Are you ready to study one of the most mysterious figures in all the Bible? I consider him to be the mystical, magical unicorn sighted/cited only twice in the entire Old Testament!
His name is Melchizedek and though both Moses and King David talk about him briefly (one to explain what happened in Abraham’s time and the other to qualify Jesus’ priesthood) there are paragraphs written about him in the Book of Hebrews.
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“Melchizedek” is a mouthful! What does his name mean?
According to the College Press NIV Commentary (CPNIVC):
‘The name “Melchizedek” is composed of the Hebrew word for king (melek) to which is added a pronoun suffix (melki, “my king”) and the word for righteous or righteousness (zedek). A literal etymology, then, is “my king is righteous” but our writer offers an interpretive rendering, “king of righteousness.”
Just the facts, Ma’am:
- Was King of Salem (Shalom) and priest of God Most High
- Brought out bread and wine in the “King’s Valley” (Genesis 14:7-20)
- Met Abraham on Mount Moriah—this is at or close to modern-day Jerusalem and many commentaries believe it’s the Kidron Valley—returning from rescuing his nephew, Lot. (Genesis 14:7-20) See “Side Note” below.
- As priest, blessed Abraham (and not the king of Sodom) (Genesis 14:7-20)
The first Levite priest
will not exist for
500 hundred years.
- Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder. Genesis 14:20 is the first mention in the Bible of a tithe, though it was a common practice for the Syrians, Egyptians, and Babylonians. (Source: CPNIVC) (Genesis 14:7-20)
Melchizedek was great. (Abraham understood he was to give him a tenth. When had this EVER happened before now?)
- The two main “proofs” of Melchizedek’s greatness are the tithe, which Abraham gave freely and without obligation to Melchizedek, and the blessing, which Melchizedek gave to Abraham. (CPNIVC)
- King David mentions Mr. M in Psalm 110 (the most often cited OT chapter throughout the book of Hebrews!) in speaking of Jesus.
- Was parentless—no mother or father—and without genealogy. (Hebrews 7:3) More on that later!
- Had no birth or death. (Hebrews 7:3)
- “Like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” (Hebrews 7:3)
- He “was declared to be living.” (Hebrews 7:8)
The Kidron Valley is east of Jerusalem—
the one between the Mount of Olives
and the Temple Mount (Mount Moriah).
The Garden of Gethsemane is near the bottom
and the High Priest’s house, where Jesus was tried,
is just south and up to the west of it.
How is Melchizedek “like the Son of God” without being the Son of God?
It comes from the Genesis story: Melchizedek bursts onto the scene out of nowhere after Abraham’s victory. How is he like the Son of God? Melchizedek has no human mom or dad who birthed him here, but yet he is both PRIEST and KING (like Jesus) and receives Abraham’s OFFERING/TENTH. Why doesn’t his genealogy matter to Moses who is writing the narrative in the OT? (Cuz, it ALWAYS mattered!)
Let’s settle our focus on Hebrews 7:1-3 for a moment. It is interesting that in the verse 3, the single Greek word agenealogētos (translated “without genealogy”) is found nowhere else in Scripture—in fact nowhere else in Greek literature. Why? Everyone has a genealogy, whether he can trace it or not.
Anyone who has spent any time in the Old Testament knows how important the genealogies were to the Jews. Did you know that the only genealogy that exists today for a Jew from first century Israel is found in the books of Luke and Matthew? They are the lines of Mary and Joseph!
I wonder if when God destroyed the Temple in 70 AD (and all of the Jewish historical family records with it) if He was proving a point about spiritual inheritance: We only come into the family of God through the blood of Jesus.
MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN Melchizedek & Jesus:
- Melchizedek didn’t DIE for humanity. He did not die.
- He didn’t carry the SINS of mankind, nor does Scripture say he resisted temptation.
- Melchizedek was parentless. Jesus’ father is God and his mother was the human, Mary—he was both 100% God and Man. (see above on agenealogētos)
- While Melchizedek had no start or ending, Jesus had a very publicized human birth (a bright star, wise men, shepherds, angels, a crazy king) along with a very public execution.
- Jesus comes from the line of Kings through the TWO genealogies of his parents (David—>Solomon) and (David—>Nathan) but not of Priests. Melchizedek has no genealogy whatsoever.
- Melchizedek was not put into priesthood by any oath of God; Jesus was. (Hebrews 7:20-22)
Some commentaries say Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Jesus and others say he was simply a type who truly represents the figure he predates as a divinely appointed representation of the future. (That could be an entirely separate post!) No matter where you might land on WHO or WHAT Melchizedek is, the point is not to dwell on him, but to
“throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
For more posts like this one, click Interview Questions with a Dead Author: James, You Can’t Pee On Every Tree (and other lesson I learned from my dog), Colossians 3: The Five Virtues and Colossians 3: The Five Vices x2.