Melchizedek is one of the most intriguing characters the Bible says almost nothing about. He’s only mentioned in three books of the Bible, but the conversation surrounding Melchizedek is expansive.
You’ve heard some people say Melchizedek is Jesus. You’ve heard some people say he’s just a guy who worshiped God. You’ve probably heard all kinds of ways Melchizedek’s life applies to yours.
He’s a mysterious figure, and I’ve found that mysterious Bible figures (like Michael the archangel) attract a lot of speculation, which ends up spreading some extra-biblical ideas. This means that when we sit down to study someone like Melchizedek (or a passage that mentions him), we’re often looking through folklore-tinted lenses.
I’ve found that a good way to approach these figures is just to search for every time they’re mentioned in the Bible, and create a list of observation-level facts. (Logos Bible Software makes this super easy, by the way.)
When I was working on a guide to the Book of Hebrews, I noticed that letter gives some attention to Melchizedek. So I took a break from that project to make a laundry list of biblical Melchizedek facts. Enjoy!
Melchizedek: 8 biblical facts
1. Melchizedek is only mentioned in three books of the Bible.
2. The New Testament says a lot more about Melchizedek than the Old Testament.
Compared to the New Testament, the Old Testament doesn’t say a whole lot about Melchizedek. His role in the Bible takes place in a span of just a few verses in Genesis, but the author of Hebrews unpacks his significance in great detail.
Melchizedek’s name is mentioned 10 times in the Bible: once in Genesis (Gn 14:8), once in Psalms (Ps 110:4), and the rest are in Hebrews. That’s a lot of NT love!
3. Melchizedek was a priest of God.
We get this from Genesis (Gn 14:18). Abram, whose name becomes Abraham later, has just returned from defeating four kings in battle, and a priest named Melchizedek brings out bread and wine for the hero. Then Melchizedek blesses Abram:
Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand. (Gn 14:19–20)
4. Melchizedek was a king.
Specifically, Melchizedek was the king of Salem, a city-state in the land of Canaan. “Salem” means “full, complete, safe, whole, peaceful.”1 (Not to be confused with Selah). The author of Hebrews calls attention to this when likening Melchizedek to Jesus—Melchizedek was the king of “Peace,” which makes us think of another Prince of Peace we know (He 7:2).
5. Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness” (He 7:2).
The name comes from two Hebrew words: malak (king, ruler) and sadaq (righteous, just, innocent). It’s a pretty cool name.
6. The order of Melchizedek was royal and everlasting.
The 110th Psalm is a Messianic prophecy that tells us two things God promised to do for Jesus: make Jesus the king in Zion and make Jesus a priest.
The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.” Ps 110:4
And of course, the permanence of Melchizedek’s priestly order is pretty important to the author of Hebrews, since Jesus is the resurrected great high priest of the new covenant between God and man.
7. Melchizedek was greater than Abraham and Aaron.
The author of Hebrews argues that when it comes to really outstanding human beings, Melchizedek trumps Abraham (He 7:7)—so much so that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of all the spoils Abraham collected on his mission (Gn 14:20; He 7:4). And if Abraham looked up to Melchizedek, and Aaron looked up to Abraham, that puts the order of Melchizedek a deal higher up the totem pole than Aaron’s priesthood.
8. Melchizedek has no recorded family.
The Jews were all about genealogies—don’t take my word for it: read First Chronicles. Yet Melchizedek has none. There’s no Melchizedek, son of So-and-So. No mention of a mother. No mention of a son. Not really anything.
The author of Hebrews makes a pretty big deal out of this. He contrasts the lineage-based priesthood of Aaron with Melchizedek, who has no recorded birth or death or anything (He 7:3, 8).
This is where the discussion on Melchizedek gets really interesting, and goes in many different directions. Was he just a righteous man? An apparition of Jesus before he was born in the flesh (called a “theophany”)? An angel sent to govern the city of Salem?
Of course, that’s not really the author’s point. The author of Hebrews is more interested in showing off Jesus’ superior priesthood to the Hebrew Christian converts.
Want to know more about Melchizedek and the book of Hebrews?
You can download a Hebrews study guide that looks at Melchizedek and the rest of Hebrews in more detail—and coaches you through studying Hebrews yourself. For a 3-minute read, explore this quick overview on Hebrews.
1Baker, Warren, and Eugene E. Carpenter. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003.