Who Was Melchizedek?
Often the question is asked, who was Melchizedek? This man has aroused a lot of interest because the apostle Paul speaks of Christ’s priesthood as being “after the order of Melchizedek.”
Melchizedek was a normal human being who lived at the same time as Abraham. He was king of the area called “Salem.” This man was a worshipper of the true God just as Balaam, Job and others were, who were not of the same family line as Abraham.
The Scripture tells us of this man, but it does not tell us who his parents were, nor did it record anything concerning his death. Since he was a normal human being, of course he must have had parents and of course he died.
But when we approach this man from the perspective of Scriptural revelation, the picture changes. In terms of what God has revealed in the Scriptures, there is no genealogy and no record of his death. Therefore, from a scriptural perspective, Melchizedek lives forever. God has given us no knowledge of this aspect of Melchizedek because it was God’s plan to use him as a type of Christ and therefore, God ordained that these details of his life should not have been revealed.
Paul uses Melchizedek as a representative of Christ, but he only argues on the basis of what is revealed in the Scriptures. It is the person, and the information concerning him which becomes the basis of Paul’s comparison. He cannot speak of any genealogy, because there is none in the record. He cannot speak of Melchizedek’s death because there is none in the record. God ordained that these were not recorded.
When the Bible says that Jesus’ ministry was “after the order of Melchizedek,” it does not mean that it was a ministry on the same level and effectiveness as Melchizedek’s. It means that the pattern was similar. Melchizedek has no (recorded) genealogy. This patterns Christ who really did not originate in a human father or mother. Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness,” Christ is the true king of Righteousness. Melchizedek was the king of a place named “Salem,” (which means, “peace”), Christ is the true king of peace, the one whose ministry and reign bring peace.
So in these ways, Melchizedek is an example of Christ. He represents a priesthood which is different from the Levitical priesthood and established on different principles. His ministry is a more fitting representation of Christ’s work for the reasons which Paul mentions.
The main point is this: God is not saying that Jesus’ ministry was an extension or an aspect of Melchizedek’s ministry. Christ’s ministry was far superior to both the work of Levi and Melchizedek. The Jews found it difficult to understand the ministry of Christ as a priest in light of the fact that all their priests had come from the tribe of Levi. Paul showed them that there were other priests who were not of the tribe of Levi (Melchizedek was one) and whose history and work represented Christ far better than did the history and work of Levi.
God had already made this clear in the Psalms when He said that the ministry of His Son would be patterned after Melchizedek’s work, rather than Levi’s. (Ps. 110:4)
(Source: Restoration Ministry)