This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him.
Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.”
There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.
Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle.
Now the law of Moses required that the priests, who are descendants of Levi, must collect a tithe from the rest of the people of Israel, who are also descendants of Abraham.
But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God.
And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed.
The priests who collect tithes are men who die, so Melchizedek is greater than they are, because we are told that he lives on.
In addition, we might even say that these Levites—the ones who collect the tithe—paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him.
For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.
So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law was based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron?
And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it.
For the priest we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members have never served at the altar as priests.
What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned priests coming from that tribe.
This change has been made very clear since a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has appeared.
Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.
And the psalmist pointed this out when he prophesied, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless.
For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
This new system was established with a solemn oath. Aaron’s descendants became priests without such an oath,
but there was an oath regarding Jesus. For God said to him, “The LORD has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever.’”
Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God.
There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office.
But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever.
Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.
He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.
Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.
The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever.