Priests of the Bible – 1. Melchizedek
As we begin our journey through the Bible in order to identify priests that did something significant, we begin with the first one who is mentioned, Melchizedek, who was a king as well as a priest. He was the only priest of a different order to all the others, an important distinction as we will see.
Other than the three verses in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek comes on the scene and soon disappears, it might be easy upon first reading to conclude there is not much more to say about Melchizedek other than what we read. Interestingly, he combined being a priest of the Most High God with that of King of Salem (Jerusalem). He met Abraham after the war fought between the four kings and the five. Following being blessed, Abraham gave him a tenth of all he had. There is a lot more to Melchizedek, who is mentioned later in the Bible as a person of significance.
The chapter in which Melchizedek appears in person, the one and only time in the Bible, is much about Abraham (then named Abram) rescuing his nephew Lot, a casualty in that war. In the verses before and after Melchizedek was mentioned we read of the King of Sodom, who had benefitted from Abraham’s timely intervention, offering him a reward, which Abraham flatly refused. From the exchanges that took place we sense his contempt for the King of Sodom.
It was in stark contrast to his deference to Melchizedek, who had, if this account is all we go by, given him simply bread and wine (reminds me of the words often spoken by my Brethren mentors at the Lord’s Supper, back in the day) and “blessed Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth”.
Many see Melchizedek as a type of Christ, or even Christ himself, given the words of Psalm 110, which can be taken as a prophesy, when David looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, who is to gloriously reign. If it wasn’t for this, and the connection made in the Book of Hebrews, which we will get to, it is unlikely most would give Melchizedek a second thought. What is remarkable is that David made a connection that I doubt, humanly speaking, anyone would have seen, but for the fact he did so as inspired by the Holy Spirit and, as with all recorded prophecies, it was for a good reason.
But clearly this mystery man of the Bible, the one it is said who had no father or mother or beginning or end of days, who enters and leaves the stage ever so quickly that proverbially you would miss it if you blinked, is of great significance because of the huge respect Abraham gave to Melchizedek, evidenced by Abraham giving him a tenth of all that he had. The story illustrated that worship of the one true and living God was happening even before Abraham, through the godly line of Seth and later Shem, before given instructions to found a great nation (Israel) to be God’s special possession.
The theme of Melchizedek was picked up in the New Testament (Hebrews 5, 6 and 7). We are reminded that we (who follow Christ) have a great High Priest (who is perfect and eternal, unlike the Aaronic priesthood that began under Moses), who is of the order of Melchizedek. He ever intercedes for us and we can approach the Father God at any time through Him and, because of his priestly office, he pleads for us before His Father. This is a thrilling prospect and huge privilege, making the Genesis 14 story so significant since Melchizedek was a type of and forerunner to Jesus, who combines the offices of prophet, priest and king, the eternal Son of God.
As a final thought, the name Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness” and he was king of Jerusalem, which means “City of Peace”. Our Jesus who is the embodiment of righteousness and peace is an everlasting priest of the Order of Melchizedek.