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In Genesis 14 there is a man named Melchizedek. He is not mentioned very much and you might argue that he does not seem very important from this text alone.

17 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). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

(Genesis 14:17-20, NIV)

Except one of the Psalms, this is only one place in the Hebrew Bible where he is mentioned at all.

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

(Psalm 110:4, NIV)

In the Christian New testament he is, however, mentioned in the book of Hebrews a lot—and it seems like he is really important there. The author of Hebrews makes an argument that spans from chapter 5 to chapter 7 were Christ is compared to Melchizedek:

5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” 6 And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

(Hebrews 5:5-6, NIV)

Christ is said to be indirectly "in the order of Melchizedek" in Hebrews 7:

7If 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?

(Hebrews 7:11, NIV, emphasis mine)

Why is Melchizedek such an important character for the author of Hebrews and what does it mean that Christ is "in the order of Melchizedek"?

Please note: This question originally contained two different questions. The second has since been asked as a stand alone question.

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I have asked a separate question for the secondary item asked about here so as to leave the focus of this question on the main question from the title. Where does the extra information about Melchizedek come from in Hebrews 7? –  Caleb Dec 30 '13 at 12:39
    
I agree that a priest in the order of Melchizedek means a priest in the order of being righteous before God and ministering to the nations the King/Priest of Salem ministered to Abram who later became the Father of Many Nations. Jesus ministered to all who called on His name during His earthly ministry. All this on addition to being an intercessor. Melchizedek and Jesus were both intercessors –  Seraph Aug 10 at 2:35
    
The LDS Church has a different answer for this which might be of interest: lds.org/scriptures/gs/melchizedek?lang=eng, lds.org/scriptures/bd/melchizedek-priesthood, lds.org/scriptures/gs/melchizedek-priesthood –  JustinY Oct 22 at 15:19

3 Answers 3

Historically there is a clear distinction between the king and the high priest. The first was always from the tribe of Judah and the second from the tribe of Levi. Even if there are examples of kings that also were priests, that was never an accepted order.

Still Jesus is claimed to be the Messiah (King):

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29, NIV)

AND the high priest:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12, NIV)

The author of Hebrews argue that the office of Jesus goes back even further than to David and Aaron, even further than Levi. It goes all the way back to Melchizedek which merged the two offices in one:

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18)

That way it was possible for Jesus to both be considered a priest and a king.

As a side note, Jesus was also from the tribe of Judah by his earthly father (Luke 2:4) and of the tribe of Levi on his mothers side1 (Luke 1:5-6, 36).

These things were obviously very important for a Jew considering if Jesus was who the Christians claimed that he is.


1This is controversial. You might argue that Mary was from the tribe of Judah.

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In Hebrews 7:11 the KJV reads 'after the order of Melchisedec' while the NIV reads 'one in the order of Melchizedek'. In Hebrews 5:6 the KJV reads 'after the order of Melchisedec' while the NIV reads 'you are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek'. In other words, the translators see "in the order" and "after the order" as meaning the same thing.

  1. A priest in/after the order of Melchisedec is a priest who has not been made with hands, ie. natural birth,

  2. Only one man has been promised that he is to be a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. Ps. 110:4

  3. 7:12 is the result. By changing the priesthood it also became mandatory to make a change of the law.

Since the man who is now serving in the office of high priest to his God is permanent there is no possibility of making another change of the law. Therefore salvation can only be acquired, as a grant, by the faith of obeying this law. "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13

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Welcome to BH. Could you clarify what you mean about natural birth in #1 and how you get there? Ps. 110:4 says עַל-דִּבְרָתִי מַלְכִּי-צֶדֶק but I'm not sure how that relates to your point (it doesn't say anything special about who that is, beyond the "you" of the psalm). Thanks. –  Gone Quiet Aug 30 '13 at 0:55
    
See Jn. 1:13 not by natural descent –  Theodore A. Jones Aug 30 '13 at 1:50
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This mostly makes sense in light of the texts, but there is a bit of a curve ball when you talk about "change of the law". It's not clear textually how you fit that in and the soteriological conclusion it takes you to is A) not really called for by this question and B) not consistent with the interpretive principles you've allowed to be used on the other verses. –  Caleb Sep 4 '13 at 9:28

Melchizedek was a priest-king (symbolized in the priestly bread and kingly wine), a ministry which was a succession initiated by Noah: men who mediated for God but also had the power of the state (execution of murderers). Most importantly, this was a priesthood of all nations. All men were under the Noahic Covenant.

With the circumcision of Abraham, this changed. Symbolically, Adam was cut in two (hence the application of blood and oil to only one side of Aaronic priests). The Aaronic priesthood concerned only one nation, which would serve as mediator, making sacrifices for all other nations.

The death, resurrection and ascension of Christ completed this Aaronic ministry, and end the circumcision. The ministry of Christ in heaven is thus like that of Melchizedek, a priesthood of all nations. All men everywhere are called to repent - and once baptized may serve as witnesses for Christ.

Related to this is the fact that Aaronic priests always tipped out the wine. They could not drink it as kings in God's presence. This was case between Melchizedek's meeting with Abraham and the Last Supper.

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Where does the Bible say Wine and Kings are linked? Thx –  user5197 Aug 30 '13 at 11:22
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Melchizedek was a priest-king who brought bread and wine. So was Jesus. The process of humbling also follows the harvest year, with grain ripening first and grapes (and olives) later in the year, taking longer to mature and greater wisdom to produce. The grape haul in Numbers was a promise of the vineyards of Canaan, which could be possessed if Israel was faithful, and humbled with manna (bread). The theme goes back to the two trees in the garden, life (priestly humble dependance - bread) and judicial wisdom (kingly judgment). –  Mike Bull Aug 31 '13 at 1:22
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@MikeBull-Hi Mike, I know we have gone around before, but you've got to show your work(like algebra), otherwise it sounds like you're in a trance. I know there is a body of commentary you can draw reference from explaining your view-and adding credence to it. –  Tau Nov 8 '13 at 5:31
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Support is needed for the link between Noah and Melchizedek. –  Lance Roberts Nov 18 '13 at 20:50
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Seriously, when are you going to either follow the site's norms and support your claims (especially the whacky-seeming ones!) or give up and leave us in peace? We can keep playing whack-a-mole with the stuff you post, but isn't this getting old for you yet? What are you getting out of this? –  Gone Quiet Nov 23 '13 at 23:13

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