If one goes to the Internet to answer this question, there are all sorts of claims made in the name of ‘Melchizedek”. I’ve come across the name, once again, in bible study in The Letter to the Hebrews 7:1-22, and to save me the time of writing down “Melchizedek,” over and over again, I took the liberty of calling him ‘Mel’.
Many religious groups with ties to Christianity make claims regarding Melchizedek. Ancient Gnostics go to great explanations of claiming Melchizedek was actually Jesus [For more on the term “Gnostic,” go to GotQuestions.org/”What is the definition of the term Gnostic? ]. Others say he was the archangel, Michael.
Suffice to say, I don’t recommend an Internet search answering these sorts of questions.
In Hebrews 7, the information presented gives the most information about ‘Mel’ in the entire Bible.
Of course, Melchizedek first shows up in our Bible in Genesis … 12 pages into my Bible.
- Genesis 12 contains God’s call of Abram and God’s promise that would make Abram a great nation and Blessed him (Genesis 12:2).
- Genesis 13 includes the story of Abram (Abraham) and his nephew Lot agreeing to separate and occupy different territories in the new land.
- At the beginning of Genesis 14, there’s a report of war among several kings. Caught up in the plunder of war, Lot was carried off by the victory and apparent victim of circumstance, Lot was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- In the middle of Genesis 14, Abram learns of his nephew’s plight, takes a group of 318 soldiers, routs Lot’s captors and liberates Lot, his possessions, and all the people with him.
It was after Abram’s return from the victory that the story unfolds with Melchizedek. Even though it is contained in just three chapters in our Bibles, it was a significant encounter for Abram. Mostly because it’s a moment in which Abram acknowledged God’s Blessing on his life:
- He chose the Blessing of the priest over the spoils of war offered by the other kings.
- He credited God for the victory won.
- He tithed, giving an offering in worship to “God most high”.
AND THIS IS THE END OF THE ACCOUNT.
There are no more details about ‘Mel’ to be found in Genesis.
Most history books I’ve run across don’t deny the existence of Melchizedek, but they don’t have much else to add either.
Aside from our text in Hebrews in this study, the only other place I could find in the Bible was Psalm 110.
Psalm 110 is what Bible scholars call a Messianic psalm, a prophecy that describes the ultimate Savior, the Victor that would deliver God’s people for all eternity.
And this particular Psalm describes the Messiah as “a priest after the manner and order of Melchizedek” (verse 4).
Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.
He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
This duplication of this specific language presented at the end of Chapter 6 of Hebrews is in the precise language of Psalm 110.
Hebrews 6:20 (AMP)
 Where Jesus has entered in for us [in advance], a Forerunner having become a High Priest forever after the order (with the rank) of Melchizedek.
This is to remind us that none of this is primarily about ‘Mel’…it’s all about Jesus!
Although, as a Word Detective, it might be really tantalizing to think of all this in terms of unlocking some great mystery about this baffling Melchizedek. The main point I find here is to tie Jesus to the prophecy found in Psalm 110. So we will be best served to look at this passage of Scripture not so much for answers to the question “Who is Melchizedek?” Rather, what we should really be after are the answers to the greater question, “Who is Jesus?”
The author who penned these words under the leading and inspiration of the Holy Spirit has no interest in leading us as readers to Melchizedek. We are being led to Jesus!
What is found in this passage of Scripture now is Melchizedek being used as an illustration to help us understand more about Christ Jesus.
Melchizedek’s position is worth taking a close look at in Hebrews 7.
The beginning of the chapter explains that he is both king and priest. Specifically king of Salem (ancient Jerusalem), priest of God Most High.
Jesus too is both King and Priest.
This mention of genealogy seems curious when it comes to studying this in the context of the Bible, especially the Old Testament historical books. Unlike almost every other figure in the O.T. historical books, ‘Mel’ has no genealogical context. He isn’t identified as “the son of” anyone, no begat.
Neither his birth nor death is recorded.
In Melchizedek’s case, scripture is silent about all that made him unique. In this case, what distinguishes Melchizedek isn’t his genealogy, but his righteousness, peace, his association with God Most High!
Verses 4-10 makes us aware of Abraham’s position in respect to Melchizedek.
Abraham, the father of faith, the one through whom God chose to create a special people for Himself, subservient to Melchizedek.
- Abraham tithed to Melchizedek–giving him, in an act of worship, a tenth of what he had.
- ‘Mel’ blessed Abraham.
First the blessing and then the tenth.
The lesser person is blessed by the greater. Abraham wasn’t BLESSED because he tithed.
He gave because he was already BLESSED!
Jesus, too, is greater than Abraham.
Jesus, through this illustration, is associated in a superior order than all kings and priests, especially all those kings and priests that would come from Abraham.
Verses 11-14 make more of this idea of genealogy and ancestry.
The LAW given by Moses, established the tribe of Levi, the tribe of priests.
But Jesus wasn’t a Levite, as ‘Mel’ wasn’t a Levitical priest; Jesus was from the tribe of Judah.
Under the old covenant, one would be a law-breaker if one claimed to be a PRIEST but not qualified by his genealogy,
If you weren’t a LEVITE, you couldn’t be a PRIEST.
But like Melchizedek, who preceded the Levites, Jesus is a PRIEST superior to the Levitical priesthood not on the basis of RULES or ANCESTRY, but on the basis of the POWER of an indestructible life…a life everlasting!
So, Jesus makes possible what the imperfections of the old priestly order could never deliver.
Jesus introduces “a better HOPE” as described in verse 19.
In the priestly order, only a select few could dare approach YHWH, but Jesus set aside what “was weak and useless” and made a way “by which we draw near to God.”
The old order of SACRIFICES made in the old order of Levitical priests, in which men continually offered payment for SIN through offerings, was set aside.
There were no chairs in the Temple or Tabernacle, for the work was not done. But Jesus accomplished for us, once and for all, A NEW HOPE by which we draw near to God.
Finally, these last verses in the passage take our mind and spirit back to the prophecy in Psalm 110. We have to remember, the point here is that Jesus isn’t merely like a king, like a priest, like a Messiah.
The POINT here is…Jesus IS that Messiah!
He is sealed with an oath from the Creator (“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind” Psalm 110:4) and not a priest by association or ancestry, but a PRIEST by declaration.
God said to him: “The Lord has sworn (made an OATH) and will not change His mind: ‘You are a priest forever'”
(verse 22 b.) – Because of His OATH. Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. A whole new order, a new way, a new deal, a better covenant…
“SO WHAT?” you might say.
At one level, the “so what,” is simply the benefit of study. The illustration found in Hebrews regarding Melchizedek gets a little technical, I’ll admit, but it’s powerful! There’s a real reward that comes with a clearer understanding of God’s Word.
That understanding draws us closer to God and for this confidence that comes from the Word, we can shout, “AMEN”!
There’s of course, this very practical reminder…to keep our focus on Jesus.
‘Mel’ is one of those figures that has been hijacked and made into something that was never intended by many.
If you were googling Melchizedek, you’d soon find yourself way out in the theological weeds. You can also go to Amazon.com and find all sorts of books that would want to take you down all sorts of weird roads.
But those “roads” take people away from the plain and simple basics of our faith.
We should take away from this study, a reminder that Scripture points us to Jesus. We don’t need to search for secrets and mysteries about Melchizedek; the intent of this passage of Scripture is clearly to draw our attention and understanding to Jesus:
- King of Righteousness
- King of Peace
- Priest Forever.
We’re reminded of the continuity of our faith. That all ancient history points to the hinge of history, Jesus our Savior.
…that all religious practice, all rules, and law, all sacrifice and worship…ALL of it is trumped (if you will), superseded by a Superior Order, Jesus, the promised priest forever!
The New International Commentary On The New Testament – The Letter To The Hebrews
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Bible Translations used: New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and other translations used are so noted.