Saturday, 10 November 2018
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, Hebrews 7:1
Melchizedek was reintroduced into the narrative in the last verse of Chapter 6 (the previous verse), but as we saw from the content of Chapter 6, he never really left the author’s mind. Everything stated there was to lead the audience to a better understanding of the role of Christ, and how Melchizedek actually prefigured Him, His roles, and His position. Here, the author begins with “For.” That is based on the words that Jesus has “become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Those words are derived from David’s statement about him in Psalm 110:4. Now, he will begin to explain his logic concerning that statement. But first, he will explain several points about him from the information provided in Genesis 14. Here is everything that is provided about Melchizedek from Genesis 14 –
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:
‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’
And he gave him a tithe of all.” Genesis 14:18-20
The obvious question is, “If this is all that is recorded about Melchizedek, then where did David come up with the words of Psalm 110:4 which say –
The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.’”
The author will explain this as he progresses, but first, he provides the known background information, beginning with, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God.” The words here begin a sentence which will continue through verse 3. The first and most striking point about what is noted here is that Melchizedek is both a king and a priest. This was something not seen under the Old Covenant. In fact, it was strictly forbidden for a king to perform any priestly functions. The offices were kept wholly separate and distinct. At one time, King Uzziah attempted to perform a priestly function with disastrous results. That is recorded in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21.
However, the Old Covenant looked forward to a time when the two offices would meet in one person. That is seen in Zechariah 6:9-15, but which is highlighted by the statement that “the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (6:13) when speaking of a “priest on His throne.” As this was forbidden under the Old Covenant, it shows that this coming King/Priest would not rule and mediate under the Old Covenant. Rather, a New Covenant would be established. Melchizedek is said to be first, “king of Salem.” The name Salem is said to be the place of Melchizedek’s kingship. That is known to be a shortened form of Jerusalem. This is explicitly stated in Psalm 76 –
“In Judah God is known;
His name is great in Israel.
2 In Salem also is His tabernacle,
And His dwelling place in Zion.” Psalm 76:1, 2
He is also said to be “priest of the Most High God.” This was the first specific reference to being a priest in the Old Testament. Being a priest of “Most High God” is an obvious reference to the One true God. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood, a valid priesthood before God, actually precedes that of the Aaronic priesthood just as Abraham’s faith-based righteousness preceded the giving of the law (see Galatians 3, particularly verses 15-18). This does not yet explain David’s conclusion that the coming Christ’s priestly ministry would be according to the same order as that of Melchizedek, which is an eternal priesthood, but it does show us that the priesthood of Melchizedek, and that of Christ, are both separate and distinct from that of the priesthood of Aaron, which was under the Law of Moses.
The author next continues to refer to the Genesis narrative with, “who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings.” Abraham has just gone through a great struggle against forces who had captured His relative Lot. He pursued after them and defeated them, retrieving Lot and all that had been taken as plunder. It was after this great battle that Melchizedek met with Abraham “and blessed him.”
The importance of these final three words will be explained in the verses ahead. For now, only the background information is provided. As a side note, there are countless – and seemingly endless – commentaries on who this Melchizedek was. Some state he was Shem, the son of Noah, while others claim he was this person or that. Those commentaries are both pointless and a waste of time. The Bible does not comment on them, nor are they of any concern for the student of the Bible. They are unnecessary diversions from the simplicity of what is recorded in Scripture, and they thus detract from the marvelous logic which is drawn out from the few words recorded about him. Sticking to the Bible, and what is drawn out by David and the author of Hebrews, is what is important concerning this otherwise enigmatic figure.
Life application: There are all kinds of things which are added to the pool of knowledge concerning the Bible. There are historical commentaries such as those of Flavius Josephus. There are false writings such as the Book of Enoch. There are the analyses of Jewish and Christian theologians which date back millennia. One must be careful to use extra-biblical information only when it complements what the Bible says. Even then, commentators need to be sure to explain that what they are stating is not actually a part of the Bible. Mixing in extra-biblical commentaries as if they are on the same level of authority as Scripture will inevitably lead to unsound theology.
Lord, help us to see our value as you see it. If You were willing to come and unite with human flesh in order to restore us to the Father, then certainly we have great value in Your sight. However, we often don’t feel this way about ourselves, so help us in our insecurities and failings to know that because of Christ, we are accepted in Your eyes. To Your glory we pray this. Amen.