Jesus’ priesthood is more comparable to that of Melchizedek’s than it is to the priesthood which existed under the law of Moses. It was prophesied that He would be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4 cf. Hebrews 5:6, 10; 7:17, 21).
In this writing, we will consider Hebrews chapter seven. Chapter seven continues the reasoning from Melchizedek which started in chapter five. This flow of reasoning was interrupted for a warning (Hebrews 5:11-6:20; Tom Wacaster lists five sections of warning in this book (2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11-6:20; 10:26-31; 12:25-29, Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews).
“Melchizedek, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God… first being translated ‘King of righteousness,’ and then also King of Salem, meaning ‘King of Peace’” (Hebrews 7:1-2).
Melchizedek is being used as a type of Christ. (1) The name “Melchizedek” means “King of righteousness.” Jesus is described as righteous (e.g. 1 John 2:1). He reigns in righteousness (e.g. Isaiah 32:1; 42:1-4 cf. Matthew 12:15-21; Isaiah 62:1-2). He will judge, righteously (e.g. Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 19:11). (2) Salem is another name for Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 76:2). It means “peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7).
2. Predecessor and Successor
“Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but make like the Son of God, remains a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3). The Bible is silent when it comes to certain things about Melchizedek. It does not speak of a predecessor or a successor to him. It does not speak of his beginning of life, nor his end (cf. Aaron, Numbers 20:22-29). So far as the Biblical record is concerned, he continues as priest. This silence makes him a better type of Christ, than Aaron.
The words are difficult to modern readers. Here is what some commentators have said. 1. Robert Milligan, “The Greeks and Romans were wont to apply the epithets ‘without father’ (apater) and ‘without mother’ (ametor), (1) to their gods; (2) to orphans; and (3) to persons of unknown or obscure parentage. Thus, for instance, Livy says of Servius Tullius that ‘he was born of no father’ (Lib. iv. 3). So also, the Jews were accustomed to use the terms of persons, the names of whose parents were not given in the Holy Scriptures or in their genealogies. Philo, for example, speaking of Sarah, the wife of Abraham says, ‘She is said not to have had a mother, having received the inheritance of relationship from her father only” (De Ebriet section 14): meaning that her mother’s name is not found in the sacred record” (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews). 2. Adam Clarke, “This sort of phraseology was not uncommon when the genealogy of a person was unknown or obscure; so Seneca in his 108th epistle, speaking of some Roman kings says… ‘of the mother of Servius Tullius there are doubts; and Ancus Marcus is said to have no father.’ This only signifies that the parents were either unknown or obscure. Titus Livius speaking of Servius says he was born of a slave named Cornicularia… of no father” (Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary). 3. Wayne Jackson quoting from A.H. Sayce, “Several of Tell el-Amarna tablets are letters written to the Pharaoh by Ebed-tob… the King of Uru-Salim… He tells the Pharaoh that he was not like the other Egyptian governors in Palestine, ‘nor had he received his crown by inheritance from his father or mother; it had been conferred on him by ‘the Mighty King’” (Wayne Jackson, Biblical Studies in the Light of Archaeology, p. 25). Wayne Jackson concludes, “He was ‘without genealogy’ not literally, but with reference to his kingly-priestly functions. His priesthood was not determined by a physical genealogy nor was his office limited by a set number of years… rather it is described as ‘without beginning or end’ i.e., it had no ‘term limit’” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary).
3. Blessing and Tithes
“New beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Hebrews 7:7).
Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek (Genesis 14:19-20). The type of blessing under consideration is from the greater. Isaac blessed Jacob (Genesis 27:30). Jesus blessed the apostles (Luke 24:50-51).
“Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him” (Hebrews 7:9-10).
Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20). This means that Abraham recognized the legitimacy of Melchizedek’s role as priest. The lesson to be gleaned is that God can set up a priesthood separate from the tribe of Levi.
Moreover, when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, it is as if the Levites did as well. They descended through Abraham, and there is nothing in their nature to distinguish them from Abraham (as Jesus could be).
“Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood… what further need was there that another should rise according to the order of Melchizedek and not according to the order of Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:11).
There must be a reason for the priesthood of Jesus. Why did the LORD foretell of one who would come according to the order of Melchizedek? (Psalm 110). [It is worth pointing out that “another” in Hebrews 7:11 is heteron meaning “another of a different kind”].
The implied reason is that perfection was not offered through the Levitical priesthood. The term “perfection” refers to “the full consummation of God’s benevolent design and purposes in reference to the redemption of mankind” (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews). It has to do with man being able to draw near to God, as God had planned (Hebrews 7:11). The word “perfect” or “perfection” is significant in this book (Hebrews 6:1; 7:11; 7:19; 9:9; 10:1-2).