Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
The Jews have known no priesthood other than the Aaronic one, but now the writer of Hebrews tells his readers that there is yet a higher order of priesthood, one to which Jesus belongs.
This passage (in the central chapter of Hebrews)26 reveals more about the mysterious Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20). He was both the king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a ″priest of God Most High″ (Hebrews 7:1). As priest, he brought out bread and wine and blessed Abraham, the forefather of the Jews (and all the people of faith). Abraham then gave Melchizedek a tithe (tenth) of everything. Hebrews introduces this ancient Melchizedek as a mysterious figure who helps us to understand who Christ is: one who is both priest and king. His name means ″king of righteousness″ (v. 2)-a unique term, which reminds us of Christ. He was also known as the ″king of Salem″, meaning ″king of peace″ (v. 2). These terms are used by the author to show that he was not an ordinary priest and king. He was an extraordinary person.
This is reiterated further in verse 3. Melchizedek is a stranger who blazes onto the scene. No one knows who his parents were. Unlike the Levitical priesthood, who had to prove their ancestry, he is ″without genealogy″ (no background or pedigree). He is ″without beginning of days or end of life″. No one knows when he was born or when he died, there being no such record. This suggests that he, symbolically, lives for ever, as a type of Christ,27 and that his priesthood is one that lasts for ever.
This idea that the priesthood of Jesus is similar to or the same as that of Melchizedek is a central idea in Hebrews. First, we have Hebrews 5:6 where God is depicted as saying to Christ, ″You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek″. Then in Hebrews 6:20, it is declared that as our forerunner who entered the Holy of Holies, Jesus ″has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek″. Then this is further explained in Hebrews 7. The question is asked whether Melchizedek was in fact the pre-incarnate Christ, as some commentators think. But that was most likely not the case, for though he seems to be a mysterious figure, he is referred to as ″resembling the Son of God″ (Hebrews 7:3) rather than ″the Son of God″. Although he was only a human being, the lack of details about his life makes him the perfect ″facsimile (type) of which Christ is the reality″.28
26Thomas, Hebrews, 81.
27Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 248.
28G. C. D. Howley, ed., A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969), 552.
Why do you think the author takes pains to show that the priesthood of Jesus is unique, and that it can be compared to the mysterious priest and king who met Abraham? Does this mean anything to us today?
In what ways does Jesus remain a mystery to you? What happens when we think we know everything about Him?