Greetings, everyone! Blessings to you in our Lord Jesus Christ, and welcome to Monday’s edition of EDiBS. It’s good to be with you today, and as we open our Bibles and ask the Lord to teach and transform our lives over these next few minutes, I know that we’ll be blessed as a result. Today we’re back in the 14th chapter of Genesis, where we’re approaching a fascinating passage. I’m glad you’re here; let’s pray and begin.
Lord Jesus, we ask today that in your love and compassion for your people, you would bless the study of your holy Word. Draw close to us and speak to our hearts as we open the Scriptures. We ask this in your precious and saving name, amen.
As we get started today, following Abram’s stunning defeat of Kedorlaomer, Amraphel, Arioch, and Tidal, two kings come out to meet him — two kings having attitudes and agendas very different from one another. We’ll talk about the king of Sodom a little later in the week, but our focus for this session? Melchizedek, King of Salem.
17After 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). 18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
In 1963, on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, an unknown woman was present on the ground. According to witnesses and film from that day, she wore a headscarf and appeared to capture the shooting on her own camera. After the shooting, however, she melted into the crowd and disappeared, and she never came forward despite repeated requests from the FBI. In every photograph or video where she can be seen, she’s either facing away from the camera or has her face covered with her own camera. Who that person was and why she never came forward is still a question. Today, we simply call her “The Babushka Woman.”
On November 24, 1971, a man who called himself Dan Cooper hijacked an in-flight Boeing 727, warning the captain and crew that he possessed a bomb in his briefcase. He demanded $200,000 and four parachutes, and after having his demands met via negotiations with officials on the ground, the plane landed for refueling and delivery of said ransom. At that point the passengers were released, and then the aircraft took off again. During that second flight, the man parachuted from the plane and was never found or seen again. While many have claimed to be the infamous hijacker through the years and while several documentaries have been made regarding his supposed origin and his conjectured destiny, nothing definitive has been proven; both are still a mystery. The media bungled his name, but it stuck, and today, we simply call him D.B. Cooper.
On the morning of June 5, 1989, when the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protest, a lone man stood up to the Communist regime’s crackdown in what has become an iconic and symbolic photo. Standing by himself in the middle of the square facing a column of 18 tanks, his courageous defiance temporarily halted the military — and in the process inspired the world. Eventually a group of fellow protesters came and dragged him back into the crowd to keep him from being detained, and he was quickly lost in the sea of faces. While a newspaper claimed to identify him and declared that he had been arrested by police, there’s never been any corroborating evidence to support that, and all these years later there’s still no reliable information available about that person or his fate. Today we simply call him Tank Man.
In the ancient near east, circa 1900 B.C., an unlikely battle with an even more unlikely victor commenced. In the aftermath, seemingly out of nowhere, a king arrived on the scene. Neither his territory nor his army had been involved in the battle, but he was there anyway, and in a peculiar act of friendship, fellowship and hospitality, he presented bread and wine to the victor and his weary troops. More than just a king, however, this man was also a priest. His title, specifically, was “priest of God Most High.” And finally, to top off the mysterious nature of this individual, the historical record shows that as quickly as he appeared, this king and priest disappeared. Before he did, however, he spoke a word of blessing to the man he had come to visit, and with that blessing, an important word of prophecy as well. Who was this king/priest/prophet? It has been hotly debated for centuries. Today we call him Melchizedek…but there is nothing simple about him!
Just who was Melchizedek…and what was he all about? To be sure, there’s certainly mystery surrounding his sudden appearance in the Old Testament as the king of Salem and priest to God Most High. (Salem, incidentally, is the Hebrew word for peace…and Salem would eventually be known as Jerusalem…and so we can rightly call Melchizedek the “king of peace.”) Furthermore, a quick look at the etymology of Melchizedek itself tells us something else: his name means “king of righteousness.” Holding that thought and digging even deeper, in today’s passage we note that Abram presents Melchizedek with a tithe, or tenth, of all the items he has gathered from the battle just fought. We know that through this act, Abram is indicating his recognition of Melchizedek not just as a priest, but as one who ranks higher than he, both spiritually and otherwise…and it’s not going too far to say that Abram’s offering is actually an act of worship. With these these words and this quickly developing description, you can already see where we’re going with this today.
If we take a brief survey of Scripture, the first thing we see is that Melchizedek only appears in three books of the Bible: here in Genesis, in the 110th Psalm, and in chapters 6-7 of Hebrews.
In Psalm 110, a Messianic psalm written by David (which we know from the 22nd chapter of Matthew), Melchizedek is presented as a type of Christ. That theme is repeated in the 6th-7th chapters of Hebrews, where both Melchizedek and Christ are considered kings…of what? Of righteousness and peace. Moreover, by citing Melchizedek and his unique priesthood as a type of the Messiah, the writer to the Hebrews shows that Christ’s new priesthood is superior to the old Levitical order (and to the priesthood of Aaron as well).
With all of this information on the table, many scholars, pastors, and lay people — myself included — have come to the conclusion that the true identity of Melchizedek is none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as a Theophany — or more precisely in this case, a Christophany. The manner in which things line up checks all of the boxes, and the so-called coincidences are too exacting to be taken as merely symbolic. In fact, if we include two more observations in our treatment of this topic today, things become even more clear.
First, the sixth chapter of Hebrews says that Jesus “has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The term order ordinarily indicates a succession of priests holding the office. But in this case, no succession can be traced, nor is one ever mentioned…not in the entirety of the interval from Melchizedek to Christ. That’s a peculiarity of massive proportions, and the one way it can be resolved is by concluding that Melchizedek and Christ are really the same Person.
Second, and finally, Hebrews 7 tells us that Melchizedek was “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, and that resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” The question is whether the author of Hebrews means this literally or figuratively, but as I consider that question, my mind immediately recalls the point that since time immemorial, the Hebrews, and the Jews after them, are a people all about genealogies— yet no genealogy is given for Melchizedek, because he has none.
So. If the description in Hebrews is literal, then it’s frankly difficult to see how it could be properly applied to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ. No mere earthly king “remains a priest forever,” and no mere human is “without father or mother.” If Genesis 14 is indeed describing a Christophany, then what we’ve seen in the text is that God the Son Himself came to give Abram His blessing, appearing as both the King of Righteousness (Revelation 19) and the King of Peace (Isaiah 9)…not to mention as the Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2). On the other hand, if the description of Melchizedek is merely a figurative one, then the details of having no genealogy, no beginning or ending, and a ceaseless ministry are just mysterious statements that showcase the mysterious nature of the person who met Abram…something that doesn’t seem tenable, given the weight of the witness of Scripture.
As we wrap things up for the day, are Melchizedek and Jesus indeed the same Person? While a case can be made that Melchizedek is merely a type of Christ, prefiguring the Lord’s ministry, the greater likelihood is that Abram, after his battle to rescue Lot, actually met, gave honor to, and worshipped the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Himself. As for the reason for His appearing to Abram, that will be our topic for tomorrow’s session of EDiBS.
Thanks for hanging in there with me as we discussed this today, everyone! Have a great Monday, God’s joy and peace to you in our Lord Jesus, and I’ll see you again for more on this next time. Take care!