All we know of him is recorded in Genesis 14:18-20.
He is subsequently mentioned only once in the Old Testament, in Psalms 110:4.
The typical significance of his history is set forth in detail in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in Hebrews 7:1-28.
The apostle there points out the superiority of his priesthood to that of Aaron in these respects:
- Even Abraham paid him tithes.
- He blessed Abraham.
- He is the type of a priest who lives forever.
- Levi, yet unborn, paid him tithes in the person of Abraham.
- The permanence of his priesthood in Christ implied the Levitical system.
- He was made priest not without an oath.
- His priesthood can neither be transmitted nor interrupted by death: “This man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.”
The question as to just who this mysterious personage was has given rise to a great deal of modern speculation.
It is an old tradition among the Jews that he was Shem, the son of Noah, who may have survived to this time.
Melchizedek was a Canaanite prince, a worshipper of the true God, and in his peculiar history and character, an instructive type of our Lord, the great High Priest (Hebrews 5:6,7; 6:20).
One of the Amarna tablets is from Ebed-Tob, king of Jerusalem, the successor of Melchizedek, in which he claims the very attributes and dignities given to Melchizedek in the Epistle to the Hebrews.