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 The author draws directly from Psalm 110:4 several crucial points to explain that the high priesthood of Christ has superseded and is superior to the priesthood of Aaron.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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king of righteousness, the king of Salem (q.v.). All we know of him is recorded in Genesis 14:18-20 . He is subsequently mentioned only once in the Old Testament, in Psalms 110:4 . The typical significance of his history is set forth in detail in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 7. The apostle there points out the superiority of his priesthood to that of Aaron in these several respects, (1) Even Abraham paid him tithes; (2) he blessed Abraham; (3) he is the type of a Priest who lives for ever; (4) Levi, yet unborn, paid him tithes in the person of Abraham; (5) the permanence of his priesthood in Christ implied the abrogation of the Levitical system; (6) he was made priest not without an oath; and (7) his priesthood can neither be transmitted nor interrupted by death: "this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood."
The question as to who this mysterious personage was has given rise to a great deal of modern speculation. It is an old tradition among the Jews that he was Shem, the son of Noah, who may have survived to this time. Melchizedek was a Canaanitish prince, a worshipper of the true God, and in his peculiar history and character an instructive type of our Lord, the great High Priest ( Hebrews 5:6 Hebrews 5:7 ; 6:20 ). One of the Amarna tablets is from Ebed-Tob, king of Jerusalem, the successor of Melchizedek, in which he claims the very attributes and dignity given to Melchizedek in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
king of justice
(king of righteousness ), king of Salem and priest of the most high God, who met Abram in the valley of Shaveh, which is the kings valley, bought out bread and wine, blessed him, and received tithes from him. ( Genesis 14:18-20 ) The other places in which Melchizedek is mentioned are ( Psalms 110:4 ) where Messiah is described as a priest forever, "after the order of Melchizedek," and ( Hebrews 5:1 ; Hebrews 6:1 ; Hebrews 7:1 ) ... where these two passages of the Old Testament are quoted, and the typical relation of Melchizedek to our Lord is stated at great length. There is something surprising and mysterious in the first appearance of Melchizedek, and in the subsequent reference to him. Bearing a title which Jews in after ages would recognize as designating their own sovereign, bearing gifts which recall to Christians the Lords Supper, this Canaanite crosses for a moment the path of Abram, and is unhesitatingly recognized as a person of higher spiritual rank than the friend of God. Disappearing as suddenly as he came, he is lost to the sacred writings for a thousand years. Jewish tradition pronounces Melchizedek to be a survivor of the deluge, the patriarch Shem. The way in which he is mentioned in Genesis would rather lead to the inference that Melchizedek was of one blood with the children of Ham, among whom he lived, chief (like the king od Sodom) of a settled Canaanitish tribe. The "order of Melchizedek," in ( Psalms 110:4 ) is explained to mean "manner" = likeness in official dignity = a king and priest. The relation between Melchizedek and Christ as type and antitype is made in the Epistle to the Hebrews to consist in the following particulars: Each was a priest, (1) not of the Levitical tribe; (2) superior to Abraham; (3) whose beginning and end are unknown; (4) who is not only a priest, but also a king of righteousness and peace. A fruitful source of discussion has been found in the site of Salem. [SALEM]
During Abram's sojourn in Canaan this priest and king met and treated him with hospitality ( Genesis 14:18-20 ). Much mystery appears to hang about this distinguished personage. Various theories have been advanced concerning him. Some assert that he was God Almighty. This is not a fact, for he was "the priest of the most high God" ( Genesis 14:18 ). Others assert that he was Jesus Christ. This is not a fact, for he was "made like the Son of God" ( Hebrews 7:3 ). It is asserted in the Scriptures that he was a man ( Hebrews 7:1-4 ). If you will reflect that the Scriptures deal with him in his official capacity, the difficulties and mysteries surrounding him will immediately vanish. Let us take a closer view. The history of the world, from the Biblical standpoint, naturally divides itself into three different periods, which for want of better terms I will designate,
Each dispensation is characterized by a priesthood peculiarly its own. There was no regular priestly line from the transgression to the giving of the law of Moses. In a general way, it may be asserted that every man was his own priest ( Genesis 4:1-4 ; Genesis 12:7 Genesis 12:8 ; Genesis 15:8-18 ; Genesis 26:19-25 ; Genesis 31:43-55 Genesis 35:1-15 ; Genesis 46:1 ). During this age Melchizedek appeared. He was king of Salem and priest of the most high God. We know nothing of his duties or prerogatives as priest or king. We know that he did not belong to any special priestly order. His priestly office was independent of all other men. In the priestly office he was without father, and without mother, and without descent. No record was kept of his installation as priest, his official acts, or his death, hence, so far as the record is concerned, he was without beginning of days or end of life. At the inauguration of the second dispensation an entire family was set apart to the priestly office, and the priestly office remained in that family, and was transmitted from father to son and from generation to generation to the death of Christ ( Exodus 29:1 Exodus 29:29 ; Numbers 17:1-13 ; Numbers 18:1-7 Hebrews 7:11 Hebrews 7:23-28 ). David predicted that a priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek ( Psalms 110:4 ). This is repeatedly affirmed by the author of Hebrews. The priesthood of the Christian dispensation is after the order of Melchizedek, and not after the order of Aaron. Jesus became a priest when he entered heaven by his own blood ( Hebrews 8:1-4 ; Hebrews 10:11-12 ). His priesthood is independent. He had no predecessor, and he will have no successor. He will remain in heaven and officiate as priest until the work of redemption is done.