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The Mysterious, Mesmerizing Melchizedek: Part II

There are three main theories on the identity of Melchizedek. The first theory is one we have briefly touched on. Many theologians believe Melchizedek was a theophany of the pre-incarnate Jesus/Yahweh, which is called a Christophany (see The Angel of the Lord: Part 1 :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready). Psalm and Hebrews both compare Melchizedek with Jesus when they point out that Jesus has become a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek was called a king of righteousness and a king of peace. Only a divine being would appropriately bear these awesome titles, according to the adherents of this theory regarding Melchizedek.


Also, the combination of the two offices of king as well as priest was to be a distinguishing characteristic of the Messiah. They believe Melchizedek is immortal (having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the son of God and remains a priest continually).

Hebrews 7:3 mentioned Melchizedek was without father, without mother, without descent. Does this suggest he had no earthly parents or children? Even Jesus had an earthly mother and stepfather, who had human lineages. They believe Melchizedek was “made like” the son of God because he was the eternal preexistent Word of God who later became Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of the Father, through the agency of the Holy Spirit.


In my opinion, seeing Melchizedek as a Christophany or some other heavenly being has a few flaws. When the pre-incarnate Lord/Yahweh/Angel of the Lord made appearances in the Old Testament, it was always for a temporary time period and never for a long duration (especially a lifetime). To be king of Salem, one would require a background and lineage. You couldn’t just appear one day and become king.


Just because the author of Hebrews wrote “without father or mother or genealogy, neither beginning of days, nor end of life” doesn’t necessarily mean he was a heavenly being. It could mean that there wasn’t any documentation that was recorded of his birth, death, or family lineage. God could have intentionally chosen to omit any of these details when the Holy Spirit inspired the writer of Hebrews to pen those particular words. If Melchizedek was made like the Son of God (Jesus), why didn’t he have an earthly mother at least?


The text in Hebrews 7:3 simply states Melchizedek was made like the Son of God, not that he was the Son of God. The statement of Psalm 110:4 calls Messiah “a priest after the order of Melchizedek.” If Melchizedek were Christ, this text would literally mean Messiah was a priest after the order of himself. “Historical and archaeological data indicate good reason to understand compounds with ‘zedek’ as reflecting a dynastic title for Jebusite (descended from Ham and Canaan) kings of the areas. We have the Biblical example of Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem, in Joshua 10:1; yet it can hardly be suggested that this wicked king was a theophany.” {1}


The second theory regarding the identity of Melchizedek originates mostly in rabbinical teaching. Most rabbis and teachers of Judaism believe Melchizedek was no other than Shem, the youngest son of Noah. It’s strange to think that Melchizedek could have been Abraham’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great (naturally, that’s 7 greats) grandfather. Is that even possible as far as the genealogical records that we have in the Bible? Let’s take a closer look at these genealogies in Genesis with special emphasis on the deaths of Noah and his sons and their descendants after the flood. This will give us the lifetimes of all Abraham’s ancestors.


  • Birth of Noah – Year 1056 from creation – 2904 BC – Genesis 5:28-29

  • Birth of Japeth – Year 1556 from creation – 2404 BC – Genesis 5:32, 10:21. Note: Noah was 500 years old.

  • Birth of Ham – Year 1556-1559 from creation – 2404-2402 BC

  • Birth of Shem – Year 1559 from creation – 2401 BC – Genesis 11:10

  • Noah and family exit the ark – Year 1657 from creation – 2303 BC – Genesis 8:13-16 Note: Shem was 100 years old and died 500 years later – Genesis 11:10-11

  • Birth of Arphaxad – Year 1659 from creation – 2301 BC – Genesis 11:10

  • Birth of Salah – Year 1694 from creation – 2266 BC – Genesis 11:12

  • Birth of Eber – Year 1724 from creation – 2236 BC – Genesis 11:14

  • Birth of Peleg – Year 1758 from creation – 2202 BC – Genesis 11:16

  • Birth of Reu – Year 1788 from creation – 2172 BC – Genesis 11:18

  • Birth of Serug – Year 1820 from creation – 2140 BC – Genesis 11:20

  • Birth of Nahor – Year 1850 from creation – 2110 BC – Genesis 11:22

  • Birth of Terah – Year 1879 from creation – 2081 BC – Genesis 24

  • Death of Peleg – Year 1997 from creation – 1963 BC – Genesis 11:19

  • Death of Nahor – Year 1998 from creation – 1962 BC – Genesis 11:25

  • Death of Noah (950 years old) – Year 2006 from creation – 1954 BC – Genesis 9:28 Note: Noah died 3 years before Abraham was born.

  • Birth of Abraham – Year 2009 from creation – 1951 BC – Genesis 12:4, Genesis 11:27

  • Death of Reu – Year 2027 from creation – 1933 BC – Genesis 11:21

  • Death of Serug – Year 2050 from creation – 1910 BC – Genesis 11:23

  • Death of Terah – Year 2084 from creation – 1876 BC – Genesis 11:32

  • God makes a covenant with Abram giving him the land of Canaan to Abram and his descendants forever – Year 2084 from creation – 1876 BC – Genesis 12:7

  • Birth of Ishmael – Year 2095 from creation – 1865 BC – Genesis 16:3-4; 16:16

  • Death of Arphaxad – Year 2097 from creation – 1863 BC – Genesis 11:13

  • God confirms land covenant with Abram – Year 2108 from creation – 1852 BC – Genesis 15:9-21, 17

  • Birth of Isaac – Year 2109 from creation – 1851 BC – Genesis 21:5

  • Death of Salah – Year 2127 from creation – 1833 BC – Genesis 11:15

  • Death of Sarah – Year 2146 from creation – 1814 BC – Genesis 25:26

  • Death of Shem (600 years old) – Year 2159 from creation – 1801 BC – Genesis 11:11. Note: Abraham was 150 years old when Shem died and Isaac was 50 years old.

  • Birth of Jacob and Esau – Year 2169 from creation – 1791 BC – Genesis 25:26

  • Death of Abraham (175 years old) – Year 2184 from creation – 1776 BC – Genesis 25:7 Note: This year from creation (2184) is a correction of a typo error contained in Chronology of Mankind: 6,000 Years of History Pt 1:: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready

  • Death of Ebber – Year 2188 from creation – 1772 BC – Genesis 11:17 – Note: Eber died 4 years after the death of Abraham. In other words, Abrahams’ great, great, great, great grandfather lived longer than he did (and Abraham lived a long time).

  • Birth of Joseph – Year 2260 from creation – 1700 BC – Genesis 30:27-29

  • Death of Isaac – Year 2291 from creation – 1671 BC – Genesis 35:27-29


As I mentioned in part I, the appearance of Melchizedek occurred between the two great events of Abram’s life; God’s land covenant (promised land of Canaan) with him (1876 BC) and God’s confirming the covenant with him (1852 BC). Shem lived until 1801 BC (according to my calculations), so he was certainly still alive when Melchizedek met and blessed Abram. For that matter, Eber lived until 1772 BC, 29 years past Shem’s death. He could have been Melchizedek just as easily as Shem.


According to Gotquestions.org (Who are the Hebrews), the origin of the word ‘Hebrew’ is thought to have come from the proper name ‘Eber’ as the great-grandson of Shem and an ancestor of Abraham. Another etymology traces the original root word back to the phrase “from the other side”—in that case, Hebrew would be a word designating an ‘immigrant,’ which Abraham certainly was (Genesis 12:1, 4-5).


Eber’s sons were Peleg and Joktan. 1 Chronicles 1:19 says that the earth was divided in the days of Peleg. This division was one of physical separation. It occurred during the Tower of Babel when God created different languages between the sons of Noah (and their descendants), and scattered the peoples throughout the earth.


The scholar Mr. Gregory of Oxford tells us that the Arabic Catena, which he believes is authoritative, gives this account of the mysterious Melchizedek: Melchizedek was the son of Heraclim, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, and that his mother’s name was Salathiel, the daughter of Gomer, the son of Japeth, the son of Noah. Archeological remains suggest that there was evidence that a Shemite (Semite) tribe inhabited the area of Salem (Jerusalem) before the Jebusites arrived there and took control of the city-state. The Jebusites were descended from Noah’s son Ham through his son Canaan. This lineage always worshipped pagan gods and idols.


I don’t buy into this theory, as it has several flaws. Shem, Eber, Salah, and possibly Arphaxad could not have been the infamous Melchizedek because they all had a recorded genealogy. These forefathers of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were ancestors of Jacob’s son Levi and not descendants of his. In the law of Moses, a priest could only derive from the descendants of Levi, whom Moses and Aaron descended from, but it doesn’t say anything about Levi’s ancestors, such as Shem or Eber.


Does being an ancestor of Levi disqualify them from being “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” as it does for his descendants (for they are of the order of Levi)? It is a bizarre question and is only possible because of the longevity of life during the days immediately after (and before) the flood. Jesus was a descendant of Jacob (through his mother and stepfather) but was not of the tribe of Levi (they were of the tribe of Judah), so he couldn’t be a priest in the time he lived. The Levitical law of Moses would have prohibited him from this position.


I believe Melchizedek was not an ancestor of Levi (Shem, Eber, etc.), for God needed to create another priesthood (and covenant) from which Jesus could derive. More on this later in the article.

Many scholars believe Melchizedek was a Canaanite (possibly a Jebusite) king who was also a High Priest for his people. This is the third theory concerning the identity of Melchizedek and the one I prefer. Melchizedek was a righteous man who worshipped the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the sons of Israel. His faith and obedience to the Lord could be compared to Enoch, Noah, or Job, none of whom were Hebrews (although some of them were ancestors of the Hebrews). Like Enoch and Noah, Melchizedek was surrounded by evil and unrighteous neighbors but never lost his faith (for he is a High Priest forever ordained by God Himself).


There is no account available that addresses where Melchizedek obtained his knowledge regarding God. Both Abraham and Melchizedek called Him by the same name, Lord (Yahweh) God (El) Most High (Elyon). Perhaps Melchizedek learned from one of Abram’s ancestors, or the Angel of the Lord visited him as He did with Abraham.


Like Job, no lineage is given for him, so in a way, one could say he had no father, mother, birth or death date because it wasn’t documented. Melchizedek was a very unusual priest in that he did not inherit his priesthood. It was given to him by appointment from God, for the Lord raised up for Himself a High Priest, not a temporary one, but one for eternity. His priesthood was based not on genealogy or inheritance but of faith. That is why God arranged for events to unfold as they did, so these two men of faith could meet. The greater of the two, Melchizedek, would receive a tithe from the lesser, Abraham, and God’s High Priest would give God’s servant/friend, Abraham, a blessing and would then bless their great God.


A Prophecy of King David


The word of the oath (by God the Father), which came after the law (during King David’s time), appoints the Son (Jesus) who has been perfected forever. “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, You (Jesus) are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4).


The New Priestly Service


“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest (Jesus), who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore, it is necessary that this One (Jesus) also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law, who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle.


“For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’ But now He [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He [Jesus] is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:1-6).


A New Covenant


“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:7-13).


Melchizedek was a typology/foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the true King and High Priest forever. Abraham was a typology of the faithful remnant of Israel that place their faith in El Elyon, the Lord (Yahweh/Jesus) God Most High (God, the Father and Holy Spirit). Jesus Christ is the High Priest for all believers, both Hebrews and Gentiles, and is now sitting at the right hand of God, making intercession on our behalf before the Father. I’m sure Melchizedek is there as well and is performing his job as “a priest forever.”


Randy Nettles

nettlesr@suddenlink.net

Endnotes:

{1} Homer A Kent Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews, BMH Books

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