Who was Melchizedek and why does it matter?

Regular readers of the Bible are confronted with an enigma every time they reach Hebrews chapter five. An enigma is a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand (Microsoft Word LookUp). In the literal sense of the word, we are introduced to a character named, Melchisedec who is somehow associated with Jesus Christ. Here is the text I am speaking about.

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 5:5, 6

Who was this character in history? What is his connection with Jesus Christ? Does he have anything to do with us today? Otherwise, why does it even matter? Let’s take this through step-by-step, beginning with Hebrews 5:5, 6.

Who was Melchisedec?

Melchisedec was the founder of a priesthood.

Notice the phrase, The order of Melchisedec. The author of Hebrews refers to this order six times in his epistle (5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11,17, 21).

This priesthood is connected to Christ through a prophecy.

The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110:4

So, this means that Christ is a priest in the order of Melchisedec, not the order of Aaron. Jesus was born in the tribe of Judah, not Levi. Aaron’s priesthood was established as part of the Law. It’s ability was limited as it could not eliminate sin; it could only cover it temporarily.

The high priest in their order are ordained for men in things pertaining to God.

The context (Heb 5:1-5) informs us that a high priest offers both gifts and sacrifices for sins. The high priest serves from a position of compassion for those not following God. He offers gifts for himself as well as others because he too is a sinner. To serve as a high priest, you must have a divine calling.

Christ was called to serve as the high priest in the order of Melchesidec.

Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 5:10

Jesus entered past the veil of heaven in the position of high priest.

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 6:20

The founder of Christ’s order was a king.

Hebrews 7:1 identifies the founder as the historic Melchizedek. (Notice the difference in spelling between the Old and New Testaments and transparency of the original texts preserved in English). Melchizedek was a priest of the most high God. This distinguishes him from his contemporaries. It is a universal title for God’s dealing of all nations, the Head of Creation. The priest-king offers sacrifices to God as the Creator.

Melchizedek is the one who met Abraham after a military victory. He met Abraham with bread and wine, the same symbols used by Jesus. He blessed Abraham with the authority of a high priest.

For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him. Hebrews 7:1

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. Genesis 14:18

Melchisedec was most likely the priestly function of Shem, son of Noah!

Melchisedec was the King of righteousness first – a high priest. He was next the King of Salem– a king of a place: perhaps a city, Jerusalem? He was the King of peace. These titles all belong to Jesus who, like Melchisedec, was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of lie; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

Shem’s father is named: Noah. Jesus’ mother is named: Mary. In the human sense, there is a beginning and an end. Jesus’ life was lost on the cross. For this reason, Melchisedec cannot be Christ in the flesh.

Melchizedek could not be the Angel of the Lord because he received homage when the Angel cannot.

And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the Lord. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the Lord. Judges 13:16

 Abideth a priest continually, in the context of the priestly order could mean there is no genealogy in the priesthood. In other words, you don’t have to be born to the predecessor, as Arron’s descendants were automatically made high priests in the Aaronic priesthood.

The Melchizedekian priesthood having no genealogy is the best answer to satisfy the enigma of Melchisedec being a man (Heb 7:4). The only man that could be greater than Abraham in blessing, who was blessed as the father of God’s nations, is Shem himself.

And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. Genesis 9:26

The Genesis genealogies reveal Shem was alive in Abraham’s lifetime.

  • From Genesis 5 we learn Noah was born 1056 After Adam (A.A.) just 126 years after Adam’s death. That means Noah’s father was a contemporary of Adam!
  • From Genesis 6 we learn the Great Flood took place when Noah was 600 (1656 A.A.).
  • From Genesis 11 we learn Shem’s son was born 2 years after the flood and lived another 500 years (2158 A.A.).
  • From Genesis 11 we learn Abraham was born around 1948 A.A.
  • From Genesis 25 we learn Abraham lived to be 175 (2123 A.A.)

Shem lived ca. 1558 – 2158 A.A. and Abraham ca. 1948 – 2123 A.A. Shem was alive when Abraham was born and outlived Abraham, dying 35 years later.

Why does it matter who Melchizedek was?

It preserves the doctrine of imputation.

And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. Hebrews 7:10

Abraham payed his tithes to God through Melchisedec. The Hebrew’s author points out that so too did Abraham’s descendants, the Levites. Abraham’s paying of tithes was imputed to his descendants just like Adam’s sin was imputed to his descendants. Imputation is the attributing to your account, whether good or bad. The doctrine of original sin is the understanding how Adam and Eve’s sin and resulting judgement is attributed to their descendants.

They being the root of mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by original generation. Westminster Confession, 6.3

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Romans 5:12

It teaches justification by the faith of Christ.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Romans 4:8

Jesus, as the high priest, after of the order of Melchisedec, atoned for the sin of His descendants. Who are his descendants? Jesus said:

For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:50

The Levites paid tithes through Abraham. We are held accountable for Adam’s sin. Anyone who does God’s will becomes Christ’s descendants.

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. Galatians 3:22

Jesus Christ, as high priest after the order of Melchisedec, offered Himself as an imputed sacrifice. Perfection (Heb 7:11) was obtained for all who put their faith and trust in Christ’s work (Heb. 7:15) at Calvary and subsequent resurrection. The perseverance of saints is possible only through the vicarious sacrifice of the High Priest from Heaven who took up the role after the order of Melchisedec (Heb 7:17).

Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. Hebrews 7:27

It teaches sanctification of saints.

The eternal nature of Christ’s priesthood (Heb 7:21) enables eternal sanctification of saints. Sancitification is the setting apart as if one is holy. The holiness of Jesus is imputed to believers through His bodily sacrifice. As this sacrifice needed to be offered only once, all His descendants are eternally secured for life after our body dies.

By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10

As a child of Adam, you have imputed death. Have you accepted Jesus Christ’s work at Calvary to receive imputed life? If so, what are you doing with that life in service to God?

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9

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