The Enigma Of Melchizedek

Psalm 110; Genesis 14; Mark 12: 35 – 37; Hebrews 6:13 – 7: 1 – 28.

The mysterious figure of Melchizedek is mentioned only in three Scriptural books: twice in the Old Testament (Genesis & the Psalms) and once in the New Testament (Hebrews). As we delve into Psalm 110, the superscription informs us that it was written by King David, and although It consisted of only seven verses, its implications are phenomenal, given that it was written around 1,044 BC. There are two parts to the Psalm: the first portion is the initial three verses, followed by the second fragment from verses 4 to 7.

From the opening narrative’s tone, it emerged that David was not talking about himself. He was either making a prophetic pronouncement or conceivably witnessing a divine conversational incident at some point in time; “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet”” (Ps 110:1). The latter verse is quoted in several New Testament passages, where without any doubt, what had been prognosticated well over a millennium before the birth of Jesus, was interpreted by Luke, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews as pointing to Jesus who had triumphed over His enemy (i.e., through His work at the cross) and is seated at His Father’s right hand (Acts 2:34-36; Acts 5:30-32; Rom 8:33-34; Heb 1:13; Heb 10:11-18). David then concluded that with His Lord’s initial triumph over His enemies, He, together with His people (i.e., whom He had redeemed and transformed by the gospel), will enthusiastically battle and overcome His adversaries, and eventually rule over them. All this at the command of the Lord. And this enthralling scenario had been conceived since the beginning of time (Ps 110:2-3).

Despite the Laws given by Yahweh distinctly separating the roles of Jewish kings and the priesthood (Deut 10:8-9; c.f., 1Sam 13:8-14), King David nevertheless saw beyond the divine prohibition to strangely combine the priestly-kingly functions within a human paradigm in Melchizedek, in his Lord (Ps 110:4-7; c.f., Rev 19: 11-16). What was David’s understanding of the pertinent Genesis record regarding Melchizedek? Let us recount: There was an ongoing war of the nine kings during the time of Abraham, which he subsequently joined when news was brought to him that Lot had been taken a prisoner (Gen 14). After rescuing Lot and his family from King Kedorlaomer, Abraham arrived at Sodom. Contrary to the custom accorded to victors, he declined the King of Sodom’s generosity to retain the loot from the earlier battle. Concurrently, the Priestly-King of Salem, Melchizedek (translated as the king of righteousness), brought out bread and wine as refreshment for Abraham’s 318 men and blessed him in God’s name (Gen 14:18-20). It is significant that Melchizedek attributed Abraham’s victory to God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, whom Abraham knew. It appears that Melchizedek was one of those in the early Old Testament chronicles who knew Yahweh and was faithful to Him. And Abraham gave a tenth of all his spoils; just like the Israelites were commanded to offer a tenth to the priesthood 500 years later. The Hebrew writer reminded us that this possibly customary gift to the King of Salem implied the exalted status of Melchizedek over Abraham (Heb 7:4-10). Some have attributed Melchizedek as the pre-incarnate Christ Himself, but there is no consistent evidence to suggest it. In fact, in plain language, King David said that his Lord is ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’ (Ps 110:4; c.f., Heb 5:10; Heb 6:20); he did not claim that his Lord IS Melchizedek! And all the New Testament references supported that interpretation. Hence, the inscrutable Priest-King Melchizedek, without genealogy and who seemed to appear out of nowhere, was a typology for the dual role of Jesus Christ, from the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:1-3). In David’s day, this dual role assignation was a conundrum. I wonder whether David was ever taken to task for his outrageous claim in his psalm after writing it?

Was David prescient? Perhaps, no more than Abraham was in his time! What David perceived then was astoundingly prophetic; a conclusion that the roles played by the Levitical priesthood and the Judahite kingship were obsolete and that a millennium into the future the Priestly-King function will be personified in one person – Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer explicitly clarified that the heavenly oath undertaken by the eternal Christ, who held His priesthood permanently, when He set His face to be the guarantor of a better covenant by the offer of His life once for all (Heb 6:13 – 7:28). Therefore, Jesus Christ is not only the King of Kings and Lord of Lords but also the perfect mediatorial Priest on our behalf till He comes again (c.f., Isa 9:6-7; Isa 53).