Digging Deeper into Scripture: Melchizedek

June 12, 2024 Phil Rigdon

My wife and I are blessed with a large group of nieces and nephews. Our oldest nephew, who is now all grown up, recently celebrated his birthday. As I spoke to him on the phone to wish him a happy birthday, it struck me that this man with whom I spoke was once a child with whom I played many years ago. Tempus fugit! We love him, and we are proud of who he has become.

Abram also loved his nephew Lot, as we learn in Genesis 14. It is in the context of Abram demonstrating that love where we learn of Melchizedek.


In Genesis 14, we learn of a great battle between kings in the Valley of Siddim, south of the Dead Sea. Chedorlaomer and his allies are victorious in battle, taking the spoils of their enemies, including Lot, Abram’s nephew, and all his possessions. Abram learns of the sequestration, pursues and defeats Chedorlaomer, and returns Lot to his home, along with his possessions and kinsmen.

In this context, Melchizedek, king of Salem, appears. He serves Abram bread and wine and blesses him with these words:

Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!
(Genesis 14:19–20)

In Psalm 110, written by David regarding the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, we hear again of Melchizedek as David asserts, regarding this Messiah, “The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’” (v. 4). Some assert that Melchizedek was merely a priest and king who lived and died during the time of Abram. Others have suggested that Melchizedek was not just a human being, but was, in fact, the preincarnate (before taking on flesh) Christ. What follows is a presentation of both sides of this argument.

 Preincarnate Christ?

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (Genesis 14:18) 

It is salient that Melchizedek offered bread and wine to Abram, given that Jesus offered bread and wine as His body and blood to His disciples at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This could be Jesus, appearing as human and pointing to His future action for the disciples as He shows hospitality to Abram. On the other hand, it was not unusual to offer bread and wine to guests.

He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. Hebrews 7:2

“King of righteousness” and “king of peace” are titles one could certainly apply to Jesus. Being fully God, the Son is indeed righteous. Through His perfect life, innocent death, and victorious resurrection, Jesus has become our Priest, presenting Himself before the Father as the final sacrifice for our sins.

He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. (Hebrews 7:3)

Reading this verse helps us to understand that qualifications for serving as a high priest included being able to trace one’s ancestry back to Aaron. The fact that Melchizedek was a priest, elevated though he was, would be evidence of his ancestry back to Aaron. But instead, this verse tells that he had no ancestry at all. To read this verse at face value, one could argue that this is describing Jesus’ divine nature—as the Son of God, He is eternal. On the other hand, Jesus had a  human nature—He has a human mother, having been born of the Virgin Mary. 

A Type of Christ?

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)

There are two ways one could read this verse. On one hand, Jesus could be “after the order of Melchizedek” in that Jesus follows from Himself, being called Melchizedek and appearing to serve and bless Abram. On the other hand, Jesus is a priest in an order higher than all others, as Melchizedek was.

But resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. (Hebrews 7:3)

The key word in this verse is “resembling.” This is perhaps the most compelling verse suggesting that Melchizedek and Jesus were not the same person, that Melchizedek merely resembled our Savior.

This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. (Hebrews 7:15–16) 

Where the previous verse uses the word “resembling,” this one uses “likeness” to express a similarity but not sameness between Melchizedek and Jesus. Like Melchizedek, who was in a class by himself and was a priest without the need for ancestral qualification, Jesus is a priest by virtue of His divinity.


Although both arguments are compelling, it is this author’s conclusion that Melchizedek, though perhaps of a higher status than other high priests, was merely a man and not Jesus Christ, appearing before His birth. Wherever one falls on this issue, it must not be forgotten that Jesus is indeed our Priest and King. Our Priest by His divinity and service to sinners: Jesus is not only our mediator before the Father but He also presents Himself as the sacrifice for sins. He is our King in that He has conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil, not with swords and shields, but rather with His life of perfect obedience, the shedding of His blood, and His resurrection. As our King, Jesus remains our Lord, leader, and protector.

Scripture: ESV®.

messianic_message_3D-2Continue studying about Melchizedek and more Old Testament–to–New Testament connections in The Messianic Message: Predictions, Patterns, and the Presence of Jesus in the Old Testament. 

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