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by Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason Ministries
Part 2 of the review of Don Richardson"s "Eternity in Their Hearts"
Don Richardson calls Melchizedek the "archetype of general revelation" the kind of revelation that is "just there." (Don Richardson, Eternity in their Hearts (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1981), 10.)
"Eternity in Their Hearts is my attempt to trace through history some examples of this beautiful interaction between the Melchizedek factor—God's general revelation—and the Abraham factor—God's special revelation" (p.32)
Richardson used Melchizedek to represent general revelation by assuming what he wanted from the text. He proposes that Melchizedek came to know God from general revelation. His point: if general revelation is known to all, as mentioned in Romans 1 and Psalm 19, then certainly the majority would know God and there would be others like Melchizedek throughout the world. This is one of the main facets of his theme in his book.
The fact is, Melchizedek is unique. He is not a standard found throughout many nations or cultures. We have to pay attention to where he lived and who he came out to bless. The Bible records this event for a reason.
After Abram wins the battle, we read in Genesis 14:17-19 "And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High."
Both kings were present, only Melchizedek king of Salem blessed Abram and God.
"Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand."
Genesis 14:21-24 "the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself." But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich'-- except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion."
Abram identifies himself with the God of Melchizedek in the presence of the king of Sodom. The Most High God of Melchizedek is the God of Genesis 1, the God of Adam, Enoch and Noah and now Abram.
Richardson writes, "The fact that the writer of Genesis provides not the slightest explanation of how Melchizedek learned about El Elyon seems to indicate that the writer did not think it at all unusual that a person like Melchizedek should be found with such knowledge among the Canaanites! ( P. 107)
Abraham arrived in Canaan, he found Melchizedek, king of the town named Salem, already serving as a priest of El Elyon—which was the Canaanite tribal name for God."
Richardson"s disciple Daniel Kikawa says "a Canaanite Priest named Melchizedek", "Abraham instead acknowledged Melchizedek and his God, El, by giving the first recorded tithe to him! Is it also sacrilegious when the Bible says that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, that heathen Canaanite, and of his heathen God, El (Hebrews 7) (p. 24 Perpetuated in Righteousness)
In his book "Perpetuated in Righteousness" Kikawa writes, "El was the highest God in the Canaanite pantheon. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that "The name 'El' is a very ancient Semitic term. It is also the most widely distributed name among Semitic-speaking peoples for the deity, occurring in some form in every Semitic language except Ethiopic... The term El was used in reference to a personal god and not merely as a generic term in the ancient Semitic world."8 (emphasis-the author's) In Ugarit, he was the father of gods, men and the 'creator of creatures'. El was also the 'creator of the earth' of the Hittites and Phoenicians and one of the Babylonian trinity. He was wise and kind, showing sadness and happiness, but not anger.
However, the knowledge of El, like the creation God of Babylon, experienced much corruption. El was said in some texts to have created other gods by procreation" (p.25 -26) underline mine.
We see Kikawa trying to legitimize paganism and putting his special spin on it. Kikawa calls Melchizedek a Canaanite Priest and says "El was the highest God in the Canaanite pantheon". If a god is part of the pantheon, then he is not the true god.
Richardson writes: This Canaanite "king of righteousness," according to the author of Genesis, doubled also as "priest of [El Elyon"—"God Most High" (Gen. 14:18). Who was El Elyon? Both El and Elyon were Canaanite names for Yahweh Himself" (p. 29-30 Eternity in their Hearts)
What does this mean? He as Canaanite doubled as a priest of God most high? Both Kikawa and Richardson are implying the Canaanites knew the true God. Richardson says Melchizedek was a Canaanite king, and that El was a Cannanite god. This is absurd as El was a general word for God like we use the word "God" for the creator today. It"s a general word that can be used for both true and false gods. If He was a Canaanite god, then this obviously is saying they knew the true God before Israel did. No, this one priest did. He should not stretch the application to a person, a people God would evict from the land.
Ungers dictionary states "El is a generic name for God in NW Semitic (Heb. and Ugaritic), and as such it is also employed in the OT for heathen deities <Exo. 34:14; Isa. 44:10>. â€¦ In Canaanite paganism as reflected in the Phoenician historian Philo of Byblos, A.D. 100, and particularly in the epic religious literature unearthed at Ras Shamra, ancient Ugarit in N Syria, 1929-37, El was the head of the Canaanite pantheon. â€¦According to Philo, El was a bloody tyrant who dethroned his own father, Uranus, murdered his favorite son, and decapitated his daughter. The Ugaritic poems present him also as a lustful, morbid character. Despite these crimes, El was considered the exalted "father of years" (Abu shanima), the "father of man" (Abu Adami), and "father bull," that is, the progenitor of the gods. â€¦ El was the father of men and gods. The utter moral abandon of El, as well as that of his son, Baal, and his three sister-wives, who were patronesses of sex and war, point to the degrading effects of Canaanite religion and offer adequate moral explanation for the inflexibly stern attitude of the OT toward the religion of the Canaanites and to the Canaanites themselves. â€¦ The Heb. name of God, El, has, of course, no connection with paganism, but is a simple generic term. (m.f.u.) bibliography: M. H. Pope, El in the Ugaritic Texts (1955); F. M. Cross, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren (1977), 1:242-60. (From New Unger's Bible Dictionary)
Hebrew scholar Dr. Fruchtenbaum has this to say: "He was a priest not of the deity in the Land of Canaan, which was pagan but he was priest of God Most High. In Hebrew, this is El Elyon, and this title for God is found four times in these verses. Outside of this passage, it is found only in Psalm 78:35. Otherwise, the main phrase used elsewhere in Scriptures is "Most High," but not "Most High God." The Ras Shamra Tablets show that this was a rather common name for God in pre-Mosaic Canaan." (Dr. Fruchtenbaum- Genesis)
The term El was a generic title likened to the term God in our day. The supreme deity of the Canaanite pantheon was El, together with his consort, Asherah. To say El Elyon is the same God as Genesis is to conclude the Hebrews had the same God and concepts the Canaanite pagans did.
Kikawa: Abraham did not say, "Just wait a minute, you heathen priest! Don't you dare bless me in the name of your heathen god and claim that my victory was caused by your heathen god; El!" Abraham instead acknowledged Melchizedek and his God, El, by giving the first recorded tithe to him! Is it also sacrilegious when the Bible says that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, that heathen Canaanite, and of his heathen God, El (Hebrews 7)? (P. 25 Perpetuated in Righteousness)
Richardson: "Question: Did Abram the Chaldean, who apparently called the Almighty Yahweh, balk at Melchizedek's use of this Canaanite term El Elyon as a valid name for God? We do not have to wait for an answer! Melchizedek did something which puts Abram's attitude to the test immediately: "[Melchizedek] blessed Abram, ... Brace yourself for Abram's reply. We may be about to listen in on the first theological argument in the biblical narrative. What will Abram say? Will he reply, "One moment, your highness! The correct name for the Almighty is Yahweh, not El Elyon! Furthermore, I cannot possibly accept a blessing offered under this Canaanite name El Elyon, since any Canaanite concept of the Almighty undoubtedly must be tainted with pagan notions. In any case, Yahweh has told me that I am the one who is supposed to be a blessing to all peoples on Canaanites like you" (p.32 Eternity in their Hearts)
The theory they impose is in fact refuted in the text of Genesis 14:22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD (YHWH), God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth"
He spoke the name of God, Yahweh, as the possessor of heaven and earth distinguishing him from any of the Canaanite gods [s].
Contrary to what they propose Melchizedek was not a Canaanite but lived in the land of Canaan. Ham"s fourth son is Canaan, the father of the Canaanites. The Canaanites were Hamitic in origin. It was this son and his descendants that fell under the curse of Noah. Shem was to rule over Canaan. As God promised his covenant to Abraham in Genesis 12 these people were evicted from the land and it was given to Israel. 4 centuries go by and when Israel conquers the land, but there is no longer a Melchizedek priest worshiping the true God.
El Elyon - the most high ("God") is a term later referred to in Deut. 32:8-9 "When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD'S portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance."
Then the other scriptures who mention the most high always identify him as YHWH the God of Israel.
Ps. 47:2-4 "For the LORD (YHWH) Most High is awesome; he is a great King over all the earth. He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet. He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah"
Ps. 97:9-10 "For You, LORD (YHWH), are most high above all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; he delivers them out of the hand of the wicked."(As He did Abraham)
Ps. 83:18 "That they may know that You, whose name alone is the LORD (YHWH), are the Most High over all the earth."
The "most high" God in the BIBLE is a term separating Israel"s God from all others as it later shows his special relationship to Israel which began with Abram. Make no mistake He is not the same God of the Canaanites.
Richardson: "When Abraham arrived in Canaan, he found Melchizedek, king of the town named Salem, already serving as a priest of El Elyon—which was the Canaanite tribal name for God. (see Gen. 14:18-20; Ps. 110:4; and Heb.-7:
â€¦ The fact that the writer of Genesis provides not the slightest explanation of how Melchizedek learned about El Elyon seems to indicate that the writer did not think it at all unusual that a person like Melchizedek should be found with such knowledge among the Canaanites! Perhaps we too should not be surprised to find of God -fearers living among pagans in more recent times! Perhaps Jesus himself referred to such when He said, "I have also other sheep which are not of this fold; I must bring them also" (p. 108 " 109 Eternity in their Hearts)
Perhaps is a word used often by Richardson. Perhaps he is wrong. As we will see Melchizedek was unique and used as a type of Christ. The other sheep are the Gentiles, which was not what Melchizedek was in the sense we know today.
Richardson uses Melchizedek as an example of one who received general revelation: "The amazing thing is that they have continued to do just that down through the subsequent history of mankind.
For as Yahweh's special revelation—let's call it the Abraham factor—has continued to reach out into the world through both the Old and New Testament eras, it has continually found that Yahweh's general revelation—let's call it the Melchizedek factorâ€¦" Eternity in Their Hearts is my attempt to trace through history some examples of this beautiful interaction between the Melchizedek factor—God's general revelation—and the Abraham factor—God's special revelation" (p.33 Eternity in their Hearts)
But Richardson seems confused, he also says, "Melchizedek, had received direct communication from God" (p. 155), citing Adam, Cain, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Job before him.
Which is it? General or direct revelation. You can"t have it both ways. But this is only a slip of the truth, as Richardson insists throughout his book Melchizedek knows God from general revelation. This is proposed so one will accept others like him all over the world (i.e. The Inca Pachacuti is later named as an example of this Melchizedek factor theory).
Richardson makes this unusual, unique occurrence an expected occurrence throughout the world.
A priest of this Melchizedekian type was always "just there," so to speak. You could never predict where you might find (or not find) one of them! This has always been a characteristic of general revelation—it's just-thereness! (P. 156 Eternity in their Hearts)
Not sure what just-thereness is, but what he is proposing is that there are others. Richardson is trying to make a unique person and event more common throughout the world. It is not! His assumption that that this priest knew God by general revelation is not factual, nor biblical. It is only used to support his universal, inclusive theory. The Bible does not cite anyone before this, but does afterwards. Abraham and Melchizedek both knew the most high God and He was not the god of the nations around them, nor a Canaanite god.
Richardson makes his point as he finds what he thinks are others like Melchizedek "Discovering a man like Pachacuti in fifteenth-century Peru is as startling as finding an Abraham in Ur or a Melchizedek among the Canaanites! If only it were possible to travel back in time, Pachacuti is one man I would certainly like to look in on. I like to call him the "Incan Melchizedek." (P. 41 Eternity in their Hearts)
Then Richardson punctuates his statements with these further contradictory examples:
"But the fact that Abraham personally knew the true God was not unique! As mentioned earlier, when Abraham arrived in Canaan, he found Melchizedek, king of the town named Salem, already serving as a priest of El Elyon—which was the Canaanite tribal name for God" (p. 107 Eternity in their Hearts)
Why would it be surprising to see someone in the line of Shem living among pagans who knew the true God and his ways during this time period?
You can"t call Pachacuti a Melchizedek. Contrary to Richardson"s theory the Bible says there is one other priest of this order that came after, it is Jesus. Melchizedek is used for Christ, not any other man. So what Richardson has done is lift it from its context to expand its application for his theory of God speaking to other cultures the same time he gave specific revelation to Abraham, to Moses and through the time the gospel was delivered -- That is blatant error.
Richardson asks "Does Scripture anticipate the existence of this unique class of God-fearers in the midst of otherwise pagan peoples? I believe Scripture not only anticipates their existence, but even introduces us to at least six of them! I refer not only to Melchizedek, but also to Job and his four counsellors: Bildad, Zophar, Elipaz and Elihu (see the book of Job). These five God-fearers lived in the land of Uz. No one knows how they came to know God in Uz without the help of Abraham. In fact, no one even knows where Uz was! (p.107 Eternity in their hearts)
Some Hebrew History and teaching can explain many of these questions. Jewish tradition speaks of Melchizedek as a survivor of the deluge, specifically being Shem, which is a very good fit.
Gen. 9:25-27 Then he said: "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren." And he said: "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant."
Gen. 10:22-25 "The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan" (that would be a reference to the Tower of Babel.)
Gen. 10:30-32 "And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east. These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations. These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood."
The true knowledge of God was passed on through the immediate families of Noah. It was up to the individuals whether they would practice it.
Abram was one of "the children of Heber," of whom Shem was the father after the flood. Many believe The Melchizedek priesthood order is either Shem, who was living at the time, or someone taught by Shem or Noah, who passed on the way of God, (the true knowledge and worship of God) through the families. This could never be known by general revelation. In the same way it was given to Job.
We find Job lived in the land of Uz, which is one of the grandsons names of Shem (they often named a land after a parent or child (Gen.4: 17; 24:10).
Job 1:1: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil." "The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" God sees Job as unique in his relationship as Enoch and Noah.
What do we see Job doing that he is considered righteous, he is sacrificing to the true God. Job had far more than a natural revelation of God. The concept of sacrifice was passed on from Noah. Job 1:5 "he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings, Job did this regularly." Job was considered righteous because he sacrificed.
Adam is mentioned by Job, which does imply he had this knowledge passed down.
Job 31:33 "If I have covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom."
This is why we see him sacrificing, even for his sons. He understood the necessity of sacrificing for sin. Job 22:15-16 also has reference to the Flood, God"s forming man out of clay taken from Genesis showing he was privy to the knowledge of God. (Numerous other Bible points are in Jobs book)
As far as Jobs friends, they had incorrect opinions. Job 42:7 God"s wrath is aroused against them and their wrong counsel. Job 42:10 when Job prayed for his friends. The LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
Who is this Melchizedek and did he know of God from general revelation?
Melchizedek is the first biblical mention of a priest in the Bible. His position was: the priest of God Most High, and he served in Salem. The only other place in the Old Testament this priesthood is mentioned is Psalm 110:4. In the New Testament, he is found only in the Book of Hebrews 5:6-10 and 6:20 - 7:17.
Melchizedek was the king / priest of Salem in Abram"s day, (Salem is a shortened form for Jerusalem Ps. 76:2). His name Melchizedek means "king of righteousness." Illustrating his governing as the king of the City, which in those days was a Jebusite city (few cities were heavily populated then). He is a king in a city, keeping the worship of the true God. He is not a priest of a nation; he is a priest over his family and his official duty would be the offering of animal sacrifices, (as we see Job doing for his family).
Besides the many Jewish scholars that believe Melchizedek is Shem, he could be someone taught by Shem or Noah, who passed on the true knowledge and worship of God.
The order of this priest began before Moses. The typology is that of a continuous priesthood, unlike the Levitical priesthood in Israel only. When Abraham enters the land Melchizedek is already there in his position of king and priest. It exhibits a prophetic type of the Millennial reign of Christ who will rule from Jerusalem as Priest and king.
Because Jesus is from the tribe of Judah (not Levi) who is to be king, appointed an eternal priest of this order, it makes sense Melchizedek was in the line of Shem and not a Cannanite; as Abraham"s father (Terah) was of this line.
Richardson"s view of general revelation fully diminishes the importance of the Melchizedek priesthood. Some consider Melchizedek a theophany, which certainly does not fit in Richardson"s scenario of others like him elsewhere in the world. If Melchizedek is a pre-incarnate Christ who meets Abraham then Richardson is horribly wrong. Then what Richardson is saying is that God became others afterward.
Let"s say he is not a Theophany, and he is a man, a type of the then future Messiah. Richardson is still wrong in his application because Christ is the ONLY priest according to the order of Melchizedek, he fills the office forever. Jesus is a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek by the new covenant, there are no others.
The Messiah is appointed as the King-Priest after the Order of Melchizedek. In the Levitical order no king could also serve as a priest. In the Mosaic law given to Moses a priest could be a prophet, but a priest being a king was not allowed, thus the main difference of the priesthoods.
There are no Melchizedek priests continuing after Abraham"s time. In the interim, there was a Levitical priesthood. This ended when Jesus made the new covenant through Israel (Jer.31:31), he is of the order of the Melchizedek priesthood " forever. The office is closed.
Contrary to Richardson"s position, this priest did have direct knowledge (as Job did- Heb.5:1).
Heb. 5:4 "And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was." V. 10 -11 "called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek, of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing."
Jesus, who is another priest according to this order was appointed - which involved direct communication with God, not general revelation.
He came out from Jerusalem and brought bread and wine to Abram and his fellow battlers; not just as food, but a type of the future communion of fellowship with Himâ€¦again, a type of those who have Jesus as their high priest like a type of the king ruling in future land of promise.
Melchizedek, who is better (Heb.7:7) blesses Abraham because he was both king and priest of Salem. As a person of a higher spiritual rank than the friend of God; he was a future type of Jesus over the Millennial city who would be "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
As a priest, he refers to God Most High as the possessor of heaven and earth and blesses Abram. He blesses God because he had delivered [Abram"s] enemies into [his] hand. Abram gives Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of war, (he is not tithing his income, as the three brothers with Abram also received a blessing of spoils).
Richardson writes: "These surviving elements found throughout the world comprise what is sometimes called general revelation. Since Melchizedek was the main representative of that kind of revelation in Abraham's day, I have identified that kind of revelation as "The Melchizedek Factor" in history. (P. 156 Eternity in their Hearts)
If Christ is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek then how can this be from general revelation? It is ridiculous to think this priest of this order went out to bless Abraham from general revelation or became a priest in this way. He is "called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek," (Heb. 5:10)
Heb. 7:15-16 "And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life."
Jesus is the word made flesh, the complete revelation of God. How can he be of an endless priesthood from general revelation?
Richardson is actually referring to our modern times, but the Bible is explicitly clear of this priest and King that will be in the future land of Israel, it is only by direct teaching and revelation one would know about God. The typology is that of a continuous priesthood that Christ is assigned to. It cannot be general revelation if it is Christ who fulfills it. Jesus, he is our high priest FOREVER, there are no others. The Bible says Melchizedek was far better than Abraham, whom the covenant and promises were made to, see the problem.
The New Testament explains that Melchizedek is fulfilled in only one person - Christ, who is allowed under this Priesthood order. So any use of others from the time Christ is appointed is null and void. Christ, who is Melchizedek, will in the coming Kingdom age (the Millennium) assume both offices; a king and priest on earth, as He rules from Jerusalem for 1,000 years which consummates with the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven for the new earth.
Richardson makes comparisons that should not be made. His view of Melchizedek is wrong and his application for this unique priestly order is also wrong. Melchizedek was not a priest from general revelation and there are no other Melchizedek (type) priests except the last one who is eternal. So to presume he is a type for others around the world is missing the point of his meeting Abraham in Jerusalem.
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