New Defender's Study Bible Notes
7:2 King of Salem. The name Melchizedec means “King of Righteousness” and Salem means “peace,” so this mysterious person is identified as King of Peace and Righteousness, as well as “priest of the most high God” (Hebrews 7:1). A number of modern archaeologists have speculated that the name Salem was actually “Salim,” a god of the Amorites, but this idea is entirely hypothetical and is explicitly contradicted by this verse. Similarly, it is commonly assumed that Salem was the original name of Jerusalem, but there is no other record of such a city at this time, either in archaeology or Scripture. Note also Ezekiel 16:1-3, where Jerusalem is said to have been born of an Amorite and a Hittite, and thus had been anti-God from her very beginnings.
Speculations as to the identity of Melchizedec have been many and varied. Certain writers, ancient and modern, have suggested that he was either Shem or Job, both of whom were probably living at that time. If that were the case, however, there could seem no reason why he would not be called by his actual name. Certain Seventh Day Adventists have speculated that he was the “unfallen Adam from another planet,” translated here to observe the process of redemption on this planet. This unorthodox notion must first overcome the hard fact that there is no valid evidence whatever, either in science or Scripture, that other inhabitable planets even exist at all—there are certainly none in the solar system. Most evangelicals say he was merely an obscure king of a small city-state about whom neither history nor the Bible knows anything other than the facts mentioned here. If that was his status, how did he get to be the founder of a priestly order greater than that of Aaron, one to whom even Abraham paid tithes? If anyone could be called “the priest of the most high God” (Genesis 14:18) at this time in history, it would seem that it should be Abraham himself—or possibly Job, “none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man” (Job 2:3), or even the patriarch Shem, who was still alive at this time, assuming no significant gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 11. But all of these have already been ruled out. If Melchizedec was greater than Shem or Job or Abraham, he must have been more than mortal man. The next verse confirms this.