Who Was Melchizedek?


“Who was Melchizedek?” mentioned in Genesis 14:18. Genesis 14:18 says, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.” The rest of chapter 14 shows how Abraham gives a tenth of his spoils from the battle that happened in the first part of the chapter. There is been an ongoing discussion on who was Melchizedek. Is he an historical character or something other? This man appears abruptly and is described only briefly. He is only mention two more times in the Bible; in Psalm 110:4 and in Hebrews 7. There are four proposals on who was this king/priest. The fourth is the least likely; that he was Shem (Noah’s son). The other three proposals are that he was a theophany of the preincarnate Christ, he was a historical human person who was a typified Christ, or he was a Canaanite priest.[1]  We will look at these three proposals.

The first proposal that will be examined is if Melchizedek was theophany of the preincarnate Christ. Since Melchizedek is only mentioned three times (Genesis 14, Psalm 110:4, and in the book of Hebrews), the text of Hebrews will be used to see if Melchizedek was indeed a theophany of the preincarnate Christ. In Hebrews 7:2, the author of Hebrews says the name of Melchizedek means king of righteousness, and that he was king of the city of Salem (Salem means peace). The conclusion is made that he is the “king of peace.[2] He is also said to be “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually” (Heb. 7:3, NIV). In the Genesis passage, Melchizedek blessed Abraham showing the lesser person (Abraham) being blessed by the greater (Melchizedek). Not only do subordinates give blessings throughout the Old Testament, but in Genesis 14:17-20 Melchizedek blesses God after he blessed Abraham.[3] To help the argument that Melchizedek was a theophany of the preincarnate Christ is the Dead Sea Scrolls; the Melchizedek Scroll is a classic case in point where we find Melchizedek and the Almighty as words that are interchanged by the Essenes. So as they studied the Old Testament, they saw Melchizedek very clearly as the Almighty.[4] Those who hold to this position that Melchizedek indeed the preincarnate Christ feel that scripture supports the argument.

The second proposal that will be examined is that Melchizedek was a historical human person who was a typified Christ. The term type (or typology) deals with correspondences (i.e. persons or events) that point people to salvation. Because a passage as Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 7, Melchizedek is a typology of Christ because we are brought to the realization of the need we need Him (Christ) to be our go between.[5] In Genesis 14:18, he brought bread and wine, for the refreshment of Abraham and his soldiers; this was in congratulation of their victory. Melchizedek did as a king, teaching us to do good and to communicate, and to be given to hospitality, according to our ability; and representing the spiritual provisions of strength and comfort which Christ has laid up for us in the covenant of grace for our refreshment.  When we are wearied with our spiritual conflicts we are refreshed by Christ spiritually, and Abraham and his men we wearied from battle and were refreshed physically by Melchizedek. As priest of the Most High God, he blessed Abraham, which we may suppose greater refreshment to Abraham than his bread and wine were.[6] This event is a typology; God having raised up his Son Jesus, has sent him to bless us, as one having authority; and those whom he blesses are blessed indeed. Christ went to heaven when he was blessing his disciples (Luke 24:51); for this is what he ever lives to do. [7]

The final proposal is that Melchizedek was a Canaanite priest. In the event in Genesis, Abraham refuses to take anything from the king of Sodom so he could not say that he made Abraham rich. In verse 22-24, he swore an oath to God to distance himself from the polytheistic worship of the kings living in the Dead Sea area.[8] Abraham did accept bread and wine from Melchizedek who was king of Salem (according to Psalm 76:2 is another name for Jerusalem) and the priest of God Most High.[9] In return for the gift, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoil of the battle. Melchizedek knew God either through a post-Flood tradition or because of a supernatural revelation. He must have realized Abraham also served his God; and in turn, Abraham recognized him as God’s priest who was worthy to receive a tithe. The reference to Melchizedek in Genesis is brief, but it appears in a context that portrays him as a historical figure.[10]

Out of the three proposals covered in this paper, I feel that proposal two is who Melchizedek was. He was a historical human person who was a typified Christ. I feel that passages like Psalm 101:4 and the passages in Hebrews clearly lead me to see Melchizedek as a typified Christ. Hebrews says he has no father or mother or lineage because it’s not mentioned in scripture but it points us to Christ. Just like he refreshed Abraham and his men with food, Christ refreshes His people spiritually (Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”).

[1] John Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. (Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co., 1998), 118.

[2] George H. Guthrie, The New Application Commentary: Hebrews. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 253.

[3] Ibid, 254.

[4] Ibid, 263.

[5] Moises Silva, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1492.

[6] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary. (Bible Gate, 2014), http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.14.17-Gen.14.20

[7] Ibid.

[8] Paul D. Gardner, The Complete Who’s Who in the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 458.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.


 Davis, John. Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co., 1998.

Gardner, Paul D. The Complete Who’s Who in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

Guthrie, George H. The New Application Commentary: Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Henry, Matthew.  Matthew Henry’s Commentary. Bible Gate, 2014, http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.6.1-Gen.6.2

Silva, Moises. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s