Hebrews 7:1-3

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

A HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF MELCHIZEDEK

INTRODUCTION:

 

In Hebrews 7 the main idea, that Christ has a more excellent ministry than the Levitical priests, continues, and the thought returns to Hebrews 5:10 where Jesus was said to be called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

 

Believers, therefore, should hold fast their confession (4:14-16).

 

We have seen a description of the office of high priest (5:1-4) and that Christ is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:5-10).

 

We have also seen that an appeal and warning has been given in 5:11 - 6:12 which, because of the readers’ spiritual dullness, urges them to go on in Christ lest some be found among them who are not genuinely saved.

 

In 6:13-20 it was seen that Christ became the believer’s forerunner within the veil.

 

In chapter 7 Melchizedek is seen as a type of Christ and is seen to have a greater priesthood than the Levitical priests. First, a historical summary of Melchizedek is given (7:1-3) which we will consider in this message. Next, it will be observed that the Levitical priests paid tithes in Abraham (7:4-10). Then, it will be made clear that perfection did not come by the Levitical priesthood (7:11-22). Finally, it will be pointed out that the Levitical priests died and, therefore, changed from one priest to another; whereas, Christ never dies and, as a result, His priesthood is unchangeable (7:23-28).

 

In Hebrews 7:1-3 a historical summary of the person of Melchizedek is given.

 

The reason this historical summary of Melchizedek is given is that Jesus is made a high priest like Melchizedek rather than a high priest like the Levitical priests.

We see that –

    I.     MELCHIZEDEK BLESSED ABRAHAM – 7:1

 

Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him.

 

For introduces an explanation in the sense of now.

 

This particularizes Melchisedec, who has been previously mentioned in Hebrews 5:5 and 10, as being Melchizedek, the historical individual mentioned in Genesis 14:17-20 , which says,

 

Genesis 14:17-20 – (17) And the king of Sodom went out to meet him [i.e. to meet Abram] after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale [i.e. the king’s valley]. (18) And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. (19) And he [i.e. Melchizedek] blessed him [i.e. Abram], and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: (20) And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [i.e. Abram] gave him [i.e. gave Melchizedek] tithes of all [i.e. tithes of all the booty or plunder taken from the dead warriors and kings].

 

Abram had just delivered Lot and others who had been taken captive by a group of kings led by Chedorlaomer. These kings had raided the area of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding areas and had taken some women and others, including Lot, captive.

 

Abram went out to rescue Lot and the others, and he brought back all the goods and all the people that had been taken captive. In particular he brought back Lot.

 

On the way back he met the king of Salem whose name was Melchizedek. As one looks at Melchizedek in Genesis, he sees no mention of his father, his mother, his heritage, his descendants, or of what happened to him later.

 

Not only was Melchizedek king of Salem, he was also a priest of the most high God; and he brought forth bread and wine and blessed Abram.

 

Furthermore, the reader is reminded that Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, gave Melchizedek tithes of all (the booty or spoils taken from the four kings and their warriors).

 

Melchizedek is the subject of abideth in verse 3 so that the main thought of verses 1-3 is this Melchizedek . . . abideth a priest continually. This is because Melchizedek was never replaced as a priest by any successor.

 

As a result, he had an unchangeable priesthood in contrast to the priesthood of the Levitical priests which passed from one priest to another as each one died; whereas, Melchizedek’s priesthood never passed to a successor. Therefore, the Levitical priests had a changeable priesthood; whereas, Melchizedek had an unchangeable priesthood. As a priest, Melchizedek was never replaced by another priest like the Levitical priests were.

 

Some believe that Melchizedek is a Christophany, meaning that he is a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. If so, this would mean that he was not a historical figure as such. However, it is best to view him as a historical figure who may actually have had an ancestry and descendants but to understand that these were not mentioned in Scripture and that there is, therefore, no record of them.

 

Historically, he was the actual king of Salem; and he serves as a type of Christ.

 

This Melchizedek who remains a priest continually is described as king of Salem, priest of the most high God.

 

Salem is an ancient name for Jerusalem.

 

Melchizedek, however, was not only king of this city; he was also priest of the most high God.

 

He was not part of the Levitical priesthood because Levi had not yet been born. All of this took place before the giving of the law. Melchizedek’s type of priesthood was customary in this era before the law was given.

 

He was also not an Israelite because an Israelite was descended from Jacob who was also named Israel, but Jacob had also not yet been born.

 

Melchizedek’s being a priest of the most high God was typical where the oldest son in the home would not only be the family leader but would also be the family representative or priest before God.

 

It is a foreview that New Testament believers are individual kings and priests before God as is taught in the New Testament by the priesthood of the believer. Furthermore, as kings and priests, individual believers will reign with Christ a thousand years.

 

Melchizedek is a priest of the most high God, i.e. of the highest God or of the God of the Highest. There is no question that this is a title which clearly states that God is the God of the universe, the God Who is in charge of everything that goes on in the entire creation. There is no question that this is the God of heaven rather than some pagan deity.

 

The reference to Genesis 14 where Melchizedek met Abram returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him is clear.

 

Who refers to Melchizedek and implies that it was he who met Abraham who was returning.

 

What he was returning from was the slaughter of the kings, i.e. from the cutting down of the kings or from the defeat of the kings. It is the kings and their followers who were slaughtered, cut down, or defeated by Abraham and his servants.

 

Four kings in Genesis had taken Lot captive. They were Amraphel, king of Shinar; Arioch, king of Ellasar; Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and Tidal, king of Nations.

 

According to Genesis 14 and 15, Abraham and his servants had divided themselves at night against these four kings and smote them and pursued them unto Hobah which is on the left hand of Damascus, i.e. north of Damascus. It is to this incident that this text is referring. Abraham and his men slaughtered them.

 

Genesis 14:17 likewise refers to Abraham’s return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him.

 

And blessed him indicates a second thing that Melchizedek did: he not only met Abraham, but he also blessed Abraham.

 

Blessed suggests that Melchizedek called down God’s gracious power on Abraham.

We also see that –

  II.     ABRAHAM GAVE A TENTH OF THE PLUNDER TO MELCHIZEDEK – 7:2

 

Hebrews 7:2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace.

 

To whom refers to Melchizedek.

 

Also suggests that Abraham did this in addition to what Melchizedek had done. It is the word ordinarily translated and and in this verse is used to join two ideas. It may instead be used in an emphatic sense suggesting certainly, in fact, indeed, yea, or verily.

 

Abraham gave a tenth part of all.

 

A tenth part is simply a tenth or a tithe.

 

Of all means from all things and implies from all the booty and spoils that he had captured from these kings.

 

It is common in warfare that the victor receives the spoils. Thus, Abraham was apparently greatly increased in his personal possessions as a result of this victory over these four kings and their warriors; and Abraham gave a tenth of all of it to Melchizedek.

 

Gave is a term which basically means divided or separated and is used in this verse in the sense of dealt out, assigned, or apportioned.

 

It suggests that Abraham divided the spoils into various portions, assigned one tenth to Melchizedek, and gave it to him. Thus, he paid a tithe to Melchizedek.

 

The statement which begins with first in verse 2 and ends with Son of God in verse 3 is parenthetical. The thought of verses 1-3 is,

 

1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all . . .; 3 . . . Abideth a priest continually.

 

First refers to Melchizedek and suggests above all or especially.

 

Being by interpretation King of righteousness reminds the readers that the name Melchizedek literally means King of righteousness.

 

By interpretation is literally being translated and means is translated, if translated, or when translated.

 

And after that also King of Salem is a reference to the additional fact that Melchizedek was a literal king of this literal place called Salem.

 

And after that also is used to introduce this additional fact that Melchizedek is King of Salem.

 

Which is, King of peace refers to King of Salem.

 

Salem is a different spelling of the Hebrew word shalom which means peace.

 

Which refers to the phrase King of Salem.

 

Is suggests is by interpretation or is translated.

 

Thus, the writer is purposely taking the name Melchizedek and his position as King of Salem and making a spiritual application of their meanings: Melchizedek means King of righteousness, and King of Salem means King of peace.

 

Of course, Melchizedek pictures the Lord Jesus Christ as One Who is characterized by righteousness and as One Who gives righteousness and peace. He came in order that He might provide for righteousness and peace.

Finally, we see that –

 III.     MELCHIZEDEK, LIKE CHRIST, REMAINS A PRIEST FOREVER – 7:3

 

Hebrews 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

 

In verse 3 Melchizedek is seen to be without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.

 

There are two possibilities for understanding this.

 

It may be taken in its strictly literal sense, i.e. that he actually had no father, that he actually had no mother, and that he actually had no descent or ancestry.

 

If he actually had no father, no mother, and no descent or genealogy, if he actually had no beginning of days nor end of life, then he must be just an appearance of an angelic being or as some have suggested, a Christophany, i.e. an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. It should be pointed out, however, that Christ did have an earthly mother whose name was Mary.

 

Another possibility, however, is better.

 

It is that Melchizedek is instead a historical character who actually had a father and mother and who may actually have had a descent, who actually had a beginning of days as well as an end of life, but that there is no record of these in the Bible.

 

By contrast, genealogical records were extremely important for the Levitical priests who will be introduced a little later in this chapter.

 

End of life means termination of life or cessation of life.

 

Therefore, the meaning is understood in the sense that as far as the Scriptural record is concerned, no father is listed, no mother is listed, no descent is listed, and no history of his life after he received tithes from Abraham is listed.

 

Without father is fatherless.

 

Without mother is motherless.

 

Without descent is without genealogy.

 

Nothing is known of his beginning of days which means that nothing is known of his birth.

 

Likewise, nothing is known of his end of life which refers to his death.

 

What is seen is his similarity to the Son of God.

 

The contrast is introduced by but.

 

Made like unto means having been made similar to or resembling. Its tense indicates an action which occurred in the past with its result continuing on. It means that Melchizedek was made like, and still is like, or resembles the Son of God.

 

The Son of God is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Son of God is another way of stating that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is, in fact, God. In Hebrew thinking to state that someone is the son of someone or the son of something is to state that this is what he is. It denotes a chief characteristic of this individual.

 

Here, of course, Son of God refers to Christ; and as has been seen on two previous occasions in Hebrews, the phrase is quoted regarding Christ from Psalms 2:7 , Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

 

Abideth a priest continually refers back to Melchizedek in verse 1.

 

Abideth is remains, and what Melchizedek remains is a priest. The tense of remains emphasizes the duration of its existing result.

 

Furthermore, he remains a priest continually or forever. It is not the ordinary term translated forever; instead, it is one that is literally unto the continuousness or unto the uninterruptedness. It is used in this verse because Melchizedek has a continual priesthood in that he has had no successor. There is no recorded end of his life. Therefore, there has been no change in his priesthood to a successor. As far as the record is concerned, Melchizedek is still a priest.

 

Christ is like Melchizedek in that His priesthood has no end and is stated to be forever. He will have no successor.

 

This is in contrast to the Levitical priests who died and who were succeeded by someone else.

CONCLUSION:

 

As we continue to study Hebrews, we will see that Christ is our great high priest and will always be our great high priest and makes intercession for us.