Hebrews: Who Was Melchizedek?
Adult Bible Class, May 8 & 11 - Hebrews 6:9 - 7
Christ has been described as “a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” See Hebrews 5:9-10 and 6:20. Who was this person, and what role did he serve in the Bible?
Melchizedek is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. His name also appears in the book of Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Mormon. What do we know about this man? His name means “king of righteousness.” Commentators have expressed many opinions of his identity:
- Shem, the Son of Adam (or a direct descendant)?
- Enoch (ancestor of Noah)?
- An Angel (perhaps Michael)? or
- Perhaps even a manifestation of Christ himself?
These are all interesting speculations, but the Bible does not reveal much detail about Melchizedek. What we know for sure is that he was unusual because he served as both a king (the King of Salem--later called Jerusalem) and as a priest of the Most High God.
Here are some things to think about:
In Abram’s day, semi-nomadic marauding tribes existed. These roving gangs would travel around terrorizing and plundering the more settled peoples. Just such a group entered Canaan and even kidnapped Lot (Abram’s nephew). Abram, along with a group of allies, went north and defeated the group of “kings;” we might call them warlords. On his return home, he was met by Melchizedek. His men were probably tired, hungry and eager to return to their homes.
We wonder if Melchizedek considered how he would be received by Abram, this victor who was returning from war with all his spoils. Melchizedek was also a king. Would he also be treated as an enemy of Abram? Should he laud him with praise, bow down before him, or plead for mercy and favor?
As “the high priest of the God Most High” (Genesis 14:18), Melchizedek thought it appropriate to bless Abram and give the glory of his victory to God. Then Abram received Melchizedek as a true servant of God and provided him with a tenth of all the booty he has gathered. This small incident gives us a glimpse of the character of Abram as well as Melchizedek.
Later biblical writers (in Psalms 110:4 and Hebrews 7:1-10) declare Melchizedek as a foreshadowing of the Messiah. Melchizedek was both a king and a priest, as was Christ (Zechariah 6:12-13). Both have no claim to the traditional priestly line of the Old Covenant, yet both are declared to be priests forever. Jesus is the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings who will reign forever. Amen!
We invite you to join us as we study Melchizedek and Christ's priesthood in further detail this coming week. Bring your Bible, your questions and your thoughts as we search the Scriptures together. Here are a few additional questions to guide your reading:
- How is "the anchor of the soul" (Hebrews 6:19) related to the "two unchangeable things" of God (Hebrews 6:18)?
- Does Hebrews 7:11-14 prove God's silence as permissive ("He doesn't say we can't, so we will") or restrictive ("He doesn't say we can, so we won't")? How can this principle be applied in other areas of God's revealed will in the Scriptures?
- How might Melchizedek have had the likeness of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:15-16)?