Melchizedek is one of the most mysterious and intriguing characters in the Bible. He seems to fade into the background as quickly as he emerges in Genesis 14:18-20 to bless Abram and God Most High and receive a tithe from Abram after the battle. There is an even briefer reference in a messianic psalm, “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).” He is referred to again in Hebrews chapters 5 and 6 though in Hebrews chapter 7 the writer provides an extensive midrash on how Melchizedek foreshadows Messiah.
The author of Hebrews translates the name “Melchizedek” to mean “king of righteousness” and in addition he was the king of Salem, meaning “king of peace.” This points our attention towards the Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace who judges in righteousness. Salem also refers to Jerusalem which is where Messiah will reign in His Messianic kingdom.
Unusually, this great king is also a priest and one who came before the Levitical order of priests. Kings and priests served distinct functions and were separated. If that was not a striking foreshadow of the Messiah, the writer continues further saying, “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 (Hebrews 7:3).”
Adam did not have a genealogy since God created him from the dust, but he did have a beginning and ending of days. However, Yeshua’s origins are from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2) and He delivered Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God (Daniel 3:25). Speaking of Jesus as Cohen Gadol, High Priest, the writer to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 110:4 no less than three times, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6; 7:17, 21)”.
Melchizedek was greater than Abraham since Abraham gave him a tenth of his spoils and Melchizedek blessed him. The writer to the Hebrews explains that beyond all contradiction, the lesser is blessed by the better (Hebrews 7:7).
Unsurprisingly numerous attempts have been made throughout the centuries to identify who Melchizedek was. Many Jewish commentaries and the Targum Jonathan and Targum Onkelos also state that Melchizedek was Shem the son of Noah. Other interpreters conclude that Melchizedek was a type of Messiah or the preincarnate Messiah Himself. Whilst a case may be presented to attempt to establish the latter, Hebrews 7 focusses primarily on how Melchizedek foreshadows Messiah and what that means for the believer.
Messiah is a Better High Priest
Unlike other high priests, Yeshua was made High Priest with an oath “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Messiah represents a new and permanent priesthood. If blood makes atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11)how can atonement be made without a sacrifice? Yeshua has no need to continually offer sin offerings since He gave Himself to make atonement for our sin and reconcile us to God. Though Jesus never sinned he became a sin-offering that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In the Levitical Order many priests were prevented by death from continuing though Messiah continues forever and He has an unchangeable priesthood. This has massive implications for intercession, approaching God, power to expiate and atone for sin. This is only possible through the Messiah who is both King and Priest and who has neither beginning of days nor end of life and who remains a priest continually.
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever (Hebrews 7:25-28).”