As we reflect on the individuals mentioned in the Bible, we come up with an array of names, both great and small. Within the Torah (the Pentateuch – the Bible’s first 5 books) the name of Moses appears over 800 times. Moses’s brother Aaron, and the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob are each mentioned around 300 times. As we read these books, we are captured by the epic stories of creation, the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham’s life and faith, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, just to name a few. Among the lesser-known stories and characters is one Melchizedek.
In Genesis 14:18-20 we read: And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
That’s it! Not much of a story when compared to others within the neighboring chapters. And other than a brief mention of him again in Psalm 110:4, Melchizedek would be destined to fall from the recesses of our memory along with the likes of Jethro, Jabez, Og, king of Bashan, the unnamed king of Sodom, and the infamous Cain’s wife. But alas, the author of Hebrews invites us to consider Melchizedek’s … greatness??? Yes, you heard that right; he writes in verse 4, See how great this man was. In Hebrews 7:4-10, drawing from the material in Genesis 14, and from certain facts specifically not mentioned in Scripture (namely his mother, father or genealogy), the author exalts this obscure character from Torah to a place even greater than father Abraham. Though one of the smallest cogs in the mechanism of God’s eternal plan of redemption, Melchizedek occupies an essential place, without which the entire narrative of Jesus Christ’s great high priesthood would fall apart. If, as many have observed, “the New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed, then Melchizedek is a remarkable illustration of this principle. For it is not until the New Testament, and in particular the book of Hebrews, that we understand the importance of this man’s place in Scripture and in the grand drama of redemption.