King of righteousness, king of Salem, and also priest of the most high God, in which capacity he blessed Abraham, and received tithes at his hand, Ge 14:18-20. Scripture tells us nothing of his father or mother, of his genealogy, his birth, or his death; he stands alone, without predecessor or successor, a royal priest by the appointment of God; and thus he was a type of Jesus Christ, who is "a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek," and not after the order of Aaron, whose origin, consecration, life, and death, are known, Ps 110:4; Heb 7. See GENEALOGY.
It has been a matter of great inquiry among commentators, who Melchizedek really was. He has been variously supposed to be the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, an angel, Enoch and Shem. But the safest and most probable opinion is that which considers Melchizedek as a righteous and peaceful king, a worshiper and priest of the most high God, in the land of Caanan; a friend of Abraham, and of a rank elevated above him. This opinion, indeed, lies upon the very face of the sacred record in Ge 14; Heb 7, and it is the only one that can be defeated on any tolerable grounds of interpretation. See SALEM.
king of righteousness, the king of Salem (q.v.). All we know of him is recorded in Ge 14:18-20. He is subsequently mentioned only once in the Old Testament, in Ps 110:4. The typical significance of his history is set forth in detail in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 7. The apostle there points out the superiority of his priesthood to that of Aaron in these several respects, (1) Even Abraham paid him tithes; (2) he blessed Abraham; (3) he is the type of a Priest who lives for ever; (4) Levi, yet unborn, paid him tithes in the person of Abraham; (5) the permanence of his priesthood in Christ implied the abrogation of the Levitical system; (6) he was made priest not without an oath; and (7) his priesthood can neither be transmitted nor interrupted by death: "this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood."
The question as to 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 Canaanitish prince, a worshipper of the true God, and in his peculiar history and character an instructive type of our Lord, the great High Priest (Heb 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 dignity given to Melchizedek in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
("king of righteousness".) King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the most high God (Elion; used by Balaam, Nu 24:16. The Phoenicians so named their chief god according to Sanchoniathon in Enseb. Praep. Event., doubtless from primitive revelation. After the slaughter of Chedorlaomer Melchizedek met Abram in the valley of Shaveh (level), the king's dale (Ge 14:17-20; 2Sa 18:18), namely, the valley of the upper Kedron, where Absalom long afterward reared a pillar; adjoining Jerusalem. Salem was the oldest, the poetic name (Ps 76:2), Jebus was the next name, and Jerusalem is the most recent name. This favors the view that Siddim, Sodom, and Gomorrah were to the S. of the Dead Sea. Abram in returning from Dan to Hebron would naturally take the route by Jerusalem (Thomson, Land and Book, 2:31). Adonizedek ("lord of righteousness") corresponds; being also the name of a king of Jerusalem (Jos 10:1).
Brought forth bread and wine (1Sa 25:18), hospitably to refresh Abram's weary band (which, though not referred to in Hebrew, reminds us of the Lord's supper), probably after sacrificing animals the first fruits of the spoil (as Philo, de Abr., asserts, epinikia ethnee); as indeed Heb 8:3 proves, for the "blessing" and "tithing," which alone are recorded, are not enough to constitute priesthood. Abram "the friend of God" recognized him (probably having received some divine intimation) at once as his spiritual superior, and this in a day when every patriarch was the priest of his family. Melchizedek disappears as suddenly as he came. Almost a thousand years elapse before the next notice of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4.) "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou (Messiah) art a priest forever after the order (i.e. 'the similitude' Heb 7:15, the office) of Melchizedek": i.e.
(I) Combining the kingship with the priesthood (Zec 6:9-15, especially Zec 6:13). David cannot be the king priest; he could bring wrath on, but not effect an atonement for, his people (2Sa 24:17). Uzziah, heir of his throne, incurred leprosy by usurping the priesthood (2Ch 26:16-21). The divine (Heb 7:20) oath accompanying this priesthood, but not the Aaronic, shows its unparalleled excellency. David died, and the Aaronic priests could not continue by reason of death (Heb 7:8). The Aaronic priesthood was "made after the law of a carnal commandment," but the Melchizedek priesthood "after the power of an endless life," as is declared a thousand years later than the psalm (Heb 7:1-3,15-16,28). Melchizedek was probably of Semitic stock, for Shemites were in Palestine before the immigration of the Canaanites (Hamites). By the time that Abram arrived "the Canaanite was then (already) in the land" (Ge 12:6).
(II) Melchizedek is introduced "without father, without, mother, without descent" being recorded, whereas this was an essential in the Aaronic priesthood (see Ezr 2:62-63; Ex 29:9,29-30; Le 21:13-14). This is a second peculiarity of Messiah's priesthood, that it is not derived from another before Him, and "passeth not to another" after Him (Heb 7:24 margin). The "without father," etc., refers to Melchizedek officially not naturally. Melchizedek was without father, etc., i.e. sacerdotally he was independent of his descent, unlike the Aaronic priests, who forfeited the priesthood if they could not trace their descent (see Ne 7:64-65). Melchizedek had no fixed beginning or end of his king priesthood, such as the Levitical priests, who began at 30 and ended at 50 years of age. Christ as man had "father, mother, beginning of days and end of life, and descent" genealogically traced (Heb 7:3).
Melchizedek therefore cannot have been absolutely without these; but officially he was without them, even as the antitypical priest Messiah was officially and sacerdotally without them. Messiah was not of Levi, but of Judah, so did not receive His priesthood by inheritance. He did not transmit it to any successor; nay, the term hiereus (Latin: sacerdos) is never applied to apostle, presbyter, deacon, or any Christian minister in the New Testament Aaron's "end" is recorded, Melchizedek's not. With Melchizedek the king priesthood in Canaan ceased; but Melchizedek's priesthood lasts forever in the Antitype, who is from everlasting to everlasting, and to whom Melchizedek was "made like," for the archetype of Messiah's priesthood existed in the divine mind from everlasting before Melchizedek. Doubtless Melchizedek had father and mother by birth, but as king priest had no predecessor nor successor.
(III) The Aaronic priesthood was local, temporary, and national; the Melchizedek priesthood was prior to the Levitical temporary law, and so world-wide and everlasting. The Aaronic high priest claimed no authority over other nations. Melchizedek was priest not only to his own city Salem, but is recognized as such by Abram the representative of God's church and people; and the king of Sodom tacitly acquiesces in this claim to an universal priesthood. This is the significance of the title, priest of "the Possessor of heaven and earth." Melchizedek is the first and the last who by God's appointment, and in God's name, exercised the priesthood for Shemite and Hamite alike, the forerunner of gospel universality which joins under Christ all of every race (Ga 3:28; Col 3:11; Ro 10:12).
(IV) Melchizedek was superior to Abram, in that he Blessed and received tithes from him (the giver's token of acknowledgment that all his property is God's), and so was superior to Levi and the Aaronic priesthood which were in Abram's loins. So Messiah is infinitely above the Antonio priests.
(V) Melchizedek as king of "righteousness" (tsedeq) and of "peace" (salem) was "made like unto the Son of God," Messiah, who is both in the highest sense (Isa 9:6); the peace He brings is "the fruit of righteousness" (Isa 32:17; Jer 23:6). As Balaam was a true prophet among the heathen, so Melchizedek was the king priest among them; but at Melchizedek's time the nations had not so far apostatized from the primitive faith as subsequently.
Melchizedek is the first designated koheen, "priest." God Himself called him to the office, according to Heb 5:1-4; Ps 110:4. As priest, Melchizedek authoritatively mediating between God and man first" blessed Abram" on the part "of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth," who would make Abram heir of the world which is His; next "he blessed the most high God" on the part of Abram for His having delivered his enemies into his hand. Reciprocal blessing, happy exchange; God making over His gift of the world to Abram, and Abram giving to God all the glory of his victory an earnest of his final universal possession (1Co 3:22; Ro 4:13).
Described as king of Salem and priest of God Most High ('El 'Ely
(king of righteousness), king of Salem and priest of the most high God, who met Abram in the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's valley, bought out bread and wine, blessed him, and received tithes from him.
The other places in which Melchizedek is mentioned are
where Messiah is described as a priest forever, "after the order of Melchizedek," and
... where these two passages of the Old Testament are quoted, and the typical relation of Melchizedek to our Lord is stated at great length. There is something surprising and mysterious in the first appearance of Melchizedek, and in the subsequent reference to him. Bearing a title which Jews in after ages would recognize as designating their own sovereign, bearing gifts which recall to Christians the Lord's Supper, this Canaanite crosses for a moment the path of Abram, and is unhesitatingly recognized as a person of higher spiritual rank than the friend of God. Disappearing as suddenly as he came, he is lost to the sacred writings for a thousand years. Jewish tradition pronounces Melchizedek to be a survivor of the deluge, the patriarch Shem. The way in which he is mentioned in Genesis would rather lead to the inference that Melchizedek was of one blood with the children of Ham, among whom he lived, chief (like the king od Sodom) of a settled Canaanitish tribe. The "order of Melchizedek," in
is explained to mean "manner" = likeness in official dignity = a king and priest. The relation between Melchizedek and Christ as type and antitype is made in the Epistle to the Hebrews to consist in the following particulars: Each was a priest, (1) not of the Levitical tribe; (2) superior to Abraham; (3) whose beginning and end are unknown; (4) who is not only a priest, but also a king of righteousness and peace. A fruitful source of discussion has been found in the site of Salem. [SALEM]
MELCHIZEDEK. When Abram returned from the slaughter of the Assyrians, in his way to Hebron, he was met at Shaveh, or King's Dale, afterward the valley of Jehoshaphat, between Jerusalem and Mount Olivet, by Melchizedek, king of Salem, the most ancient quarter of Jerusalem, a priest of the most high God, who gave him bread and wine, and blessed him in the name of the "most high God, Creator of heaven and earth;" to whom Abram in return piously gave tithes, or the tenth part of all the spoils as an offering to God, Heb 7:2. This Canaanitish prince was early considered as a type of Christ in the Jewish church: "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek," Ps 110:4. He resembled Christ in the following particulars:
1. In his name, Melchizedek, "King of Righteousness;" 2. In his city, Salem, "Peace;" 3. In his offices of king and priest of the most high God; and 4. In the omission of the names of his parents and genealogy, the time of his birth and length of his life, exhibiting an indefinite reign and priesthood, according to the Apostle's exposition, Heb 7:5.
The import of this is, that he came not to his office by right of primogeniture, (which implies a genealogy,) or by the way of succession, but was raised up and immediately called of God to it. In that respect Christ is said to be a priest after his "order." Then, again, that he had no successor, nor could have; for there was no law to constitute an order of succession, so that he was a priest only upon an extraordinary call. In this respect our Lord's priesthood answers to his, because it is wholly in himself, who has no successor. An infinite number of absurd opinions have been at different times held respecting this mystic personage, as that he was Shem, or Ham; or, among those who think he was more than human, that he was the Holy Ghost, or the Son of God himself; absurdities which are too obsolete to need refutation.