World English Bible translation
7:1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 7:2 to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace; 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God), remains a priest continually.
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is building a series of arguments around the premise that Jesus has been appointed by God to be the Great High Priest of His people. He has written about the qualifications for being a high priest: that one must be capable of representing man before God and that one must be called by God. He has written about how Jesus has fully met these qualifications to a greater extent than anyone before Him. But, it is not his premise that Jesus is a high priest from the line of Levi. Jesus was born of the house of David from the Tribe of Judah. It is his contention that Jesus has been named a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek is mentioned in the story of Abraham. Abraham left the land of his father with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot. After being led by God for several years the flocks of Abraham and Lot grew so large that they had to agree to split up. After they had split up, Lot was taken prisoner in a war that engulfed the region. Abraham rescued Lot, taking many slaves and a great deal of spoils in the raid.
As Abraham was returning Lot to his home, he was met by Melchizedek. Melchizedek came out from Salem and shared with Abraham a meal of bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed him and Abraham gave a tenth of all that he had gained to Melchizedek. After Abraham leaves, Melchizedek is not heard from again until the psalmist writes about him in one of the most important Psalms about the Jewish Kings, Psalm 110. "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind. You will be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
Even though the story of Melchizedek is very short, it is significant for several reasons. First of all, the city that he came from was Salem, which most Old Testament scholars believe to have been the ancient name of Jerusalem. The name itself is related to the Jewish word for peace, in effect naming Melchizedek king of Peace (or perhaps Prince of Peace?). Another thing that is interesting about Melchizedek is that he was both king of Salem and priest of God Most High. Such combinations were rare and foreshadowed the Messiah figure of prophecy that would be both priest and king. Of course, Christians believe that Christ fills both roles of priest and king, so Melchizedek is seen to prefigure Christ.
For the author, there are two other items of interest about Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and he gave to Melchizedek a tenth of all that he had at that time. Because of this the author concludes that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham under the principle that the lesser is blessed by the greater. If Abraham had been greater, Melchizedek would have received the blessing from him.
The other factor about Melchizedek that interests the author may seem more unusual to us. He says that because no genealogy is given for Melchizedek by the otherwise scrupulous authors of Genesis that Melchizedek appears to be without mother or father. We do not know where (or if) his life began or ended and in this he is also like the Son of God. To the author of Hebrews and the author of Psalm 110, Melchizedek is a priest forever because the record for him is without beginning or end.
So Melchizedek shares many traits with Jesus. He was both priest and king. He was of greater rank than Abraham and was without beginning or end. Some Christians even believe because of this passage that Melchizedek was none other than Christ. At the very least, the author is clearly stating that Melchizedek is a type that foreshadowed the coming of Christ. A priest of God Most High, not of the order of Levi, but of the order of Melchizedek.
What does the bread and wine that Melchizedek offered to Abraham remind you of? Do you think it is significant that this Melchizedek was king of Salem, especially if Salem is indeed the ancient name for Jerusalem?
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