Melchizedek: King of Righteousness – Revisited

Melchizedek-Blesses-Abraham

Melchizedek blesses Abram

I’ve been reading through Hebrews and as you probably know, Hebrews is one of the three books in the Bible that mentions Melchizedek. I’m going to show you what GotQuestions.org has to say about Melchizedek and then provide some important facts about Melchizedek. If you’ve never taken a look at this, you want to.

This is what GotQuestions says:

Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness,” was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18–20Psalm 110:4Hebrews 5:6–116:20—7:28). Melchizedek’s sudden appearance and disappearance in the book of Genesis is somewhat mysterious. Melchizedek and Abraham first met after Abraham’s defeat of Chedorlaomer and his three allies. Melchizedek presented bread and wine to Abraham and his weary men, demonstrating friendship. He bestowed a blessing on Abraham in the name of El Elyon (“God Most High”) and praised God for giving Abraham a victory in battle (Genesis 14:18–20).

Abraham presented Melchizedek with a tithe (a tenth) of all the items he had gathered. By this act Abraham indicated that he recognized Melchizedek as a priest who ranked higher spiritually than he.

In Psalm 110, a messianic psalm written by David (Matthew 22:43), Melchizedek is presented as a type of Christ. This theme is repeated in the book of Hebrews, where both Melchizedek and Christ are considered kings of righteousness and peace. By citing Melchizedek and his unique priesthood as a type, the writer shows that Christ’s new priesthood is superior to the old levitical order and the priesthood of Aaron (Hebrews 7:1–10).

Some propose that Melchizedek was actually a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, or a Christophany. This is a possible theory, given that Abraham had received such a visit before. Consider Genesis 17 where Abraham saw and spoke with the Lord (El Shaddai) in the form of a man.

Hebrews 6:20 says, “[Jesus] has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” This term order would ordinarily indicate a succession of priests holding the office. None are ever mentioned, however, in the long interval from Melchizedek to Christ, an anomaly that can be solved by assuming that Melchizedek and Christ are really the same person. Thus the “order” is eternally vested in Him and Him alone.

Hebrews 7:3 says that Melchizedek was “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” The question is whether the author of Hebrews means this actually or figuratively.

If the description in Hebrews is literal, then it is indeed difficult to see how it could be properly applied to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ. No mere earthly king “remains a priest forever,” and no mere human is “without father or mother.” If Genesis 14 describes a theophany, then God the Son came to give Abraham His blessing (Genesis 14:17–19), appearing as the King of Righteousness (Revelation 19:11,16), the King of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and the Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5).

If the description of Melchizedek is figurative, then the details of having no genealogy, no beginning or ending, and a ceaseless ministry are simply statements accentuating the mysterious nature of the person who met Abraham. In this case, the silence in the Genesis account concerning these details is purposeful and better serves to link Melchizedek with Christ.

Are Melchizedek and Jesus the same person? A case can be made either way. At the very least, Melchizedek is a type of Christ, prefiguring the Lord’s ministry. But it is also possible that Abraham, after his weary battle, met and gave honour to the Lord Jesus Himself.

—————–

Interesting isn’t it? Now here are the facts I mentioned:

1. Only three books of the Bible mention Melchizedek

The books Melchizedek is mentioned in are Genesis, Psalms, and Hebrews. The Genesis account introduces Melchizedek near the beginning of Abraham’s story (more on this later). Melchizedek is introduced as a king during the time of Abraham. The Old Testament is silent about him until the book of Psalms, which alludes to him when describing a royal priesthood. This is probably a good sign that the figure of Melchizedek had retained some religious significance to Abraham’s descendants. Much later, in the book of Hebrews, Melchizedek is shown as a case study for Jesus’ priesthood.

2. The New Testament says more about Melchizedek than the Old Testament

Melchizedek is first mentioned in the Old Testament, and so you might expect the OT to have more to say about him than the NT. But that’s not how it works out. Compared to the New Testament, the Old Testament doesn’t say a whole lot about Melchizedek. His role in the Bible takes place in a span of just a few verses in Genesis, but the author of Hebrews unpacks his significance in great detail. Just to give some perspective, Melchizedek’s name is mentioned 10 times in the Bible: once in Genesis (Gn 14:8), once in Psalms (Ps 110:4), and the rest are in Hebrews. Or to put it another way, the writers of Genesis and Psalm 110 give us four verses about Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews spends all of chapter 7 discussing his priesthood.

3. Melchizedek lived during Abraham’s time

We first meet Melchizedek right after one of the less-famous stories of Abraham in the Bible. After God called Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans (but before his name was changed to Abraham), the patriarch finds himself in an interesting situation; his wealthy nephew Lot has been kidnapped. Chedorlaomer, the king who had been controlling the city-states of the region was off conquering the nearby world. While Chedorlaomer is away, five of the vassal kings back home rebel—including the king of Lot’s town. As you can imagine, Chedorlaomer (we’ll call him “Ched”) isn’t too thrilled to come back home and see what has transpired while he has been away. So Ched drives the five rebel kings into hiding, then takes the spoils from Lot’s city. Unfortunately for Lot, his family and herds are part of Ched’s spoils of war. So Ched makes Lot his prisoner and moves on. But Abram’s not too happy about this. So he takes 318 trained warriors, beats Ched in battle, and takes Lot (and the spoils) back to Canaan with him. It’s at this time that Melchizedek meets Abram and blesses him.

5. Melchizedek was a priest of God Most High

We get this from Genesis (Gn 14:18). A priest is someone who performs religious rituals for divine beings on behalf of people. We’re not sure exactly what kind of rituals Melchizedek performed—but it’s probably safe to assume that blessing people on behalf of God was one of them, because …

6. Melchizedek blesses Abram

Abram has just returned from defeating four kings in battle, and Melchizedek brings out bread and wine for the hero. Then Melchizedek blesses Abram:

Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High.
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand. Gen 14:19-20

7. Melchizedek is the king of Salem

Salem was a city-state in the land of Canaan. “Salem” means “full, complete, safe, whole, peaceful.” (Not to be confused with Selah). The author of Hebrews calls attention to this when likening Melchizedek to Jesus—Melchizedek was the king of “Peace,” which makes us think of another Prince of Peace we know (Hebrews 7:2). This is interesting for a few reasons. Remember the whole rebellion with King Ched that started this mess? Well, Ched had three loyal kings on his side, and five disloyal kings fighting against him. Each of these kings seems to have ruled some kind of city-state area—but guess which city never enters the fray? Salem. The city seems to live up to the “safe” and “peaceful” parts of its name. This is also interesting because the ancient town of Salem later becomes known as Jerusalem—which is where the temple of God that Solomon built would stand. You can see how the author of Hebrews would be especially keen on connecting Jesus to Melchizedek. Jesus is the son of David, the king of Jerusalem. And Jesus is the high priest of a new covenant—much like Melchizedek was a priest.

8. Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness” (Hebrews 7:2)

The name comes from two Hebrew words: malak (king, ruler) and sadaq (righteous, just, innocent).

9. The order of Melchizedek is royal and everlasting

The 110th Psalm is a Messianic prophecy that tells us two things God promised to do for Jesus: make Jesus the king in Zion and make Jesus a priest.

The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek” Psalm 110:4

And of course, the permanence of Melchizedek’s priestly order is pretty important to the author of Hebrews, since Jesus is the resurrected great high priest of the new covenant between God and man.

10. Melchizedek was greater than Abraham and Aaron

The author of Hebrews argues that when it comes to really outstanding human beings, Melchizedek trumps Abraham (Hebrews 7:7)—so much so that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of all the spoils Abraham collected on his mission (Gen 14:20Hebrews 7:4). And if Abraham looked up to Melchizedek, and Aaron looked up to Abraham, that puts the order of Melchizedek higher than Aaron’s priesthood.

11. Melchizedek has no recorded family

The Jews were all about genealogies—don’t take my word for it: read First Chronicles. Yet Melchizedek has none. There’s no Melchizedek, son of So-and-So. No mention of a mother. No mention of a son. Not really anything. The author of Hebrews makes a pretty big deal out of this. He contrasts the lineage-based priesthood of Aaron with Melchizedek, who has no recorded birth or death or anything (Hebrews 7:38). This is where the discussion on Melchizedek gets really interesting, and goes in many different directions. Was he just a righteous man? An apparition of Jesus before he was born in the flesh (called a “theophany”)?

You’ll notice I haven’t answered this question. I’ll let you make your own decision.

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

4 comments

  1. Melchizedek and Jesus were the only priest who was also a king as you pointed out. Saul tried to do priestly duties and had his kingly line taken away. Jesus being mocked with a sign “King of the Jews” was the ultimate irony as he is to become King over all. Me thinks God plays with us smart humans.

    Like

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