The Hebrew writer has already, in previous chapters, made much mention of Jesus being our High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek. But who was this Melchizedek? We know only as much, as always, as God ordained important for us to know. The Old Testament only speaks of him in two places – Genesis 14:17-20, and again in the Messianic royal Psalm 110 (110:4), which is quoted here in this chapter again. After Abraham came back from rescuing his abducted kinsman, Lot, and after what is called here “the slaughter of the kings” (see Genesis 14:1-16), he was visited by Melchizedek, “king of Salem” and “priest of God Most High,” who blessed him. Some believe that the Salem mentioned here is the same historical location as Jerusalem, but we do not know for sure, as another possibility exists. The name is related to the Hebrew word for “peace,” and Melchizedek translates to “king of righteousness.”
What is of note here, is that the Hebrew writer points out that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, and blessed him. From Abraham’s loins, Levi would come; and it was only the Levitical line that could be priests among the Israelites. But Abraham paid tithes to this “priest of God Most High,” and so he was greater than even those priests – though he was both not a Levite, nor even a Jew. Yet he held two distinct positions – that of king and priest, and is exalted as “great” here, and the writer declares that “it is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior” (verse 7). It is after this order that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became our High Priest, though He was not from the tribe of Levi either.
What about verse 3? It says of Melchizedek: “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.” Melchizedek is a real historical figure of the Old Testament, and the best way to think of this is that he has no recorded genealogy in Scripture which is intended to validate his priesthood. In addition, unlike the Levitical priests, has no recorded death which transfers his priesthood to another, so he continues as one forever, just as Jesus continues forever as our High Priest and King. The former priests were “prevented by death from continuing in office” (verse 23). So the Law requiring the priest to be a Levite (Numbers 18) has been set aside by Jesus, “the guarantor of a better covenant” (verse 22).
Our High Priest has no need to offer sacrifices like the Aaronic priests, because “he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (verse 27). He is unstained by sin, this perfect Son of God, who was made priest with an oath of the Lord (verses 17, 21, 28, Psalm 110:4).
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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