Malkitzedek’s Bringing of Wine & Bread to Avram

Following Avram’s involvement in the war between the four kings vs the five kings, when Avram rescued Lot (Gen. 14:14-16), we read of the king of S’dom coming out to meet Avram (Gen. 14:17). However, before the king of S’dom speaks with Avram (Gen. 14:21-24), there is a brief narrative interruption where Malkitzedek, the king of Shalem, comes out to Avram and blesses him (Gen. 14:18-20):

וּמַלְכִּי־צֶ֙דֶק֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ שָׁלֵ֔ם הוֹצִ֖יא לֶ֣חֶם וָיָ֑יִן וְה֥וּא כֹהֵ֖ן לְאֵ֥ל עֶלְיֽוֹן וַֽיְבָרְכֵ֖הוּ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר בָּר֤וּךְ אַבְרָם֙ לְאֵ֣ל עֶלְי֔וֹן קֹנֵ֖ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ וּבָרוּךְ֙ אֵ֣ל עֶלְי֔וֹן אֲשֶׁר־מִגֵּ֥ן צָרֶ֖יךָ בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וַיִּתֶּן־ל֥וֹ מַעֲשֵׂ֖ר מִכֹּֽל

And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of God Above. He blessed him, saying, “Blessed be Abram of God Above, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Above, Who has delivered your foes into your hand.” And [Abram] gave him a tenth of everything.

What stands out here, in addition to the interruption of the king of S’dom approaching Avram is Malkitzedek’s bringing forth bread and wine to Avram (which, as Hizkuni points out, could be interrupting this story to show that Avram was telling the truth when he said he wouldn’t accept gifts from the king of S’dom). This is the first time in the book of Genesis that we’ve seen wine appear since Noah got drunk in chapter 9.  One thing that appears to be fascinating is why is wine brought out.

There are some medieval commentators who wrote that bread and wine were brought out for those tired from battle (Rashi, Radak, and Sforno), however, why not bring out water? If I was exhausted from physical, mental, and emotional exertion, such as those involved in battle, I would happily accept water to drink. How well does wine quench one’s thirst?

Perhaps this is a demonstration not just of feeding one’s guests in an incredible act of providing for travelers, but also of showing them great hospitality with wine. Thus, Malkitzedek, described as a priest of God Above, was demonstrating that it’s a Godly act to wine and dine with one’s hospitality.

However, one could respond and say that Avram was no ordinary passerby, but someone who had taken a few hundred men with him and carried out a successful military mission, so Malkitzedek wanted to get on Avram’s good side. Nevertheless, it would seem to be that both the bread and wine are shown to be a maximal expression of Malkitzedek’s hospitality.

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