Recently I was asked about connecting the priesthood of Jesus with “the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:11). After reading through a few commentaries I found a collection of descriptions pertaining to Melchizedek. I believe the most important things to note concerning the connection of Jesus’ priesthood and Melchizedek’s are:
1. Both are priests and servants of God (Jesus is the Great High Priest, Hebrews 4:14)
2. Melchizedek gave bread and wine (Jesus gave His body and blood, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
3. Melchizedek bless Abram (Jesus blesses His children, John 17:20-26)
4. Abram payed tithes to Melchizedek (we pay our tithes unto God, Malachi 3:8-10)
5. Melchizedek priestly order was not Levitical (nor was Jesus’ He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Revelations 5:5)
6. Melchizedek was the king of Salem, Salem in Hebrew means peace (Jesus is the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6)
7. Melchizedek’s priesthood is forever (Jesus’ priesthood and rule is forever, Hebrews 7:24-27)
Some scholars believe Melchizedek to be a Christophany (an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament). However, this is not really important nor is it exactly clear. It is more important to see the similarities between the two and how Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the present rule of Jesus Christ.
Chuck Smith’s Commentary:
“The king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is in the king’s dale. And Melchizedek the king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of El Elyown, or the God, the most high (Gen 14:17-18).
Or the most high God.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of the heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And Abraham gave him tithes of all (Gen 14:19-20).
So briefly we are introduced to this interesting mystical person Melchizedek of whom the scriptures speak very little. It tells us nothing of Melchizedek’s parentage, nothing of his mother and father, tells us nothing of his genealogy. All that it tells us is that he was a servant or a priest actually of the most high God. He came up to Abraham with what? Bread and wine which are the symbols of communion. And he gave these unto Abram and then he blessed Abram.
Now the lesser is always blessed by the greater. Therefore, in blessing Abram it puts him a level above Abram. And Abram giving tithes of all that he had to him, again it was signifying of the lesser paying the tithes to the greater, to the servant or the priest of the most high God. So Abram received the blessing, recognized the man as the priest of the most high God, gave tithes of all of the spoils that he had taken unto him. Nothing more is said of Melchizedek until we get to the 110th Psalm. And suddenly out of nothing that seems to relate to the rest of the 110th Psalm, we read the words, “I have sworn, and will not repent, I have made thee a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4).
Now Abraham’s son Isaac had a son Jacob who had twelve sons, one of Jacob’s sons was Levi, and when the law was established, Levi was the tribe that was to become the priestly tribe. And so they were called the order of Levi or the Levitical order of priesthood, order referring to the family. Now here is an order of priesthood that precedes the Levitical order and is superior to the Levitical order in that Levi, in essence, when Abram paid tithes; great, great grandfather of Levi, Levi in essence was paying tithes unto Melchizedek.
So it puts the order of priesthood of Melchizedek in a superior order to the Levitical order. And God has sworn and will not repent; I have made thee a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. That Psalm had to remain a mystery as did Melchizedek himself until we come to the book of Hebrews when the mystery begins to unravel.
For the author of the book of Hebrews when he begins to point out the fact that Jesus, though He is from the tribe of Judah of which the scriptures have nothing to say concerning the priesthood, but even though He is of the tribe of Judah, He is of the order of priesthood of Melchizedek, the superior order of priesthood. Thus, He can be the great high priest of those who will come unto God through Him.
Now Melchizedek was called the king of righteousness as well as the king of peace. King of peace is Salem, which is the early name for Jerusalem. So he was one of the first kings of Jerusalem. But he was also called the king of righteousness. Now it is interesting when he refers to Christ who is of the order of Melchizedek and he talks about Christ making intercession for us as our great high priest. “Wherefore we have a great high priest, even Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1). Again the repetition of that word the righteous, king of righteousness. We have a great high priest, Jesus Christ the righteous One literally, who has entered into heaven for us.
Now you see how the word of God is so beautifully tied together. Here is just a little snatch in Genesis. By itself we don’t understand it very much. If that was all that was said, Melchizedek would be just lost in history as a mystical character. We know very little about him.
And then when David comes along in Psalm 110 and said, “I sworn and will not repent, I made thee a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”, you think, What in the world is David talking about? Psalm doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense until it’s all put together in Hebrews and we realize that Jesus is our great high priest. He’s not of the tribe of Levi, true, for He had to be the lion of the tribe of Judah to fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah. But He is also the priest, but not after the Levitical order, after the order of Melchizedek who has neither mother nor father or genealogy.
Now there are many Bible scholars who believe that Melchizedek was none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Very possible. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day and saw it. They said, What do you mean Abraham saw you? You’re not fifty years old” (John 8:56,57). So Jesus could have been referring to this particular incident.”
Matthew Henry’s Commentary:
“This paragraph begins with the mention of the respect which the king of Sodom paid to Abram at his return from the slaughter of the kings; but, before a particular account is given of this, the story of Melchizedek is briefly related, concerning whom observe,
I. Who he was. He was king of Salem and priest of the most high God; and other glorious things are said of him, Heb. 7:1, etc. 1. The rabbin, and most of our rabbinical writers, conclude that Melchizedek was Shem the son of Noah, who was king and priest to those that descended from him, according to the patriarchal model. But this is not at all probable; for why should his name be changed? And how came he to settle in Canaan? 2. Many Christian writers have thought that this was an appearance of the Son of God himself, our Lord Jesus, known to Abram, at this time, by this name, as afterwards, Hagar called him by another name, ch. 16:13. He appeared to him as a righteous king, owning a righteous cause, and giving peace. It is difficult to imagine that any mere man should be said to be without father, without mother, and without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, Heb. 7:3. It is witnessed of Melchizedek that he liveth, and that he abideth a priest continually (v. 3, 8); nay (v. 13, 14), the apostle makes him of whom these things are spoken to be our Lord who sprang out of Judah. It is likewise difficult to think that any mere man should, at this time, be greater than Abram in the things of God, that Christ should be a priest after the order of any mere man, and that any human priesthood should so far excel that of Aaron as it is certain that Melchizedek’s did. 3. The most commonly received opinion is that Melchizedek was a Canaanitish prince, that reigned in Salem, and kept up the true religion there; but, if so, why his name should occur here only in all the story of Abram, and why Abram should have altars of his own and not attend the altars of his neighbour Melchizedek who was greater than he, seem unaccountable. Mr. Gregory of Oxford tells us that the Arabic Catena, which he builds much upon the authority of, gives this account of Melchizedek, That he was the son of Heraclim, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, and that his mother’s name was Salathiel, the daughter of Gomer, the son of Japheth, the son of Noah.
II. What he did. 1. He brought forth bread and wine, for the refreshment of Abram and his soldiers, and in congratulation of their victory. This he did as a king, teaching us to do good and to communicate, and to be given to hospitality, according to our ability; and representing the spiritual provisions of strength and comfort which Christ has laid up for us in the covenant of grace for our refreshment, when we are wearied with our spiritual conflicts. 2. As priest of the most high God, he blessed Abram, which we may suppose a greater refreshment to Abram than his bread and wine were. Thus God, having raised up his Son Jesus, has sent him to bless us, as one having authority; and those whom he blesses are blessed indeed. Christ went to heaven when he was blessing his disciples (Lu. 24:51); for this is what he ever lives to do.
III. What he said, v. 19, 20. Two things were said by him:-1. He blessed Abram from God: Blessed be Abram, blessed of the most high God, v. 19. Observe the titles he here gives to God, which are very glorious. (1.) The most high God, which bespeaks his absolute perfections in himself and his sovereign dominion over all the creatures; he is King of kings. Note, It will greatly help both our faith and our reverence in prayer to eye God as the most high God, and to call him so. (2.) Possessor of heaven and earth, that is, rightful owner, and sovereign Lord, of all the creatures, because he made them. This bespeaks him a great God, and greatly to be praised (Ps. 24:1), and those a happy people who have an interest in his favour and love. 2. He blessed God for Abram (v. 20): and blessed be the most high God. Note, (1.) In all our prayers, we must praise God, and join hallelujahs with all our hosannahs. These are the spiritual sacrifices we must offer up daily, and upon particular occasions. (2.) God, as the most high God, must have the glory of all our victories, Ex. 17:15; 1 Sa. 7:10, 12; Jdg. 5:1, 2; 2 Chr. 20:21. In them he shows himself higher than our enemies (Ex. 18:11), and higher than we; for without him we could do nothing. (3.) We ought to give thanks for others’ mercies as for our own, triumphing with those that triumph. (4.) Jesus Christ, our great high priest, is the Mediator both of our prayers and praises, and not only offers up ours, but his own for us. See Lu. 10:21.
IV. What was done to him: Abram gave him tithes of all, that is, of the spoils, Heb. 7:4. This may be looked upon, 1. As a gratuity presented to Melchizedek, by way of return for his tokens of respect. Note, Those that receive kindness should show kindness. Gratitude is one of nature’s laws. 2. As an offering vowed and dedicated to the most high God, and therefore put into the hands of Melchizedek his priest. Note, (1.) When we have received some signal mercy from God, it is very fit that we should express our thankfulness by some special act of pious charity. God must always have his dues out of our substance, especially when, by any particular providence, he has either preserved or increased it to us. (2.) That the tenth of our increase is a very fit proportion to be set apart for the honour of God and the service of his sanctuary. (3.) That Jesus Christ, our great Melchizedek, is to have homage done him, and to be humbly acknowledged by every one of us as our king and priest; and not only the tithe of all, but all we have, must be surrendered and given up to him.”