This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness"; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. (verses 1-3)
What a mysterious character is Melchizedek. Yet the author uses him here to help us better understand Jesus.
Melchizedek is mysterious simply because the Old Testament scriptures give us so very little information about him. The only history we get comes in three short verses (Genesis 14:18-20), together with one further brief reference in Psalm 110:4. So, the author of Hebrews takes the silences of scripture and uses them to build linkages between Melchizedek and Jesus.
“Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” It’s not that the historical Melchizedek had no human origins, nor any beginning, nor any ending. Rather, it’s simply that the scripture doesn’t speak of them. So, the author uses him as an illustration in advance of Jesus himself. For Jesus did not have a beginning that was initiated by any earthly father and mother – rather he was from all eternity. Although he has a genealogy that traces through the line of David, yet his true origins are untraceably outside history. Although he was born into this world at Bethlehem, yet “in the beginning” he was already there (John 1:1-2). Although he died on the cross, yet he is living still, without end. So, Melchizedek provides a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But don’t think that Melchizedek is the greater being and that Jesus is simply like him. No. The author tells us not that Jesus is like Melchizedek, but rather that Melchizedek is “like the Son of God” – the sparsity of his history provides a shadowy picture, in advance, of the even greater reality of Jesus himself.
And if Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness,” and his position as “’king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace,’” then we have further parallels with our great Lord Jesus. For Jesus is the altogether righteous one through whom we receive a righteousness not our own, “that comes from the law, but (rather) that which is through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9). And Jesus himself is “Prince of Peace,” who “preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:17-18).
So, Melchizedek provides a foreshadowing of our great Saviour. But further, Melchizedek’s life makes it clear that there is a possibility of true priesthood outside the regular Jewish lines which ran through Abraham’s descendant Levi, and Levi’s descendant Aaron, and then the descendants that have followed ever since. For Melchizedek is said to be “priest of God Most High” long before Levi was even born. Indeed, Abraham, Levi’s great-grandfather, paid tribute to Melchizedek and was blessed by him, indicating Melchizedek’s superiority. All of which makes a huge difference for the Jewish audience to whom our author is writing, for Jesus himself, not of the line of Levi or Aaron, “has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:20, 5:6).
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess” (Hebrews 4:14).
Yes, indeed. Melchizedek provides the picture. Jesus is without beginning, without end, and is a priest forever. But Jesus, as Son of God, is greater yet. Oh, so much. We hold in faith to him. Eyes on Jesus. Praise his name.
Lord Jesus, I honour you as the altogether Righteous One. I receive you as my Prince of Peace. I lean into you as my great High Priest. I worship you as the eternal Son of God. Praise your name.
Worship: Take some time of quiet to simply worship the Lord Jesus. Righteous One. Prince of Peace. Great High Priest. Son of God. Altogether worthy.