“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him 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.” (Genesis 14:18-20)
After his victory over the army of Chedorlaomer, Abraham met two kings as he returned home: Melchizedek and the King of Sodom. The first of these is Melchizedek. Melchizedek is one of the most mysterious people we encounter in all of Scripture. He has a brief encounter with Abraham and then we hear nothing of him again in the Book of Genesis. What we are told of him in these three verses definitely leaves us with more questions than answers. The Psalmist will bring up Melchizedek again, speaking of a coming “Priest after the order of Melchizedek “(Psalm 110:4). The writer to the Hebrews will explain how Christ fulfilled this prophecy and what it means for our Lord to be a “Priest” after this order (Hebrews 7). But just who was Melchizedek in the first place?
Genesis is the book of beginnings, or origins. It is the book that serves as the background against which the remainder of the Bible is written. Nearly every important and key figure introduced in the narrative is done so in connection with his lineage. This person begat so and so, or this man was the son of that man. Here we have a person to whom the great Abraham voluntarily submits himself, and we are not told anything about his lineage or, really, where he even came from. While many have speculated that this man was the king of ancient Jerusalem (referred to here simply as Salem), the term “Salem” means peace. “Melchizedek” literally translates to, king of righteousness. How the phrase “Melchizedek king of Salem” literally reads in the original Hebrew is, the king of righteousness, king of peace. Rather than tying him down to a specific place, it seems that we are really being given the titles of this man.
“Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” (Hebrews 7:3)
Some Bible commentators have ran away with these words used to describe Melchizedek and have concluded that he was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ Himself, what theologians call a Theophany of God the Son in the Old Testament. But this is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which being that it seems illogical that the writer to the Hebrews would call the Lord Jesus a “Priest” after His own order. Additionally, Hebrews 7:4 plainly states that Melchizedek was a man. But what this does tell us about the man Melchizedek is that, from our perspective, we know not from whence he came. Of course he actually had a beginning and an end of life, but we sure have been told nothing about it. We know not the place from where he steps onto the pages of Scripture in Genesis 14:18, nor to where he departs in 14:20.
What Melchizedek did is quite remarkable and is a picture of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ:
- He comes bearing bread and wine, the two elements of Communion. (Matthew 26:26-27)
- He revealed the Father to Abraham when he declared God to be the El Elyon, the Most High God (Luke 10:22). This is the first time in the Bible that God is referred to as such.
- He pointed to the fact that God is the God of all mankind when he declared Him to be Possessor of Heaven and Earth – as both Jew and gentile alike come to the Father through Jesus Christ (Luke 24:47)
- He pronounces blessing upon Abraham by the authority of God, and pronounces blessing to God on behalf of Abraham illustrating the unique nature of the Role of Jesus as the Great High Priest. Priests spoke to God on behalf of the people, prophets spoke to people on behalf of God; but only Christ would serve the Role of both. Melchizedek’s two blessings are a picture of this.
How Melchizedek came to know God at all is quite a mystery, let alone how he came to be His priest and the fact that he was apparently in closer fellowship with the Lord than even Abraham was at the time. We have been led to conclude that Abraham was the only man upon the entire Earth to truly follow the Lord God. Suddenly, Melchizedek comes on the scene representing God and profoundly impacts Abraham’s concept of the Lord.
Regardless of how it may seem at times, there are always others to whom God is revealing Himself; there are always those who are farther along in their walk with the Lord than we are; and no matter where a person comes from or what background they are coming out of, if they are servants of the Lord, we can have fellowship with them.
To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published December 9, 2009]
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]