Melchizedek enters the Biblical stage in Genesis 14:18. Abram has just saved his nephew Lot from peril and captivity. In Genesis 14:18-20a we read:
“Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High.
He pronounced this blessing: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High for putting your enemies into your clutches.”
His succinct introduction tells us a few things about Melchizedek:
- His name means righteous king (melchi-tzedek).
- He is the king of Salem (Shalem in Hebrew; remember that Shalom means peace).
- He is a priest of God Most High.
- He blesses Abram yet he also places the correct emphasis on God.
In the New Testament Melchizedek is referred to in Hebrews, which is the letter that asserts Jesus Christ to be the eschatological high priest. Hebrews 5 quotes Psalm 110 that refers to the Lord: “you are a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 7:3 says of Melchizedek “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.”
Unlike Abraham or Jesus, we don’t know where Melchizedek came from- we don’t know who his parents are, let alone his genealogy. Therefore as a priest of God Most High he resembles a Son of God- eternal, divine. Translations use the word ‘like’ or ‘resemble’; they never claim that Melchizedek actually is divine.
Jesus as high priest is the Son of God, yet he also has a genealogy- we know that He is human. Jesus is both human and the divine Son of God.
— Eric Wolf
I have always wondered about the references of Melchizedek to Jesus, without much information in Genesis about him. I’m glad to now have read Hebrews 7 to clarify these references. It makes me realize, if I have read correctly, that Jesus had no human ancestors who were of the line of Levi, priests. This strengthens the connection Abraham had with people and nations outside the jurisdiction of the Law, thus including them, as Paul I believe emphasized, into the hope of Salvation. Aside from the obvious, Jesus must have been quite impressive in his every day life to commonly read from scripture in each Temple he visited. I would think this to be reserved for the priests. If Hebrews 7 is an example of the rest of the book, it must be a wealth of knowledge to explain who the person of Jesus is. I’ll have to read it in more depth to find the theology that this book emphasizes. Thank you Eric for this gem of information.
Good insight, Elaine. The author of Hebrews is saying that Jesus is indeed a high priest even without priestly lineage; Melchizedek is a ‘type’ or a spiritual forerunner pointing to Jesus as eternal high priest, offering for us to the Father. And yes, Hebrews is rich in understanding and explication of just who Jesus is. Great Lenten reading!