bezrat hashem

...for it is not the hearers of the Torah who are just before G-d, but the doers of the Torah will be justified.- Romans 2:13

Written by Brady StephensonauthorPsalm11918.org / 17 July 2010

 FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND- © Hilderoegeberg | dreamstime.comThe book of Hebrews describes Messiah Yeshua as a priest in the order of Melchizedek:

Hebrews 5:5-6

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, "YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU"; just as He says also in another passage, "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK."

 

Who is Melchidezek and what is his "order"? He is an enigma.

Some Christians consider him to be a "theophany": a physical manifestation of G-d before the birth of Yeshua.

Others consider him to be Christ Himself in a physical form prior to His birth by Miryam.

Let's examine Scripture and see what it can tell us about the mystery of Melchizedek.

 

The Man

Who is the man known as Melchizedek? Not much is mentioned of him in Scripture. He is only mentioned in three parts of the entire Bible:

  1. Within the story of Avram as he returned from recapturing his nephew Lot (Genesis 14)
  2. Within one of King David's Psalms speaking of Messiah (Psalm 110)
  3. Within the book of Hebrews (in chapters 5, 6, & 7)

 

Let's examine these passages and see what clues they can provide regarding the mystery of Melchizedek.

 

Genesis

Melchizedek appears in the story of Avram literally out of nowhere:

Genesis 14:17-24

Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself." Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, 'I have made Abram rich.' I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share."

 

From this passage we can learn several things:

The Hebrew word translated as Melchizedek is מלכי צדק [mal'chi tzedek- Strong's #4442]. This "word" is really two Hebrew words: mal'chi and tzedek. It literally means [mal'chi] "my king is" [tzedek] "righteous" or "just".

  • Melchizedek's king is righteous.
  • Melchizedek is also the "king of salem" [literally king of peace] (verse 18).
  • Melchizedek was priest of G-d Most High [Hebrew: El Elyon].
  • Melchizedek blessed Avram.
  • Melchizedek received a tenth of the spoils of Avram's victory against Chedorlaomer.

 

Psalms

King David wrote the following Messianic Psalm.

Psalm 110:1-7

A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, "Rule in the midst of Your enemies." Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head.

 

Why is this Psalm Messianic?

King David records (prophesies?) that G-d swears to David's Lord that He is a priest forever. The only person that will have lived forever is Messiah. He is before all things and created all things (Colossians 1:17, John 1:3).

 

Hebrews

The letter to the Hebrews speaks more of Melchizedek than any other book of Scripture.

Hebrews 5:5-10

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, "YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU"; just as He says also in another passage, "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK." In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

 

Note the ALL CAPS text in verse 6. The NASB uses this formatting convention to indicate that the capitalized words are quoted from the Tanakh. Specifically, it is a quote from the Psalms 110 passage above.

This passage provides proof that Psalms 110 is a Messianic passage. It connects the Psalm with Messiah Yeshua and declares that He is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.

Why is this so?

It is because Messiah has been resurrected and will never die. Unlike the Levitical priests who had to pass on their priesthood because of their mortality, there is no one else to whom Yeshua needs to pass His priesthood. He will live forever and eternally hold that priesthood.

 

The next time Melchizedek is mentioned is in chapter 6 of Hebrews:

Hebrews 6:17-20

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

 

There is quite a bit packed into these verses so let's examine the passage closely and unpack it a bit at a time.

Who are the heirs of promise mentioned in verse 17?

The descendants of Avraham... the one to whom G-d made the promise. Hebrews 6:13 provides this connection between the promise and Avraham. These are not necessarily the biological descendants of Avraham but the spiritual descendants of Avraham (Galatians 3:7)... Jewish believers who are Israel as well as Gentile believers who are "grafted into" Israel (Romans 11:24).

G-d desired to reveal to the descendants of Avraham the "unchangeableness of His purpose" through the means of "two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for G-d to lie".

 

What are those two "unchangeable things"?

The fixed order of the moon and stars. We find this in Jeremiah chapter 31:

Jeremiah 31:35-36

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever."

 

Why is this fixed order so important?

Genesis 1:14 tells us that the moon and the stars are for signs and seasons [moedim]. They tells us about the appointed times of G-d and of His works and plans. The moedim were not delivered in Scripture until Mt. Sinai... roughly 2,400 years after Creation. G-d's workmanship is amazing. How many of us would be able to create something today that would not be used for 2,400 years and then would function flawlessly for another 3,600 years beyond the date when it started being used?

 

Looking back at Hebrews 6 it says that G-d desired "even more to show..."

What did G-d desire to show? What did He reveal?

He revealed His faithfulness to Israel, His bride.

 

The last series of verses in Hebrews that mention Melchizedek are found in chapter 7. It is this passage of Scripture that mentions him most frequently:

Hebrews 7:1-22

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK." For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, "THE LORD HAS SWORN AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND, 'YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER'"); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

 

In this passage, the writer of the letter of Hebrews performs a midrash on Melchizedek's name saying it is translated "king of righteousness". It can only mean "king of righteousness" in a midrashic sense since the Hebrew literally means "my king is righteous". The Hebrew phrase for "king of righteousness" would melek tzedek not mal'chi tzedek.

The writer also notes the abrupt entry and exit of Melchizedek in the Genesis 14 passage. No genealogy is mentioned nor is his birth or death described. That doesn't mean that Melchizedek wasn't born nor does it mean that he did not die. It simply means that there is no mention of his birth or of his death. The writer uses this in his midrash to illuminate his point.

The writer of Hebrews notes that Melchizedek was greater than Avraham (since Avraham gave a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek) and (as a logical extension) Melchizedek's priesthood is greater than that of the Levitical priesthood who were "in the loins of" their father Avraham.

The author connects the notably greater priesthood of Melchizedek (from Genesis) and the promise to Messiah of a priesthood forever (from Psalm 110) to indicate that Messiah's eternal priesthood is above the temporal priesthood of the Levites.

All of this midrash seems very straight forward: Messiah's priesthood is a above the Levitical priesthood. Why? Because the Levitical priesthood is a picture of the heavenly priesthood in which Messiah eternally serves.

But what about the "order of" Melchizedek? What about that?

 

The Order

RELIGION SILHOUETTE ABSTRACT- © Alex Ishchenko | dreamstime.com

What is the "order of Melchizedek"? It is some monastical society like the Benedictine or Franciscan monks? Is it some "body or society of persons living by common consent under the same religious, moral, or social regulations"?1

Is it a priesthood like the Levitical priesthood?

We have seen that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews notes that Melchizedek's priesthood is above the Levitical priesthood. We have a numerous chapters of Scripture devoted to informing us about the patterns and responsibilities of the Levitical priesthood. The priesthood of Melchizedek, however, is an enigma. No commandments are found in Scripture regarding this priesthood. What sacrifices does this priesthood offer? When do they offer them? What are the conditions and requirements of their priesthood?

Scripture is entirely silent in this regard.

 

Let's begin searching for clues in Scripture starting with the Hebrews passage:

Hebrews 5:5-6

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, "YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU"; just as He says also in another passage, "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK."

 

Here we find two points of interest:

1) the Greek wording of this phrase

2) the quote from the Tanakh

 

Greek phrasing

The Greek of this phrase is this: κατα την ταξιν Μελχισεδεκ [transliterated: kata ton taxin Melchisedek]. The Greek word taxin [Strong's #5010] means "order" as in "sequential order" or "in the proper sequence or array"2 Taxin comes from another Greek word (tasso) that means "to draw up in order" or "arrange"3.

Consider a better example of the word taxin from Luke chapter 1:

Luke 1:5-9

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

 

Zacharias was a Levitical priest in the "order of Abijah". This does not refer to some monastical group. Instead it refers to the sequence of groups of Levites that served in the Temple. This sequence or "order" of divisions was established by King David and recorded in 1 Chronicles 23.

The phrase "the order of Melchizedek" in Hebrews 5 can literally be translated as "in the sequence of Melchizedek"... but what sequence is this describing?

Perhaps we can find the answer in the passage of the Tanakh that is quoted.

 

Quotation

The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 110:4 (noted above).

The Hebrew word in this passage translated as "order" is דברה [dibrah- Strong's #1700]. The word is only used 4 times in the Tanakh and literally means to "put in order" [through speaking]4. Dibrah comes from the Hebrew word דבר [dabar] which means "to speak". This Hebrew word is used frequently in the Tanakh: over 1100 times! Both the word in Greek (taxin) and the word in Hebrew (dibrah) indicate a "sequence" or an "ordering". Since there is a sequence, pattern, or "order" then we should be able to find some reference to others of this priesthood in Scripture... either those before or those after Melchizedek.

Where else in the Bible do we find a reference to a person whose king is righteous, a "malchi tzedek"? There is one place in the midst of a passage that speaks of the pits of darkness, judgment, and hell... but it has been hidden and obscured in our English translations.

 

Preacher of Righteousness

Peter's second epistles contains this passage:

2 Peter 2:4-11

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.

 

An examination of the Young's Literal Translation (a more literal translation) of this passage reveals a clue that is obscured by the translation:

2 Peter 2:4-8 YLT

For if God messengers who sinned did not spare, but with chains of thick gloom, having cast them down to Tartarus, did deliver them to judgment, having been reserved, and the old world did not spare, but the eighth person, Noah, of righteousness a preacher, did keep, a flood on the world of the impious having brought, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah having turned to ashes, with an overthrow did condemn, an example to those about to be impious having set them; and righteous Lot, worn down by the conduct in lasciviousness of the impious, He did rescue, for in seeing and hearing, the righteous man, dwelling among them, day by day the righteous soul with unlawful works was harassing.

 

The passage does not say that there were seven others that were saved with Noah. It says that Noah was the eighth preacher of righteousness.

This begs the question: who were the previous seven?

Noah was not the eighth generation of mankind... he was the tenth:

  1. Adam
  2. Seth
  3. Enosh
  4. Kenan
  5. Mahalalel
  6. Jared
  7. Enoch
  8. Methuselah
  9. Lamech
  10. Noah

 

How could Noah be the eighth?

An exhaustive examination of Scripture reveals that, while he is not the eighth generation of mankind, Noah is, however, the eighth in a line of succession beginning with Adam:

Preachers of Righteousness- ©2010 Psalm11918.org

Preachers of Righteousness (click to enlarge)

1) Adam lived for 930 years from Creation until his death.

2) When Adam died, Seth was next in line of succession.

3) When Seth died Enosh took over.

4) When Enosh died Kenan took his place.

5) When Kenan died Mahalalel filled his role.

6) When Mahalalel died Jared took that role.

7) When Jared died Methuselah took his place because Enoch had been "taken" (Genesis 5:24) and was thus skipped in the line of succession.

8) When Methuselah died Noah took the role because Lamech had already died.

This list is depicted in the chart at right.

 

Noah, a "preacher of righteousness", was eighth (2 Peter 2:5) in line of succession from Adam.  It is fascinating to note that "eight" in Semitic symbolism means "new" (e.g. the eighth day begins a new week).  Noah was a new preacher in a new world after the Flood washed away the old.

If Noah, as the "preacher of righteousness" from his generation, was in the sequence/order of Melchizedek-ian priests then who was serving in that priesthood when Avraham rescued Lot and then met with the king of Salem?

Noah was the eighth and when he died then his son Shem would have been next in line.

Preachers of Righteousness- ©2010 Psalm11918.org

Preachers of Righteousness (click to enlarge)

Shem was alive during the entire lifetime of Abraham and was still alive for most of Isaac's and Jacob's lives as well (see the chart at right).

Shem could have been "Melchizedek" in the days of Avraham. In fact, the Jewish historical records5 teach that he was Melchizedek6.

 

Why was the meeting between Shem/Melchizedek and Avram so important?

In Genesis 14 when Melchizedek is first mentioned, Avram had just defeated four kings: Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer, and Tidal.  These kings had made war against Sodom and taken Avram's nephew, Lot, captive.

 

Chedorlaomer is specifically mentioned in the meeting of Melchizedek and Avram:

Genesis 14:17-20

Then after his [Avram's] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all.

 

Why are the other kings not mentioned by name? Why only Chedorlaomer?

It is because Chedorlaomer was a descendant of Shem/Melchizedek. Chedorlaomer was king of Elam (Genesis 14:1, 9) and Elam was a son of Shem (Genesis 10:22).

Avram (one of Shem's descendants through Arpachshad) had just killed Chedorlaomer (one of Shem's descendants through Elam) in battle. Shem/Melchizedek shows up and makes peace with Avram by bringing forth a simple meal: bread and wine. Avram makes peace with Shem by giving him a tenth of all the spoils of the battle.  Note that Shem/Melchizedek blesses Avram and not the other way around.  As his (several times great-) grandfather it would have been appropriate for the older (Shem) to bless the younger (Avram).

The writer of the book of Hebrews would have been well aware of this part of Jewish history and uses it as a midrash to reveal truths about Messiah Yeshua.

 

Others in the order or Melchizedek

After Shem died (in the year 2158 after creation) then Eber would have been next in line.

After Eber would have been Yitzchak.

After Yitzchak would have been Yaakov... and so on.

We find that this line likely went from Yaakov through Yehudah because we find Shlomoh describing himself as "the preacher". Perhaps he was the "preacher of righteousness" in his generation and the priest in the order of Melchizedek... not in the order of Levi since Shlomoh was a descendant of Yehudah.

 

By examining Scripture with a careful eye (and with a bit of historical background) we can now say that the mystery of Melchizedek has been solved.

 


Footnotes

1. order- Dictionary.com, taken July 5, 2010 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/order [back]
2. New American Standard Updated Edition Exhaustive Concordance of th ebible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries Copyright (c) 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All Rights Reserved. [back]
3. ibid [back]
4. ibid [back]
5. Babylonian Talmud- Nedarim 32b (9) [back]
6. The Soncino Midrash Rabbah, Volume I -Bereshit Rabbah, copyright 1961, Soncino Press, p365 [back]
Last Updated on 13 November 2012