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A Mystery Solved

The Identity of Melchizedek

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We have already seen that Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man. His willing sacrifice for our sins uniquely qualified Him for this crucial role. Yet the preexistent Word also prefigured this sacred office during the time of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham.

He did so in the person of Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God. The book of Genesis only briefly mentions this mysterious person. But King David, and especially the New Testament book of Hebrews, does not miss His deep significance.

To understand Melchizedek’s identity, we must let the Bible interpret the Bible. Our breadth of understanding is augmented enormously when we join these three accounts together and consider them as a whole.

First let’s look at the Genesis account. After rescuing his nephew Lot from military capture, Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, encountered Melchizedek. “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he [Abram] gave him a tithe of all” (Genesis 14:18-20 Genesis 14:18-20 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 And blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
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).

It is interesting to note that Melchizedek greeted Abraham with bread and wine, later to become the symbols of Jesus Christ’s Passover sacrifice of His body and blood. Also, Melchizedek addressed God as “Possessor of heaven and earth.” Around 2,000 years later, Jesus addressed the Father as “Lord of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 110, one of David’s psalms, is one of the most theologically significant. As pointed out in an earlier chapter of this booklet, it features both the Father and the Word in the opening verse: “The Lord said to my [David’s] Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand …’” It is Christ who now resides at the Father’s right hand (Hebrews 8:1 Hebrews 8:1Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
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; Hebrews 10:12 Hebrews 10:12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
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; Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
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).

Keeping the general context of Psalms 110:1 Psalms 110:1The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.
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in mind, notice Psalms 110:4 Psalms 110:4The LORD has sworn, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
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: “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” This is the same Lord who spoke to David’s Lord (the preexistent Word) in Psalms 110:1 Psalms 110:1The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.
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, still speaking to the same Being. This certainly helps to indicate the identity of this mysterious Old Testament personage. Yet it is the book of Hebrews that gives us the strongest evidence.

Hebrews’ commentary on Melchizedek

So important is this basic subject that one entire New Testament chapter is devoted to explaining the significance of just three verses in the book of Genesis. The topic is introduced in the last verse of Hebrews 6. The writer points out that Jesus has become “High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek,” as King David foretold so long ago in Psalm 110.

Then in Hebrews 7, the author goes on to consider the amazing attributes and qualities of God’s high priest of old. “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, … first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ … remains a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:1-3 Hebrews 7:1-3 1 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; 2 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; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like to the Son of God; stays a priest continually.
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Consider that Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness.” It would essentially be blasphemy to apply this title to any human being because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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). Only a divine Being would appropriately bear this awesome title.

Says The New Bible Commentary: Revised: “Note that Scripture pictures him [Melchizedek] as one who is a king as well as a priest . The combination of these two offices was to be a distinguishing characteristic of the Messiah” (1970, p. 1203, emphasis in original).

Melchizedek’s next awesome title is “King of Peace.” Of course, fallible human beings simply do not know the way to peace (Romans 3:10 Romans 3:10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
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, Romans 3:17 Romans 3:17And the way of peace have they not known:
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), and to apply such a title to any man would, again, be virtually blasphemous. Jesus Christ Himself is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 9:6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
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“Like the Son of God”

The equation between these two great personages becomes clearer as we read on in Hebrews 7. Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:3Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like to the Son of God; stays a priest continually.
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describes Melchizedek as being “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, [and one who] remains a priest continually.” His priesthood never ceased! The only priest who could possibly have fit these qualifications was the preexistent Word, the great Being who was on hand before the very creation itself (John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
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).

The description “without father, without mother” means far more than just the supposition that Melchizedek’s family connections were simply omitted from the Genesis account. He had no physical human parents! In context, the phrase “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” makes that point crystal clear.

Finally, the phrase “made like the Son of God” (“bearing the likeness of the Son of God,” REB) is further strong evidence of Melchizedek’s identity. He was “like” the Son of God because He was not yet, in actuality, the Son of God—that is, until He was later begotten by God the Father through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Melchizedek couldn’t have been the Father because he was the “priest of the Most High God.” He could only have been the eternal, preexistent Word who later became Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

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