The History of Melchizedec

Taken and adapted from, “An Illustration of the Types, Allegories, and prophecies of the Old Testament”
Written by, William McEwen, a one time minister of the Gospel at Dundee.
Published in 1849


Now we shall come to the short, but comprehensive history of Melchizedec…

…the figurative meaning of which is not only hinted to us in the sacred oracles, but the Holy Ghost condescends to enter on a very particular explication of it in Hebrews 7. The narrative related by Moses is shortly this, (See Genesis 7) “The patriarch Abraham had, with his little army, surprised and defeated the forces of the confederate kings, who had plundered Sodom, and, among other prisoners had carried away captive his kinsman Lot, who, living in that wicked city, was now a very singular blessing to his sinful fellow-citizens, being the occasion of their rescue, from the invaders of their country.

As he returned from the slaughter, Abraham was met by the king of Sodom, with another king of a very different character: his name was Melchizedec, which though a very fine one, for it signifies “king of righteousness,” –which was not unsuitable to his real character, and is a proper admonition to all other kings for what they should be distinguished.

The name of this city was Salem: whether it was that Salem where Jehovah afterwards had his tabernacle, or another place of the same name, is not precisely determined. However, we are assured, that upon this occasion he brought forth bread and wine, not as a sacrifice to God, O ye papists, but to refresh the patriarch’s men, fatigued with toil. But the most extraordinary circumstance of all is, that, though living in that wicked country, he was priest of the Most High God, and vested with legal dignity.

When all around him was sunk in superstition and idolatry, this illustrious Gentile retained the knowledge of the true God, and thought it no disparagement of his kingly honor to officiate in the solemn rites of his holy worship. The hospitable monarch was a no less religious priest. As in the former capacity he brought forth bread and wine; so in the latter, he blessed the renowned patriarch, and received from him the tithes of all. Thus far the sacred story. But from what parents he descended, when he was born, or when he died, who were his predecessors, or who succeeded him, are questions we are not permitted to resolve. And even the silence of the scriptures are expressive: “For he was made like unto the Son of God,” both in what Moses relates concerning him, and in what he conceals from the curious inquirer. Let us carefully observe these two heads of resemblance, and we shall easily understand how David in spirit says of the Messiah, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedec.” –Ps. 110: 4.

We shall first begin with what Moses relates of this extraordinary man, “To whom can his name Melchizedec so properly belong as to the King that reigns in righteousness; who, righteous himself, has wrought for all his subjects a justifying righteousness by the merit of his blood, and works in all his subjects a sanctifying righteousness by the power of his Spirit? –He, he is the King of Salem, which is by interpretation, King of peace. Peace is the disposition for which he was renowned, who with his dying breath implored forgiveness to his bloody murderers: peace is the grand blessing he died to purchase, and lives to confer. O glorious peace, of which righteousness is the foundation, and joy in the Holy Ghost the inseparable attendant! Hail ye subjects of his auspicious government, who call the blessings of his purchase all your own! Lo, in your princely Savior, the great Jehovah, lays aside his vindictive wrath, and becomes your loving Father; the angels no more stand aloof, but commence your ministers and guardians; the inferior creatures are turned into your faithful friends and allies; the Jews and Gentiles forgetting their former enmity, join in the most cordial friendship; and conscience, no more an accuser, whispers peace in gentlest accents. –Though “in the world you should have tribulation, yet in him you shall have peace.” “O Prince of peace, extend the borders of thy peaceful kingdom far and wide, and let the washed period, come when the nations shall learn war no more! O let thy peace rule in our hearts, through these tumultuous scenes of life; and bring us at last to these calm regions of joy and felicity, where peace extends her dove like wings for ever and ever! –“He brought forth bread and wine,’ to refresh the hungry and thirsty soldiers, when returning from the slaughter of the kings. Such is the refreshment which the true Melchizedec affords, and will afford to all that are truly engaged in the spiritual warfare.

He “has prepared of his goodness for the poor. O come unto him, and you shall never hunger: believe on him, and you shall never thirst. Eat of this bread, and drink of the wine which he has mingled.” Happy are they who shall conquer in the holy warfare, for they “shall eat of the hidden manna, and the lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them. And he was priest of the Most High God.” An honor not usually appropriated to those that sit on thrones: for God himself was pleased to provide against the blending of these offices in the commonwealth of Israel. Witness thy fate, Uzziah, –2 Chron. 26: 18, who, snatching at the censer, lost the scepter. And shall the triple-crowned priest of Rome, who exalts himself above all that is called God, go always unpunished? But of Jesus Christ, a prophet testifies, “He shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne,”–Zech. 6:13, as once he was a king upon his cross. “And he blessed Abram.”

So Christ, our royal Priest, was sent of God to bless the children of Abram, not with a verbal but real benediction, in turning every one of us from our iniquity: and men shall be blessed in him. Consider, in the last place, how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils; and as we may say, even Levi, who received tithes from the people by the commandment of God, was tithed in the loins of his progenitor. A most convincing proof, that this Melchizedec was both a greater man than Abram, and a greater priest than Aaron. But we Christians have a great High-Priest, in whose presence Abram must not glory, Levi has no pre-eminence. To our Melchizedec, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people, do pay, not only tithes but all they have and are, when they present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service. –Rom. 12: 1.

But the circumstances which Moses conceals, are no less worthy of our notice than those he reveals. In vain you ask his genealogy, his birth, his death, or the ceremonies of his consecration: for those are buried in darkness; the Holy Ghost intending to signify, that Jesus Christ is really and truly what this mysterious king is in the history. Without Father, –not as he was God, but man. –Without mother, –not as he was man, but God. –Without descent, –for having no predecessors in office, he needed not to prove, that he was sprung from the priestly tribe; which was an essential qualification in the Levitical priesthood. “Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, –for being set up from everlasting, he abides a priest continually; for though he -died, yet even in death he was a priest, and now he ever lives to make intercession for them. “What shall we say more? In the order of Aaron were many priests, who, like other mortals, resigned their breath by the stroke of death, their priestly honor was laid in the dust with them. We know from whence they arose, with what carnal ordinances and ceremonies they receive their inauguration, what sacrifices they offered, in what holy places they officiated, who assisted them in their various functions, and who succeeded them when they either died, or were deposed from their office.

But the priest after the order of Melchizedec, being possessed of immortal life, and called of God without external ceremonies to his high office, himself was the sacrifice, himself was the altar, himself was his tabernacle and temple, assisted by none, nor succeeded by any. In Melchizedec, whom Moses speaks of as though he had been immortal, we have but indeed a faint shadow, and not the very image of the things themselves, that are found in Jesus Christ. But let the faintness of the resemblance remind us of the greatness of the mysteries. “For who shall declare his generation?”