In the Book of Hebrews, the Preacher makes much of a shadowy figure in the Old Testament named Melchizedek. Indeed, he has already mentioned him in 5:6, 10 and 6:20 though I did not speak of him at that time. Beginning with chapter seven, this man will play a key role in the Preacher’s elucidation of our Lord’s high priestly ministry, so we must treat him now.
Melchizedek makes his first appearance in Genesis 14:18-20 when he meets Abraham on his return from defeating the kings who had abducted his nephew Lot. (These kings had defeated another alliance of kings, one of whom was the king of Sodom where Lot had foolishly taken residence. Abraham had no regard for either set of kings; he simply went to rescue his kinsman.) Significantly, we do not read that Melchizedek or his city, Salem, was involved at all or affected by the war. Melchizedek’s decision to meet Abraham was made on his own accord. We read that he brought bread and wine, certainly for refreshment, but probably of some religious significance as well as we read that he blessed Abraham. The Preacher of Hebrews will soon make great use of both Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham and the latter’s giving to Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils.
As for Melchizedek himself, we note that his name means, “king of righteousness” and that the name of his city, “Salem,” which centuries later became Jerusalem, comes from the same Hebrew root for, “peace.” So he is both king of righteousness and of peace. He is also called in Genesis, “priest of God Most High,” and blesses Abraham by the name of that same God. The Preacher also notes that Melchizedek is mentioned in Psalm 110:4 which he references three times (5:6; 7:17, 21): “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Psalm 110 is a royal psalm addressed to the king of Judah but which has Messianic overtones which the Preacher applies to Jesus. The Preacher notes that the Melchizedek of Genesis has neither father nor mother nor genealogy nor beginning nor end of days, “but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever”—meaning not that this shadowy figure had no father or mother or was a god but that as these particulars were not mentioned in the Genesis account, Melchizedek foreshadowed Christ as one who truly “continues a priest forever.”
Our Lord has neither beginning nor end of days. He always has been and ever will be. But for our salvation, he came down from heaven and was made man. And for this, he shall ever remain our faithful high priest.