By William Jackson
We are introduced to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20 after Abraham rescues his nephew Lot in a commando style raid (Genesis 14:14-15). After this intense engagement like out of nowhere Abraham runs into this Priest named Melchizedek. This man prays for Abraham. It’s also interesting that at this point Abraham gave him 10% (Genesis 14:20), this is where we get the word tithe from. Tithe is an Old English word that means ten percent of something. So who is this guy “Melchizedek (Malki-Tzedek)”? Well scripture tells us that he was both the King of Shalem and God’s most High Priest. As for Shalem, this would become Jerusalem, how appropriate.
Many Christians, believes that Melchizedek was Jesus Christ. Herbert W. Armstrong1, a Christian author, points out that scripture reveals that Melchizedek is contentiously God’s priest (Psalm 110:4). Also in Hebrews 7:17 it states the Jesus will be a God’s priest forever. Yet, when we read the NT book of Hebrews Chapters 5 through 7 we see that Jesus is “like” Melchizedek and belongs to the order of Melchizedek, so why not say he is Melchizedek if he is? Mr. Armstrong, like many others, see a strong connection between Melchizedek and Jesus. This is clearly a case of over spiritualizing which is very common in Christianity to make their messiah fit into the Tanakh (OT). If you consult their own Testament, as before stated, it doesn’t hold up.
On the rabbinical side, Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki), the Medieval Jewish commentator, believes that Melchizedek is Shem the son of Noah2. This is the assumption throughout most of Judaism. If we look at Genesis 9:26 it states “Then Noah said, “May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant!” Thus Shem could become the High Priest of Jerusalem. So why two separate names for the same person? The name Melchizedek is considered a title not a proper name, Shem is the name. Also Shem would have still been around during this time. The flood subsided about 2,500 BCE and this event took place with Melchizedek about 2084 BCE3. Shem lived to be 600 years old (Genesis 11:10-11) so this fits. The problem is when we look at Psalms, here in Psalm 110:4 it appears as if Melchizedek is timeless. If Melchizedek is forever this would rule out Shem because he had an expiration date.
I believe when it comes the Melchizedek there are things that operate independent and separate from us in God’s realm and sometimes these worlds intersect. Take for example Joshua, he meet God’s Army Commander (Joshua 5:13-14) and with the same level of mysticism as with Melchizedek the meeting was over never to happen again. We also saw this with the three men visiting Abraham (Genesis 18) and with the stranger giving Joseph directions (Genesis 37:15-17). Turning people into the Christian messiah or something beyond what they are not might make a snappy sermon but we straight from the truth. God did put within us a desire to explain things, but sometimes we just need to bask in the privilege of seeing into this unknown world.