Who was Melchizedek?
After a falling out with the Egyptian Pharaoh, Abraham* along with all his family, livestock and possessions, roamed about the Negev and beyond eventually settling in a spot between Bethel and Ai. Abraham’s nephew Lot also had livestock and before long the needs of their herds outgrew the capabilities of the land. The two separated.
Some time later a coalition of kings attacked and defeated the land in which Lot had settled. They carried off many captives and Abraham’s nephew Lot was among them.
When Abraham heard of this he set off with an army of men and was successful in routing the invaders and rescuing the captives. As he returned and began to settle up with the rightful rulers, out comes this character Melchizedek.
Melchizedek was both a king and a priest. (Huh? A priest of what?) At this point in Biblical history no Levitical priesthood had yet been established. No Levitical line existed. But Melchizedek was indeed a priest, a “priest of God Most High” (Gen. 14:18), a priest of a different priesthood (see Heb. 7)… a priest for all.
In this and in many other ways Melchizedek is a “type,” a representation, of Christ. In fact, the very name ‘Melchizedek’ means ‘king of righteousness,’ or ‘king of peace.’ Both are terms descriptive of Christ. And of Melchizedek there is no record of ancestry, no record of his death, again suggestive of an eternal priesthood… just like Christ!
So this Melchizedek comes out to Abraham and blesses him. Abraham was certainly aware of God, submissive and obedient to God, but he knew nothing yet of God’s plan to establish a Levitical priesthood through his – what? — great grandson?** Generations later anyway! But he receives this blessing and then gives a “tithe” (tenth) of the spoils to Melchizedek… long before the Mosaic Law proscribed it.
The fact that Melchizedek remains largely a mystery to us is very probably in the purposes of God exactly the point. As a type of Christ Melchizedek stands out a flash in time of something far greater yet to come. God has a plan, a plan formed from the foundation of the earth. He is in control and His purposes will be fulfilled.
How privileged we are to be a part of it!
For a longer yet very readable discussion on this question I’d recommend: this item by Chara Donahue.
*At this time ‘Abraham’ was actually still named ‘Abram’ — but that’s another story 😉
** Abraham had been given a great promise from God (Gen. 12:2-4) but just how this would all come about was yet to him a mystery.
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