Bible Answers: Explaining Melchizedek's role in the Bible

-A A +A

“So who is this guy Melchizedek and why is he important in the Bible?” — Stacy
Melchizedek is mentioned only a few times in scripture. In the Hebrew Bible, we find him in Gen. 14:18-20 (with Abram) and in Ps. 110:4, where he is a prototype of the Davidic messiah.
His origin is cloaked in obscurity. His place in Near Eastern history is equally opaque. What we can say is that his name means “king of righteousness.”
He is called also the “king of Salem” (Gen. 14:18), leading many scholars to identify Melchizedek with pre-Israelite Jerusalem.
In the Genesis account, he appeared to be in some sense superior to Abram (he received tithes from Abram and blessed him.) Though he “was a priest of God Most High,” there is no record of his genealogy or connection with a lineage of priests.
Apparently his story was somewhat familiar to first-century Jews. He plays a role in the eschatological drama that unfolds in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Essene document “Apocryphon on Genesis.”
The scripture gives us little about Melchizedek, but it gives us enough. We need not make more of him than what we have (there is no indication that he is either an angel or the pre-existent Christ). There is no call for fanciful speculations on Melchizedek’s identity or creating roles for him that do not appear in the scripture.
Simply put, in the New Testament Melchizedek serves as an illustration by the writer of the book of Hebrews as a “type” of Christ (5:6-10; 7). Like Melchizedek, Jesus did not descend from a line of priests.
Transcending Melchizedek (and Abraham, for that matter), Christ’s role as the “eternal High Priest” establishes him as the only necessary Priest who offered the only necessary sacrifice, made “once for all when he offered up himself” (7:23-27).