Welcome back to our study of Hebrews, where we’ll be looking at Hebrews 7:1-10 in today’s session. We finished chapter 6 last week and looked at the assurance of God’s promises in depth. We discussed Abraham as an example of what a life of following God should look like. Abraham’s life was marked by failures and victories, and he eventually triumphed through faith. On this side of eternity, he didn’t exactly see the finality of God’s promises to him, but he saw them from afar and rejoiced at the idea of one day receiving them totally. According to the Bible, he was looking forward to the city of God, whose principal architect was none other than God himself. And these promises were made possible by Jesus, who derives his priestly order after Melchizedek. Join me today as we dive into verses 1 through 10 to unpack the identity of this mysterious Old Testament figure.
Who Is Melchizedek?
7 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
4 See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! 5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers,[a] though these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. 9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
- Verse 1
The writer ended chapter 6 by saying that Jesus was a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. He began to talk about Melchizedek in chapter 5 but he interrupted his discourse because understanding the importance of Melchizedek required a certain level of spiritual maturity. So we saw in chapter 6 that he spent some quality time exhorting his readers to renew their spiritual fervor. Now that he had their attention, he resumed his argument about the nature of the priesthood of Melchizedek. He wanted to show through Scriptures that Melchizedek’s priestly order far exceeded that of Aaron’s. And Jesus priesthood was after the order of Melchizedek. So if he could show them through Scriptures that Melchizedek’s order was better than Aaron’s, then it would also show that Jesus is a far superior high priest than the levites. Verse 1 is a brief introduction of the identify of Melchizedek. He is not only King of Salem, but He is also priest of the Most High God. We talked about the fact that no one, even the king could assume the role of a high priest if not appointed by God Himself. And individuals in the Old Testament that tried to do that were severely chastised and in some occasions executed by God. King Saul was deposed by God from being King because He offered burnt sacrifices, which wasn’t lawful for him to do ( it’s recorded for us in 1 Samuel 13). Another king, Uzziah forced himself into the temple to burn incense and was struck with leprosy by God ( 2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
But Melchizedek was allowed to be both King ( King of salem) and Priest of the Most High God. The first thing we learn about this mysterious figure is that he is the only one allowed to assume both the functions of a king and a priest.( Genesis 14:18, 22) He wasn’t a counterfeit priest, his ministry was legitimate. And we’ll see that in the next verses. Aaron and the levitical priests were only ordained as priests, not kings.
- Verse 2
We already mentioned after looking at verse 1 that Melchizedek’s ministry was legitimate. But before we talk about aspects of his ministry that legitimize him, let us talk about the meaning of his name. According to verse 2, Melchizedek means king of righteousness. That is huge, because in the Old Testament, names weren’t just given to people randomly. One’s name carries with it the character and attribute of that person. When Jesus called Simon, his name was changed to Peter, which means rock. Melchizedek means king of righteousness so His name runs parallel with his character. God gave him the name Melchizedek, not by accident but because God wanted him to be known as a king of righteousness. Then his second title is king of Salem, which also means king of peace. So He is both king of righteousness and peace. Those two go hand in hand, righteousness and peace. And we need to know why these two elements are important. God is a Holy God, Holy ( because there is none like Him) and Holy ( because He is morally perfect). To be righteous is to be at peace with God, but the Scripture tells us in the book of Romans that there is none righteous. So we need a mediator, a high priest who can represent us before the throne of grace. One who is both a peacemaker and who also can stand before God. This is why Melchizedek is priest of the most High God because He is king of peace and righteousness, He can appear before God because He is righteous, and He can be our bridge to God ( a peacemaker) because He is merciful. True peace with God can only be experienced on the basis of righteousness. The Old system couldn’t establish that because under it, sins were only covered and not washed away. Now you see why the writer continues to link Jesus ordination to that of Melchizedek.
One other aspect mentioned here about the legitimacy of Melchizedek is that he received tithes from Abraham. Long before the levites were established as priests who were to receive a tithe from the people, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. Abraham the patriarch paid tithes to this Melchizedek. For us today , it may not mean much but for a jewish reader, this is very important. It legitimizes Melchizedek as a high priest. That leads us to verse 3
- Verse 3
This is another key point of the identity of Melchizedek. We need to establish that this was a real person who existed, this isn’t the case of a theophany or Christophany. But God purposely didn’t mention his genealogy and his family line. We need to know why when Moses was writing Genesis, the Holy Spirit commanded him not to mention the genealogy or family line of Melchizedek. The writer in verse 3 is using the argument of silence, but it is a valid one. Melchizedek was certainly a real man, king and priest in a real city. But as far as the record is concerned, he was not born , nor did he die. Why? In this way, he is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Scripture mentions that “.. but resembling the Son of God, he continues as a priest forever”. Basically Melchizedek was a prototype of Christ, even though Jesus died touching His humanity, He didn’t die touching His deity and after His Death, God glorified His humanity after His resurrection. So in that way, Melchizedek resembles the Son of God, because he had neither beginning of days nor end of life. When Jesus says that He is the Son of God, that means that He is of the same essence as God.
The application is very clear, neither Aaron nor those who followed after him could claim that they had an endless life, they could not claim that they had an endless ministry, and nor could they be kings and priests simultaneously like Melchizedek or Jesus.
- Verse 4
Melchizedek was great because Abraham the patriarch ( who is highly regarded by The Jews) recognized his authority and ministry by giving him a tenth of the spoils. Let us go back to Genesis 14:17-20 to analyze this argument.
17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor[b] of heaven and earth;and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
After Abraham defeated Chedorlaomer and his allies, the king of Sodom went out to meet him. And prior to meeting the king of sodom, Abraham was met by Melchizedek who then blessed him and made an interesting statement. Melchizedek made sure Abraham understood who gave him the victory over the kings, the Lord. And Abraham didn’t question Melchizedek’s authority. How do we know that, he gave him a tenth of everything. Abraham certainly understood the importance of Melchizedek, because as we saw in earlier chapters, one of the role of the high priest was to represent mankind before God. Abraham by giving him a tithe was recognizing His authority. I also want to mention verses 21-24. Abraham made sure the king of Sodom understood that his prosperity and wealth came from God. By saying those words to the king of Sodom, Abraham was indirectly recognizing the authority of Melchizedek. Why? Because Melchizedek was not ashamed to boldly declare to Abraham where His victory came from. He was Abraham’s intercessor. Basically abraham’s tithe was so significant because it symbolized the recognition of Melchizedek’s authority.
- Verses 5-10
In verse 4 , we just saw that Abraham himself recognized the authority of Melchizedek by receiving a blessing from him and giving him his tithe. In verses 5 through 10, the writer is presenting a very strong argument to show how greater Melchizedek’s priestly order is than the levites. The Levites were appointed by God as priests and were to receive tithes from the other tribes of Israel. Now, when Abraham acknowledged the greatness of Melchizedek, the 12 tribes of Israel were also involved in the process, the tribe of Levi included. Jewish people believe in racial solidarity and this is an example of it. When Abraham paid his tithes to Melchizedek, the unborn generation was also involved, they were basically represented by Abraham. Which means that all the 12 tribes of Israel also recognized the authority and ministry of Melchizedek.
When you and I hear these words today, it doesn’t really give us goose bumps like it did to those that were reading this letter. They understood the writer’s argument clearly. His main objective was to show through Scripture that since Jesus ‘ order was after Melchizedek as declared by God Himself in Psalm 110:4, and because Melchizedek’s order is greater than Aaron, then Jesus is greater as a High Priest. To me, this is strong proof for the divine origin of the bible. God knew that a newer generation of believers would indeed someday need to be reassured about Jesus, so the account of Melchizedek was recorded in Genesis 14 for that matter. God is amazing.