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  • Writer's pictureTrey Talley

Who was, or is, Melchizedek?

Updated: Mar 25

If you were asked to name some of the most influential people in the Old Testament, you might think of Adam, Noah, Joseph, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David, etc., but for most people, the name Melchizedek would come to mind. However, the author of Hebrews uses much ink to express just how important Melchizedek is for us to understand the priestly role of Jesus Christ. So, who is Melchizedek?

Well, for starters, his name is only mentioned two times in the entirety of the Old Testament. And even though the author of Hebrews reveals that Melchizedek is even more crucial than even Father Abraham, we know almost nothing about him. Melchizedek shows up out of nowhere, is recorded as saying only one sentence, and then he is gone.

Many believe that Melchizedek was just a good man who lived in the time of Abraham who had a lot of great Christlike qualities. However, I think that there is more to Melchizedek. I believe that there is sufficient evidence to show that Melchizedek was not a man but a Christophany. This is a term used when the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, makes an appearance before His incarnation.[1]

Before we begin, I highly recommend that you read Genesis 14:17-20; Psalms 110; Hebrews 5:5-11, Hebrews 6:19-7:1-28.

11 Points Proving that Melchizedek was a Christophany

1. His name. As the author of Hebrews emphasizes, it literally means King of Righteousness and King of Peace. This type of language is extremely lofty, and in fact, Isaiah uses Isaiah to describe One that will be both King of Righteousness and King of Peace when he told the coming Messiah.[2]

2. He is both King and Priest. God appointed who was to be king and who was to be a priest. These two roles were separate except in the person of Melchizedek and Jesus Christ. King Saul once overstepped his position as king and performed duties only allowed by God for priests. How did God respond? God removed him as king.[3] For another example, King Uzziah similarly acted also as a priest, and God punished him with a lifetime of leprosy.[4] So for Melchizedek to be both a king and a priest puts him in a unique category with Jesus Christ, making this one more reason to think of Melchizedek as a Christophany.

3. His appearance and disappearance. Nothing is known of Melchizedek, yet he was not only a king but the priest of the one true God. If God had established another earthly kingdom with this righteous king and had a people represented to God by this priest, then it would seem that there would be more information recorded about these people who had Priest and King of the One true God. Instead, like other Christophanies of the Old Testament, He appears and then disappears. There is no history of Melchizedek existing before he appeared to Abraham or after he appeared to Abraham.

4. His lack of ancestry. The book of Genesis is packed with genealogies. Yet, nothing is known about Melchizedek. "He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever."[5] The point appears to show more than just a resemblance to the eternality of the Son of God, but Melchizedek was the eternal Son of God.

5. He resembled the son of God. Some theologians try to downplay this description because of the word "resembling," was used instead of something more definitive like "was the son of God," however, if anything, we see that the word "like" is a sufficient reason to believe that Melchizedek was more than just a man because we also see language like this used in Daniel when he describes Jesus, "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one likea son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him."[6] It could easily be said that in both cases, something more is implied. As we know, Daniel is describing the one who is man and God, Jesus Christ. It seems that the author of Hebrews is describing one that is also both God and yet is appearing like a man.

6. He has a never-ending priesthood. The whole point that the author is making with Melchizedek is that his priesthood continues forever. The only other time that we read the name Melchizedek mentioned in the Old Testament is Psalm 110, "The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."[7] It would seem highly doubtful that God would place Jesus' priesthood under a mere man who existed in Abraham's day. Since the priestly role belongs not to God the Father, nor God the Holy Spirit, but to the Son, I believe that the Psalmist's point is to show that the Messiah's Priesthood because He is never ending.

7. He was superior to Abraham. What other person would possibly be considered more important than the man who received the promise of God that through his offspring would come the Messiah? Think about it. Surely there could be no contemporary of Abraham that would be more important than that. The only one superior to Abraham would have to be the one who is to be Abraham's offspring: a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.

8. He preceded and superseded the Levitical priesthood. God alone appointed Aaron to begin the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood. However, the priesthood of Melchizedek was shown to be in existence hundreds of years before and continues forever. However, the Levitical Priesthood had a beginning date and an ending date. Once Jesus had become the incarnated perfect priest. He took the perfect sacrifice (Himself) into the perfect temple (heaven), thus ending any need for the Levitical Priesthood to continue.

9. He is immortal. This point appears to be made because the same individual who appears in Genesis 14 is mentioned over 500 years later as being a never-ending priest. Also, by the author of Hebrews writing, men give their offerings to the Levitical priests who are mortal, but Abraham gave his offerings to One who was not. "In the one case, tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives." Who alone is immortal? None, but God. Also, consider this statement regarding Melchizedek and Christ: "This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,' You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."[8] The author of Hebrews uses Psalm 110 to show that Jesus' Priesthood is forever and tied directly to Melchizedek.

10. He serves bread and wine. "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)"[9] While it could be just happenstance. It certainly does not seem to be so to me. Where else do we learn of someone serving these two things? Yes, Jesus serves bread and wine to His disciples on the evening of the Passover Feast. This is where Jesus changes a God ordered an annual feast that had gone on for over 1000 years to show that He is the lamb of God that is about to be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins.[10] Even now, when we take of the Lord's Supper, we do so to commemorate the New Covenant, the forgiveness of sins, and the fact that we will dine again with Him in heaven one day.

11. His priesthood is not instituted by the Old Covenant Law. The Law and the Levitical Priesthood were given to the Israelites as part of the Old Covenant.[11] However, Melchizedek's priesthood and ability to bless others on God's behalf existed long before the covenant with Israel was ever made. This means that Melchizedek's priesthood existed before the Law the Levites and the Old Covenant, which means that it will continue after the Law, the Levites, and the Old Covenant. The author makes this point in Hebrews in chapter seven when he writes, "Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the Law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the Law as well."[12]

Not only do we have these 11 points that point to Melchizedek as a Christophany, but we also have multiple weak points of saying that he was only human. Such as: (1.) Where did he come from? (2.) Where did he go? (3.) If he was a God's king of righteousness, king of peace, and priest, then where were the people he represented to God? (4.) The whole bible is built upon God's special revelation of Himself to the lineage of Abraham. But if Melchizedek was a priest beforehand of a people, then it sure seems that God would have given us more information about them.

In summary, whether you believe that Melchizedek was just a good man or a Christophany is not salvific, and Christians have continued to hold fellowship with one another even when there is a disagreement about Melchizedek's nature. My point in writing this article is that I believe that the passages about Melchizedek in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 5-7 make a lot more sense when we see Melchizedek as a pre-incarnate appearance of Son of God.

Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder

[1] Other possible Christophanies to explore: Genesis 16:7-13, 22:15-18, 31:11-13; Exodus 3:13:21, 14:19; Judges 6:11-23, 13:9-20, etc.

[2] Hebrews 9:6-7

[3] 1 Samuel 13:8-14

[4] 2 Chronicles 26:16-21

[5] Hebrews 7:3

[6] Daniel 7:13

[7] See Psalm 110:1-4

[8] Hebrews 7:15-16

[9] Genesis 14:18

[10] Luke 22:20

[11] Exodus 20-24

[12] Hebrews 7:11-12. See also Romans 8:3-4; Matthew 5:17-18; Galatians 3:19-26

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