This is the first of a series of articles on Jerusalem to be written by Brother Leen and Sister Kathleen Ritmeyer. They have both been intimately involved in archaeology relating to this city, and have been recognised for their significant contributions in relation to it. The articles will consist of glimpses of Jerusalem at salient epochs of its long and fascinating history. This is the first of them, and it takes us back 4000 years to its infancy, where we find that significant events took place in the Providence of God which were highly symbolic and prophetic.
As trips to the Land are difficult to make now because of the threat of terrorism, we invite you to join us on a different kind of tour. Come and visit Jerusalem in the time of Melchizedek and be guided by one who was there. In your imagination, peel back the monochrome houses and bare slopes of this now neglected corner of Jerusalem and see it as it was in 2 000 BC.

The City of Melchizedek

My name does not really matter. I am one of Abraham’s 318 trained or “instructed” ones (Gen 14:14). We were all born in his house. Many of us were the children of those that had come out with Abraham from Haran. As regards servants, Abraham believed that if you brought up your servants diligently, they would become like sons to you in the end. This is just what happened with Abraham. That’s why God called him His friend and could say about him: “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment… ” (Gen 18:19).

We worked for him as herdsmen, looking after his cattle. At one time, our encampment was even larger as we passed through the Land. However, we had to separate from Lot and his herdsmen as they were difficult to get along with. This was actually a wise move, for as soon as we had done this, Abraham received the promise from Yahweh that his seed would inherit the Land. We did whatever Abraham asked us to do. When the three angels came to visit Abraham in his tent on the plains of Mamre, one of our number was called upon to prepare the calf that he had killed in their honour. And, of course, when Abraham received the sign of circumcision, not only were he and Ishmael circumcised, but all of us trained ones, as well. We didn’t think of protesting, as he explained the spiritual meaning to us, as he did with everything. But what I want to show you now is what Jerusalem looked like when we returned from the slaughter of the kings of the north. This was many years before the births of Ishmael and Isaac and, at that time, we were still the only sons Abraham had.

But come and have a look! This is how it looked when we first saw it. A small, low, insignificant city, dwarfed by the hills which surrounded it. If you just take this sharp turn in the valley, it all opens out before you. The city of Salem,

it was callVolume9.4.1ed then, the  city of Melchizedek. High up on the slope, on you right hand side, you can see the houses of the city with the winding path leading down to the Gihon Spring. This is where the great meeting between our master Abraham, Melchizedek and the King of  Sodom took place. But before I describe this, do you notice something amazingly different about this city? We certainly did. We had passed through the Land, after the great battle which took place near Damascus and were on our way back to Beersheba.  Although weary and battle-worn, our journey which  took us past the towering slopes of Mount Hermon, through Galilee and the Jezreel Valley to the central  mountain range, gave us opportunity to observe  some of the fortified cities that had recently been built. Cities like volume9.4.2Dan, Hazor and Shechem had walls  that seemed to reach up to heaven. But this city had no walls encircling it at all! But then, of course,  Melchizedek was King of Salem, which is King of Peace, so it was appropriate that his city would  not have man-made fortifications and this was just  another lesson for us to learn.

Even the hills and the valleys had lessons for us. The place where the great event was to take place was the Valley of Shaveh or the King’s Vale. It was easy enough to understand the meaning of the Hebrew word shaveh. It simply meant “comparison”  or “likeness”. It was only after the meeting that we understood. Our group, which comprised of  Abraham and his retinue (which included us and the very grateful Lot and his family, whom we had  rescued) moved down the valley to meet the King  of Sodom. He had come up to show his appreciation  to Abraham for bringing back his people and the booty which the King of the North had taken from  him. Melchizedek, King of Righteousness, came down the winding path from the city, bringing bread and wine. He blessed Abraham and the latter paid him tithes. The lesson here was that the less is blessed of the better. In this way, any priesthood  which was to come out of Abraham’s family was shown beforehand to be inferior. So this was why the place was called Shaveh. A priest-king was to come who would be like Melchizedek, who appeared to have no beginning or end to his life and dwelt continually in Jerusalem, serving El Elyon, the most high God.

And then the high peak just above the eastern hill on which the city of Melchizedek was built was called Moriah or “Teaching”. For now, the mountain kept its secrets, high, daunting and covered with agricultural terraces. It was only many years later that Abraham would find out just what the mountain taught. By then, we were no longer the only sons he had. Ishmael had been born to Sarah’s handmaid and then twenty five years after the promise that he would actually have a son by his wife, Isaac came into the world. Because of Abraham’s willingness to offer his much-loved son, God would show him the teaching of Jehovah-jireh (Yahweh yira’eh), that “in the mount Yahweh will be seen” as a sacrifice in the place of Isaac. Our master Abraham would rejoice to understand this great thing and look forward to the day of the coming of the Lamb of God who would save the people from their sins.

Do come up and see what it was like inside the city. Take the path up from the Gihon Spring. This Volume9.4.3path is always busy with people coming and going to fetch water and, of course, people do like to linger and talk awhile before they climb the hill again. It is because of this perennial spring that a settlement can survive here at all. Without it, it would be a grim place to live, with little available  agricultural land, but God knew that it was here that He would place His name and prepared what was  needful. The spring is of the typical siphon-karst  type, which gushes intermittently and is the richest of all the springs in this hill country.

As we climb the slope, we see that the city does have a fortified aspect, even though it has no walls. The houses on the periphery of the city  stand on steep rock scarps, which look as though they would be difficult to scale. Once inside the city, we see that the houses are all of a uniform plan and are composed of a series of broad rooms with benches along

the interior walls. There, on the top of the hill stands the palace of Melchizedek, a large stone building supported by stone pillars. We wonder at this elusive character and wish we could learn more about him. However, we have learnt all that is revealed, all that we can know for the present. But I am glad I was able to show you that Melchizedek presided over a real city, albeit a city without defences, and over real people. When the set time is come, the one he foreshadows will preside there again: “a priest upon his throne”.

A Prayer at the Conclusion of Our Tour

O to be in the land of Judah in that day and to sing the song, “We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks” (Isa 26:1).