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Melchizedek, King Of Salem

“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said,

“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.” (Genesis 14:18-20)

After his victory over the army of Chedorlaomer, Abraham met two kings as he returned home: Melchizedek and the King of Sodom. The first of these is Melchizedek. Melchizedek is one of the most mysterious people we encounter in all of Scripture. He has a brief encounter with Abraham and then we hear nothing of him again in the Book of Genesis. What we are told of him in these three verses definitely leaves us with more questions than answers. The Psalmist will bring up Melchizedek again, speaking of a coming “Priest after the order of Melchizedek “(Psalm 110:4). The writer to the Hebrews will explain how Christ fulfilled this prophecy and what it means for our Lord to be a “Priest” after this order (Hebrews 7). But just who was Melchizedek in the first place?

Genesis is the book of beginnings, or origins. It is the book that serves as the background against which the remainder of the Bible is written. Nearly every important and key figure introduced in the narrative is done so in connection with his lineage. This person begat so and so, or this man was the son of that man. Here we have a person to whom the great Abraham voluntarily submits himself, and we are not told anything about his lineage or, really, where he even came from. While many have speculated that this man was the king of ancient Jerusalem (referred to here simply as Salem), the term “Salem” means peace. “Melchizedek” literally translates to, king of righteousness. How the phrase “Melchizedek king of Salem”  literally reads in the original Hebrew is, the king of righteousness, king of peace. Rather than tying him down to a specific place, it seems that we are really being given the titles of this man.

“Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” (Hebrews 7:3)

Some Bible commentators have ran away with these words used to describe Melchizedek and have concluded that he was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ Himself, what theologians call a Theophany of God the Son in the Old Testament. But this is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which being that it seems illogical that the writer to the Hebrews would call the Lord Jesus a “Priest” after His own order. Additionally, Hebrews 7:4 plainly states that Melchizedek was a man. But what this does tell us about the man Melchizedek is that, from our perspective, we know not from whence he came. Of course he actually had a beginning and an end of life, but we sure have been told nothing about it. We know not the place from where he steps onto the pages of Scripture in Genesis 14:18, nor to where he departs in 14:20.

What Melchizedek did is quite remarkable and is a picture of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ:

  • He comes bearing bread and wine, the two elements of Communion. (Matthew 26:26-27)
  • He revealed the Father to Abraham when he declared God to be the El Elyon, the Most High God (Luke 10:22). This is the first time in the Bible that God is referred to as such.
  • He pointed to the fact that God is the God of all mankind when he declared Him to be Possessor of Heaven and Earth – as both Jew and gentile alike come to the Father through Jesus Christ (Luke 24:47)
  • He pronounces blessing upon Abraham by the authority of God, and pronounces blessing to God on behalf of Abraham illustrating the unique nature of the Role of Jesus as the Great High Priest. Priests spoke to God on behalf of the people, prophets spoke to people on behalf of God; but only Christ would serve the Role of both. Melchizedek’s two blessings are a picture of this.

How Melchizedek came to know God at all is quite a mystery, let alone how he came to be His priest and the fact that he was apparently in closer fellowship with the Lord than even Abraham was at the time. We have been led to conclude that Abraham was the only man upon the entire Earth to truly follow the Lord God. Suddenly, Melchizedek comes on the scene representing God and profoundly impacts Abraham’s concept of the Lord.

Regardless of how it may seem at times, there are always others to whom God is revealing Himself; there are always those who are farther along in their walk with the Lord than we are; and no matter where a person comes from or what background they are coming out of, if they are servants of the Lord, we can have fellowship with them.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 9, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

 

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4 responses

  1. Loren,

    Melchizedek certainly is someone to wonder about….. But, I must confess, :) I am one of those who have rejoiced in running away with the marvelous words of Hebrews 7:3, and see Jesus being our Prophet, Priest, and King — besides our Savior and Redeemer, Lord and God, our All-in-all.

    We could spend hours talking about this and not exhaust the wonder of it all….. One clue that gives a hint for my reasoning is in 1 Corinthians 10:4 — “And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and THE ROCK WAS CHRIST.”….. There’s a mystery here, too.

    God works in ways we will never understand until we finally reach our heavenly home….. All things are possible with the LORD and we have no ability to reason out the hows or whys of anything God does….. All I can think of is that God is present in each of our lives, and for that very reason, we should always be filled with praise and thanksgiving for all that He does on our behalf.

    Whatever the case may actually be, we can marvel.

    Margaret

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  2. Thanks, Margaret.

    There certainly is much to marvel at in God’s precious Word!

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  3. I personally believe that Melchizedek is the pre-incarnate Christ. Christ (Greek) means Messiah. However, HE wasn’t acting in the office of redeemer yet. He is referred to in the New Testament as the Son of Man. He does appear to numerous people in the Old Testament in the form of man. When the writer of Hebrews says in the order of Melchizedek, it’s because now the perfect sacrifice has already been given, but it had not taken place at that time. Remember that Abram speaks to, and receives the Bread and the Wine from Melchizedek. Melchizedek speaks a blessing upon Abram, then upon GOD MOST HIGH. Then he (Abram) speaks to the king of Sodom.” The king say give me the people (souls) and you keep the goods (wealth). Abram says ” I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will not accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so you will never be able to say that you have made me rich. My question is, who did Abram just speak to prior to speaking to the king of Sodom? Melchizedek…. King of Righteousness, King of Peace. Romans 3:10 says” there is none righteous, no not one.” So, if you are the King of Righteousness, would you not have to be righteous? The High Priest of the Most High God offered Himself up as a sacrifice on Calvary and said “it is finished”. He was the Sacrifice, is The High Priest and God.

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  4. Hi Gene, thanks for reading this post and taking the time to share your thoughts!

    While I would not be insistent on my own point of view on this topic, for reasons I mentioned in the post I believe that Melchizedek is a type of Christ rather than a Theophany of Christ.

    For the writer to the Hebrews to compare Christ come in the flesh with a pre-incarnate Theophany of Christ would not seem to make sense. Imagine if a New Testament writer wrote at length comparing the Lord Jesus to the One Who appeared in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 3)? To say that Jesus Christ was like the fourth Man in the furnace would be inaccurate because Jesus Christ was the fourth Man in the furnace!

    Additionally, we have a clear Theophany of Jesus Christ in the life of Abraham told to us in Genesis 18. Moses, the writer of Genesis, made it clear that one of the three men appearing to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre was the Lord (18:1) and Abraham himself was convinced that he was speaking directly to the Lord (e.g, 18:27). Do we know for sure that this was Jesus and not God the Father in Genesis 18? Yes. In John 1:18 and 6:46 we are told that no man has seen the Father at any time. Any appearance of the Lord in the Old Testament is a physical, pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus. Thus we know that the One appearing to Abraham in Genesis 18 was a Theophany of Jesus Christ.

    Is it possible that Abraham would experience two Theophanies of Jesus Christ in his life, manifested as two different Persons for two different purposes? I suppose it is possible, but nowhere else in Scripture do we see such a thing. And if Melchizedek was a Theophany of Jesus, then neither Moses nor Abraham remarked that it was while both of them observed that it was in the encounter at Mamre.

    I absolutely love seeing the various Theophanies, types, portraits, and illustrations in the Old Testament of the Lord Jesus Christ and I have seen many in its pages (and I am certain I have more than likely missed a few also!). But after extensively analyzing what information we have about Melchizedek, I do not believe that this was a Theophany but rather a type (something that is prophetically representative of Christ but not Christ Himself). The writer to the Hebrews fills much of his epistle with “shadows of good things to come” (cf. Heb. 10:1), finding types and portraits in the Law of Moses, the office of the High Priest, the observance of the Sabbath, and many other aspects of the Old Testament which pointed to Christ. He made similar observations about the role of Melchizedek.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, Gene. May the Lord richly bless you in the study of His Word!

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