. . . and having been perfected, He came to be the Author of eternal salvation to all the ones obeying Him, having been called out by God as a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Concerning whom we have much discourse, and hard to interpret, or to speak, since you have come to be dull in the hearings. For indeed because of the time you are due to be teachers, yet you need to have someone to teach you again the rudiments of the beginning of the Words of God, and you came to be having need of milk, and not of solid food; for everyone partaking of milk is without experience in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant. [LITV]Hebrews 5:9-13
- What is the point of comparison being made between Jesus and Melchizedek?
- ‘About whom’ is it that we have much to discuss about?
- Is it about ‘this’? Is it about ‘him’? And does ‘him’ refer to Melchizedek or Christ?
- What exactly does “after the order of Melchizedek mean”?
These are just some of the questions that come immediately to mind when one reads this passage. ‘Taxis’ is the word for ‘order’ in the phrase “after the order of Melchizedek. Well, what does that mean? No, it’s not got anything to do with taxies. The word describes a system, arrangement or classification, or a rank or position of an office or order of priesthood. But the problem is there is nothing more explained about who Melchizedek was. Little is added by the two brief references in Scripture – Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4 nor by what is explained in the letter from the writer of Hebrews in Chapter 7. Discussion over the years in Hebrew extra-biblical writings and historians trying to understand the meaning of “after the order of Melchizedek” come up short. It has been suggested that Melchizedek was:-
- an angel
- the Son of God, a Christophany
None of those suggestions really stand up to investigation. If he was Shem, how did his name change to Melchizedek and why is he found living in the land of Ham and not Shem. Shem certainly had a father and a genealogy and beginning of days and end of life (Heb 7:3). If he was an angel why would the writer of Hebrews bother discussing a specific angel after he has already dispensed with the comparison of Christ with angels. The fact that Melchizedek was supposed to be a Christophany, a prior appearance of the Son of God, makes no sense either. Why would the writer use the word [aphomoioō] “being made like or similar to” if he were Christ Himself. It makes no sense.
There is no historical evidence at all of a King of Salem called Melchizedek. Thus we can’t go back and investigate this King of Salem. Salem has of course been linked with Jerusalem and the derivation of Salem from שׁלם (sh-l-m) is clear in the explanation given to Melchizedek’s name. He was the King of Peace. But there is no record of any king called Melchizedek in the recorded history of Jerusalem. And how is it that Melchizedek is called the King of Salem or the King of Peace? Not only that but he is called a priest of the God most high (Heb 7:1). But what does that mean? Is he being referred to as a Priest of Adonai (YHWH) or is he a priest of the highest of gods (i.e. other gods). Again there are no references to such a priest nor specific god. Furthermore, this can’t be based on Jewish understanding according to the Levitical Priesthood where the priesthood and kingship were strictly divided into two offices, classes or categories. Saul was castigated for taking on the role of the priest when he couldn’t wait for Samuel and carried out the sacrifice himself. Never the two should meet. So who is this character Melchizedek?
When we have a king of Salem who is also a priest of the most high God, how are we to understand that in Jewish terms? We need to know something about the priesthood designated to be after the order of Melchizedek. What did such a priesthood look like and on what was it based, if it was not part of the Levitical priesthood? But we have no background to use to determine the basis of the priesthood of Melchizedek. So we end up grasping at straws and suggesting this King of Salem (“Peace”) and this King of Righteousness is Shem, an angel or even the Son of God Himself.
We have nothing told us as to his appearance before Genesis 14. He just appears without “beginnings of days”. Then he slips away without end of days or statement made related to the end of his life. Thus we can’t say anything about this Melchizedek, nor his genealogy because he is without father or mother of genealogy. He has no birth or death date according to Scripture nor beginning nor end to him, thus we have no record of how long he lived. All we have is conjecture and supposition without substance.
I think there is another way of looking at this Melchizedek which I will address in the following Gem. In the meantime you have a mystery to ponder.
All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil.Benjamin Disraeli
Mystery is another name for our ignorance; if we were omniscient all would be perfectly plain.Tryon Edwards
I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.Harry Emerson Fosdick
The mystery of things simply begs us to dig a little deeper; there is always more waiting to be revealed.Ian