Who was Melchizedek?

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

Hebrews 7:3 – 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.

As we’ve encountered throughout the book of Genesis, there are many instances where we must use a closed-hand approach, coming together in agreement in order to call ourselves followers of Jesus, but many more instances where we must use an open-hand approach, in situations where there are multiple ways to interpret things all within the Christian faith.

The identity of Melchizedek is one of those open-hand issues and can be fun to debate without ultimately dividing over. In Genesis 14:18-20, Melchizedek is mentioned in the Bible for the first time (for further study, see Psalm 110, Hebrews 5, Hebrews 7).

What we do know about him is the following: that he was the king of Salem, meaning Jerusalem; that he brought out bread and wine to fellowship with Abram, not unlike communion; that he was a prophet, priest, and king, which are offices used to describe Jesus; that he was a priest through the priesthood of Aaron, which had not yet been established; that he blessed Abram and Abram’s God, as God had blessed Abram; and that Abram gave him a tithe, or a tenth, of his possessions, the first time we see tithing in the Bible.

There are two main options for who this could be: 1) a typology of Jesus or 2) a Christophony of Jesus. A typology foreshadows or points to a greater reality, in the same way that Adam is a type of Jesus (covenant head over mankind), Abel is a type of Jesus (innocent man killed by his brothers), Noah is a type of Jesus (a preacher of righteousness who provides an escape from judgment), and Abraham is a type of Jesus (left his Father and home to bless nations). On the other hand, a Christophony is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, kind of like a movie trailer or a coming soon ad. It’s similar to the way that Jacob wrestles with “a man”, who was God, in Genesis 32.

The main point is this: either way, he is a figure that points to Jesus, whether he is simply pointing to Jesus or a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Himself. Like several other instances in Genesis, it’s something that is interesting to research but is ultimately something to put in the mystery box to ask Jesus Himself once we meet him face-to-face, realizing in the meantime that all of Scripture, no matter what, points to Jesus alone. 

Genesis 14:20 is the first mention of tithing in the Bible, giving 10% of one’s gross, or firstfruits, to the Lord. Why is this important enough for Moses to include in the faith story of Abraham?

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