After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
So here’s the scene: After Abram’s stunning and miraculous victory over the armies of four kings. After successfully rescuing his nephew Lot from these four armies, he’s met in the Valley of Shaveh by the king of Sodom and also Melchizedek the king of Salem.
Melchizedek — the king and priest of God Most Most High verse 18 tells us. But that statement creates a problem. Because Melchizedek holds the offices of both king and priest of God Most High, simultaneously? How can that be? Only one person in the Bible holds both of those offices — Jesus.
Some scholars say that Melchizedek was a mere mortal, a man who was an actual king of a literal city named Salem. Other scholars believe that Melchizedek was something more. They believe he was a preincarnate appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Either way, God paints a beautiful Old Testament picture of our New Covenant Lord Jesus Christ in the following ways:
- In all of scripture, only Melchizedek and Jesus held both the office of priest and king. (Genesis 14:18, Hebrews 6:19, John 1:49)
- Melchizedek and Jesus are both described as having no earthly father. (Hebrews 7:3, Matthew 1:18)
- Melchizedek and Jesus both have no beginning of days or end of life. (Hebrews 7:3)
- To finish the picture, Melchizedek brings bread and wine out to Abram even as Jesus brought bread and wine out to his disciples at the first communion. (Genesis 14:18, Luke 22:19-20)
Adding to the mystery of Melchizedek is that after Genesis 14 we don’t see him mentioned again until Psalm 110:4. In Psalm 110:4 the author David, seemingly out of nowhere writes,
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
It’s amazing the way the whole Bible fits together to tell the story of salvation through Jesus Christ. This statement four verses into Psalm 110 is completely cryptic as is Melchizedek himself until the book of Hebrews.
In the book of Hebrews, chapter 7, we learn that the Person referred to in Psalm 110 as a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek is Jesus Christ. It’s here in Hebrews that we’re reminded that the lesser is always blessed by the greater. Levi, the father of the Levitical priesthood and Abram’s great-grandson, is yet within Abram’s loins at the time of Melchizedek’s blessing. So Levi is in effect being blessed by Melchizedek. And as we’ll see later, through Abram, Levi pays tithe to Melchizedek as well, which also speaks of Melchizedek’s position above Levi. (Hebrews Chapter 7)
So Hebrews chapter 7 establishes the superiority of the order of Melchizedek over the order of Levi. That is, the order of Melchizedek which speaks of our new covenant priest Jesus Christ is completely superior to the priesthood given by the law, the Levitical priesthood. For without a doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. The Levitical priesthood, while still inside Abram’s body, was blessed by Melchizedek. (Hebrews Chapter 7:7)
I searched high and low while researching this section of scripture and by far the best material I could find on Genesis 14:17-20 came from Hebrews chapter 7.
In Hebrews 7 God tells us of Melchizedek:
This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Hebrews Chapter 7
As the author of Hebrews wrote, the law made nothing perfect, and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:19)
That better hope is our Lord.
Glory to Jesus Christ in the highest.
Image of Isaiah, David, and Melchizedek via Ted – Creative Commons