8. “Living Righteously in a Wicked World”

This lesson discusses how Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek and rescued Lot and his family. Modern scripture adds much about the role of Melchizedek.

“Melchizedek,” Bruce Satterfield, Birger A. Pearson, Encyclopedia of Mormonism
As a king and high priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek holds a place of great honor and respect among Latter-day Saints. An example of righteousness and the namesake of the higher priesthood, he represents the scriptural ideal of one who obtains the power of God through faith, repentance, and sacred ordinances, for the purpose of inspiring and blessing his fellow beings.

“Melchizedek at Qumran and Nag Hammadi,” Ann N. Madsen, Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-day Saints.
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts mention Melchizedek. A Qumran author sees Melchizedek as a priest, including that Melchizedek acts under the direction of El, who judges the people. A significant passage in the text finds El (the highest God), in the midst of elohim (other “gods”) in his council, and another Elohim (who is Melchizedek). The text reads: “as it is written . . . concerning him in the hymns of David who says, Elohim (Melchizedek or the holy one) standeth in the assembly of El (God) among the Elohim (the holy ones, the court of heavenly beings) he judgeth.” In the Nag Hammadi texts, Melchizedek is mentioned at least five times and is several times referred to as “the true high priest of God, Most High.”

“The Great High Priest,” Margaret Barker, BYU Studies, Vol. 42, no. 3–4
The ancient Israelite high priest is at the center of Christian theology because Jesus is described as “the great high priest.” The Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that the high priest, the Melchizedek or King of Righteousness, was the expected Messiah who would save his people and make the great atonement.

“Clothed in Holy Garments: Apparel of the Temple Officiants of Ancient Israel,” Alonzo L. Gaskill, Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament
The robes of the priesthood can teach us about Christ and his attributes. The clothing included linen coat, the breeches, the girdle, the robe of the ephod, the breastplate, and the miter and holy crown.

Abraham and Lot

“The Lost Commandments: The Sacred Rites of Hospitality,” Peter J. Sorensen, BYU Studies, Vol. 44, no. 1
Hospitality in the ancient world included bonds of trust between host and guest; a host would vouch for a guest’s character. “We seldom pay attention to the ironic juxtaposition of the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19 and Abraham’s hospitable treatment of the three holy men in chapter 18. Part of that irony is Sodom’s failure to be hospitable to the stranger in the gates. With that irony also comes a certain logic: if hospitality is a lost commandment of God, it makes perfect sense that the most wicked city would also be the most inhospitable.”

“Reexamining Lot,”  RoseAnn Benson, Religious Educator 14.
The Righteousness of Lot: Peter calls Lot “righteous, godly, and just.” The book of Abraham tells us that Abraham and Lot prayed together, and that Jehovah told Abraham to take Lot with him. Lot chose grazing lands near Sodom. The article suggests that Lot preached the gospel in Sodom and Gomorrah and may have felt compassion for those people that caused his apparent reluctance to leave. The Joseph Smith Translation helps us understand that Lot was not participating in sin.

“The Ebla Tablets and the Abraham Tradition,” David Noel Freedman, Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels
The Ebla tablets, discovered in 1975, mention Abram, David, Esau, Ishmael, Israel, Micaiah, Michael, and Saul. While we can’t be sure that these are the same people so named in the Bible, it is very likely. Even more astonishing it that the tablets mention together the “five cities of the plain,” listed in the same order in Genesis 14: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela. These were flourishing cities at the time of Abraham and Lot. These tablets add historical data to the Genesis account.