Who was ” Melchizedek ?”

Melchizedek is mentioned only three times in the Bible. Genesis 14:17-24, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7:1. Several views have surfaced as to who Melchizedek was, the image of the pre-incarnate Christ, an angelic being, or a person who typified Christ, or simply a Canaanite priest. The Bible Knowledge Commentary refers to Melchizedek as an angelic being in the order of priests as Jesus Christ being the supreme High Priest. The authors determine this through the words “he will remain a priest forever,” found in Hebrews 7:3. “The word “forever” translates a phrase (eis to diēnekes) that occurs only in Hebrews (here and in 10:12, 14) and means “continuously” or “uninterruptedly.”[1] There preferred translation may have read that Melchizedek was in an order where there was no end in priesthood.

The Matthew Henry Commentary offers a different opinion. “The most commonly received opinion is that Melchizedek was a Canaanitish prince, that reigned in Salem, and kept up the true religion there and Mr. Gregory of Oxford tells us that the Arabic Catena, which he builds much upon the authority of, gives this account of Melchizedek, that he was the son of Heraclim, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, and that his mother’s name was Salathiel, the daughter of Gomer, the son of Japheth, the son of Noah.”[2] There is very little to further deny or affirm any truth to this opinion.

Robert Jamieson, co-author of The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, suggests, “Melchizedek, who seems to have been one of the few native princes, if not the only one, who knew and worshipped, “the most-high God,” whom Abram served. This king who was a type of the Savior (Heb 7:1), came to bless God for the victory which had been won, and in the name of God to bless Abram, by whose arms it had been achieved—a pious acknowledgment which we should imitate on succeeding in any lawful enterprise.”[3]

In conclusion, to look at the different opinions and thoughts as to who Melchizedek was, it is always important to use scripture in context. “Since the role of angels is prominent in Hebrews (1:5–14), the author of Hebrews probably would have designated Melchizedek as an angel if he had been one. Hebrews 7:3 describes him as “like the Son of God,” a statement the author would not have made if Melchizedek were Jesus Christ in a pre-incarnate state. Melchizedek was simply a mortal man who in many ways resembled and prefigured the Son of God.”[4] To assume Melchizedek to be simply the Canaanite priest, even though there was something to suggest his family lineage, has no further proof anywhere in or out of the Bible. We can also conclude that Melchizedek was not Jesus pre-incarnate, because Jesus would not have come to rule an earthly kingdom. Which leads to a historical person who typified Jesus Christ. Melchizedek is similar with Jesus being they both are priests and kings. Furthermore, in the book of Genesis there are gaps in genealogy, so we should not assume he never had a mother, father, birth, and death and, the author of Hebrews may have never mentioned the fact of his non-beginnings, if it had been documented in the Old Testament. The significance to mentioning Melchizedek in the first place is because he is described as the first priest before God whose priesthood is unlearned and instinctive as Philo and Josephus suggests.[5]  There is also something to be noted in Genesis 14:17-20, as there is a contrast between one of God’s priest’s and the worldly king of Sodom whose city will soon be destroyed. Lastly, we should not assume that Abram is the only godly person in the land as there is proof of others, as shown in Melchizedek.

Bibliography

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible; Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Hodges, Zane C. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, In Hebrews. Vol. 2. Edited by J. F Walvoord, & R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL, 1985.

Jamieson, R, A. R Fausset, and D Brown. Commentary: Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, 1997.

Lea, Thomas D. Holmann New Testament Commentary; Hebrews, James. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1999.

Son, Kiwoong. Zion Symbolism in Hebrews; Hebrews 12:18-24 as a Hermeneutical Key to the Epistle. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2005.


[1] Zane C. Hodges, “Hebrews” In , in , vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 797-98.

[2] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Ge 14:17–20.

[3] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Ge 14:18.

[4] Thomas D. Lea, vol. 10, Hebrews, James, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 129.

[5] Kiwoong Son, Zion Symbolism in Hebrews: Hebrews 12:18-24 as a Hermeneutical Key to the Epistle (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2005), 154.

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