Melchizedek, Melchisedek

MELCHIZEDEK, MELCHISEDEK (mĕl-kĭz'ĕ-dĕk, Heb. malkî-tsedhek, king of righteousness). A priest and king of Salem, a city identified with Jerusalem. The reference in Gen.14.18-Gen.14.20 is the first mention of Salem in the OT.

Melchizedek went out to meet Abram after his return from the slaughter of Kedorlaomer and the kings who were with him in the Valley of Siddim. He presented Abram with bread and wine and blessed him in the name of “God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” Abram gave him “a tenth of everything.” The Hebrew word for God in this instance is the same as in such phrases as “God Almighty” (Gen.17.1), “the Eternal God” (Gen.21.33), and “God of Bethel” (Gen.35.7) and is the oldest Semitic designation for God. Melchizedek was thus a monotheist and worshiped essentially the same God as Abram, who recognized him as a priest.

He appears next in Ps.110.4: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” This psalm is of special interest because Jesus referred to it (Matt.22.41-Matt.22.42; Mark.12.35-Mark.12.36; Luke.20.41-Luke.20.42), and it is regarded as one of the messianic psalms. The ideal ruler of the Hebrew nation would be one who combined in his person the role of both priest and king.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews uses Melchizedek (Heb.5.1-Heb.5.14-Heb.7.1-Heb.7.28) in his great argument showing Jesus Christ as the final and perfect revelation of God because in his person he is Son and in his work he is Priest (Heb.1.2-Heb.10.18). The author cites Ps.110.4, indicating that Jesus’ priesthood is of a different order from the Levitical: it is “in the order of Melchizedek.”

The author of Hebrews, looking back on the history of his people, comes to the conclusion that the Levitical priesthood proved to be a failure. It was incapable of securing victory over sin and full communion with God.

And so the author cites Ps.110.1-Ps.110.7. The ideal priest must belong to “the order of Melchizedek.” To the author, Christ was the fulfillment of this prophecy, for he came out of Judah, a tribe with no connection to the Levitical priesthood. While the claims of the old priesthood were based on genealogy, Christ’s were displayed in his power of an endless life. The claim of Jesus to be the real fulfillment of the psalmist’s prophecy rested on the fact of his resurrection and the proof it gave that his life was indestructible. The psalmist had declared that the ideal high priest would be forever—and only one whose life could not be destroyed by death could be said to answer to the psalmist’s ideal, a priest “in the order of Melchizedek.”——JGJ