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Malchi-Tzedek is a gentile priest who worships God. I initially read this as just saying God is not exclusive (it says somewhere in Nevi'im that God also has covenants with other peoples), but today I read in Tz'enah Ur'enah that the priesthood was taken away from him and given to Avram because of the incident in torah (because he blessed Avram before praising God). This seems to suggest that, had people acted differently, Avraham might not have had the role he ended up having. How are we to understand Malchi-Tzedek?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

To summarize 9 or 10 hours of Rabbi Daniel Raccah's shiurim on the subject in a single paragraph:

Malki-Tzedek is identified with Shem, Avraham's great (x7) grandfather. Noach originally aspired for his sons to be the Torah teachers in the world (like Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov eventually would be), but only Shem adopted the calling. That's why Shem/Malki-Tzedek is a kohen to God. Shem watched the 4 kings fight the 5 kings (all of whom were Shem's descendants) with the intention of snaring Avraham in the crossfire, and killing him. But Avraham stood up and risked his life to save Lot, and succeeded. From this, Malki-Tzedek understood that Avraham had the character traits necessary to be the primary Torah teacher in the world, and that Makli-Tzedek did not. So Malki-Tzedek went out to greet Avraham and pass the torch to him as the Torah leader of the world.

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But there is no Torah written during Noach? –  Jim Thio Sep 28 '11 at 9:09
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@JimThio: Nonetheless, there is an opinion that the Forefathers and other righteous Biblical characters in Genesis (such as Noach and Adam) did know the Torah, and followed the Mitzvot. This is a complicated topic, and is dealt with at length by the commentators. CYLOR or Google "Did the Avot keep the Mitzvot" (or similar) for details. –  Shmuel L Dec 4 '11 at 22:46
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That's very interesting aspect of judaism. Truly bizarre claim that borders scientific (disprovable realm). I am looking that up. –  Jim Thio Dec 5 '11 at 3:24
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The Wikipedia article on Malchi-Tzedek bring a lot of information about Malchi-Tzedek, his interaction with Avraham, as well as the transfer of Priesthood.

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Thank you! Who knew that Wikipedia would be so thorough on this? I wish I could credit both answers. –  Monica Cellio Jul 8 '11 at 2:08
    
It is a very thorough article. Unfortunately the section on Psalm 110 is not more in-depth. There are many commentaries that are left out, especially rishonim, malbim, etc. –  Adam Mosheh May 13 '12 at 17:06
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