While having a delightful conversation with one of my God-daughters, who called to wish me a happy Mother’s Day, the question came up — Who is Melchizedek? She was reading our current Spirit Sisters Book Study, (Knowing God By Name by Bruce Wilkerson) and had never heard of him. Although little is known about him, he is important in understanding Jesus’ role as the Great High Priest.
Seal of Melchizedek mosaic from a Christian church at Khirbet near Jerusalem
Melchizedek is mentioned only a few times in The Word. In each of these passages we can discover bits of who he was and why his life has meaning for us. In Genesis 14:18-20 he is introduced as ‘priest of God Most High’ who blesses Abram through God as Creator and Deliverer. What is impressive about this record is most people in this period of history worshiped many gods created by themselves, while Melchizedek worshiped only God Most High, leading to the conclusion that there were other Believers at the time of Abram. It also mentions in this passage that when Abram visited him he served bread and wine. An Old Testament way of saying he communed with Abram. When we come across these words in the New Testament it is with Jesus’ words on how to remember Him. There’s another phrase in these verses that point to Abram’s recognition of Melchizedek as God’s Priest. “…Abram gave him a tenth of everything”. It would be a few (many) years before Moses gave God’s commandment on tithing yet that’s surely what’s going on.
Lets look at Hebrews 7:11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood–and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood–why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? In order to understand this verse we need to move on to verses 15-17 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (NIV) Christ and Melchizedek are High Priests because of their appointment by God. Neither were of the Levites (or Kohen-the name of the Priests before the Levites) who were appointed by God to permanent priesthood.
Abram Being Presented with Bread and Wine by Melchizedek (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’m pretty sure some of you are saying that’s about as clear as mud. It’s necessary to dig in a bit deeper into a rather scholarly issue. Melchizedek is regarded as a theophany (manifestation of deity in physical form). This word is applied because he is regarded as holy and righteous, as priest, in how he served Abram (with bread and wine), that he is given a tithe, and that there is no genealogical record of his life. In other words because many of his life characteristics modeled that of Christ he is revered as a physical precursor of Jesus.
More interesting facts about him…Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness”. He was also the King of Salem. Salem, meaning peace, later became Jerusalem.
Melchizedek is not a mysterious, mythical character, although some have tried to make that argument. This quote says it all: “Melchizedek was a real, historical king-priest who served as a type for the greater King-Priest who was to come, Jesus Christ.” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986. pg. 695.)
(Some information in this post is from an article on about.com/Melchizedek.)