In this study, we will be looking into Melchizedek: The Mysterious One and try to ascertain who this individual might be. His attributes are quite impressive, to say the least, and his origin and city are elusive to the casual reader.
We will not be covering every passage regarding Melchizedek in this study – as I purposed to have this article be as concise as possible – as, truly, the subject matter is great. But we will dissect many pertinent passages to help us in our quest.
I encourage the reader, after the completion of this study, to read Hebrews 5, 6, and 7 for themselves in order to get a clearer picture the author of Hebrews is painting for us regarding Melchizedek, the Priesthood of Messiah Jesus, and the Levitical priesthood.
Melchizedek and Abram (Abraham)
We are introduced to the mysterious Melchizedek in Genesis when Abraham rescued his nephew Lot in the battle of the kings (Genesis 14:1-17).
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all” (Genesis 14:18-20).
The very first description of Melchizedek is that he was “king of Salem,” and he “brought forth bread and wine” to Abraham after Abraham delivered Lot, his family, and the people (Genesis 14:16).
Salem and Jerusalem
The Hebrew word for “Salem” is 8004 שָׁלֵם “Shalem” and is defined as peaceful, and an early name for Jerusalem (City of Peace). The problem with this definition is that nowhere in Scripture or written history has this city ever been called Salem or Shalem.
Before King David conquered Jerusalem and named it such, Jerusalem was inhabited by the Jebusites and known as Jebus. There is no indication that Melchizedek was king of Jebus (or whatever name this area may have been known) in the midst of the pagan Canaanites/Jebusites who would have lived there at this time. Jebus of the Jebusites and Jerusalem of the Israelites – with a portion of Jerusalem known as The City of David – are the only two names the city of Jerusalem has ever been known by according to the Bible.
Josephus made this claim:
“It was David, therefore, who first cast the Jebusites out of Jerusalem, and called it by his own name, The City of David: for under our forefather Abraham it was called [Salem, or] Solyma;  but after that time, some say that Homer mentions it by that name of Solyma, [for he named the temple Solyma, according to the Hebrew language, which denotes security].”
Josephus is acknowledging – by the phrase “under our forefather Abraham” – that because of the incident with Melchizedek and Abram recorded in Genesis, they assumed that Salem must have been the ancient name of Jerusalem in Abraham’s day, but there is no indication that this was ever the case. Again, Melchizedek would never be king of the pagan Jebusites or any other Canaanites who would have lived there at this time.
In fact, the only place where we see the city of Salem mentioned is in our text above and in Psalm 76.
“In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:1-2).
Thus, verse two could literally read: “In peace also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion.” This, obviously, will be fulfilled when Messiah Yeshua reigns as King in Jerusalem in a world of peace that emanates from the Prince of Peace in the city of peace – Jerusalem. And this will ultimately be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem in the Eternal Kingdom.
All of this is not to say that one can’t allude to Jerusalem as Salem – and this may actually be the case in Psalm 76, though throughout her extensive history she has never experienced any lasting peace – but that the city where Jerusalem resides today was never known as simply ‘Salem.’
So, when it comes to Melchizedek and his kingship of Salem, we must recognize that this isn’t regarding what would someday be the city known as Jerusalem – although it most certainly should be considered a picture of the Holy City and her future with Messiah Jesus – but simply that Melchizedek was “king of Peace.”
What About Moriah, Abraham, and Isaac?
In Genesis 22, we read about God’s asking Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. While the exact location of where this act took place is debatable – possible sites include where the Temple was built, the Mount of Olives, or where Christ was crucified – the general consensus is that it is located in the mountains of Jerusalem.
What would this say about the possibility that the city of Jerusalem at that time was uninhabited? I seriously doubt it. The descendants of Ham, which included the Jebusites and the rest of the Canaanite tribes, inhabited the promised land long before Abraham arrived on the scene.
Abraham seemed to have relative peace and security with most of the native Canaanites in the promised land, most assuredly because of God’s hand of protection. So even as there must have been at least a minimal Canaanite presence in the ancient city of Jebus/Jerusalem, there obviously wasn’t any contention with the inhabitants when Abraham and Isaac ascended one of the hills of Moriah.
Melchizedek’s Gift and Words of Comfort to Abram
Another item of extreme significance is that Melchizedek brought to Abram “bread and wine,” which should remind the faithful of the broken body and blood of Christ, as instituted at the Passover meal, and what Messiah did for each and every person with His perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Lastly, Melchizedek blessed Abram with the following words: “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand” (Psalm 110:1-4).
David’s majestic Messianic Psalm 110 is cited often in the New Testament; in fact, Christ used verse one against the Pharisees to show that the Son of David was not only David’s Son in lineage but the Messiah of God, David’s Lord (Matthew 22:41-45).
In this beautiful Psalm, we read:
“The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:1-4).
The Messiah would be “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Hebrew word for “order” is 1700 דִּבְרָה “dibrah” and means a cause, reason, manner, end, estate, order, regard.
Melchizedek in the Book of Hebrews
“So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:5-6).
Quoting from Psalm 110, the writer of Hebrews also declares that Messiah Yeshua is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
The Greek word for “order” is 5010 τάξις “taxis” and means regular arrangement, i.e. (in time) fixed succession (of rank or character), official dignity — order.
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:8-10).
The writer of Hebrews goes on to reiterate that Messiah Yeshua was “called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 6:18-20).
Here, a third time, the same claim is made that “Jesus [was] made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
When it comes Messiah Yeshua being made in and after the order of Melchizedek – and, in comparison to the Aaronic priesthood – we must ponder the significance of these statements and the overarching message of Hebrews 5, 6, and 7. That is: Why is Yeshua equated with Melchizedek and both of their Priesthoods being made much higher than the Aaronic priesthood? Wasn’t Melchizedek a man just like Aaron and his descendants?
For, if Melchizedek was a mortal man, it would make no logical sense that his priesthood would be any more perfect than the Aaronic priesthood, because both lines would have been comprised of men with a sin nature – men in need of a savior, which, of course, Messiah Jesus is that Savior.
Therefore, if Melchizedek was a mortal man, his priesthood would have been found just as guilty before the law of God as the Aaronic priesthood – mortal men destined for physical death because of their sin natures – and could never obtain an association with our High Priest, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God.
Thus, there has to be a correlation between Messiah – the Son of God – and Melchizedek that transcends humanity and the curse.
A theophany is a manifestation of God, often referred to in the Tanakh (Old Testament) as “the angel of the Lord” (but not always) or in human form. One example of a theophany of God in angelic form is found when Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:11-18), and the most obvious manifestation of God in human form was when God came to Abraham just before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:1-33).
Many would call these theophanies Christophanies because it seems apparent that the Son of God – who would one day be manifested as man to pay for the sins of the world – is the member of the Godhead that partook of these theophanies in the Tanakh.
Most Bible students and teachers recognize that the Father was manifested through the Son when He was on earth:
“Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:8-10).
Identifying Melchizedek in the Book of Hebrews
With this in mind, let us consider the passage that helps us identify who Melchizedek may very well have been:
“For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually“ (Hebrews 7:1-3). (emphasis mine)
When we consider Melchizedek, King of Salem or King of Peace, King of Righteousness, and “Priest of the most high God,” we see an individual that sounds suspiciously like our Savior! He also is “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God.”
If the phrase “made like unto the Son of God” is conveying the idea that Melchizedek was essentially the Son of God manifested in human form, then we have our answer. But if this phrase is saying that Melchizedek was “made like unto the Son of God,” yet was not the Son of God, then we have only one option available to us.
This description, for me, can be none other than the Holy Spirit in human form. Angels are ruled out because they could not be described as “having neither beginning of days,” as they are created beings.
When we consider the work of the Holy Spirit, we can see priest-like qualities. The Holy Spirit reproves men of sin and judgment (John 16:7-11); the Holy Spirit points men to the Son of God for salvation (John 16:13-15); the Holy Spirit guides and leads men in righteousness (Galatians 5:22-23); and the Holy Spirit makes intercession for the prayers of men (Romans 8:26-27).
[Note: There are some who believe that all theophanies are actually the Holy Spirit in human or angelic form, and not the Son of God. I don’t entirely dismiss this possibility; though, other than in the possible case of Melchizedek, I really do see Christophanies. One thing is for sure: these theophanies are God in human and/or angelic form – whether the Son or the Holy Spirit, or both at different times, only God knows for certain.]
“Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoil.” (Hebrews 7:4). (emphasis mine)
The reason we wanted to include this verse in this study is because it was necessary to point out to the reader that “man” in this translation is not in the original Greek. The Greek word for “this man” is 3778 οὗτος “houtos” and means these, they, this, he, it.
A proper translation of this phrase would actually be, “Now consider how great this one was…,” which some translations do. Other translations that don’t add “man” – which isn’t in the original Greek – are “personage,” “he,” and the proper name “Melchizedek.”
Had the author of Hebrews wanted his readers to understand that Melchizedek was a human being, he would have used the Greek word 444 ἄνθρωπος “anthrópos” (Jesus called Himself “the son of anthrópos,”) or 435 ἀνήρ “anér” for a man (“…Jesus of Nazareth, a anér approved of God…” (Acts 2:22).
Therefore, the author of Hebrews makes every effort not to equate Melchizedek with a man. In fact, Melchizedek is never mentioned specifically as a man in any of the passages that reference him in both the Old and New Testaments.
“And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 7:15-17).
Here we see that Messiah Jesus is “after the similitude of Melchizedek,” which goes rather well with the definitions of “order” – in both the Hebrew and the Greek – that we looked at above.
The Greek word for “similitude” is 3665 ὁμοιότης “homoiotés” and means likeness, resemblance, similitude. Therefore, when combined with the Hebrew and Greek definitions of “order,” we can cumulatively define the link between Messiah and Melchizedek as a cause, reason, manner, end, estate, order, regard, regular arrangement, i.e. (in time) fixed succession (of rank or character), official dignity – order, likeness, resemblance, and similitude.
Note: There are those who, down through history, have wanted to co-opt the “order of Melchizedek” for themselves. Just because an earthy cult may claim in their writings that they are in the “order of Melchizedek” or have a “Melchizedekian priesthood” (i.e., Mormons et al.) doesn’t make it so. In fact, only of the Messiah, the Son of God, could it be said that He would be after the order of Melchizedek. In my humble opinion, any man or man-made religious entity that tries to designate the “order of Melchizedek” to themselves is in serious error and playing with fire.
I believe that we have shown that there is a connection between Melchizedek and Messiah Yeshua that is not only unbroken but is limited between the two without any other links involved. That is, when it comes to Messiah and the order – or similitude – of Melchizedek, there are no others involved. There is a unity of purpose between the two, and the two only.
The greatest reason for this unique unity between Melchizedek and Messiah is that they both appear to be members of the triune Godhead: The Holy Spirit and the Son of God. The information provided to us in Scripture seems to indicate that Melchizedek was a theophany of the Holy Spirit (though a Christophany is remotely possible). The characteristics of Melchizedek are very clear and without dispute – He can be nothing less than God in human form!
Praise ye the Lord!
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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