Who is Melchizedek?
The identity of Melchizedek has been a subject that has mystified scholars for many centuries, and it is still the cause of no small amount of debate and controversy to this day — even among Apostolics.
Some believe that he was a THEOPHANY — God in a visible human form interacting with man in the OT. Others believe he was a CHRISTOPHANY – the pre-incarnate Christ in a visible human form interacting with man in the OT. Some believe he was GOD Himself. And some believe he was JESUS Himself!
The list goes on and on…. Some believe he was a celestial being, not quite human and not quite angel, created especially by God for this role. Some believe he was a pagan priest-king who had a momentary state of “righteousness”. Some are convinced that he was the Patriarch Shem, the son of the Patriarch Noah.
Personally, I believe that he was an otherwise unknown priest-king living in the land of Canaan who had a special relationship with God about which we are only given the tiniest of glimpses in the Word of God.
There are three writers who spoke of Melchizedek in the Bible:
– Moses wrote of him in Genesis 14.
– David wrote of him in Psalm 110.
– And Paul (presuming he is the author) wrote of him in Hebrews 5, 6 and 7.
God is never lacking in vocabulary, but He sometimes is silent. And at times His choice of words is intended to conceal Truth — Prov. 25:2 — that will only be revealed by our diligent searching it out.
There are a few things about Melchizedek that are fairly obvious and are stated unequivocally in scripture.
From Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7:
- He was the King of Salem [by interpretation, “King of Peace”]
- His name means “King of Righteousness”
- He was the priest of the Most High God [ELYON EL]
- Upon meeting Abram, he [Melchizedek] did three things:
- he gave Abram and his men food and drink
- he blessed Abram
- he blessed God
- After this, Abram gave Melchizedek tithes of all the spoil taken in battle
Careful analysis of the scripture shows that this is the first reference in the Bible to a PRIEST [first mention].
It is also the first reference in the Bible to ELYON — MOST HIGH [first mention].
And it furthermore is the first reference in the Bible to TITHES [first mention].
Clearly stated in Hebrews 7:4 and 7:7 is the fact that Melchizedek was greater or better than Abram.
4 Now consider how great [this man – Gr. houtos] he was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tithe [tenth] of the spoils.
7 And without all contradiction the less [Abraham] is blessed of the better [Melchizedek].
[Notice that the Greek text in v4 does not actually call Melchizedek a “man”, i.e., a human. See Blue Letter Bible for Heb. 7:4.]
There are also a few things about Melchizedek that are fairly obvious but which we only learn by what the scripture DOES NOT state:
- His father is not given
- His mother is not given
- His genealogy is not given
Note: these three facts are startling when it is observed that every other great or significant person in the Hebrew Bible is clearly qualified as such by showing their lineage through genealogical records, many times showing both father and mother.
The Greek text of Hebrew 7:3 is simply pointing out this fact….
ἀπάτωρ — apator: without father, i.e., there is no record of his father provided
ἀμήτωρ — ametor: without mother, i.e., there is no record of his mother provided
ἀγενεαλόγητος — agenealogetos: without genealogy, i.e., there is no record of his genealogy provided
The SILENCE of scripture in this regard must not be overlooked or understated, neither should its significance be underestimated.
- His birth is not given
- His death is not given
These facts do not mean that he was not born and that he did not die. They were omitted from scripture to define a higher ORDER of priesthood. When he comes on the scene, he is a priest; when he exits the scene, he is still a priest.
It cannot be conclusively argued from this text alone that Melchizedek was not mortal [i.e., not having both a human father and a human mother]. Rather, the wording of this passage is intended to convey the overwhelming shortcomings of Melchizedek with regard to the Aaronic/Levitical requirements for priesthood. He did not meet the requirements to be a priest after the order of Aaron! Therefore, we are pointed to the prophetic utterance of David in Psalm 110:4 speaking of Christ —
“Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
What is important to note is THE ORDER OF THE MELCHIZEDEKIAN PRIESTHOOD.
- The MELCHIZEDEKIAN Priesthood does not descend from Levi
- The MELCHIZEDEKIAN Priesthood is not TEMPORARY
- Rather, the MELCHIZEDEKIAN Priesthood is ETERNAL
- The MELCHIZEDEKIAN Priesthood is SUPERIOR in all respects to the Aaronic Priesthood
- The MELCHIZEDEKIAN Priesthood demands that the PRIEST also be KING, as opposed to the prohibition against the KING being a PRIEST in the Aaronic Priesthood by virtue of the fact that the KING must come from the tribe of JUDAH instead of LEVI
What the interjection of the story of Melchizedek is intended to do is to teach us the DIVINE ORDER OF THE MELCHIZEDEKIAN PRIESTHOOD — by stating some things quite clearly and by obviously leaving some things out of the sacred record.
I personally believe that God was dealing with the Amorite Kingdom that was in the land of Canaan at the time of the story we read in Gen. 14.
13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
NOTE: Abram’s descendants were not allowed to come into the possession of the Promised Land for 400 years! During this time, God was OBVIOUSLY dealing with the Amorite inhabitants of the land because they had a KING of RIGHTEOUSNESS who was also the KING of PEACE [Salem is believed by many scholars to be Jerusalem].
Notice the language of scripture when drawing a comparison between Israel and the Amorites, the people that were in the land before them….
1 Kings 21:26
And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.
2 Kings 21:11
Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
9 Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.
10 Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.
I believe Melchizedek was a literal, flesh and blood mortal man — very ancient and very venerable. Apparently, he knew and recognized Abram, and Abram knew him and recognized his spiritual superiority! It is clear that the Patriarch Shem was alive at the time of this encounter. I cannot rule out the possibility that Melchizedek was Abram’s great-great-great-…-great-grandfather Shem! But nothing I have found in scripture demands such an identification.
I have trouble reconciling the language of scripture used when referencing theophanies with that which is used when referencing Melchizedek.
If Melchizedek was the LORD [i.e., a theophany] in Gen. 14, why doesn’t Moses come out and say so explicitly?
The LORD appeared to Abra(ha)m in other places (before and after Gen. 14) and the Scripture plainly tells us so!
Genesis 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Genesis 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day….
In conclusion, I believe the point of Melchizedek is less about HIS IDENTITY and more about HIS ORDER – the ORDER of MELCHIZEDEK. This phrase occurs 7 times in scripture!
What the writer of Hebrews is attempting to show is how Jesus Christ – of the tribe of JUDAH, according to the flesh – is eligible to be our High Priest, even though he is not descended from LEVI. Not only is his priesthood validated but so also is his kingship, seeing he is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek!”
Pastor Tim D. Cormier