Who was Melchizedek?

Question
Who was or is Melchizedek, and what was his standing with respect to God?
Answer
Melchizedek was an Old Testament priest of God in the days of Abraham (Gen. 14:18), hundreds of years before the institution of the Levitical priesthood. We don't know much about him, except what we learn in Genesis 14 and the comments on that chapter that we find in Hebrews 7.

Hebrews 7:2 notes that  "Melchizedek" means "king of righteousness" and that "Salem," the land over which he was king, means "peace." Some have wrongly taken these names as an indication that Melchizedek was divine, but this is not a reasonable conclusion based on his name or his title. Also, because Melchizedek had neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb. 7:3), some have thought that Melchizedek was not human, taking these phrases to mean that he was not born and that he did not die. On this basis, some have concluded that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. This speculation, however, is not supported by the text of Genesis; there Melchizedek is merely a man, though a good one. And in Hebrews 7:3, the idea that days were unlimited refers to a detail of the Levitical priesthood that did not apply to Melchizedek, namely that Levites served only between the ages of twenty-five and fifty (Num. 8:24-25). Their lives as priests began when they were twenty-five, and their days of service ended when they were fifty. These restrictions did not apply to Melchizedek because he was not a Levite. He is said to be without father, without mother, without genealogy, simply because the Scripture does not record his parentage, not because he didn't have parents.

In Hebrews 5:5-10; 6:20; 7:11ff., we learn that Jesus is the foretold priest forever of the order of Melchizedek?of Psalm 110:4. This does not imply that Melchizedek was also a priest forever in the same manner that Jesus is. Jesus holds his priesthood forever because he never dies; Melchizedek was a man and as such died, but the order of his priesthood is forever insofar as Christ is of his order and lives/serves forever.

In summary, Melchizedek was a true priest of God in the days of Abraham. That Christ is of Melchizedek's order shows great honor to Melchizedek, implying that he must have been a very good priest whom God was pleased to have in his service.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.