In Chapter 14 of Genesis, we have the appearance of Melchizedek to Abram. There are several questions surrounding Melchizedek.
We ask: Who was he? What is his significance? Was he a literal man, or a theophany?
The First Question: Who was Melchizedek?
First, we look to Genesis 14:18-20:
He was the king of Salem (verse 18). The New Testament gives us more insight into this title. (See Hebrews 7:1-2; Note the New Testament spelling is Melchisedec.)
He was the “King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace” (Hebrews 7:2).
He was the “priest of the most high God” (Hebrews 7:1).
He was: “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” (Hebrews 7:3).
Melchizedek met Abram after Abram’s victory over the five kings (Genesis 14:1-16). Melchizedek is the one to whom Abram paid tithes (verse 20). Levi, being in the loins of Abram, also paid tithes to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:9-10).
In Hebrews 7:6, we read, “he whose descent is not counted from them.”
And he ever liveth; he does not die (Hebrews 7:8).
Melchizedek (in Genesis 14:18-20) is a definite type of Christ; for Christ rose not from Aaron, but from the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:11).
Hebrews 7:13 explains that Melchizedek came not from a tribe of priests, as Aaron did of the Tribe of Levi. And Christ came not from the Tribe of Levi (of priests), but from the Tribe of Juda (Hebrews 7:14).
Christ came from “the similitude of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 7:15).
“Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” (Hebrews 7:16)
“For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 7:17)
So Melchisedec was a type of Christ, “the power of an endless life.”
The entire matter of Melchizedek in the Old Testament was to show the characteristic of a new order of priests – not like Aaron, but of an endless life without sin, the Priesthood of Christ. (See the oath; Hebrews 7:17-28.) Paul shows the Superiority of Christ’s Priesthood over Aaron’s; and thus the Superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant (or Law). (See Hebrews 7:11, 22-28, especially verses 27-28.)
And now, our Third Question: Was Melchizedek a real, literal man?
Does it matter? The truth is – it is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ.
Christ is the only one to whom tithes are to be paid. Christ is the only one who secured the Foundation of the Atonement. As Bread (the Body) and Wine (the Blood), He represented God in Flesh, yet without sin. He is our Great High Priest, who on the basis of His Atonement, made on the Cross in His Body, ratified the New Covenant in His Blood, or in His Atonement on the Cross. (See Romans 3:24-25; 5:1-21; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 7:22-28; 8:1-13; 9:1-26; 10:1-22.) He is our Reconciliation, Redemption, Justification, Righteousness, Wisdom, and Sanctification. (See Romans 3:24-25; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-20; 2:24.)
Now back to our Second Question: What is the significance of his appearance to Abram in Genesis 14?
It is another step in God’s Progressive Revelation of Himself to His Elect Sheep, the Faithful; of which Abram is the head, the father of the faithful.
Paul wrote in Hebrews 7:4, “Now consider how great this man was…”
Early on in the Word of God, God revealed several things. He revealed the Incarnation of God in the Flesh. He revealed His Role of Great High Priest; not after the order of men, but of God, the “endless life.” God also revealed Redemption in the bread and wine; that all victory is lodged in the Atonement of Christ, our Great High Priest and Sacrifice.
Note in Genesis 14:19-20; Melchizedek blessed Abram. And he blessed “the most high God” in whom lies the victory over the enemy. Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek “of all,” or Abram gave him a praise offering. Hallelujah!