Have you ever met someone you’ve never met before, but you swear you know them from somewhere? There is a mystery to them. There is an example of this in the Bible when Abraham met the king priest named Melchizedek (Gen.14:17ff). They had never met, but they did have in common a fear of God.
Melchizedek has been a mystery man throughout the centuries. Even Bible scholars are stumped because there isn’t a lot said about him. Some scholars say he was either an angel-man, Christophany, or simply a human.
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people —that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” – Hebrews 7:1-10
While no one is really sure who Melchizedek was we can conclude that he was a type. A type is an Old Testament person (or practice) that had a counterpart in the New Testament in Jesus Christ. Often times a type showed what the their counterpart would be like. Melchizedek is the OT example of what the NT Jesus would look like and he does “resemble the Son of God.” (v.3)
What is clear from Hebrews 7 is that while Jesus comes from the order of the priest-king Melchizedek, he is far superior. Below are a few ways Jesus is superior (vs.1-3):
It is interesting that the author of Hebrews doesn’t interpret the story of Melchizedek, but simply shows how Jesus is a priest in his order and that he is a far superior priest to any before him or after him. Through Melchizedek and the OT there is a shadow cast that Jesus brings light to. The entire OT points to Jesus.
Questions for Reflection:
- Who was Melchizedek?
- How are Jesus and Melchizedek similar? How are they different?
- How is Jesus superior to Melchizedek?
- Why is Melchizedek an important Bible character? Why is he important to understanding Jesus?
- What do you learn about Jesus’ uniqueness and his unique role from this biblical text?