Continuing on in the series of biblical words from the ESV next up is Melchizedek. This is a curious one since little information has survived about Melchizedek but presumably he was quite well known in Old Testament times such that both Abram and David would pay him homage (and more). Although he lived in the time of Abram and was even known to him, David may only have known of him through divine revelation.
From Genesis 14 we know that Melchizedek was both priest and king. This is an interesting combination as we will see in a moment. Version 18 states:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)
So we know that Melchizedek was king of Salem as well as a priest of God. Salem could be a shortened version of Jerusalem. More convincing evidence is found in Psalm 76:1-2:
In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
And according to 2 Samuel 5:7 we know that Zion refers to the city of David:
Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.
And later in 2 Samuel 6-7 its clear that this refers to Jerusalem:
And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.
So Melchizedek was king of Jerusalem long before king David and he was priest of God Most High. You get the feeling that being both priest and king trumps just being a priest in the order of Aaron and the Levites. It also trumps David who was just king and no priest. But now we get to the heart of the matter.
The last reference in the Old Testament comes from one of David’s Psalms where God, that is Yahweh, speak to the one whose thrown shall be established forever, that is Jesus. Psalm 110:4 reads:
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
The writer of Hebrews talks quite a bit about Melchizedek. He makes reference to both Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. Although he doesn’t reveal any more than what is found in the Old Testament he does make plain the connection to Jesus. Jesus is the one who will rule forever as king and priest. He is king because he is God and he is high priest forever as he alone can intercede on our behalf.