Hebrews sometimes mentions a subject and then deals with it later. That Christ is a Priest in the order of Melchizedek was mentioned without further explanation in 5:6 &10. The writer said he had much to say of this, then digressed into another matter before returning in 6:20 to say again that Jesus’ priesthood was in the order of Melchizedek. Finally, in chapter 7 he will focus on this; Melchizedek is not mentioned again after 7:17.
We learn first that Christ will be a
Priest of this kind in the OT only from Psalm 110:4. To know what that means it is necessary to review what
earlier Scripture had said about Melchizedek; it says very little: Then Melchizedek king of
Hebrews 7 does not discuss the serving of bread and wine,
nor even that Melchizedek blessed God! It wants to show the significance of him
as a real priest who lived well before Levi, Aaron and the later priests of
Many would question how Jesus could
ever be a genuine Priest. He was not of the tribe of Levi, and the law of God stipulated
that priests must be of that tribe. It would appear that believing in Jesus as
our Great High Priest is contrary to God’s Word and therefore a false doctrine.
Hebrews 7 will show to the Jewish people from their own Scriptures that the
strong statement in Psalm 110 that David’s Lord would be a priest in the order
of Melchizedek has been there in their Bibles for 1000 years. That man had been
a priest in Abraham’s day, a true priest who served Abraham’s God. He was not a
Levite, so Jesus also can be a real priest even though He is not one according
to the law of Moses. This fact demonstrates that a great change has come to
7:1 It is essential to Hebrews that there was a man in history named
Melchizedek. This is not a myth. He lived at a certain time – the time of
Abraham. He lived in a certain place –
7:2 Later the significance of paying a tithe
will be made. Hebrews 7 begins by establishing the facts of this very brief
moment in Abraham’s history. Zedek is
the word for righteousness and
7:3 A feature not stated in
Genesis 14 is emphasized vigorously. We do not read that Melchizedek had no
parents. He is not stated to be fatherless,
or that he had no mother. It is not simple to translate this since unusual
words are used. Clearly, it means that there is no record of his father or
mother. There is no mention of his birth or death. It does not say he was never
born; nor does it say he never died. We have here a strong argument from
silence. The only account we have of Melchizedek is limited to one occasion. He
was a priest of God Most High not because of a certain genealogy, but because
God appointed him as priest. He appeared in history as an-ever-living priest of
the true God, apart from any qualification as to his ancestors. The picture is
of a living man in a continuing ministry, and in that way he is a model of the
Son of God. This is a clear example of the Holy Spirit restricting information
so as to give a specific picture of this priest. The special purpose was to
have in place, long before
high priests of
By suppressing Melchizedek’s genealogy God was giving a message. Melchizedek was made to resemble the Son of God Who remains without change (1:10-12). The Greek verb in “he remains a priest” in v.3 is passive, so the idea is that he was made deliberately by God to be like the Son of God. Jesus also would serve at God’s call, not because one priest was father to another one. By saying a “priest forever” (which Genesis does not say), the writer reveals how much Psalm 110:4 influences his reading of Genesis. The right way to read the Bible is by having one part interpret another part. He knows the Old Testament predicted that an eternal priest was coming. He knew from the psalm that in some way Melchizedek would be a pattern of the priesthood of Jesus, so he looked for similarity.
7:4-10 Abraham paying a tithe to this great man With no mention of any sacrifice being offered by Melchizedek, Genesis speaks of other things in the encounter of this “great man” with Abraham. Since his tithe went to Melchizedek, this demonstrates the honor Abraham had for this priest. If the Patriarch Abraham could honor this priest in this way, Abraham’s children should see how great he was.
The mention of what was given to Melchizedek reveals how crucial it is to Hebrews that Genesis records real history. There was a battle between kings. Abraham responded to it and brought home the spoils of war for his men, but a tenth of all he gave to this great man. The writer wants his readers to grasp that this really happened and that there was a man named Melchizedek. If they can escape the facts of this, they will have some reason to reject another priesthood and so also to reject Christ.
The law requires that Levites collect the tenth. When Melchizedek received the tenth, the law was not in effect. This fact shows that the law concerning priests had a temporary nature. Genesis says that Abraham gave the tenth. It does not say that Melchizedek collected it, but if Abraham gave it and Melchizedek accepted it then it is parallel to the Levites collecting. The writer wants us to see that Levites collect, and so did Melchizedek. Further, Father Abraham, in making this presentation of the tenth, represented his offspring. Levi in his great grandfather’s action paid his tithe also. Not only was Abraham showing recognition of Melchizedek, so, in this way was Levi. Therefore Melchizedek has a priesthood greater than all the sons of Levi, and since Christ is a Priest in that order, He too has a position and ministry greater than all the other priests serving when Hebrews was written. To reject the priesthood of Jesus and His sacrifice is to depend on an inferior ministry when the Old Testament taught that a greater one was coming.
The writer is preaching; He exhorts then to think, and this is not the first time he made that sort of appeal. (See 3:1.) Melchizedek is great as the receiver of the tenth, and he is greater as the one who pronounces the blessing on Abraham. Abraham did not bless Melchizedek. Melchizedek as priest of the Most High God blessed him, and speaking that way indicates he had the rank of a spokesman for God. Pleading for them to consider what happened that day long ago, they must conclude that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham and thus Levi too. Further, he was a king as well, a feature found in no priest in the tribe of Levi. This increases his role as a fitting type of Christ, the Greater One to come. (See Luke 11:29-32.) Abraham took Melchizedek seriously. Anyone reading Genesis 14 could see Abraham as greater than the other nine kings mentioned there, but they cannot miss the very special respect shown to Melchizedek.
In 7:6 Abraham is mentioned as the one “who had the promises.” The way Hebrews speaks is always deliberate. Galatians 3 & 4 teach that Abraham received what is promised not by obedience to the law but by faith in the promises of God. The appropriate response to a promise is to believe that it is true, because the one promising has veracity. Here in Hebrews there is a suggestion of this law/promise distinction. Abraham would be blessed because of the faithfulness of God, which is the basis of Abraham’s inheritance. In chapter 7, promise is only mentioned; later in 11:8-19 it will be emphasized. The promise preceded the law; the promise is the basis of our salvation. The priests from Levi carried out the ceremonies of the law, but Abraham had the covenanted word of God and thus a guaranteed inheritance before the law was given through Moses. On the basis of law the sons of Levi served; this is a way that the writer indicates the inferiority of the old covenant. Entirely apart from the law’s regulation, Jesus was appointed a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He fulfilled the law, but His ministry for us does not benefit us because of our law keeping, but because of God’s promise. Thus Jesus’ priestly ministry is of the nature of the gospel itself.
A Priest forever If all we ever knew about Melchizedek was that he was greater than Abraham, that would not show as much about Christ as the distinction that priests from Levi are “men who die” while Scripture declared Melchizedek to be one who is living. This is why Hebrews reports that he was “without end of life”. It is as a priest who lives forever that Melchizedek is a witness to Christ to come. Jesus is fully like the Father including God’s eternal existence. Hebrews 1 begins by affirming Christ’s deity. In addition, what was especially needed by the readers was to see the enduring nature of Jesus’ service as Priest, so that faith would be in Him and His offering. Melchizedek, and the way he is reported was a shadow designed by God to show Christ as a priest on the basis of the power of an indestructible life (v.16), a priest forever (v.17), One Who lives forever and has a permanent priesthood (v.24), One Who always lives to intercede for them (v.25).
 The “met Abraham” is an inclusio appearing in vv. 1&10. This indicates that it is a literary section. In Genesis 14 the King of Sodom met Abraham. Of course, if Melchizedek and Abraham were together they also met. But for these words to appear only here in the Bible serves to mark a deliberate boundary for this section.
 The very unusual word in Greek, found only here in all of the Bible, appears in another Greek writer not to mean fatherless but “father unknown”. It is a way of saying “without genealogy.”