Few persons in the Bible are shrouded in more mystery than Melchizedek, king of Salem. After the battle against the five kings in Genesis 14:17, Melchizedek stepped into the narrative as if out of nowhere . . . then vanished again. We know nothing of his ancestry, his family, or his exploits. All we know is that he was the ruler of nearby Salem—the city that would one day be called “Jerusalem”—and that he was called “priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18). When Melchizedek met Abram after his victory, the king came with bread and wine in his hands and a blessing on his lips.
Centuries later, after the coming of Christ, the author of Hebrews looked at the account of Melchizedek and drew a number of analogies between him and the ultimate High Priest and King of Jerusalem, Jesus. The book of Hebrews doesn’t say that Melchizedek was literally the Son of God making a cameo appearance. Rather, the author drew parallels between the two figures, suggesting that what Melchizedek was literarily, Jesus Christ is literally. The cue for this parallelism came from Psalm 110:4, in which the Davidic Messiah was called “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Consider these analogies from Hebrews 7:1–3 that teach us about our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.
Melchizedek was . . .
Jesus Christ is . . .
|A priest outside the Levitical priesthood, therefore not a minister of the Law of Moses, which came much later
||The ultimate priest outside the Levitical priesthood, therefore not a minister of the Law of Moses, which He fulfilled
|A “king of righteousness” according to a translation of his name
||The “king of righteousness” because He purchased righteousness for us on the cross
|A “king of peace,” as Salem means “peace”
||The Prince of Peace, who will one day bring a kingdom of universal peace
|Without a record of parents, having neither his beginning nor end recorded in Scripture
||The eternal Son of God, having neither beginning nor end, eternally one with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God the Son
Though not obvious to Abram at the time, the mysterious priesthood of Melchizedek pointed forward to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, who ministers grace and mercy to us based on His own sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 7:11–28).
Michael J. Svigel received his master of theology in New Testament and doctor of philosophy in Theological Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). He currently serves as associate professor of Theological Studies at DTS, teaching Theology and Church History. Prior to accepting his position at the seminary in 2007, he worked as a writer in the Creative Ministries Department at Insight for Living Ministries. Mike and his wife, Stephanie, are parents of three children.
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