The writer to the Hebrews is really not concerned about Melchizedek as a person, but in the priesthoodof Melchizedek. He is interested in this priesthood whereas he is interested in “Jesus”, who is the forerunner who has entered into the vail in our behalf. This Jesus abides a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Concerning this Melchizedek and his priesthood the writer has many hard and difficult things to say! Hence, let us not be dullards to hear and to understand! (Hebrews 5:11-6:8)
Let it be called to mind that the name Jesus means: Jehovah saves, or Jehovah is salvation: for he it is that shall save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) Hence, we have strong consolation in this Jesus; we have hope that reaches within the vail; we have an anchor of our souls both sure and steadfast! (Hebrews 6:19, 20) Our passage is immensely practical and meaningful for the life of faith and hope in the world as we press on to perfection.
We must press toward the full assurance of hope to the end!
Strange as it may sound, it is yet an undeniable fact that the Bible as a whole speaks very little about the person called Melchizedek. In the entire Old Testament there are but two references to the man Melchizedek. We read of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18 “And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine, and he was the priest of the most High God.” David writes of him in Psalm 110:4 where, as a prophet, he tells us what God said about Melchizedek, “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
In both of these Old Testament Scriptures passages the Holy Spirit tells us nothing about the man as man, but speaks to us about this man as a priest, his officialcapacity. And the emphasis falls upon the order of Melchizedek’s priesthood. That ought to be seen, and it will guard us against much false and useless speculation concerning the person of Melchizedek!
For, indeed, nothing is stated as to the personal name of this man. Yet, in spite of this many attempts have been made to try to identify this man, Many a guess has been hazarded; however, when all is said and done we have mere speculation and guesses!
We believe that taking the Scriptures at face value indicates that Melchizedek was a real man who lived at the time of Abraham. Had he not been a man Abraham could not have met him returning from the slaughter of the kings. Hence, he lived not too many generations from the time of the flood. He lived after the formation of the nations by the hand of the most High God. He was a real man with a real father and mother, a man who was born and who died at a certain date. Only, and this should be carefully observed and noticed, there is nothing in all the sacred record which tells us anything of Melchizedek which affords a biography!
The Bible tells us something about the priest, and, only in so far as it speaks of the priest, do we learn something about the man. The cue to the proper understanding of Melchizedek is given us in Psalm 110:4. This ought to be evident from the repeated reference and quotation in Hebrews in the following passages:Hebrews 5:6, 10; Hebrews 6:20, and also here in Hebrews 7:1, 10, 11, 15, 17. Even the reference is to the priesthood.
To be sure, there are several conjectures as to who the historical person of Melchizedek is. First of all there is the Jewish philosopher Philo, who denies that Melchizedek ever lived as a historical personage. According to Philo Melchizedek represents a philosophical allegory and not a typical foreshadowing of a true human life. His priesthood is merely a symbol of right reason which brings the man righteousness and joy through thoughts of absolute truth. Others said of Melchizedek that his bringing forth “bread and wine” to Abraham indicated a foreshowing of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. The allegorists saw in Melchizedek a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Origin, that marvel of Greek learning, viewed Melchizedek as being an angel from heaven like unto Gabriel and Michael. Again, others view Melchizedek as being a Canaanitish prince, who exercised priestly functions as did some earlier patriarchs such as Abel, Enoch, Noah and Job. The Jews identified him with Shem in the Targums. And again, others interpret the phrase inHebrews 7:3b “made like unto the Son of God, he remains a priest unchangeably” as referring to a human, Old Testament manifestation of the Christ—a Christophany. Then there were the Melchizedekians who looked at Melchizedek as being higher than the Christ himself. This of course entailed a mere humanitarian view of Christ. And the late Dr. Kuyper viewed the priesthood of Melchizedek as some remnant of the original priesthood of Aaron before the fall, due to the restraining influences of Common Grace!
In regard to this question as to who Melchizedek was as a man and a person we believe the following is to be inferred from the text in Genesis 14:17-20. In the first place, that he lived during the time of Abraham. Secondly, that he was a real king in earthly Salem, which is quite likely the present city of Jerusalem in the land of Canaan or the land of the Amorites. Perhaps he was an Amorite! Thirdly, that he met Abraham when Abraham has virtually conquered the world-powers of Babylon. Abraham is heir of the world. He will reign in Christ over all the Cosmos. (Romans 4:13) He, who stands at the pinnacle of all things, coming from the slaughter of the kings, now will be blessed of one still greater. And this one who is greater is the man Melchizedek, as he has a priestly office. It is after the first war recorded in Scripture, a battle between the heir of the world and the great Babylon, that we meet with Melchizedek made like unto the Son of God.
MELCHIZEDEK: HIS MEANINGFUL NAME. (Hebrews 7:2)
Here we have one of the few instances where we have God’s interpretation of a name. The writer of Ecclesiastes asks: who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? Surely it is the wise man who considers that a matter must be interpreted, and that such interpretation is of the Lord! Repeatedly in the prophecy of Daniel we read that the “interpretation” is of the Lord. Who could tell the interpretation of the Nebuchadnezzar’s dream but the God of heaven, the most high God? That is the Lord’s secret! He gives meaning to history and to each detail of it. And each man has a peculiar place and meaning in it all. (Daniel 2:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 16, 24 ff.) And who could interpret the meaning of Daniel’s night visions upon his bed but God Himself? (Daniel 7:16)
We live in a day when the foundations are being destroyed. If the word of God is not denied outright, at least the methods of interpretation are such as to corrupt all the meaning of Scripture so that it loses its profitable to prepare the man of God unto every good work, and to rob the Christian of his strong consolation.
If words have meaning then the Holy Ghost tells us here in these infallible Scriptures that God gave revelational content, explained, interpreted and exegeted content to the name Melchizedek. The term “hermeeneuomenos” means: being interpreted. This means more than: being translated. Surely, surely a literal translation of the Hebrew into English of the term “Melchi-Zedek” means my king righteousness. However, a careful study of the term of this term and similar terms will show that there is a definite interpretation of the name, which only God can and does give in our language, so that we have an objective and valid meaning and interpretation. This we saw above was true of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and of the night-visions of Daniel. And this is true of many instances in Scripture. Cephas is by interpretation a petra>, a rock. It refers to the rocklike quality and resolutelness of Peter’s faith in Christ. (John 1:42) The child Jesus is called “Immanuel” which by interpretation is: God with us. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and He does not impute our sins to us. He came to save His people from their sins! Such is the meaning of the name Immanuel. Such is its meaning in God’s decree, and such is its meaning for us who believe the Gospel-story revealed to us in this name, as the only name under heaven in which we must be saved!
This name therefore refers to the Lord our righteousness. It is the righteousness manifested without law, being testified of by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through the faith of Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:21) Christ came to fulfill all righteousness. He came to make payment for our sins. He fulfills the law to the last jot and tittle. Here is the proclamation of the sacrifice on the Cross. He, the Christ, became to us from God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and thus complete redemption!
Here is the King who is characterized as the one who maintains righteousness in His dominion over all things. He hates iniquity. He loves righteousness and justice. His is a just distribution. In him we are justified and under his dominion we have peace with God.
Such is God’s covenantal rule in Christ in relationship to His people. It is such over against all the enemies of Israel, who in turn are first of all enemies of Christ and of God. (John 15:17-19) Here God’s covenantal rule is such that we taste the sovereign mercy and love of the king-priest in His kingdom.
For it ought to be observed that this King-Priest inGenesis 14:17-20 has his royal throne in Salem. This place was quite likely what is later the city of Jerusalem. It is the city of peace. And this “peace” is not simply that the enemies are destroyed, but it refers also to the peace which Christ gives us through his death and resurrection. He is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14) He has broken down the middle-wall of the partition, and so he came to preach peace both to those who are far and to those who are near. This peace is truly completeness of our life and joy and hope. This is the peace which is ours within the vail because of the blood of sprinkling. And this city of Salem is a type and picture of the city four-square which has foundations, who builder and maker is God! This is according to the words of Jesus “My peace I give to you”. (John 14:27)
Of this king-priest office of Christ Melchizedek is a picture!
He is made like unto the Son of God!