Melchizedek, meaning king of righteousness, was the "king of Salem," later known as Jerusalem, and "priest of God Most High" - at a time prior to the establishment of the Levitical priesthood (see Levites). Melchizedek is one of the most enigmatic people of Bible History, not only because of his distinctive position as king and high priest of Jerusalem (a dual office that will ultimately be fulfilled only by Jesus Christ), but also because of other profound statements about him, such as in Hebrews that "he is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life." A Jewish speculative tradition holds that Melchizedek was actually Noah's son Shem who may have survived to that time, but Shem obviously did have a recorded father, Noah, and a beginning of days since Shem's age is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, or "Old" Testament (a factor that the non-Christian Jewish point of view, which does not include the New Testament, does not take into consideration). So who was Melchizedek? Or more precisely, in terms of Who he foreshadowed, what (a function doesn't have parents, a birth or a death, but all people do) was Melchizedek?
Abram and Melchizedek
Melchizedek entered the Scriptural record after Abram, who God later renamed Abraham, rescued his nephew Lot (the incident makes plain that Abraham, along with everything else, was also a very skilled tactician and battlefield commander):
"When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his goods, and the women and the people."
"After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh, that is, the King's Valley."
"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything." (Genesis 14:14-20 RSV)
David Was Aware Of Melchizedek's Significance To The Messiah
Melchizedek is mentioned only once more in the Old Testament when King David refers to him, and the future earthly rule of the Messiah, in the Psalms:
"A Psalm of David"
"The Lord says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool." The Lord sends forth from Zion [see Who, What or Where Is Zion? and Daughter of Zion] your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning like dew your youth will come to you. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm 110:1-4 RSV)
Jesus Is The "High Priest For Ever"
It is in the New Testament that Melchizedek's significance is made clear:
"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [see Where Is Your Soul?], a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 6:19-20 RSV)
"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever."
"See how great he is! Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe of the spoils. And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brethren, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who has not their genealogy received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. Here tithes are received by mortal men; there, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him."
"Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood, for under it the people received the law, what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek."
"On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God."
"And it was not without an oath. Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'Thou art a priest for ever.'"
"This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant."
"The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but He holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues for ever. Consequently He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him [see The Way], since He always lives to make intercession for them."
"For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; He did this once for all when He offered up Himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever." (Hebrews 7:1-28 RSV)
Fact Finder: (a) What did Jesus Christ look like during His human lifetime? (b) What does Jesus Christ look like now?
(a) What Did Jesus Look Like? (b) What Does Jesus Look Like Now?