by William J. Stewart
In Genesis 14 this man appeared to Abram, blessed him, received a tithe in return, and then disappeared again. Though he made just a brief appearance, we shall find that he is an important individual in the Bible narrative. He is only mentioned in the Old Testament twice, but nine times in the New Testament.
Who Is Melchizedek?
Hebrews 7:1-3 identifies Melchizedek as the “king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, meaning king of peace.”
Many have speculated on who Melchizedek is. Wesley rightly notes,
The Rabbins say that Melchizedek was Shem the son of Noah … Many Christian writers have thought that this was an appearance of the Son of God himself, our Lord Jesus … But as nothing is expressly revealed concerning it, we can determine nothing.
It is intriguing to read that Melchizedek was “…without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God…”
A Type of Christ
Though we can’t know for certain who Melchizedek was, we know that he is presented as a type of Christ. He is:
- The king of righteousness. No one exceeds Jesus’ righteousness;
- The king of peace. We can have peace with God because of Jesus;
- Of unknown ancestry. Jesus was not born of man & woman, but of the Holy Spirit;
- Contrasted with mortal men. Though in a body of flesh, Jesus was not a mere mortal;
- Said to be alive. At the tomb, an angel stated of Jesus, “He is alive!” Indeed, He lives!
That the link between Melchizedek and Jesus exists can be affirmed by Psalm 110:4, the only other mention of him in the Old Testament.
The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ (Psalm 110:4)
This being a messianic Psalm, we can know that it was Jesus who would be called in the order of Melchizedek. Over half the New Testament references to Melchizedek quote this text.
Why Is He Important?
So, there are some real neat things mentioned about Melchizedek, but why is it important for us to study about him and the “order of Melchizedek”?
Do not miss the significant exchange between Abraham, the father of the nation Israel and of all the faithful, and this Melchizedek. Abraham received a blessing, and Melchizedek received a tithe in return. Hebrews points out, “…beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Hebrews 7:7).
As great as Abraham was, here is one who was greater. If the patriarch failed in greatness to this man, then the priesthood which came from his loins would fail next to the One who came in the order of Melchizedek.
The Levitical priests received tithes through their lifetime, but they were subject ot death. They were mortal men who received tithes for a time (Hebrews 7:8), but the Lord, being of the Melchizedek order did not come “…according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:16).
Having shown that the order of Melchizedek exceeds that of Aaron, the writer asks, “…if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:11).
His coming in the order of Melchizedek required a change of law. Moses’ law no longer governs, but now the gospel of Christ. With this better priesthood, there comes a better law, with better promises and a better hope (Hebrews 7:19).