Who was Melchizedek?


by Matt Slick

Melchizedek, מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק‬, (King of Righteousness) was both the king of Salem (which later became Jerusalem) and a priest of God.  He is first mentioned in Genesis 14:18–20 but is referred to in additional biblical passages: Psalm 110:4; and Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1–17.  In Gen. 14:18 Abram (whose name is later changed to Abraham) gave a tenth of all he had to him (Gen. 14:20; Heb. 7:1-2).  The occasion of their meeting was when Sodom and Gomorroh were plundered and Lot, Abram's nephew, along with his family were captured by Chedorlaomer and three of his allies (Gen. 14:8).  Abram took his army of 318 men and rescued Lot (Gen. 14:13-16).  Upon Abram's return, he was greeted by Melchizedek at the valley of Shaveh (v. 17).  Melzhizedek brought out bread and wine.  The bread and wine are significant since they reflect the bread and wine given by Christ who is said to be a priest after "the order of Melchizedek," (Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20).  Melchizedek appears and disappears rather mysteriously.

Psalm 110:4

David mentions someone greater than himself, someone who is "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." There's not much said here, but since the Psalm is messianic (Matt. 22:44) it speaks of the future Messiah, Jesus, who is the perfect ruler and who is also our high priest.  He is, of course, expounded upon in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1–17

Hebrews expounds a great deal on Melchizedek. Jesus is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6, 10).  He was designated by God (Heb. 5:10).   Hebrews 7:1-2 is so descriptive, is worth quoting.

"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace," (Heb. 7:1–2).

This section goes on to talk about the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood over the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:4-10). Both Melchizedek and Jesus do not have a priesthood that is dependent upon their ancestry.

Facts about Melchizedek

  1. Melchizedek is mentioned in three books:  Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:4; and Hebrews 5:10; 6:20; 7:1–17
  2. He has no recorded parentage:  Hebrews 7:3
  3. Was designated by God (Heb. 5:10)
  4. He was the King of Salem: Genesis 14:18
  5. Was both King and a Priest: Genesis 14:18; Psalm 110:4
  6. Abram (Abraham) paid tithes to him: Genesis 14:20
  7. Melchizedek offered bread and wine to Abram (Abraham): Genesis 14:18
  8. He blesses Abram: Genesis 14:19
  9. His priesthood is not dependent upon ancestry:  Hebrews 7:3, 6
  10. His priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood: Heb. 7:7

Was Melchizedek actually Jesus Christ pre-incarnate?

There is a debate among Christian theologians and members of various churches as to who Melchizedek actually was. Some believe he was pre-incarnate Christ while others believe he was a type, a representation of Christ. There are good arguments on both sides.  There are similarities in that there are only two people who hold both the titles of King and Priest:  Melzhizedek and Jesus.  Also, Jesus parentage was that he had both a human (Mary) and divine "parent" (Holy Spirit). Melchizedek's genealogy is said to be "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end-of-life..." (Heb. 7:3), which hints at representing Christ.  In addition Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine which is reminiscent of the Lord's supper instituted by Christ (Luke 22:17-20). For these reasons many people believe Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ. On the other hand, it is possible that the writer of Hebrews was elevating Christ by quoting certain aspects of this mysterious Old Testament figure and relating to his priesthood that was not by biological ascendancy (Heb. 7:3) as was the Levitical priesthood. It is not conclusive that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ. But, at the very least, he was a type of Christ.

  • "MELCHIZEDEK (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק, malki-tsedeq). The king of Salem and priest of God Most High. Blesses Abram in Gen 14, referenced in Psa 110 in God’s promise to bless the Davidic king, and invoked in the letter to the Hebrews to affirm the priestly status of Christ."1
  • “Melchizedek” is composed of the words meleḵ, “king,” and ṣeḏeq, “righteousness.”2
  • "MELCHIZEDEK mel-kizʹə-dek [Heb. malkî-ṣeḏeq] (Gen. 14:18; Ps. 110:4); [Gk. Melchisedek] (He. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 10f, 15, 17); AV NT MELCHISEDEC. The king of Salem and priest of God Most High who blessed Abram and received tithes from him following the patriarch’s victory over Chedorlaomer and his allies."3



  • 1. Barry, John D., David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder, eds. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.
  • 2. Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988.
  • 3. Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.