Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary admits that “There is something surprising and mysterious in the first appearance of Melchizedek, and in the subsequent reference to him.”
Genesis 14:18-20 relates about Melchizedek, “king of Salem” and “priest of God Most High.” He came to meet with Abram (later renamed Abraham) after Abram’s victorious campaign against the captors of his nephew Lot and his household. [See: The Children of Abraham.]
Melchizedek blessed Abram, and also God Most High for delivering Abram’s enemies into his hand. And Abram “gave a tithe [tenth] of all” — all the spoils of war which he won. [Incidentally, this should disprove the claim by some that God’s law on the tithe only covers plant produce and livestock (Leviticus 27:30, 32). Why should God be “robbed” of tithes due Him (Malachi 3:8-10) from income of businessmen and other non-farmers? Even Pharisees gave a tithe of all that they had (Luke 18:12). See: The Whole Counsel of God and The New Testament Teaching on Giving.]
Since His meeting with Abram, we find no mention of Melchizedek until we read about Him in Psalm 110:4. Here David speaks of a vision of the “LORD” talking to another Being whom David called “my Lord” [in lower case]. David somehow understood “the LORD” to refer to a Supreme God who is distinct from another divine Being whom David addresses as “my Lord.”
Many centuries later, Jesus used this same Scripture passage to prove to the unbelieving Jews that He was not merely the “Son of David” but the very “Son of God” (Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 20:42-43). In this context, the LORD swears to David’s “Lord”: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Verse 4).
Peloubet hints, and I believe he is partly right, that Melchizedek has some relationship with Jesus Christ: “Bearing a title which Jews in after ages would recognize as designating their own sovereign, bearing gifts which recall to Christians the Lord’s Supper, this Canaanite [referring to Melchizedek] crosses for a moment the path of Abram, and is unhesitatingly recognized as a person of higher rank than the friend of God” [Abraham, see James 3:23 and Hebrews 7:6-8].
Peloubet saw the connection between Melchizedek’s bringing out bread and wine (Genesis 14:18) to Abraham, and Jesus Christ bringing out to His disciples at His last Passover bread and wine as symbols of His broken body and shed blood (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25), which give us victory over sin and death.
Not a “Canaanite!”
Many evangelicals resist the idea that Melchizedek could have been a divine Being — not just a human being who was merely a type (a human forerunner) of Christ. This is reflected in Peloubet’s calling Melchizedek a “Canaanite.” [Adam Clarke’s Commentary on Genesis 14:18-20 expresses a similar opinion.]
Hebrews 7:1-3 unequivocally says that Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God…” This could only refer to One who is divine, immortal, and eternal! — not a Canaanite, who would trace ancestry to Canaan (Genesis 9:18) and has died.
Verse 4 of Hebrews 7 is erroneously rendered by most Bible translations as “Now consider how great this man was, to whom the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.” The original Greek word rendered as “this man” is not anthropos but outos, which should correctly be translated as “this One.” [Compare this with Hebrews 8:3.]
Inserting the wrong translation “this man” has thus obscured the real status of Melchizedek and has confused people about his true identity. By rendering the Greek word as “this One” doubt as to Melchizedek’s divine status is removed!
Jesus’ divine work
When the “LORD” of the Old Testament became the human Jesus Christ of the New Testament, He did not come as a “priest” — let alone a “High Priest.” “For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests [of Aaron’s lineage] who offer the gifts according to the law” (Hebrews 8:4).
By appointing the Aaronic priesthood, God temporarily set aside Melchizedek’s earthly priesthood, but not His eternal priesthood in God’s heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 7:24; 8:1-2). Instead, Jesus came as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
As eternal High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, Jesus “offered up Himself” in sacrifice as that Lamb, “once for all” (Hebrews 7:24-28). Through His death and resurrection Jesus has atoned for the sins of all mankind, beginning with God’s “firstborn” or the “elect” in this age. [See: Two Goats Together, The Value of the “Firstborn,” and Predestination.]
The risen and glorified Christ has now returned to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. There He serves as High Priest forever, to intercede for the sins of God’s people and to answer their prayers (Isaiah 53:12; Hebrews 7:25; 4:14-16). Since mankind’s creation and potential sin, the Hebrew YHVH — translated as “LORD” of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ in the New Testament — has been the everlasting “High Priest.” He was the Melchizedek who dealt with Abraham and David! [See: The True Christ and Peter Knew “The Holy One.”]
Likewise, Christ had been appointed by God the Father to be the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:18-21).
Melchizedek’s identity should be a mystery no more! For further knowledge about the subject, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Plain Truth (1934-1989)” and scroll down to the June 1956 issue, and the article on pages 13-14, titled “The Mystery of Melchizedek Solved!”
Surely the time has come — and it is during this “time of the end” — for God to reveal plainly “deep things” He has hidden from the understanding of mankind (Daniel 12:4, 8-10; John 16:25; Matthew 10:26; Luke 12:2). When we understand that the High Priest Melchizedek in the Old Testament record is the same divine person as the LORD who later became Jesus Christ, we will see that the LORD or Jesus as Melchizedek appeared on earth not just twice but many times. [See: The Comings of Christ.]
May you be among the “wise” who truly understand (Daniel 12:10)!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.