Priest of "God Most High" who appeared in patriarchal times, but whose significance was remembered throughout Old Testament times and eventually explained in the Book of Hebrews.
Melchizedek and Abraham. Melchizedek of Salem came out to pronounce a blessing on Abraham who was on his way back to Hebron after rescuing Lot from Kedorlaomer, king of the East ( Gen 14:18-24 ). Melchizedek provided food and wine for a sacral meal. As they ate, Melchizedek pronounced a blessing on Abraham in the name of God Most High.
The willingness with which Abraham acceded to Melchizedek as a priest of God Most High is a most interesting aspect of this narrative. This name apparently connoted the same meaningful theology to Abraham as the name "God Almighty" ( Exod 6:3 ). Abraham also equated God with "Creator of heaven and earth" ( Gen 14:22 ; cf. v. 19 ) in his ascription-confessional to the king of Sodom.
A Priest Forever. Psalm 110:4 reads: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'" This is a royal psalm. Two significant points are made about the One who is to sit at God's right hand. First, the order of Melchizedek is declared to be an eternal order. Second, this announcement is sealed with God's oath. Neither of these affirmations applied to the Aaronic order of priesthood.
Jesus Christ as the Great High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek. The Book of Hebrews presents Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, as a priest after the order of Melchizedek (4:14-7:28, esp. 5:5-11 ; 6:13-7:28). The author draws directly from Psalm 110:4 several crucial points to explain that the high priesthood of Christ has superseded and is superior to the priesthood of Aaron.
First, the priesthood of Melchizedek is an "order forever" ( 5:10 ). In contrast, the priesthood of Aaron had a history of disruptions and termination.
Second, the references to being "without father or mother" ( 7:3 ) and to being an "order forever" ( Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:16 Hebrews 7:17 Hebrews 7:24 ) are to be understood as referring to the kind of priestly order rather than to the longevity of a particular priest of Abraham's time. Jesus even carries the longevity of his priesthood back to the Godhead ( Hebrews 7:15 Hebrews 7:26 ; cf. 1 Peter 1:20 ).
Third, the divine guarantee for the priesthood of Melchizedek rests on God's oath.
For the writer of Hebrews to look at these Old Testament passages about Melchizedek along christological lines is in keeping with the practice of other New Testament writers. Early Christians were convinced that it was they upon whom the end of the ages had come and hence felt that the Old Testament was written in some divinely intended way to point to them.
Harvey E. Finley
Bibliography. G. W. Buchanan, To the Hebrews; M. Dahood, Psalms III: 101-150; E. A. Speiser, Genesis; R. S. Taylor, Hebrews-Revelation.
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