Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed Abram 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.” And Abram gave him a tithe of all.
The small account of Melchizedek in Genesis is the only piece of historical text in Scripture, and is somewhat vague to his identification. Some scholars believe that Melchizedek is really Shem, Noah’s son. While others believe that he is a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus, known as a “theophany”. ‘Incarnate’ describes a Divine being becoming flesh and blood, becoming a man. ‘Theophany” means a manifestation of a Divine being before incarnation, meaning the appearance of a Divine being not made of flesh. And still others believe Melchizedek was an angel. I believe Melchizedek was a real person, a man. In order to understand who Melchizedek is, we must also look at the New Testament and any other Biblical text that mentions him.
Melchizedek is mentioned as the ‘king of Salem’ and ‘priest of God Most High’ (meaning he was the High Priest). Melchizedek’s name means ‘king of righteousness’ and the place he was a king at was Salem meaning ‘king of peace’. Psalm 76:2 describes Salem more:
In Salem also is His tabernacle, And His dwelling place in Zion.
The only place in which rests the tabernacle of God the dwelling place of Zion (Mount Zion) is Jerusalem. Jeru-salem = “City of Peace”. Therefore Melchizedek was the king of Jerusalem and the High Priest of God Most High (El-Elyon). Melchizedek is the first mention of a king of Jerusalem, centuries before Saul and David. The next mentioned king of Jerusalem is mentioned in Joshua 10:1
Now it came to pass when Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem… (I need to study him too)
Not only was Melchizedek the king of Jerusalem, he was also the priest of the Most High God (This the first mention of the term El-Elyon which means ‘God Most High’). This means he was appointed priest before Aaron, which means he was ordained a priest to God Most High before the Levitical line. Many Jews probably ask “How could that be? We are always taught that the two offices of king and priest should be held separate.” This is illustrated with King Uziah in 2 Chronicles 26 when the king wanted to practice to responsibilities of the priesthood was stricken with leprosy for going against the mandates of priesthood. The mandates of priesthood after the ordination of Aaron and the formation of the Levitical line (or priesthood) is what King Uzziah went against. Since Melchidezek was ordained as the High Priest before the start of the Levitical line, there are no boundaries to offices of service. The reason I believe Melchizedek was a real man lies in the criteria of a High Priest in Hebrews 5:1-10 (particularly vs. 1)
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
Melchizedek was a man, appointed by God to be High Priest before the priesthood lineage of Aaron was established. Melchizedek is also a foreshadow of Jesus Christ in that Jesus could not be appointed our High Priest without first having become a man (incarnate). Psalm 110:1-7 when speaking of the coming Messiah says:
The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn And will not relent, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; Therefore He shall lift up the head.
Therefore, we get into some strange wording as we consider Melchizedek being a “priesthood forever”, in which the Messiah (Jesus Christ) will be in the order of. As we continue to look at terms surrounding Melchizedek, keep in mind that the writer of Hebrews was a Hebrew (a Jew) writing to other Hebrews (other Jews). They know and recognize the law and comprehend events/structure behind the persons of the law. The writer of Hebrews proves this by bring up Melchizedek! Hebrews 7 (I’m not going type the whole passage so please look I it up!) in verse 3 states:
…without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
This is NOT speaking biologically! This is speaking solely in regard to his priesthood. Consider this: For Levitical Priesthood, the law states that one must have blood line genealogy back to Aaron or you aren’t appointed into priesthood. This means that you must have record of your Mother and Father’s bloodline to present, at the age of 25 if you could prove your blood line went to Aaron, you were called into service for the priesthood and began 5 years of training before actually entering service. ALSO, the Levitical priesthood served in limited terms. Numbers 4 states that one appointed into the priesthood by lineage, must enter service at the age of 30 and end service at the age of 50.
When Hebrews states that Melchizedek was “…without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually,” it is saying that he had no record of Levitical lineage to Aaron, and thus he has no “term” of service required but is without boundaries in his service. Aaron was not even born at the time of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7 also says “And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham”) which suggests that Melchizedek was appointed by God for service as king and priest of the Most High God. This is also true of Christ! Jesus’ lineage didn’t go through Aaron. In fact, his genealogy goes through the tribe of Judah so He did not get appointed to priesthood on our behalf through genealogy. Therefore, Jesus belonging to the priesthood of Melchizedek means that he was appointed by God to serve as our High Priest forever, without boundaries and limits such as the Levitical law requires of Aaron’s line. They both perform ministry responsibilities with no terms of service without genealogy to Aaron. This is also what is meant when Hebrews says that Melchizedek is “made like the Son of God” (not “is” but “like”).
Finally, Melchizedek brings bread and wine to Abram and blesses him after he returned from rescuing Lot. The fact that Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek provides evidence of his authority as High Priest and as the greater priesthood than the Levites (as mentioned in Hebrews 7:4-10). This is a picture of the entire lineage of Abram (Aaron included) paying respect and honor to the “greater priesthood” and worshipping God through Melchizedek, as well as the “lesser” being blessed by the “greater”. That is, Levi (who receives all tithes throughout the law) has paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abram; and the blessings upon Abram through Melchizedek falls freely on all of his offspring. This is why the order of Melchizedek is greater than the order of Levi. This is the first time that tithing is mentioned in the Bible as well.
Something worth mentioning here as well, is the observation that Melchizedek brought bread and wine to bless Abram with. I think this stands as a picture (or type) of “who is to come” – the entire situation is pointing ahead to reveal Jesus as Messiah, with countless verses throughout the New and Old Testaments revealing what the bread and wine symbolize. That’s so interesting!