Was Melchizedek Messiah?

[Formerly called The Gospel Herald Volume 1- Issue 2 - FEBRUARY 1997 (updated January 2010) Topic of the month : Melchizedek Messiah? by Ken Hoeck]

Was Melchizedek the same personage as the one who died for our sins ? Was he Christ ? Many of today's churches of God think that he was. The Essenes ( a sect from antiquity) believed that Melchizedek was the arch-angel Michael and that Michael was the Messiah ; a position much like today's Jehovah's Witnesses. Hebrew tradition suggests that he was Noah's oldest son ,Shem , who had become at that time the worlds oldest living man. What does your bible say of this man to whom Abraham gave a tithe of all ? Just who was this Priest-King ?

This article is not meant to offend but to clarify and allow the reader some food for thought. We do think it is a matter open to one’s own conscience. Not all matters are black and white but there is some gray areas were the spirit works with one’s conscience ... but this should not lead to any doubtful disputations. Nobody is going to change how they live or observe things if they believe one way or the other in this particular matter. Who Melchizedek was is not a matter of your salvation but we are to "prove all things".

There are certainly extra biblical helps that could point to the suggestion that some believe that Melchizedek was of supernatural origin. 2Enoch (non biblical text) says Noah’s brother had a wife who died then gave a birth posthumously without having a sex act (virgin birth typology). This was Melchizedek whom Michael takes to heaven until after the flood then sets him back down to be priest. On the other hand, some Qumran texts identify Melchizedek as an angel or more specifically as Michael the Arch Angel.

Some non-biblical writings also mention TWO Melchizedeks .. (like the TWO ADAMS- Adam and Jesus) one who appears after the flood to point the way to the second Melchizedek which is Christ.

I think the scriptures show by their PRECEDENT use of similar terms and typologies that Melchizedek was an earthly TYPE of the HEAVENLY HIGH PRIEST. Compare to the two ‘Adams”. The Second Adam was not the same as the First Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

The first account of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20 is very brief. What does it tell us ?

18 "And Melchizedek King of Salem brought forth bread and wine ; and he was the priest of the most high God . 19 And he blessed him, and said, blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.20 And blessed be the most high God , which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all "

So we find that our mysterious Melchizedek was 1) a King 2). a priest of the most high God 3) blessed Abram 4) received tithes 5) presented bread and wine (short note on this one at conclusion of this article). This is not much to go on ...or is it?

Now the reader must understand that previous to the time of Moses the head of each family or the oldest male member of the family was the one who acted as a priest for the family. He would offer sacrifices on their behalf. Thusly , the oldest living male in each paternal line was its priest and , as the family grew into a tribe ,this Head of the family priest also became its king (Priest-King) . Some 600 years later the Levites would , by appointment, assume this role of the priesthood ; and even later on the family line of David would always supply the kings. But our Melchizedek was both of these things, yet as it be, the bible is silent about his birth, death, genealogy or other details.

Its not until the book of Hebrews, supposed to be written by Paul , that we hear the name Melchizedek again. Hebrews 5:5,10 and 6:20 all echo that Christ was "made a high priest after the order of Melchizedek". Let's consider the following, which I admit may be looked at from more than one angle, as a possibility numbering Melchizedek among ‘men that die.’ You have to take out chapter breaks that were not present to get whole context.

Hebrews 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 7:6-8 But he (Melchizedek) whose descent is not counted from them (Levi) received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him (Abraham) that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less (Abraham) is blessed of the better (Melchizedek). And here (in Melchizedek and in Levi) men that die receive tithes; but there he (Jesus) receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

The explicit purpose is to use Melchizedek to prove that Jesus is a greater High Priest than Aaron and his descendents, whereas the implicit purpose may be to correct his Jewish readers' views on Melchizedek. The Jews stuck to the SCRIPTURE which did not record Melchizedek’s birth or death nor genealogy.

If Christ was this same Melchizedek could he be after the order of himself ? Consider also that David testified that Jesus was spoken of by the Father as being after the order of Melchizedek...one cannot be “after the order” of oneself. Was Aaron ever called after the order of Aaron? No but Levites could be after the order of Aaron. Aaron was the original ; a pattern for the levitical priests to follow. Levi was after the order of Aaron; Christ was after the order of Melchizedek just like we could say that Henry Aaron was a homerun hitter after the order of Babe Ruth. Now do we understand the meaning of the phrase? May God let us see! Jesus, if he was Melchizedek, would be just that Melchizedek...not after the order of him.

Psalms 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.... Psalms 110:4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. [Notice that the reference to Messiah (Jesus) is in the first person while the reference to Melchizedek is in the third person).]

Comparing Melchizedek and Jesus, Hebrews 7:13-15 states " 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood. 15 And it is far more evident , for that after the similtitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest."

The word translated another in the Greek text is heteros meaning : another of a different kind ; the other of two when there are only two. The word translated as similtitude is homoiotes which Strong's Exhaustive Concordance renders as resemblance .

Now those who still would believe that Melchizedek is/was Christ will say " What about Hebrews 7:3 "? Hebrews 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like (Strongs 871) unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

The Greek verb aphomoioo is translated as made like here. Aphomoioo always refers to two distinct and separate entities. This falls in line with our previous realization of the other words denoting two completely separate individuals. Strong's Greek Dictionary 871. Aphomoioo ajomoiow aphomoioo af-om-oy-o'-o from 575 and 3666; to assimilate closely:--make like.

“Made like” does not constitute being the same personage.

A couple grammatical witnesses to that point follow: The participle aphomoioo denotes a comparison (e.g., a “copy” or “facsimile” – J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958, pp. 89-90).

The term becomes irrelevant if the two persons were the same in identity. The point is made again in verse 15. Jesus is a priest after the “likeness” of Melchizedek. D.W. Burdick observes:

“The verb aphomoiooalways assumes two distinct and separate identities, one of which is a copy of the other. Thus Melchizedek and the Son of God are represented as two separate persons, the first of which resembled the second” (“Melchizedek,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – Revised, G.W. Bromiley, Ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986, Vol. 3, p. 313).

Jesus had a Father (God) and a mother (Mary) and a genealogy (see Mt.1, Lk.3 and cp. Jn.7:27). 'Melchizedek' therefore cannot refer to him personally. Besides, Melchizedek was "made LIKE unto the son of God" (Heb.7:3); he was not Jesus himself, but had certain similarities with him which are being used by the writer for teaching purposes. Queen Esther's parents are not recorded, and so her background is described in a similar way. Mordecai "brought up...Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother...whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter" (Esther 2:7).

The Levitical priesthood was based on lineage (a priest had to be a Levite , a descendant of Aaron and this beyond any doubt.). Let us refer to the reforming of the Levitical priesthood in Nehemiah 7:64.

"These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found : Therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood."

The concept of Hebrews 7:3 is not that Melchizedek did not have a literal father or mother but rather that no record of his genealogy is found in the bible. In the bible even silence can speak volumes. Of course we know that Jesus Christ did have a father and a mother (see Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23 -28 ). "having neither beginning of days , nor end of life " also refers to the bibles silence on such matters but has a second meaning in that according to Numbers 4:47 a priest could only serve in the priesthood from between the ages of 30 to 50 years old. He was not born into the priesthood (no beginning of days) nor ended his life in the service of the altar but retired at the young age of 50. In the case of the high priest his service ended at death but we see that Melchizedek was called the priest of the most high God not high priest; although he could have been.

The closed minded or deceived individual may still cling to this misguided presumption that Melchizedek was the one who became Christ by saying " Well, His name means King of Righteousness and that proves it." Not really ! Actually, the Armana Tablets, dated around 1400 BC, by its renditions of both individual names Melech and Zedek suggest that a more appropriate rendering would be " My King is righteousness ". Among the same Tablets, which were actually letters to the Pharoahs Amenophis III and IV, we find a letter from Ebed-Tob (Good Servant) who is said to be Melchizedek's successor to the priesthood! Yes, Melchizedek had a successor. His priesthood was not forever but Christ's is.

As some rightfully point out, other writings like the Tel Armana tablets are not scripture...but they are valid history. Also consider the Jews and their thought on the matter. They often connected Melchizedek with Shem (Noah's Son) who came from the other side of the flood and was very ancient in age so in type lived continually. In the Midrash, (and also in many of the Armaic Targums) the Rabbis identified Melchizedek with Shem son of Noah, who was believed to have officiated as a priest. (ie. Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.)

Josephus [War of the Jews 6:438] writes that Melchizedek was a human King and priest of Canaanite lineage who was the founder of old Jerusalem or SALEM. He also attributes the building of a first temple to him. Philo basically stands on the same.

The Book of the Bee, a Syriac text, also offers insights contrary to Melchizedek's purported immortal nature by saying they thought this man was the offspring of Shem: "NEITHER the fathers nor mother of this Melchizedek were written down in the genealogies; not that he had no natural parents, but that they were not written down. The greater number of the doctors say that he was of the seed of Canaan, whom Noah cursed. In the book of Chronography, however, (the author) affirms and says that he was of the seed of Shem the son of Noah. Shem begat Arphaxar, Arphaxar begat Cainan, and Cainan begat Shâlâh and Mâlâh, Shâlâh was written down in the genealogies; but Mâlâh was not, because his affairs were not sufficiently important to be written down in the genealogies. When Noah died, he commanded Shem concerning the bones of Adam, for they were with them in the ark, and were removed from the land of Eden to this earth. Then Shem entered the ark, and sealed it with his father's seal, and said to his brethren, 'My father commanded me to go and see the sources of the rivers and the seas and the structure of the earth, and to return.' And he said to Mâlâh the father of Melchizedek, and to Yôzâdâk his mother, 'Give me your son that he may be with me, and behold, my wife and my children are with you.' Melchizedek's parents said to him, 'My lord, take thy servant; and may the angel of peace be with thee, and protect thee from wild beasts and desolation of the earth.' [Then Shem later sets Melchizedek up and ordains him as Priest-King.]

If you are hung up on his name then consider Joshua 10:1 where we find a man named Adonizedek or Lord of Righteousness! Was he Christ too? Of course not! His named more correctly is rendered " My Lord is righteousness " but please notice the similarity with our mystery Priest-King. In Judges 1:5-7 we find Adonibezek = Lord of Lightning or even a literal translation of Elijah would be God Jehovah (really Jehovah is God ).

Now Melchizedek was obviously a righteous man. In Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews Chapter 1.2 " That name signifies the righteous king ; and such he was without dispute, insomuch that on this account, he was made the priest of God". The Hebrew people have a history of naming people and places after their God. So we see that the name Melchizedek does not denote deity and it was not an uncommon type of name. His name does appear to be a type for our Lord who is the true "King of Righteousness ".

Throughout the Hebrews text the author is showing Melchizedek as a type of Christ. He is explaining the change from the Levitical priesthood (physical) to the priesthood of Christ (spiritual). If you read the entire book, or at least a chapter prior and a chapter after, you will see the context becomes much clearer and actually quite obvious. May God open your eyes and understanding of his word!

We now have seen the parallels between Melchizedek and the Son of God, and that is the exact reason he is referred to in Hebrews, to typify the coming High Priest. While few words are told of Melchizedek- the truth of the bible, God's word, speaks much. Let us not add our own wills or suppositions into scripture. Let us always pray for the truth from God and seek the simplicity that is in Christ. So in conclusion, we could agree with the statement that this mysterious man Melchizedek COULD HAVE BEEN Christ. But then we would also declare our original position that Melchizedek IS PROBABLY NOT Christ.

Keep in the Word and God bless.


NOTE: One last point of interest: The bread and wine that Melchizedek brought out to Abram in Genesis 14 may remind you of something. While it is not altogether clear we see a type of the new Testament Passover being conducted here. A covenant is made by God with Abram promising the physical blessings to his descendants just as the New Testament covenant brings grace to the spiritual children through Christ Jesus who is the Promised Seed. Notice Genesis 15:17 of the vision of a smoking furnace (a symbol of Israel's affliction) and also of the burning lamp (represents God's deliverance of Israel -exodused from Egypt on Abib 15). This was "After the sun went down " (beginning a new day) which was the day after the Melchizedek bread and wine type of Passover (on Abib 14). Paul writing in Galations 3 shows that this covenant was confirmed to Isaac 430 years before the exodus on Abib 15. It is highly likely that Melchizedek's bread and wine were partaken of on Abib 14, the future Passover dates, and the covenant was made on Abib 15th foreshadowing the things to come.

~ Malachi 3:6 " I am the Lord, I change not;...."

May God Bless !