January 11, 2024

Who Was Melchizedek? Was He Jesus?

Nathan W. Bingham & Derek Thomas
Who Was Melchizedek? Was He Jesus?

What do we know about Melchizedek? Was he a priest and king in the ancient world—or something more? Today, Derek Thomas helps us understand this mysterious figure from the Bible.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Well, we’re recording live from Ligonier’s Ontario Conference, and we’re joined by one of our teaching fellows, Dr. Derek Thomas. Dr. Thomas, can you tell us who was Melchizedek? Was he Jesus?

DR. DEREK THOMAS: OK. Who was Melchizedek and was he Jesus? Melchizedek is a character that appears twice in the Old Testament: first of all in Genesis, the book of Genesis, chapter 14, and then he’s also mentioned in that Christological Psalm, the most important Christological Psalm, Psalm 110.

In Genesis 14, Melchizedek greets Abraham and brings him bread and wine. And since he is a king-priest figure, bringing bread and wine has allusions perhaps to the Lord’s Supper. He is a Jesus-like figure. Melchizedek, zedek in Hebrew is the word for “righteousness,” so he’s the king of righteousness, which sounds like Jesus for sure. His name means “king of righteousness.”

And what is intriguing about him, and this is what the book of Hebrews picks up, that he has no genealogy. So, he suddenly appears out of nowhere, brings bread and wine and greets Abraham, the most important figure in the Old Testament, and it sort of rings bells not for Abraham but for New Testament believers that Jesus has no genealogy in the sense that He was born of the virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit, so He has no lineage from His father’s roots as it were.

And that makes for an image that the book of Hebrews plays with that Melchizedek is a Jesus-like figure. In Hebrews 7:3, we read that he resembled the Son of God. Now, if he was Jesus, a preincarnate Jesus, a theophany, as we sometimes say, it would be strange to say that he resembled the Son of God if he was the Son of God. And I think rather that the book of Hebrews is suggesting that in redemptive history, early in redemptive history, the answer to the riddle of the seed of the woman that would bruise the head of Satan is a kingly priest-like figure who brings bread and wine.

And it sounds like Jesus, he was a Jesus-like character that, for New Testament believers, helps us trace the narrative of redemptive history all the way down to Jesus Himself.