Who Was Melchizedek

Elder Carl Ballestero

…Melchizedek–of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:10-11

When Abraham looked into the mysterious eyes of Melchizedek, he found the one person on earth who he counted as his spiritual superior. Who was this man? Why was Abraham, the tallest figure in the Old Testament, when compared with this man, regarded as the less being …blessed of the better! (Hebrews 7:7) Strange indeed, that the “friend of God” should lose stature before an unknown priest who occupies but three verses of Biblical history. David obtained the showbread from a priest whose name eludes the memory, while David’s name, in spite of his errors, yet lives. Remarkable, then, that the one known as Melchizedek not only outranked Abraham in his day, and was the type of Christ’s priesthood, but his very name refers to our Lord also. His name continues to live.

Melchizedek is first mentioned in history, (Genesis 14:18-20); next, he is mentioned in prophecy, (Psalms 110:4); and, finally, he is seen as fulfillment, (Hebrews chapters 5, 6, & 7). I am weary of turning the pages of reference books, hoping that the commentators would bring out more light on this subject; but all of them are confused and fewer still are in agreement. No small wonder. If they haven’t yet received the revelation of the “Mighty God in Christ”, this would also be closed to them.

Let us then consider this Man! He steps out of the silence of eternity and out of the halls of obscurity and into the sunlit life of Abraham. He intercepts him in the valley of the kings where he was to meet with the king of Sodom. Melchizedek blesses him, offers bread and wine, and after receiving the tithes from the pilgrim, this man steps out of time’s dimension and returns to the vastness of eternity. Some contend that he went back to his family and to the city where he lived. The first impression anyone receives when he reads the seventh chapter of Hebrews is that Melchizedek is God; then they truly attempt to prove that he is not what scripture plainly says he is. Such attempts are vain efforts to align Bible fact with false theology and perversion.

Some say that he was a Canaanite priest who lived in an earthly city. Some think him to be Shem (who outlived Abraham by 40 years). Some think him a descendent of Shem. Others have imagined him to be Enoch, Noah, and also Job. (If this were so, Moses would have called him by the proper name.) He has been thought to be an angel and even the Holy Ghost. Tradition somewhere identifies him as Philitis, the builder of the great pyramid of Egypt. Others dare not say anything, but leave the incident shrouded in mystery.

Genesis 14:18 refers to Melchizedek as the priest of the most high God. He was literally called EI-Elion; the word occurs only here. El, from the same root as Elohim means “Strong One” and usually has some attribute with it. Elion, occurring in many later passages, refers to God as high, supreme, or exalted. Abraham identifies his God, Jehovah, with the very One Melchizedek represented. If but a man, then this man possessed the knowledge of the One True God in a day when paganism prevailed. Where did he receive this knowledge? Where is the record that he ever passed so great a revelation down to succeeding priests? The revelation of God remained with Abraham, though, and was given to those who followed him, later to Israel, and finally to the church.

Where did Melchizedek get this distinction? Who appointed him? If he were God’s priest, how did he become such? No man takes this honor unto himself. He was not in a priestly line. This is the first reference to a priest in the Bible. Noah, Job, Jethro, and Balaam acted as independent priests and their offerings were recognized by God, but this priest didn’t make any sacrifices.

Melchizedek’s very name is symbolical of deity. It means, “King of Righteousness” or “Righteous King.” The city he represents sheds further light “King of Salem” which means “King of Peace”. This man had both the power to rule and to minister. Righteousness without peace punishes the transgressor and peace without righteousness excuses the transgression. This priest/ king is a combination of both righteousness and peace. What a ministry! Israel never had a king who was priest nor a priest who was king. Only Melchizedek and Christ claim that honor.

Israel could have no priest unless he came from the tribe of Levi; his pedigree must be known. That does not mean, as some assert, that Melchizedek’s birth record was lost so that the writer of Hebrews did not have the details of his background.

I don’t think the people in Abraham’s day knew any more about the background of this priest than we do today. The Genesis record doesn’t supply as much information as does the book of Hebrews. Enoch, for example, was translated and the story is recorded in Genesis, but nothing is said about his being a prophet. We have to go to Jude to discover that fact. What the Genesis account omits in regards to Melchizedek, Hebrews supplies. It does so by inspiration, for that is just where the writer of Hebrews got his information. If he were but a man, the writer of Hebrews undoubtedly would have stressed that point. The language is unmistakably clear and says what it means and means just what it says. 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. Hebrews 7:3

Concerning the persons with whom this man has been confused, we can dispense with them by the above scripture. The Bible records every man’s descent that had a part in His great plan, from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to Abraham, etc. If this priest were but an ordinary man, where is his record? Why wasn’t it mentioned, not just in Hebrews, but in Genesis, where the incident occurred at a time when genealogies were the order of the day? We must conclude he had none (genealogies or descendants or ancestors; editor) as inspiration later states. If this is true, then he must be none other but God, whose birth place will never be determined nor his gravestone found.

It cannot be proven by one single verse, not even a half verse, that Melchizedek had parents or children. Nothing is mentioned about his being married. But Hebrews 7:4 calls him a “man” and imaginations run wild. The Lord appeared to Joshua, to Jacob, and to the Hebrew children as a “man,” but we know, in reality, each appearance was God. Perhaps in the Gospels we will find another clue.

Matthew shows Christ to be the King, and gives the genealogy through Joseph to prove Christ’s legal right to the throne. (If the Jews didn’t believe Christ had the legal right to the throne, they would have branded Him as an imposter and refused to hear him.) Luke pictures Him as a man and his genealogy gives Christ a natural right to David’s throne through Mary. Mark shows Christ as a servant, and as such, brings us no genealogy. A servant’s pedigree is not necessary. John likewise gives no record of it. Why? Because he brings Christ to us as God; he shows us Deity. As God, Jesus would not need to produce his pedigree, for God has no beginning or end. Who shall declare His generation? Isaiah 53:8. Melchizedek, then, as a manifestation of God, answers perfectly to Hebrews 7:3 which states he was without father, without mother, without descent, etc. He needs no further introduction as God. What could be clearer?

The above article, “Who Was Melchizedek” was written by Elder Carl Ballestero. The article was excerpted from the Apostolic Standard magazine.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.