trace the Divine sovereignty and the Divine wisdom in the production of personal and national greatness, and, when such greatness flashes on the eye, to see and feel that the hand of Jehovah has been there.
2. Human greatness is to be considered in relation to the ravages of death and time. "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass (1 Peter 1:24). Riches take to themselves wings and fly away" (Proverbs 23:5). Power waxes weak as infancy. Even Fume's green garland is wont to wither on the brow (Ecclesiastes 8:8). How important, by the consideration of earthly greatness as, like other earthly objects, frail and fleeting, to be disabused of vain ambition, and to learn the lesson (Isaiah 2:22).
3. Human greatness is to be considered in relation to the example and encouragement which, in certain cases, it is fitted to afford. Some men have been greatly good. Their moral aims have been lofty, their moral enterprises vast, and their moral attainments bright. And independently of their importance as models, the consideration of them is fitted to inspire the soul with a moral enthusiasm both honourable and useful.
4. Human greatness is to be considered in relation to the typical character which certain great ones of the world possessed. If God has assigned such a character to some of the principle personages of the Bible, and given us the means of tracing it, surely it would be unreasonable and sinful to neglect to do so. By the consideration of those elements of greatness wherein patriarchs, princes, priests, and prophets represented Christ, distinct and vivid views may be obtained of Christ Himself. Thus, too, may be clearly apprehended the intimate relation subsisting among the various moral economies of God, and the antivipative and Messianic character of God's providence from the very birth of time.
(A. S. Patterson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;