One of the most prevalent doctrines in Christianity is that Jesus is the final High Priest in a heavenly Temple sitting at the right hand of the Father acting as mediator between man and God. In my post on the error of Korah [here] I point out that the error of Korah was his rebellion against Moses, and more specifically the role of Aaron as High Priest. Most people don’t read past Numbers 16 to see Yehovah caused the tribe of Levi’s staff with Aaron’s name on it to bloom signifying Aaron is the chosen High Priest (Num 17:8).
So where did Melchizedek come from and how is he superior to Aaron? What information do we have about this Melchizedek?
In Genesis 14 Abram encounters Melchizedek while returning from defeating king Chedorlaomer.
Gen 14:18-20 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: and he was [is] the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, “Blessed be Abram to the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand”. And he gave him tithe from all.
That’s it. That’s the only information given about Melchizedek.
He is called Melchizedek which is two Hebrew words
H4428 מלך melek – From H4427; a king: – king, royal.
H6664 צדק tsedeq – From H6663; the right,; also equity or (figuratively) prosperity: – just (-ice), ([un-]) right (-eous) (cause, -ly, -ness).
He is King of Salem (the early name of Jerusalem) meaning peace
He brought out bread and wine
He was a priest to El Elyon – the most High God
He blessed Abraham and the Most High God
The next sentence “and he gave him tithe from all” has been traditionally understood as Abram being the giver of the tithe [lit. tenth], but a careful reading of the text suggests it could be read as the King being the one who gives Abram a tenth. Abram was the victor in this war – Melchizedek brings out bread and wine, he blesses Abram, he blesses the Most High God, and “he gave him a tenth of all”. This also coincides with verse 21 where the king of Sodom says to Abram “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.“. So on the surface at least, it appears Abram is the receiver not the giver. However, the text doesn’t really say who gave a tenth and who received a tenth, and since we are commanded not to add to or take away from the words we should leave it at that.
But, this is at the core of the Melchizedek priesthood doctrine. The story goes something like this: Melchizedek was the King of Righteousness and a priest of Yehovah. Israel wasn’t a nation yet and Levi was still in the loins of Abram, not yet being born. Since Abram tithed a tenth to him that means Levi and his lineage actually tithed to this priest thereby making them subordinate priests under Melchizedek. This is absurd to say it lightly.
One thing that should be addressed is his name. Why is this king called king of justice or king of righteousness? Should it be understood as his name or his title? Salem meaning peace is the early name of what would later be named Jerusalem. If one understands that the city is repeatedly referred to in terms of ‘justice’ and ‘righteousness’ it can be understood that this is a title of the king not his name or attribute:
Isa 1:21 How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.
Isa 1:27 Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
Isa_32:1 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.
Isa_33:5 The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
Jer_31:23 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes: “‘The LORD bless you, O habitation of righteousness, O holy hill!’
Isa_62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.
Isa_62:2 The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.
The theme of justice and righteousness permeates the whole of the Hebrew Bible, especially as it pertains to the kings of Israel. There are literally too many to list, but in the end the Davidic king is said to rule with absolute justice and righteousness.
Jer_23:5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Jer_23:6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
Jer_33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Based on the above it can be concluded that the king of righteousness, or Melchizedek, is a title for the city not an identifier of his qualities. Are there any other indications in the Hebrew Bible that this is the case? Yes. Joshua encounters a king of Jerusalem named Adoni-zedek meaning Lord of Justice [or righteousness]. Why is this king not associated with Jesus? Well, it’s pretty obvious. In Jos 10 Joshua captures 5 kings, one of which is Adoni-zedek the king of Jerusalem. After he defeats them he summons the men of war in Israel to step on their necks while he strikes them dead, hangs them on trees, and afterwards stuffs their dead bodies in a cave. We learn from this story that Adoni-zedek is not really a name identifying the king as righteous. He was only the Lord or ruler over the city of Justice and Righteousness that is Jerusalem.
The only other time Melchizedek is mentioned is Psalm 110.
(1) A Psalm of David. The LORD (YHVH) says to my Lord (master): “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
(2) The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!
(3) Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.
(4) The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
(5) The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
(6) He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
(7) He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
The controversies over this chapter are beyond the scope of this post. But, this is a promise to David that he, or his line, will rule forever. All of the prophets agree that when the nations are judged and the kings of the earth are destroyed Yehovah will be king, but it will be David [some think David himself – others think his lineage] who will rule from the physical throne in absolute justice and righteousness. But does this ruler also perform priestly duties? For that we have to study Ezek 40-48.
The Prince described in these chapters is afforded special privileges usually only given to the priests.
He eats the sacrificial offerings [Eze 44:3]. The lechem: food, grain, or bread
His portion of land is in the center of the land apportioned to the priests [Eze 45:7, 48:21-22]
He performs priestly duties: burnt offerings, meal offerings, sin offerings, and sacrifices on Feast Days [Eze 45:16-17,2, 46:4,1]
We can find who this Prince is by looking at other verses that tell us precisely who he is. Again, from Ezekiel:
(23) And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.
(24) And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.
(24) “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.
(25) They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.
David, the servant of Yehovah, will be the Prince over Israel performing priestly duties forever. The incredible detail Ezekeiel goes into about this period tells us several things that are very difficult for Christians to explain:
Melchizedek is not mentioned
Jesus is not mentioned – it is Yehovah who sets up His throne and dwells in the midst
Neither the Church nor Gentiles are mentioned, only the house of Israel and the house of Judah along with the sojourners who are with them.
The Messiah is not mentioned
The Sabbath, New Moons, and Feasts are celebrated including Passover with sacrifices
Blood sacrifices, including sin sacrifices, are re-instituted indicating people are not in ‘glorified bodies’ incapable of sinning
The sons of Zadok [Levites] from the line of Aaron through Eleazar are the priests.
The last place Melchizedek is mentioned is in the book of Hebrews and it’s really where this whole doctrine comes from. As I’ve said before, there are many problems with the book of Hebrews, the first being is that it is authored by an unknown writer. The second as it relates to this topic is how it explains Melchizedek:
(1) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
(2) and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.
(3) He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
(4) See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!
(5) And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham.
(6) But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
(7) It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.
(8) In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.
(9) One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham,
(10) for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
(11) Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?
(12) For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.
(13) For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar.
(14) For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
(15) This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek,
(16) who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.
(17) For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
The writers assumes it was Abram [his name was not Abraham yet] who gave the tithe. As I pointed out above it is not stated who is the giver and who is the receiver. Verse 3 is the the real zinger though “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever”. In the whopping two times Melchizedek is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible where does it say he was without beginning or ending, without a mother or father, in the resemblance of the Son of God? It doesn’t, this writer just made it up and violated the command “not to add to or take away from” and that’s all I need to know that this is a false doctrine.
Nonetheless, people still believe it and are repeating the error of Korah who rebelled against the words of Moses and Aaron. They’ve even taken it a step further than Korah did by actually replacing Aaron with their own priest that is ‘better‘ in their eyes. This is unfortunate for those in the lost tribes being called back because they will most likely end up like Korah.
It is my prayer that those still walking in the error of Korah start tearing down their alters along with their false gods and start repenting of this rebellion so our Redeemer will come.