Scriptures

Melchizedek

Introduction

Melchizedek is an interesting character and to some, he seems to be somewhat of a ‘mysterious’ character and it may come as a surprise to some people that Melchizedek is mentioned in Scripture only 5 times, therefore we know very little about him. As with most people, we don’t have a lot of information about in the Bible, and a lot of misunderstanding and speculation arises.

The first appearance of him is found in the days of Abraham, Genesis 14:13-20. 1000 years later we read about him in Psalm 110:4. We wait another 1000 years before he appears in the New Testament, Hebrews 5:5-10 / Hebrews 6:19-20 / Hebrews 7:1-25.

He was both High Priest, and King of Salem, who met Abram and blessed him and subsequently his priestly ancestors the Levites. He has no genealogy or known history, yet was greater than Aaron because, in blessing Abram, who was the ancestor of Aaron, Melchizedek blessed the future Jewish High Priest.

Melchizedek was the only man to combine in himself offices of High priest and King. Hebrews 5, therefore, refutes the charge that the Hebrew Christians did not have a High Priest and asserts that they have a very special High Priest, not like Aaron, but superior to Aaron, after the style of Melchizedek.

Notice how the writer opens his argument in Hebrews 4:14, “Since we have a great High Priest.” and how he finishes it in Hebrews 10:21, “Since we have a great High Priest.”

The Melchizedekians

There was a sect in the 3rd century which believed that Melchizedek was a Christophony. Other views expressed about him, ranged from the belief that he was an angel, to the denial of his having existed! Some theologians even thought that he was actually Shem, who lived long enough after the flood to see Abraham.

In more detail, what was so remarkable about this man? And what is his connection with the Lord Jesus? The argument here is that Jesus is a greater High Priest than Aaron because His priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek.

The first reference to Melchizedek is found in Genesis 14:18, where we read of his meeting with Abraham. This means that in this man were combined the offices of Priest and King, a fact which is of profound significance, as I hope we shall see.

Notice, also, that this is the first time the word ‘priest’ ‘icohen’, occurs in the Old Testament Scriptures. When the New Testament Scriptures describe Melchizedek as a priest, the word used is ‘heireus’, which means ‘one who is holy and set apart for the service of God’.

His name, ‘Malkiy Tsedeq’ means ‘king of right’ or ‘righteous king’, whilst the name of the city over which he reigned, ‘Salem’, is a form of ‘shalom’, which I think most people know, means ‘Peace’.

In later times this became the name of several towns or cities in Palestine, but it is interesting to notice that Salem is mentioned in the Tel-el-Amarna, tablets, which date back to before 1400 BC, and, even before the time of Abraham, the city was known by that name.

Centuries later, in the days of Joshua, it was the city of the Jebusites that the Israelites were unable to capture, Joshua 15:63, and it is probable because it was occupied and held by the Jebusites as their stronghold until it was captured by King David several centuries later, 2 Samuel 5:9, that the city of Salem had acquired the name ‘Salem of the Jebusites’ or ‘Jebu-Salem’, which eventually became ‘Jerusalem’.

Certainly, the identification of ‘Salem’ with ‘Jeru-salem’ is established quite clearly in Psalm 76:2, “In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel His abode has been established in Salem. His dwelling place in Zion.”

Josephus, the Jewish historian, who lived in the 1st century AD, stated, “The first founder of Jerusalem was a chief of the Canaanites, who, in our tongue is called ‘Righteous King.’”

And so, Melchizedek was King and Priest in the City which was later to become ‘The City of David.’ 2 Samuel 5:6-9 records how David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites.

Melchizedek – ‘priest of el Elyon’

The fact that Melchizedek was both King and Priest surely reveals what a remarkable person he must have been. In an age of polytheism, here was a Canaanite king who knew the One True God, ‘God Most High’ or ‘the supreme God’, and who served Him as a priest. In Psalm 7:17 God is described as ‘Yahweh, the Most High.’

The name, Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness”. He is also referred to as “King of Peace”, that is, “King of Salem”. Here we have the name of his city, Jerusalem. We have his Name, Righteous king. We have his Office, priest of the Most High God.

“El Elyon, God Most High.”

In an age when men followed many gods, Melchizedek worshipped the one true God. And Abraham paid tithes to him, and so recognising him as the priest of the God Who called him from Ur.

1. He offered a tithe to Melchizedek. Later, according to the Mosaic Law, the people were required to recognise the position of the Priesthood by the giving of a tithe, Numbers 18:21-24.

In Genesis 14, Abraham, the federal head of the Hebrew people and the Father of the nation, gave a tithe, not merely for himself, but for all his descendants, and this included the entire priestly tribe of Levi and Aaron, its first High Priest.

2. Abraham accepted bread and wine from Melchizedek.

3. And received a blessing from Melchizedek. This blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek is something that the Scriptures stress as very significant, pointing out that, ‘the lesser is blessed by the greater’. Hebrews 7:7

Or, as the R.S.V. renders the verse, ‘the inferior is blessed by the superior.’

No wonder the inspired writer of the letter to the Hebrews exclaims, “See how great he is!” Hebrews 7:4.

The uniqueness of Melchizedek’s priesthood is stressed in Hebrews 7:3, where we find the statements, which create difficulty. It will help if, when we read this verse, we bear in mind that the writer is setting out the similarity between Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus, in order to show why Jesus is a Priest ‘after the order (‘taxin’, meaning style or fashion) of Melchizedek.’

‘Without father or mother or genealogy’ Hebrews 7:3

The uniqueness of the man’s priesthood is stressed by Hebrews 7:3.

“Without father or mother or genealogy” does not mean that Melchizedek came into existence miraculously, without parents! This simply means that Melchizedek had no priestly ancestry. To qualify to be an Aaronic priest a search had to be made into the ancestry of the individual, to see if he had the correct ancestry.

Melchizedek did not have ancestors in the Aaronic line and could not have because he existed 400 years earlier than Aaron. We know nothing about his ancestry because there is no record.

This reveals the difference between his priesthood and that of the sons of Aaron who came along later, when proof of ancestry was essential before a man should become a Levitical priest, and when the credentials of a priest had to be established beyond doubt.

After the return from the Babylonian captivity certain men wished to serve in the temple, but were excluded from the priesthood because their names could not be found among, ‘those enrolled in the genealogies, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.’ Nehemiah 7:64

In any case, Melchizedek could not possibly serve as a Levitical priest, because, as Hebrews 7:10 points out, Aaron had not yet been born! The Aaronic priesthood was established four centuries after the time of Melchizedek!

Similarly, the writer points out that on Earth, Jesus could not have become a priest because, “It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, concerning which tribe Moses said nothing about the priesthood.” Hebrews 7:14

This underlines the fact that only after He returned to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, did Jesus become a Priest, and so, our Mediator. It also exposes the mistake of describing the Lord’s Prayer in John 17, as “the High priestly prayer”.

‘Beginning of days or end of life’ Hebrews 7:3

‘Beginning of days or end of life’ does not refer to physical life. It means that He did not commence His priestly ministry at a given time, nor did he end at a given time. He functioned as a priest as long as he lived.

Normally, the Levitical priests entered their service when they were 25 years old and were “retired” at 50 years old. Not so with Melchizedek. Like Jesus he was a priest forever, or as long as he lived.

When we are told that he had ‘neither beginning of days nor end of life’, it would be foolish to suppose this means that Melchizedek was not born and did not die!

This refers to the length of his service as a priest. It means that, unlike the sons of Aaron who became priests, Melchizedek did not succeed anyone in his priestly office, nor was he himself succeeded in it by anyone.

His priesthood was unique. As verse 3 states, he, ‘remains a priest forever’. This draws our attention to the fact that, unlike the Aaronic priests, Melchizedek did not commence his ministry at a set age, nor was he compelled to retire at a set age. He had an ‘abiding’, that is, a continuing priesthood.

Under the Law of Moses, a descendant of Aaron became an apprentice at 25 years of age, carrying the tabernacle and performing similar menial tasks, and he became a full priest at 30 years of age.

God’s law governing the priesthood was extremely benevolent and was considerate of the heavy work involved in the priesthood. That law stated that a priest must retire from service upon reaching the age of 50, although, if he wished and was able, he might continue to serve in a voluntary capacity, Numbers 8:23-26.

Not so Melchizedek! There was no set time for his priestly ministry either to begin or to end so that, in this, his service was altogether unique.

‘Abraham gave him tithes’ Hebrews 7:4

The argument is that because Abraham gave him tithes, and Aaron being not yet born, Aaron, through Abraham, gave tithes to Melchizedek, and so recognising his superiority.

And so, Jesus is better than Aaron. As the writer states, the lesser pay tithes to the greater. Hebrews 7:7. Melchizedek was the first to fill the offices of King and Priest at the same time. Jesus was to be the last to do this.

Taking all of these facts into consideration, we see the wonderful similarity between Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus

1. Neither had priestly ancestry.

2. Neither served for a set period of time.

3. Neither had successors in his particular ministry.

4. And in both, the offices of King and Priest were combined.
Whilst Melchizedek was said to be king of Salem and priest of God Most High, concerning the Christ it had been prophesied, “He shall be a priest upon his throne!” Zechariah 6:13

Bear in mind that this was a prophecy that could not be fulfilled during His earthly ministry, since whilst on earth He could not have been a priest according to the Law of Moses under which He lived as a Jew. But, having ascended to heaven, He now reigns and mediates as King and Priest.

In the entire history of God’s ancient people, no one was allowed to serve as both king and priest at the same time. On the three-recorded occasions when kings intruded into the priestly function, the consequences were catastrophic.

1. King Saul presumed to offer a sacrifice and lost his throne as a punishment. l Samuel 13.

2. King Jeroboam dressed himself as a priest and served at an altar to a god of his own making, and the punishment which followed resulted in the destruction of the entire House of Jeroboam. 1 Kings 13.

3. King Uzziah entered the Temple and began to offer incense, and was struck with leprosy. 2 Chronicles 26.

Down through the ages from the time of the unique Melchizedek, God held the offices of King and Priest apart until He should come of whom Melchizedek had been a type. We see the importance, then, of the opening statement in Hebrews 4:14 “Since we HAVE a great High Priest” and notice how he concludes this discussion in Hebrews 10:21 with identical words.

God declared that it was His intention that His own Son should combine in Himself, the function of Kingship and Priesthood, when in Psalm 110:4, He said, “You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek”.

In Hebrews 5:1 the high priest is chosen from the people. He is for the people. He is of the people.

Hebrews 5:2 the ordinary high priest was beset with weaknesses which Jesus did not have.

Hebrews 5:3 The high priest needed to offer a sacrifice for his own sins, which Jesus did not need to do since He was sinless.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

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