The Life of Melchizedek: The City He Ruled

Alma gives us an example of a good high priest. Maybe the most famous outside of Jesus. Not much is said of him in the scriptures as we have them now. His name is Melchizedek. 

A Brief Overview of Melchizedek

My intention in examining Melchizedek is to go through scriptures that discuss who he was. There are not many, but from them, and hopefully from events surrounding the time period in which he lived, we can learn a few things. I’ll pull from other sources I have access to.

The first source I want to go to is the Bible Dictionary. This entry on Melchizedek is quite good. It’s this entry that I’m going to base our exploration of Melchizedek off of. I want to copy the entire entry in:

“King of Righteousness (that is what his name means). A notable prophet and leader who lived about 2000 BC. He is called the King of Salem (Jerusalem), King of Peace, and “priest of the most high God”. Unfortunately, information concerning him in the Bible is relatively scarce, being limited to Genesis 14:18-20 and Hebrews 5:6, 7:1-3. Mention of the priesthood of Melchizedek is given in several other instances, primarily in Psalms and in Hebrews. However, Latter-day revelation gives us much more about him and his priesthood (see JST Gen 14:17-40; JST Hebrews 7:1-3; Alma 13:14-19; D&C84:14, 107:1-4). From these sources, we realize something of the greatness of this prophet and the grandeur of his ministry.”

What I want to do with this is talk about the entry itself first, then jump into the scriptures that detail his life and attributes, ending with JST Gen 14:17-40 since it’s the longest.

Starting off with the entry itself, one has to wonder why we have so little written about him. I can understand the Bible. But even in modern revelation, it seems like a number of verses are lacking in relation to the greatness and length of this man’s life. In regards to the Bible, I can see many plain and precious things have been taken out. That is why we have only 7 verses total in the Bible. Then, in modern revelation, we have 36 verses. Maybe the claim that he is the most famous high priest outside of Jesus was presumptuous. Let me do the studying first, then we can deal out titles like that.

The City of Salem

I want to talk a bit about how he is the king of Salem and the time period in which he lived. Salem, according to the same BD entry is Jerusalem. Cross reference the BD entry on Jerusalem. It’s a long entry. Since we are dealing with Melchizedek’s era, I will only copy down the first paragraph:

“Formally Salem (Gen 14:18, Psalms 76:2), a Jebusite city until it was captured by David. For it’s earlier history see Joshua 10:1, 15:8, 18:16, 28; Judges 1:7-8, 19:10; 1 Samuel 17:54. It lay on the frontier line between Judah and Benjamin and was chosen by David to be his capital. Until then, it had been merely a mountain fortress about 2600 feet above sea level, surrounded by deep valleys on all sides except the north. On the east was the Kidron valley, diving the temple mount from the mount of Olives; on the west and south was the valley of Hinnom. The plateau on which the city stands was originally divided by another valley, called by Josephus the Tyropaean valley, now in great part filled up with debris.”

Go to the entry of Jebus in the BD. It’s short but adds a few more scriptures that we will look at later.

“Ancient name of Jerusalem (Judges 19:10; 1 Chronicles 11:4-5). It was a hill fortress, which maintained its independence until stormed by David (2 Samuel 5:6-9)”

The last BD entry I want to copy in is the entry on Salem.

“Peace. The home of Melchizedek. Salem was called Jebus at the time the Israelites came into Canaan. However, the Tell el-Amarna tablets of about 1400 BC give the name of the city as Uru-Salem (an older name than Jebus), which is easily identified as Jerusalem, the “city of peace”. The city of Melchizedek about 2000 BC.”

Ok, so pulling these entries together. The year 2000 BC was the time of Melchizedek. The name of the city is Salem. The Israelites entered Canaan approximately 1290-1280 BC according to the Old Testament chronology chart in the Old Testament Institue manual. So somewhere between 1350-1280 BC, a period of 70 years, the city is taken over by Jebusites and the name of the city is changed to Jebus. That name remains until King David takes over the city in 1140 BC and it’s renamed Jerusalem. Is that right? Based on the info I have, sounds about so. Wait, I have a good quote on the subject from the institute manual.

“The origin of the city of Jerusalem is lost in antiquity. The first biblical reference to the city may be in Genesis, which states that ‘Melchizedek king of Salem’ (Jerusalem) and ‘Priest of the most high God’ met Abraham returning from his battle with the kings and blessed him (Genesis 14:18). He was to whom Abraham paid tithe of all he possessed. When Joshua crossed the Jordan the Jebusites, a Canaanite tribe possessed the city. This people held Jerusalem until David captured it about 1000 BC. Although Israel may have temporarily conquered the city soon after their invasion of the land of Canaan (see Joshua 10).

David wisely chose this city as his capital, for Jerusalem was a city between the northern and southern tribes of Israel but it belonged to neither of them because it was still held by the Canaanite Jebusites. The manner of conquering the city has been much discussed because of the problematic word rendered “gutter” (2 Samuel 5:8). The word most likely designates a channel or shaft, as it is similarly used in Mishnaic Hebrew. The shaft running up perpendicularly from a water conduit cut into the rock fifty feet west from Gihon, discovered by Sir C. Warren in 1867, would have given people inside the city walls access to water in time of siege and would have made a possible avenue for invaders to enter  and open the gates of the city from within. Joab is said to have accomplished that initial entry.”

The Layout of Jerusalem in Old Testament Times

I know that was probably more information than we needed to know. But I think it provides a good glimpse into Jerusalem. Based off this quote, I have to revise my timeline. The time period in which the Jebusites take over still remains the same 1350-1280 BC, but the date that David conquered the city is changed from 1140 BC to 1100 BC. That means that the city of Jerusalem could have been under Canaanite rulership for 180-250 years before David conquered it.

I’m going to attempt to draw a map of the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. That’s the oldest layout I have access to. Maybe we can take features of this map and see whether they would have been there or not.



The city of Jerusalem at the time of Christ


I know there is a lot on that map. And it’s way out of proportion but bear with me.


Looking over some of the buildings of the city and reading about them in the maps section and BD. I know that the following were not around before Jesus’ time: the temple of Herod, the palace of Herod, Antonia fortress, the house of Caiaphas, and the aqueducts. So what I’m going to do is take those things out of the drawing and redraw Jerusalem to give an idea of what Jerusalem could have looked like in the Old Testament. Then, luckily, one of my companions found the Indonesian Bible has a map of Jerusalem in Old Testament times. I’m going to translate the words I don’t know and draw that in here as well. Hopefully, that will give us a lot of good insight as to what Jerusalem looked like. Then, luckily, one of my companions found the Indonesian Bible has a map of Jerusalem in Old Testament times. I’m going to translate the words I don’t know and draw that in here as well. Hopefully, that will give us a lot of good insight as to what Jerusalem looked like.



The city of Jerusalem before the time of Christ


I’m not sure the road to Emmaus and Joppa would have been around, nor the road to Samaria now that I think about. But I don’t know for sure. I took out all the things that weren’t there and tried to still make it work. It looks ok I suppose. I think the road to Bethlehem and Hebron would have been around, at least, the road to Hebron. That’s where Abraham lived at one point.

I just looked up Joppa in the BD. Joppa is mentioned in Joshua although at the time it was called Japho. If it was around when the Israelites entered Canaan, then it could have been around earlier.

All that is mentioned about Emmaus is that it is about 5 miles from Jerusalem and is the place where Judea Maccabaeus defended the Syrians. At least, I’m assuming they are the same place. Although there are two different BD entries. The oldest of the two mentioned puts the Maccabaean period of 175-161 BC as the earliest mention of the city. That is too early. I don’t think it’s possible to tell if Emmaus was around or not.

Ok, here is the Indonesian Bible map of Old Testament Jerusalem.



The city of Jerusalem during Old Testament times according to the Indonesian Bible


That is about as basic as I can get it. The map has more to it, however. It has stuff from King David and Solomon’s time. I’m not sure at what point Manasseh’s wall was built because on the map it says parts that were directed to be built furthermore.  Even the part Nehemiah was in charge of rebuilding I’m not sure was there because it took place so long after 2000 BC. The tower I’m not sure of. The part I put in brackets saying I wasn’t sure is because the borders that separate what was built when blending together and I had to guess at that part. What you see on the previous page, is as close as I can get to a layout of ancient Jerusalem at the time of Melchizedek. I think it’s a fairly good start. I think one thing is clear, though. It truly was a fortress. It’s on a plateau and there probably wasn’t much need for a lot inside. If you can imagine a fortress with perhaps a small city, you are probably well enough off imaging Jerusalem dulu-dulu (a long time ago in Malay).

A Tad More Info About Jerusalem

I’m sorry I’ve gone off so long on Jerusalem. This is all so fascinating to me. I’m going to browse over the scriptures it says that give an early history of Jerusalem to see if I can learn anything. Finished. The scriptures covered from the time of Joshua and the Israelites coming into Canaan to the time of David. I also read all of chapter 10 of Joshua. It talks about when the Israelites first come into Canaan. The institute quote I copied in earlier was suggesting that the Israelites may have temporarily captured the city. I give a rundown of what happens in Joshua 10. When the Israelites come into Canaan and begin ripping the place up, the king of Jerusalem begins to worry. the Israelites seem to be very good. Especially since they have just captured a big city. So the king of Jerusalem gathers 5 other kings and their armies to fight the Israelites and avenge the city that was lost. Joshua’s army destroys them all with help from God. Then the five kings are taken, hung on trees and then locked up in a cave to decay. Doesn’t give much detail concerning the state of Jerusalem after their king was hung. So a temporary takeover is not out of the question.  I just looked through the Old Testament student manual and it doesn’t add anything of relevance.

I think it’s interesting that there is a big gap in our knowledge of what Jerusalem was like. Maybe one day we will be able to fill it all in. Perhaps when we go more into Melchizedek and events during his life.


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