Tag Archives: hebrews 7

5.23.15–>”Who the Heck is Melchizedek? Hebrews 7:1-10″


Hebrews 7:1-10

For this Melchizedek, “king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was coming back after defeating the kings, and blessed him; and Abraham portioned out to him a tenth of everything.”

To begin with, if you translate Melchizedek’s name, it means “king of righteousness”; then he is also “king of Salem,” which means “king of peace.” No mention is made of his father or mother or genealogy, nor of the beginning or end of his earthly life. He is described in a similar way to the son of God; and he continues as a priest forever.

[Pictured is Melchizedek blessing Abraham]

For years I’ve wondered about this enigmatic priest whose narrative takes up just three verses out of the entire Old Testament (Genesis 14:18-20) and then gets a mention in just one other verse, Psalm 110:4. Yet he gets a whole chapter in the NT book of Hebrews devoted to him.

The author of Hebrews-let’s call him or her “Hauthor” from now on-makes a strong typological connection between Jesus and Melchizedek. (The word “typology” comes from the Greek term typos, which can mean “pattern, prefiguration, model, impression, foreshadowing.”) Hauthor has already shown that Jesus is superior to the Jewish tradition including Moses, the Sabbath, the Law, and even angels. Now he will show the priesthood of Jesus, foreshadowed by Melchizedek, as superior to Levitical priesthood which, like Ron Burgundy, was “kind of a big deal”.

So who was Melchizedek?

Melchizedek was a priest-king of the city Salem (which later became Jerusalem), who met Abraham as he returned from routing some invading kings. As the story goes in the OT narrative, four kings marched on a confederation of five other kings which were from Sodom, Gamorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela. The armies of these five were defeated in a valley called Siddim and their cities plundered. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was among the captives taken from Sodom. A servant who escaped the battle went and told Abraham this news. Abraham went all “crazy eyes” and pursued these captors to Dan, where he staged a night-time attack and took his nephew back. After his return home, both the king of Sodom and Melchizedek came to meet Abraham. Hauthor focuses on Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek, in which Abraham gave him a tenth of everything he took in the attack, and then received a blessing from him.

Hauthor points out that Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness,” alluding to the Hebrew words melek (which means “king) and seleq (which is commonly rendered “righteousness”). Further, he interprets “Salem” as coming from the root salom, meaning “peace” or “well-being.” Thus he is also “king of peace.” These concepts of righteousness and peace are appropriate for one who prefigures the One through whom will be the true approach to God, superseding priests in the line of Levi, as well as animal sacrifices.

Hauthor uses what was a common exegetical practice known as “argument from silence,” capitalizing on what is not mentioned in the text, namely a genealogy. Big-time figures had their ancestry listed in sacred texts, but there is nothing when it comes to Melchizedek. So Hauthor concludes the eternal quality of his priesthood and shows that it did not come through the line of Levi as all Jewish priests did. He doesn’t have the qualifications or the parameters given by the law of Moses concerning Levitical priesthood. Levitical priests died. This Melchizedekian priesthood goes on forever as Psalm 110:4 tells us: The LORD has taken an oath and will not break his vow: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

The other major point that’s made is Abraham giving a tenth of the spoils to this Melchizedek, meaning that he, Melchizedek, was greater than Abraham. Levi came through Abraham’s family tree (he was one of Abraham’s great-grandsons), so Melchizedek was way greater than Levi and all the priests who would come down through that blood line.

So la de frickin’ da, right? What’s the point?

Well, there are a couple of points to take in. We see how to view and interpret Scripture from the example of Hauthor’s exegesis*.  First off, we see he uses “verbal analogy”, meaning he lets Scripture interpret Scripture. We see this by his comparison of Genesis 14 with Psalm 110. This is a solid practice which has been going on for a long, long time.

Secondly, he interprets his Old Testament Christologically. This is huge for us as Christians. We believe that Jesus is the key that unlocks all of life and all of Scripture. Have you ever seen The Sixth Sense or The Book of Eli? The ending changes everything, and you have to rethink the whole movie to make sense of it. You want to immediately watch it again in light of your illuminating discovery. This is what Jesus did for Scripture. We believe it now comes together, making sense in ways the original authors may very well have had no knowledge of or even intention toward. Without Jesus, we read this OT account of Melchizedek and probably would just think, “Wow, that’s strange. Why is that in there?” Now we see.

For Christians, Christ is the ultimate point of reference for biblical truth, indeed all truth. He is the North Star by which we get our bearings. I’m not sure we always grasp how Christ transcends everything, and by everything this includes the entire OT. That can sound heretical to some, but seems obvious upon a close reading of NT writings.

Jesus is greater than any book written about Him. Even His own book.

*Critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture.

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria