Q: #15. Who was Melchizedek?
A: Melchizedek was a person who is mentioned in four places in the Bible: (Gen 14:18-20)(Ps 110:4)(Heb 5:6-10)(Heb 6:20-7:28). There are many THEORIES as to who he was such as: a theophany (or Old Testament appearance) of Jesus, a person named Shem, an angel, or he was simply a man who was an actual king/priest. I hold the latter position, so I will explain who I believe Melchizedek was based on that point of view.
I believe Melchizedek was a picture or “type” of Christ. His title was the King of Salem (Gen 14:18), which is what Jerusalem was called prior to being called Jerusalem (Ps 76:2).
**Jerusalem was also called Jebus (Judg 19:10-11)(1 Chr 11:4). Apparently, Melchizedek worshipped the God of the Jewish people even though he was not a Jew himself. Whoever he was, Abraham saw fit to honor and respect Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of all he has gotten in battle (Gen 14:18-20). Giving a tenth was a forerunner to what was later made a requirement by God, tithing a tenth of income to the Lord’s work.
The Melchizedek priesthood was set up by God for a VERY important reason. We know that the tribe of Levi (the Levites) was later designated by God to serve as priests. No person, including the High Priest, could serve as a priest unless they descended from the tribe of Levi. The High Priest was a picture of Jesus, who is now our High Priest forever (Heb 7:24-25). However, Jesus descended from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi. How then could He be a priest? He was a priest through the order of Melchizedek. This priesthood was created by God to endure forever (Ps 110:4), just as Jesus endures forever. The Levitical priesthood was imperfect, not meant to endure, and associated with the Old Covenant, which was later replaced by the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus.
I would also like to quickly explain what I believe (Heb 7:3) means when it says Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.” Many people use this to say Melchizedek must have been Christ. However, I believe this is referring to his PRIESTHOOD, and not his lineage. As stated above, no person could serve as a priest unless they were descended from the tribe of Levi. Genealogy has always been important to the Jewish people, and this is why we see lineage listed so often in the Bible. The ancestral record gave the Jews a clear beginning. Why didn’t Melchizedek have a “beginning of days, nor end of life?” Because he didn’t become a priest by his lineage, but instead, he was appointed to be a priest specifically by God Himself. In addition, the Melchizedek priesthood has no “end of life” because Jesus is now our High Priest forever through the order of Melchizedek.