MELCHISEDEC, KING OF SALEM
Hebrews 7:1-3 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; 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; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
The limited Old Testament information we have about the biblical character, Melchisedec, is found in Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4. In the New Testament a comparison of him is made to our High Priest, Jesus Christ, in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of this Hebrew letter. These references contain the entire biblical record concerning Melchisedec. We know that he was both the king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the most high God. We know that he met Abraham in the valley of Sheveh, gave him food and drink, blessed him as a servant of God, and received tithes of thanksgiving from him. From this we can infer that Abraham, after returning from the slaughter of the kings and rescuing Lot, his nephew, most certainly recognized Melchisedec as one of higher spiritual and civil authority that was ordained by God.
According to B. W. Johnson, the author of The People's New Testament, the existence of Melchisedec has been confirmed "from discoveries in Egyptian records, (the Tel-el-Amarna tablets that) existed even in those very early ages." However, with this introduction of Melchisedec, he simply disappeared with the same suddenness that he appeared on the sacred scene of biblical history. Some 900 to 1000 years later Melchisedec is referred to in a Psalm of King David. In David's inspired prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah, he wrote, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec (Psalm 110:4). This meant that the reign of Jesus was to be in a manner similar to that of Melchisedec - Christ would be both Priest and King and rule over the children of God with righteousness and peace.
Verses following the lesson text tell how, both Melchisedec and Jesus Christ were also alike in other ways. They were both greater than Abraham, and were greater than the priests of the Jewish nation that descended through the tribe of Levi. The children of Israel were required to pay tithes to the priesthood of Levi, the descendants of Abraham (Vs. 6). This established Abraham as being superior to the Levitical priesthood. Melchisedec, who was not a descendant of Abraham, or of the tribe of Levi, received tithes of Abraham. Therefore, Abraham considered Melchisedec to be spiritually superior. The Hebrew writer says of this, that without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better (See Vs. 6-7).
Like Melchisedec, Jesus did not descend from the priestly tribe of Israel. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood (Vs. 14). Also, as Melchisedec was superior to Abraham, so Jesus was also superior to him. Jesus confirms this when questioned by the Jewish leaders. They ask Him, Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? Jesus answered, ...Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am (See John 8:52-58).
Because so little is known of Melchisedec, our lesson text says that he had neither beginning of days, nor end of life. His parentage is unknown; his date of birth, length of life, and age at his death are also unknown. Due to this it is said that, like Jesus Christ, he abideth a priest continually. Although the complete life of Melchisedec is mere speculation, we are assured that Jesus has lived, and will live forever. Quoting Jesus, the apostle John wrote, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty (Rev. 1:8). Jesus, the very image of the invisible God, existed before all things (were created). And today, He is the Head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell (See Col. 1:15-19).
The mission of both Melchisedec and Jesus was to do the will of God. However, the comparison of Jesus to Melchisedec ends with eternal salvation. It was promised to Adam (Gen. 3:15), announced to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), revealed to the prophets (1 Pet. 1:10-12), seen in Christ's birth (Luke 1:69-79), was accomplished on the cross of Calvary (John 3:14-16), and is only available to those in the body of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10-12).