Melchizedek or Malki Tzedek (/mɛl.ˈkɪz.ə.dɪk/[1]); (Hebrew: מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק malkī-ṣeḏeq) (translated as "my king (is) righteous(ness)") was a king and priest mentioned during the Abram narrative in the 14th chapter of the Book of Genesis.

He is introduced as the king of Salem, and priest of El Elyon ("God most high"). He brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram and El Elyon.[2] Chazalic literature--specifically Targum Jonathan,Targum Yerushalmi, and the Babylonian Talmud--presents the name (מלכי־צדק) as a nickname title forShem, the son of Noah.[3]

In Christianity, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus Christ is identified as a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, and so Jesus assumes the role of High Priest once and for all





Priesthood of Melchizedek

Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek — by Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–67

The priesthood of Melchizedek is a role in Abrahamic religions, modelled on Melchizedek, combining the dual position of king and priest.[1]

Hebrew Bible

Melchizedek is a king and priest appearing in the Book of Genesis. The name means "King of Righteousness" - a name echoing kingly and priestly functions.[2] He is the first individual to be given the title Kohen (priest) in the Hebrew Bible.

In Psalms

In some translations[which?], the Book of Psalms names Melchizedek as representative of the priestly line through which a future king of Israel's Davidicline was ordained. Alternatively, it may be more accurate that this term was here intended to be treated as an agglutinated improper noun, and thus translated as rightful king rather than left as Melchizedek; this interpretation is taken by some modern translations, such as the New JPS Tanakh.

In Judaism

The Law of Moses stipulates that only the male descendants of Aaron be commissioned to serve as Jewish priests) before the God of Israel and the Jewish nation. This commission is believed in Judaism to be a "a covenant of everlasting priesthood" ("Brith HaKehuna") and not eligible for replacement by other tribes of Israel.

Judaic midrash (exegesis) identifies Melchizedek with Shem the son of Noah. Although the Book of Genesis affirms that Melchizedek was "priest of God Most High". (Genesis 14:18), The Midrash and Babylonian Talmud maintain that the priesthood held by Melchizedek, who pre-dated the patriarch Levi by five generations (Melchizedek pre-dates Aaron by six generations; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kehoth, Amram, Aaron) was given in his stead to Abraham who in turn passed it on to his patrilineal descendents, Isaac and then to Jacob. Midrashic literature attributes this transition as a consequence due to Melchizedek preceding the name of Abraham to that of God, such as in the Midrash Rabbah to Genesis. Tractate Nedarim. While some Jewish commentators, such as Chaim ibn Attar, write that Melchizedek gave the priesthood to Abraham willingly.

Maimonides, in his Mishna Torah compilation, explains that Jacob separated his son Levi from his other sons and appointed him to instruct and teach the ways of 'service to God', specifically the servicial methods used by his forefather Abraham, to his brothers. He also instructed his sons to perpetuate this status of Levi ("Shevet Levi") for eternity (Maimonides, Avodah Zorah 1:15). For the prelude of this choice see Targum Yonathan to Genesis 32:25, and/or Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer ch. 37. In midrash, it is written that Amram the son of Kohath the son of Levi was the spiritual leader of the sons of Jacob ("Israel") during their Egyptian Bondage.[citation needed] Following his passing, his post was assumed by his son Aaron.

At the time of the erection of the Tabernacle, God commanded Moses to appoint Aaron and his sons to the Jewish priestly service as a precondition to God revealing his Shechinah amongst the nation of Israel;

And Ahron and his sons I will sanctify to serve me and I will dwell amidst the sons of Israel and I will be to them a God, and they will know that I (am) God their Master that took them out from the land of Egypt (in order that) I (will) dwell in their midst

—Exodus 29:44-46

King David in the Psalms refers to the future King of kings or Messiah as a "priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm 110:1-4.)

In Christianity

Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah spoken of as "a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4), and so Jesus plays the role of the king-priest once and for all. According to the writer of Hebrews (7:13-17) Jesus is considered a priest in the order of Melchizedek because, like Melchizedek, Jesus was not a descendant of Aaron, and thus would not qualify for the Jewish priesthood under Law of Moses.

Melchizedek is referred to again in Hebrews 5:6-10; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:1-21: "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek"; and Hebrews 8:1.

And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises" (Hebrews 7:5-6).

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Hebrews 7:11-12).

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament discussed this subject considerably, listing the following reasons for why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Aaronic priesthood:

  1. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek; later, the Levites would receive tithes from their countrymen. Since Aaron was in Abraham's loins then, it was as if the Aaronic priesthood were paying tithes to Melchizedek. (Heb. 7:4-10)
  2. The one who blesses is always greater than the one being blessed. Thus, Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. As Levi was yet in the loins of Abraham, it follows that Melchizedek is greater than Levi. (Heb. 7:7-10)
  3. If the priesthood of Aaron were effective, God would not have called a new priest in a different order in Psalm 110. (Heb. 7:11)
  4. The basis of the Aaronic priesthood was ancestry; the basis of the priesthood of Melchizedek is everlasting life. That is, there is no interruption due to a priest's death. (Heb. 7:8,15-16,23-25)
  5. Christ, being sinless, does not need a sacrifice for his own sins. (Heb. 7:26-27)
  6. The priesthood of Melchizedek is more effective because it required a single sacrifice once and for all (Jesus), while the Levitical priesthood made endless sacrifices. (Heb. 7:27)
  7. The Aaronic priests serve (or, rather, served) in an earthly copy and shadow of the heavenly Temple, which Jesus serves in. (Heb. 8:5)

The epistle goes on to say that the covenant of Jesus is superior to the covenant the Levitical priesthood is under. Some Christians hold that Melchizedek was a type of Christ, and some other Christians hold that Melchizedek indeed was Christ. Reasons provided include that Melchizedek's name means "king of righteousness" according to the author of Hebrews, and that being king of Salem makes Melchizedek the "king of peace." Heb. 7:3 states, "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he (Melchizedek) remains a priest forever." Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine, which some Christians consider symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice to confirm a covenant.


Catholics find the roots of their priesthood in the tradition of Melchizedek. (CCC 1544)[3] In Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek offers a sacrifice of bread and wine. Christ therefore fulfilled the prophecy of Ps 110:4, that he would be a priest "after the order of Melchizedek," at the Last Supper, when he broke and shared bread with his disciples. Catholics take seriously Christ's command that the Apostles should "do this in memory of Me". As such, the Catholic Church continues to offer sacrifices of bread and wine at Mass, as part of the sacrament of the Eucharist.


Some Christian evangelicals and Messianic Jews hold that Christ will return as the true Messiah in the name. According to this view, which is taken from a literalist interpretation of Revelation 20, he will serve as both King and High Priest (e.g. the Melchizedek priesthood) in a coming millennium of the Messiah.

A more common Protestant theological understanding simply holds that the mysterious Melchizedek priesthood refers to Jesus as the eternal priest. His once-made sacrifice fulfilled the need for atonement of sins and he currently rules within the Church. In this via traditions of the Book of Hebrews, Jesus has ever been, is, and will ever be the only totally perfect priest (Hebrews 9–-7). Amillennialists believe that the messiah has already come, and his earthly role has been fulfilled. This is contrary to millenarianism which expects a pre-millennial return of Christ as Messiah.

Some Christians believe Jesus Christ the Son came to Earth at various times before the New Testament, including once as Melchizedek himself. These appearances are called Christophanies. Others still maintain that Melchizedek is actually Archangel Michael: Michael is designated in the apocryphal Book of Enoch and the canonical Book of Daniel as "the prince of Israel". He is the angel of forbearance and mercy (Enoch, xl:3) who taught Enoch the mysteries of clemency and justice (lxxi:2). In the book of Jubilees (i:27 and ii:1), the angel who is said to have instructed Moses on Mount Sinai and to have delivered to him the tables of the Law is most probably Michael. Still others believe that Michael is Jesus.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This section is for Latter-day Saint views on the priesthood of the biblical figure.

Bronze statue on Temple Square, Salt Lake City, representing Peter, James, and John in the act of conferring the Melchizedek priesthood on Joseph Smithand Oliver Cowdery

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Melchizedek Priesthood is viewed as the priesthood authority of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, as well as Old Testament prophets, higher than that of the Aaronicauthority of John the Baptist and of the Levites.

According to The Book of Mormon, the prophet Melchizedek preached repentance to the people of a wicked city, and established peace in the land. According to Alma 13:18, Melchizedek's efforts earned him the title "the prince of peace". Of particular importance is the parallel Hebrew meaning of "prince of peace" and "king of Salem", another of Melchizedek's titles, and his association with (or typology of) Jesus Christ, who is also called the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:2), as well as the Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14). Later, Melchizedek's people were, according to Joseph Smith, Jr., caught up, or "translated", to meet the city of Enoch (Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 14:34). The priesthood is referred to by the name of Melchizedek because he was such a great high priest (Doctrine & Covenants Section 107:2). The Doctrine and Covenants states that before Melchizedek's day the Priesthood "was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too-frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in the ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood" (Doctrine & Covenants Section 107:3-4). Initially, the only Melchizedek Priesthood office in the LDS Church was Elder. Later revelations extended the office complement to Seventy, High Priest, Patriarch andApostle.


  1. Jump up^ Israel's Messiah in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls - Richard S. Hess, M. Daniel Carroll R. - 2003 - Page 67 "However, many monarchs of the ancient Near East did participate in the cult to a degree that certainly exceeded the term ... David clearly is connected to the priesthood, although it is the priesthood of Melchizedek rather than the priesthood of ..."
  2. Jump up^ Adele Berlin Religion and Politics in the Ancient Near East 1996- Page 59 "The fusion of names is common in the ancient Near East. ... Footnote 27. We might even wonder if the relationship of the names Melchizedek and Zadok is that of the king/priest stripped of its royalty (the root mlk) but retaining its sacerdotal function (the root sdq)."
  3. Jump up^ Catechism of the Catholic Church "The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek";16 "holy, blameless, unstained,"

External links

Navigation menu

In the majority of Masoretic Hebrew text the name is written in as two words ("malki zedek"),[4] but in the Septuagint, New Testament, Latin Vulgateand Authorised King James Version it appears as one word.[5]


The Epistle to the Hebrews,[6] along with Philo[7] and Josephus,[8][9] interpret the name "malki" as meaning "the king",[10] and "tzedek", meaning "righteous(ness)" or "justice".[11] This interpretation is upheld by modern scholars because in the Dead Sea Scroll 4QAmram 2.3 is found the opposite name Melchi-resha ("king of evil") for a chief angel of darkness.[12]

Based on the detail that the word "malki" appears to contain a first-person singular possessive pronoun, connoting a meaning of "my king", theRamban opines that the name implies "my king is tzedek", based on the notion that the city of Salem is associated with the attribute of "tzedek" (righteousness).[13]

However, it is also possible that malchi is not a possessive pronoun but genitive case. Although these case suffixes were already archaic at the time of writing, in proper names they were preserved longer. Such a reading would yield "king of righteousness", consistent with the ancient interpretations above.

Lebanese Protestant scholar Kamal Salibi cites Arabic cognates[14] to suggest that the words "malki zedek" can be interpreted as mouthful of offering, so that the verse begins And food the king of Salem brought out, bread and wine ... [15] The implication is to say that the king (whether of Sodom or of Salem) brought out food, then blessed Abram and El Elyon. If the Albright reading, "a king allied to him"[16][17] is also accepted, this would then imply that the whole interchange was with the King of Sodom.

Theophoric association

Some scholars provide a theophoric association on the latter part of the name, Ṣedeq ("righteousness") as an epithet of a Canaanite god,[18]translating to "Sedeq is my king/lord". Ṣedeq and El Elyon ("God most high") may have been two epithets of the same Jebusite god, identified as an astral deity, perhaps eponymous of Salem itself: Salim or Shalem (שלם) is attested as a god, presumably identified with the evening star, in Ugaritic mythology; URUŠalim in this case would be the city of Salim, the Jebusite astral deity.[19]

Parallel theophoric names, with Sedeq replaced by Yahu, are those of Malchijah and Adonijah, both biblical characters placed in the time of David.[20]

Bible commentators associate Meleḵi-ṣedeq מלכי־צדק as a parallel to the king Adoni-ṣedeq אדני־צדק, with the common denominator of both being king of Salem.[21] It has been suggested that 'zedek' might be connected to the Phoenician root Συδνκ = "Zedek" = "Jupiter".[22]

Samaritan variance

Genesis calls Melchizedek "king of Salem", traditionally taken to be the name for Jerusalem prior to the Binding of Isaac.[23]

The Samaritan Pentateuch reads "שלמו" (lit. "his peace" or in contextual flow "allied with him") in place of the Masoretic "שלם" (Salem), with the difference being the altering of the final Mem into the two letters מ (middle Mem) and ו (vav). William F. Albright views the Samaritan wording as authentic[16] as does the New American Bible[17]

Regardless of the residence of Malkizedek, Samaritan tradition identified a "Salem" as a place on the slopes of Mount Gerizim which served as a blessing place of the children of Israel upon their initial crossing of the Jordan river[citation needed].

The Samaritans allocate Gerizim (and not Jerusalem) as the site intended for the Temple, and thus the "שלמו" text serves an obvious sectarian purpose. Yet, it[clarification needed] is not solely associated with the Samaritans, being found also in the 3rd- or 2nd-century BC Book of Jubilees and even in the Septuagint version of Genesis.[24]

In Judaism[edit]

In the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 14

Melchizedek is mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible, the first in Genesis and the second in Psalms. The first mention is part of the larger story telling how Abram returns from defeating king Chedorlaomer and meets with Bera the king of Sodom,[25] at which point:

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: and he was [is] the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, "Blessed be Abram to the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand". And he gave him tithe from all.

Genesis 14:18-20

Some textual critics classify the narration as not being derived from any of the usual pentateuchal sources.[26] It has been speculated that verses 18-20 (in which Melchizedek appears) are an informal insertion into the narration, as they interrupt the account of the meeting of Abraham with the king of Sodom.[27]

However, Hebrew language Torah commentarians of the Rishonim era (11th to 15th centuries) have explained the (seemingly) abrupt intrusion of Melchizedek into the narration in various ways; Hezekiah ben Manoah (c. 1250) points out that the following verses has Abram refusing any of the king of Sodom's possessions[28] which, if not for the insertion of Melchizedek's hospitality, would prompt the query as to where Abram and his weary men got their refreshments from.[29] The Rashbam, Shmuel ben Meir (11th century), offers a similar explanation but varies by saying that only Abram's men partook in the booty (originally belonging to the king of Sodom)[30] whereas the Melchizedek intrusion explains that Abram himself was sustained by Melchizedek since he refused to consume of the luxury of Sodom because his Lord was of the non-material world.[31] Likewise, the commentary ofChaim ibn Attar (17th century) offers a three-pronged slew of reasons for the Melchizedek insertion.[32]

Tithe recipient

The last verse of the Melchizedek narrative states simply, "And [he] gave him tithe from all" (v-yiten-lo ma'aser mekol, ויתן לו מעשר מכל ), leaving the identities of both the giver (the unwritten "he" implied by the verb "gave") and of the recipient of the tithe unspecified. The Septuagint reports the same unspecific "he gave him" information in Greek (edōken autōi, ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ).

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, the Book of Jubilees, Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and Rashi all read Abram as the giver of the tithe to Melchizedek.[33][34] The Rogatchover Gaon, also understanding Abram to be the tithe giver, comments that the presented tithe was not a standard tithe (Maaser Rishon) as described in the Torah (given on an annual basis), but was a one-time "tribute offering" (trumat ha-mekhes, תרומת המכס), such as Moses gave to God in Numbers 31:41.[35]

Modern translations often supply "Abram" as the subject of the phrase, considering his identity as the tithe giver to be implicit in the context.[36][37]

Expressing a kabbalistic point of view, the Zohar commentary to Genesis 14 cites Rabbi Yitzchak as saying that it was God who gave a tithe to Abram in the form of removing the Hebrew letter He from his own throne of glory and presenting it to the soul of Abram for his benefit.[38]

Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (1843–1926) interprets the phrase "And he gave him tithe from all" as a verbal continuation of Melchizedek's speech, i.e., Melchizedek exclaimed that God had chosen to gift Abram a tenth of God's possession of the entire human race (consisting of seventy nations as described in Genesis) in the form of the seven nations of the land of Canaan, including the cities of Sodom that Abram succeeded in saving. Rabbi Meir Simcha argues that continued speech of this sort was a common form of prophetic expression.[39]

Lebanese Protestant scholar Kamal Salibi (1985) observes that Hebrew: ֹמַעֲשֵׂר, m'sr, which literally does mean tenth, might more loosely be used to mean portion, and Hebrew: מִכֹּל, m-kl, or from all, might refer just to food in the giver's possession, so that the whole verse might mean He gave him a portion of food..[15]

According to the New Testament book of Hebrews, which compares Melchizedek's appearance and priesthood to that of Jesus, Abram offered a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:4).


Hebrews 7

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Priestly Order of Melchizedek

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers,[a] though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by oneof whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

Jesus Compared to Melchizedek

11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,

“You are a priest forever,

    after the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

2And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn

    and will not change his mind,

‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[b] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

2For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints menin their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.


  1. Hebrews 7:5 Or brothers and sisters
  2. Hebrews 7:25 That is, completely; or at all times


Priest of El Elyon

Genesis 14:18 introduces Melchizedek a "Priest of the Most High God" (El Elyon), a term which is re-used in 14:19, 20, 22. The term "Most High" is used another twenty times of the God of the Israel in the Psalms. Giorgio Levi Della Vida (1944) suspects that this is a late development,[40] andJoseph Fitzmyer (1962) connects Genesis 14 with the mention of a god called "Most High," who may appear according to one of three possible translations of a 750 BC inscription found at Al-Safirah in Syria.[41] Remi Lack (1962) considers that the Genesis verses were taken over by Jewish redactor(s), for whom El was already identified with YHWH, El-Elyon became an epithet for the God of Israel.[42]

Psalm 110

The second and final Hebrew Bible mention of Melchizedek is in Psalm 110:4. The many translations that follow the Septuagint[43] translate such;

"The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent: 'Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek.'." (JPS 1917)

Although the above is the traditional translation of the text, the Hebrew text can be interpreted in various ways, and the New Jewish Publication Society of America Version, (1985 edition), for example, has:

"You are a priest forever, a rightful king by My decree." (JPS 1985)

Another alternative keeps Melchizedek as a personal name but changes the identity of the person addressed: "You are a priest forever by my order (or 'on my account'), O Melchizedek" - here it is Melchizedek who is being addressed throughout the psalm.[44]

The majority of Chazalic literature attributes the primary character of the psalm as King David[45] who was a "righteous king" (מלכי צדק) of Salem (Jerusalem) and, like Melchizedek, had certain priest-like responsibilities, while the Babylonian Talmud understands the chapter as referring to Abram who was victorious in battling to save his nephew Lot and merited priesthood.[46] The Zohar defines the noted Melchizedek as referring to Ahron theKohen Gadol (high priest).[47]

Psalm 110:4 is cited in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews as an indicator that Jesus, regarded in the letter as the Messiah, had a right to a priesthood pre-dating the Jewish Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 5:5-6).

In rabbinic literature

The narrative preceding Melchizedek's introduction presents a picture of Melchizedek's involvement in the events of his era. The narration details Abram's rescue of his nephew Lot and his spectacular defeat of multiple kings, and goes on to define the meeting place of Melchizedek and Abram as "Emek HaShaveh which is Emek HaMelech". The meeting site has been associated with Emek Yehoshaphat (the Valley of Josaphat).[48] Targum Onkelos describes the meeting location's size as "a plot the size of a king's Riis".[49] Midrashic exegesis describes how a large group of governors and kings convened in unison to pay homage to the victor Abram and desired to make him a deity, at which point he declined, attributing his victory to God's might and will alone.[50]

The chronological work Seder ha-Dorot (published 1769) quotes that Melchizedek was the first to initiate and complete a wall in circumference of the city,[51] and had to exit Salem to reach Abram and his men. Upon exiting Salem, he presented to them "bread and wine" with the intent to refresh them from their journey.[52] Following the premise that Melchizedek was indeed Shem, he was 465 years old at the time and Abram was 75 years of age.[51]

Chazalic literature, unanimously identify Melchizedek as Shem son of Noah (Targum Yonathan to Genesis chap. 14, Genesis Rabbah 46:7,Babylonian Talmud to Tractate Nedarim 32b). The Talmud Bavli attributes him (Shem and his beth din court of justice) as pioneers in banning prostitution (Avodah Zarah p. 36a).

Middle eastern land distribution demonstrating the land of Canaangoverned by Cham

There is, however, disagreement amongst Rishonim as to whether Salem was Melchizedek/Shem's allocated residence by his father Noah or whether he was a foreigner in Salem which was considered the rightful land of his brother Cham. The Ramban is of the opinion that the land was rightfully owned and governed by the offspring of Cham, and explains that Melchizedek/Shem left his home country and came to Salem as a foreigner wishing to serve God as a Kohen.[53] Whereas Rashi maintains that the land of Canaan was initially allotted to Shem, by Noah his father, and the offspring of Cham conquered the land by forced expansion.[54]

Transition of the Priesthood

Although Melchizedek is the first person in the Torah to be titled a Kohen (priest), the medrash records that he was preceded in priesthood (kehuna) by Adam.[55] Rabbinic commentarians to the Torah explain that Melchizedek — essentially Shem — was given the priesthood (Hebrew; kehuna) by receipt of his father Noah's blessing "G-d beatified Yefeth and will dwell in the house of Shem";[56] i.e., he will merit to serve and host God as a Kohen.[57]

Torah Laws require that the Kohen (priest) must be a patrilineal descendant of a prior Kohen.[58] Leviticus Rabbah maintains that God intended topermanently bring forth the priesthood ("Kehuna") through Melchizedek’s patrilineal descendants, but since Melchizedek preceded Abram's blessing to that of God,[59] God instead chose to bring the priesthood ("kehuna") forth from Abram’s descendants.[60] As the text states in regard to Melchizedek; "and he is a Kohen",[61] meaning himself in the exclusive sense and not his patrilineal descendants.[62]

The Ohr HaChayim commentary presents that God was not angered by Melchizedek's preceding Abram's blessing to that of God, since Abram was rightfully deemed worthy of precedence for independently coming to recognize God amidst a world of Paganism, but Melchizedek willingly gave the priesthood to Abram upon recognizing his outstanding uniqueness and Godly character traits.[63]

Rabbinic authorities defer as to whether Kehuna was given to Abram there and then[64] or after the demise of Melchizedek.[65]

The Medrash records that Shem functioned as kohen gadol (high priest) in that he taught Torah to the Patriarchs before it was publicly given at Mount Sinai, while the official title of High Priest was conferred upon Aaron after the erection of the Tabernacle.

Midrash text

The Midrash quotes multiple aspects of both Melchizedek and Abram; The Rabbis taught that Melchizedek acted as a priest and handed down Adam’srobes to Abram (Numbers Rabbah 4:8).

Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Melchizedek was born circumcised (Genesis Rabbah 43:6). Melchizedek called Jerusalem “Salem.” (Genesis Rabbah 56:10.) The Rabbis said that Melchizedek instructed Abram in the Torah. (Genesis Rabbah 43:6.) Rabbi Eleazar said that Melchizedek’s school was one of three places where the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) manifested Himself (Babylonian Talmud Makkot 23b).

Rabbi Judah said in Rabbi Nehorai's name that Melchizedek’s blessing yielded prosperity for Abram, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis Rabbah 43:8). Ephraim Miksha'ah the disciple of Rabbi Meir said in the latter's name that Tamar descended from Melchizedek (Genesis Rabbah 85:10).

Rabbi Hana bar Bizna citing Rabbi Simeon Hasida identified Melchizedek as one of the four craftsmen of whom Zechariah wrote in Zechariah 2:3.(Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52b; see also Song of Songs Rabbah 2:33 (crediting Rabbi Berekiah in the name of Rabbi Isaac).) The Talmud teaches that David wrote the Book of Psalms, including in it the work of the elders, including Melchizedek.[66]

Thus according to some rabbis[who?] confusion over Melchizedek being both King and Priest is solved by knowing that Shem was also a progenitor of the Davidic Monarchy, which descended from both Judah and Tamar, who was the daughter (or granddaughter by some opinions) of Shem.[original research?]

In the Zohar

The Zohar (redacted by Moses de León c. 1290s) finds in “Melchizedek king of Salem” a reference to “the King Who rules with complete sovereignty,” or according to another explanation, that “Melchizedek” alludes to the lower world and “king of Salem” to the upper world (Zohar 1:86b-87a). The Zohar's commentary on Genesis 14 cites a Rabbi Yitzchak as saying that it was God who gave tithe to Abram in the form of removing the Hebrew letter Hefrom his throne of glory and presenting it to the soul of Abram for his benefit.[citation needed] The letter he is the letter God added to Abram's name to become "Abra-ha-m" in Genesis.

Dead Sea Scrolls


11Q13 (11QMelch) is a fragment (that can be dated to the end of the 2nd or start of the 1st century BC) of a text about Melchizedek found in Cave 11 at Qumran in the Israeli Dead Sea area and which comprises part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this eschatological text, Melchizedek is seen as a divine being and Hebrew titles as Elohim are applied to him. According to this text Melchizedek will proclaim the "Day of Atonement" and he will atone for the people who are predestined to him. He also will judge the peoples.[67]


The Genesis Apocryphon repeats information from Genesis.[68]


Philo identifies Melchizedek with the Logos as priest of God,[69] and honoured as an untutored priesthood.[70]


Josephus refers to Melchizedek as a "Canaanite chief" in War of the Jews, but as a priest in Antiquities of the Jews.

Second Book of Enoch

The Second Book of Enoch (also called "Slavonic Enoch") is apparently a Jewish sectarian work of the 1st century AD.[71] The last section of the work, the Exaltation of Melchizedek, tells how Melchizedek was born of a virgin, Sofonim (or Sopanima), the wife of Nir, a brother of Noah. The child came out from his mother after she had died and sat on the bed beside her corpse, already physically developed, clothed, speaking and blessing the Lord, and marked with the badge of priesthood. Forty days later, Melchizedek was taken by the archangel Gabriel (Michael in some manuscripts) to the Garden of Eden and was thus preserved from the Deluge without having to be in Noah's Ark.[72][73]

In Christianity

An image of Melchizedek painted onto the altar side near the Royal Doors at Libotinwooden church, Maramureş County,Romania

In the New Testament, references to Melchizedek appear only in the Letter to the Hebrews (later 1st century AD), though these are extensive (Hebrews 5: 6, 10; 6: 20; 7: 1, 10, 11, 15, 17, 21). Jesus Christ is there identified as a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek quoting from Ps. 110:4.[74] As such, Jesus assumes the role of High Priest once and for all. Abraham's transfer of goods to Melchizedek is seen to imply that Melchizedek is superior to Abraham, in that Abraham is tithing to him. Thus, Melchizedek's (Jesus') priesthood is superior to the Aaronic priesthood (who are descended from Abraham), and theTemple in Jerusalem is now unnecessary.

Evangelical Christian beliefs

Traditional Evangelical Christian denominations, following Luther, teach that Melchizedek was a historical figure and an archetype of Christ.[75]

Tremper Longman notes that a popular understanding of the relationship between Melchizedek and Jesus is that Melchizedek is an Old Testament Christophany - in other words, that Melchizedek is Jesus.[76]

Others, noting Hebrews 7 which informs that Melchizedek was "without father, without mother, without genealogy" agree that Melchizedek could not be Jesus and instead identify him as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Liturgical Commemoration

Melchizedek is mentioned in the Roman Canon, the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman rite of the Catholic Church, and also figures in the currentRoman Martyrology as a commemoration on August 26.[77]

He is commemorated in the Eastern Orthodox Church on May 22,[78] and on the "Sunday of the Forefathers" (two Sundays before Christmas). In theCalendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church he is commemorated as one of the Holy Forefathers on July 26.

Latter-Day Saint beliefs

The Book of Mormon of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints describes the work of Melchizedek in Salem in Alma 13:17-19. According toAlma, Melchizedek was King over the wicked people of Salem, but because of his righteousness, his people repented of their wickedness and became a peaceful city in accordance with the meaning of that name. With respect to Old Testament prophets, Alma declares that "there were many before [Melchizedek], and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater."

Also, in Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, Melchizedek is described as "a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions." Because he was a righteous and God fearing man, Melchizedek was "ordained a high priest." The Translation also describes Melchizedek as establishing peace in his city and being called "the king of heaven" and "the King of peace" (JST Bible Gen 14:25-40), that he and his people sought to be translated, like Enoch (ancestor of Noah)'s people were. Finally, the Joseph Smith Translation notes that, in Hebrews, when Paul speaks of Melchizedek, the order of the priesthood named for him is without father and mother, etc., and not Melchizedek himself. (JST Bible Heb 7:3)

Other Latter-day Saint views on Melchizedek closely match the King James Bible. The Melchizedek Priesthood is named after him, so as not to over-use the name of Christ, after whom it was originally named (Doctrine and Covenants Section 107:3-4).

According to the Doctrine and Covenants, Melchizedek is a descendant of Noah (Doctrine and Covenants Section 84:14). There remains controversy whether he was Shem, or a descendant. John Taylor taught the former — perhaps due to Jasher 16:11, which says Adonizedek;[79] Bruce R. McConkie the latter.

Some would see the line in Doctrine and Covenants 138:41 mentioning "Shem, the Great High Priest" as supporting a view that Shem is Melchezidek. Alma E. Gygi is writing for the Ensign in 1973 quoted this passage and others and came to the conclusion that there was not enough knowledge to answer the question.[80]

In Gnostic writings

A collection of early Gnostic scripts dating on or before the 4th century, discovered in 1945 and known as the Nag Hammadi Library, contains a tractate pertaining to Melchizedek. Here it is proposed that Melchizedek is Jesus Christ.[81] Melchizedek, as Jesus Christ, lives, preaches, dies and is resurrected, in a gnostic perspective. The Coming of the Son of God Melchizedek speaks of his return to bring peace, supported by the gods, and he is a priest-king who dispenses justice.[82]


The Pelagians saw in Melchizedek a man who lived a perfect life.[83]

In Islam

There is no mention of Melchizedek in the Qur'an or in early Islamic exegesis or literature. Some later commentators, including Abdullah Yusuf Ali, however, did suggest a link between Melchizedek and Khidr. They referred to St. Paul's allegory of Melchizedek in his Epistle to the Hebrews[84] as a parallel to the Muslim view of Khidr.[85] In Ismailism, however, Melchizedek is of greater importance as one of the 'Permanent Imams'; that is those who guide people through the ages of history.[86]

The Urantia Book

In the 20th-century The Urantia Book, Melchizedek is reported as being the first of the four orders of descending sonship designated as local universe Sons of God, created by the Creator Son and Creative Spirit in collaboration with the Father Melchizedek in the early days of populating the local universe of Nebadon.[87]

See also


  1. Jump up^ "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-02-25), IPA-ified from «mĕl-kĭz´a-dĭk»
  2. Jump up^ Genesis 14:18-20 He is part of a key theme[which?] in the New Testament Book of Hebrews
  3. Jump up^ Targum Yonathan and Targum Yerushalmi to Bereishith 14:18-20.Talmud Bavli to tractate Nedarim 32b et al.
  4. Jump up^ [Minchath shai] to genesis (bereishith) 14:18-20
  5. Jump up^ in the Septuagint, New Testament Μελχισεδέκ, in the Latin Vulgate asMelchisedech. In the Authorised King James Version of 1611 asMelchizedek in the Old Testament and Melchisedec in the New Testament
  6. Jump up^ Hebrews 7:2
  7. Jump up^ Philo, Allegorical interpretation of Genesis, 3.79
  8. Jump up^ Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews - 1.180.[dead link]
  9. Jump up^ Josephus. The Jewish War 6.438.
  10. Jump up^ apparently based on the Hebrew words "melek", meaning "King"Strong's Concordance: online search with number 4428
  11. Jump up^ Strong's Concordance: online search with number 6666
  12. Jump up^ Pearson, Birger A. (2003). "Melchizedek in Early Judaism, Christianity and Gnosticism". In Stone, Michael E.; Bergren, Theodore A. Biblical Figures Outside the Bible. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-56338-411-0.
  13. Jump up^ Ramban to genesis 14:18, based on the verse "Righteousness resides in (by) her" (Isaiah 1:21)
  14. Jump up^ He writes "Arabic dictionaries cite ʾlwk ṣdq (vocalised ālūk ṣidq, literally 'mouthful of offering'). as an archaic euphemism for 'food', especially food offered to a guest."
  15. ^ Jump up to:a b Kamal Salibi, The Bible Came from Arabia Jonathan Cape, 1985, chapter 12
  16. ^ Jump up to:a b Albright reads melek shelomo (מלך-שלמו), "of his peace", instead ofmelek Salem, "king of Jerusalem", brought out bread and wine..." -Albright, W. F. "Abram the Hebrew: A New Archaeological Interpretation",BASOR 163 (1961) 36-54, esp. 52.
  17. ^ Jump up to:a b New American Bible (1980), Genesis 14, fn.5
  18. Jump up^ Delcor, M (1971). "Melchizedek from Genesis to the Qumran Texts and the Epistle to the Hebrews". Journal for the Study of Judaism 2: 115–135, esp. 115–116.
  19. Jump up^ Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, s.v. "Elyon", "Shalem".
  20. Jump up^ The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges at Google Books
  21. Jump up^ Ramban, bereishith chap. 14
  22. Jump up^
  23. Jump up^ Targum Onkelos Gen.14-18, Genesis Apocryphon col.22:12-13, see Josephus (op. cit.)
  24. Jump up^ James L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, pp.283-284
  25. Jump up^ Genesis 14:17-24 see below
  26. Jump up^ Speiser, E. A. "Genesis. Introduction, translation, and notes" (AB 1; Garden City 1964) p.105; Von Rad, "Genesis", pp.170, 174; Noth, Martin. "A History of Pentateuchal Traditions" (Englewood Cliffs 1972) p.28, n.84.
  27. Jump up^ Gunkel, Hermann. Genesis (Göttingen 1922) pp. 284-285
  28. Jump up^ "if from a string and until a shoe string" -Bereishith 14:23
  29. Jump up^ Chizkuni to Bereishith 14:18
  30. Jump up^ as the later verse reads "aside..for what the young men consumed" -Bereishith 14:24
  31. Jump up^ Rashbam to Bereishith 1418
  32. Jump up^ see ohr hachayim to Bereishit 14:18
  33. Jump up^ Hayward, C. T. Robert (2010). Targums and the transmission of scripture into Judaism and Christianity. Koninklijke Brill NV. p. 15. "Targum Pseudo-Jonathan makes it clear that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, as does the interpretation adopted by Jub. 13.25–27; Josephus Ant. 1.181; Philo Cong. 93, 99; and, of course, the epistle to the Hebrews [7:4]."
  34. Jump up^ Herczeg, Yisrael Isser Zvi (1995). The Torah: With Rashi's Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Mesorah Publications. p. 140.
  35. Jump up^ Rogatchover Gaon. Tzafnat Paaneach al HaTorah. commentary on Gen. 14
  36. Jump up^ Alter, Robert (2004). The Five Books of Moses. W. W. Norton & Co. p. 70. ISBN 0-393-01955-1. "Employment of a verb without a subject, not uncommon in biblical usage, occurs at the end of verse 20, where the Hebrew does not state what the context implies, that it is Abram who gives the tithe."
  37. Jump up^ The Revised English Bible. Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press. 1989. p. 11.
  38. Jump up^ Zohar Chodosh to Bereishit chap. 14 (the Zohar text, however, does not state that a name change to "Abra-ha-m" occurred at this point).
  39. Jump up^ i.e. beginning in a form of talking to the person directly and ending the speech as speaking for the recipient - Meshech Chochma to Bereishit chap. 14
  40. Jump up^ Della Vida, G. Levi. "El Elyon in Genesis 14:18-20", JBL 63 (1944) pp.1-9
  41. Jump up^ Fitzmyer, J. A. The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire, Revised Edition (Bibor 19A; Rome 1995) pp.41, 75
  42. Jump up^ Lack, R. "Les origines de Elyon, le Très-Haut, dans la tradition cultuelle d’Israel", CBQ 24 (1962) pp.44-64
  43. Jump up^ such as the Vulgate, KJV 1611, JPS 1917
  44. Jump up^ Kugel, James L. Traditions of the Bible, pp.278-279
  45. Jump up^ based on the text שב לימיני with "Yemini" referring either to King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin (Binyamin) whom David was careful not to overthrow or to the Torah (as per it being referred to as "from his right hand -a fire of religion to them" -Deuteronomy) -Targum Yonathan to Psalm 110
  46. Jump up^ Babylonian Talmud to Nedarim, p. 32
  47. Jump up^ zohar vol. 3 p.53b
  48. Jump up^ Machzor Vitry to Pirkei Avoth4:22
  49. Jump up^ understood by Rashi as 30 Kanns. Of note is the Rogatchover Gaon, who demonstrates that the king's riis is inclusive of the demarcating boundary as part and parcel of the said boundary — Tzafnath Paaneach to Bereishith 14
  50. Jump up^ Rashi to genesis 14:17, quoting medrash aggadahauthored by Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan. Medrash Rabbah
  51. ^ Jump up to:a b seder hadoroth p. 9b.
  52. Jump up^ malbim to genesis chap. 14
  53. Jump up^ Ramban to Bereishith 14:18
  54. Jump up^ Rashi (based on Sifra) to Bereishith 12:6
  55. Jump up^ introduction to Torath HaKohanim (M. Rizikoff)
  56. Jump up^ Genesis 9:27
  57. Jump up^ Maharzav (Rabbi Zev Wolf Einhorn; ?-1862; Lithuania), to Leviticus Rabbah 25:6
  58. Jump up^ Bamidbar 18:7. The Chizkuni to Leviticus reasons that since the kohen father of the household naturally instills in his children the duties of Kehuna from birth and onward making them successful at their Kohanic duties
  59. Jump up^ In Gen. 14:19-20, a precedence not befitting a kohen who is to be of total service to God-Eitz Yosef to Leviticu Rabbah 25:6.
  60. Jump up^ Rabbi Zechariah, quoting Rabbi Ishmael; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6, Babylonian Talmud to Nedarim 32b. Zohar vol. 1 p. 86b.
  61. Jump up^ in Hebrew; "והוא כהן" -Genesis 14
  62. Jump up^ Ohr HaChayim (Rabbi Chaim ben Attar 1696-1742, Morocco) to Genesis 14:18 (first explanation). Eitz Yosef commentary to Leviticus Rabbah 25:6. Zohar vol. 1 p. 86b
  63. Jump up^ Ohr HaChaim to Bereishith 14:18
  64. Jump up^ Maharzav (Z. V. Einhorn) to Leviticus Rabbah 25:6 (since Abraham's demise preceded Shem's by 35 years)
  65. Jump up^ this latter opinion being of the Eitz Yosef commentary to Vayikra Rabbah 25:6
  66. Jump up^ (in Psalm 110). (Babylonian Talmud Baba Batra 14b-15a.)
  67. Jump up^ Wise, Abegg, Cook (1996). The Dead Sea Scrolls: a New Translation.
  68. Jump up^ The Melchizedek Tradition: A Critical Examination of the Sources p85 Fred L. Horton - 2005 "Interestingly enough, we see that the Genesis Apocryphon offers no unique information about Melchizedek. Josephus gives three items of information not found in the other sources, and Philo four."
  69. Jump up^ Jutta Leonhardt Jewish worship in Philo of Alexandria 2001 p216 "IIl 82 Philo also identifies Melchizedek with the Logos as priest of God. Thus Melchizedek, Although Philo interprets the Jewish first-fruit offering and quotes the Jewish laws, the general context is still Cain's sacrifice."
  70. Jump up^ Fred L. Horton The Melchizedek Tradition: A Critical Examination of the Sources 2005 p170 "In the Genesis Apocryphon Melchizedek is brought into connection with Jerusalem (as he is later in Josephus), and in Philo Melchizedek is honored as the possessor of an unlearned and untutored priesthood, indeed as a representation"
  71. Jump up^ Harry Alan Hahne (2006). Corruption and Redemption of Creation: the Natural World in Romans 8.19-22 and Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. p. 83. ISBN 0-567-03055-5.
  72. Jump up^ 2 Enoch, Chapters 69-72
  73. Jump up^ Morfill, W R (translator). The Book of the Secrets of Enoch.
  74. Jump up^ Hebrews 5:6
  75. Jump up^ Luther's works: First lectures on the Psalms II, Psalms 76-126 Martin Luther, Hilton C. Oswald - 1976 "After the order of Melchizedek, which is understood, first, in accordance with the name. ... Therefore He is the true Melchizedek. Second, this is understood in accordance with the office, because Melchizedek offered the bread and wine"
  76. Jump up^ Longman, Tremper (2005). How To Read Genesis. p. 172.
  77. Jump up^ Martyrologium Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II instauratum, auctoritate Ioannis Pauli Pp. II promulgatum, editio [typica] altera, Typis vaticanis, [2004], p. 476.
  78. Jump up^ May 22/June 4. Orthodox Calendar (
  79. Jump up^ Melchizedek means “my king is righteous,” Adonizedek “my lord is righteous”
  80. Jump up^ "Is it possible that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person?" in "I HAve A Question" section, Ensign, November 1973
  81. Jump up^ Robinson, James M (translator) (1978). The Nag Hammadi Library in English.
  82. Jump up^ Text of the tractate:
  83. Jump up^ Philip Edgcumbe Hughes A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews p244
  84. Jump up^ Hebrews, VII, 3
  85. Jump up^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Qur'anic Commentary, notes on Surah Kahf, dealing with Khidr.
  86. Jump up^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Ismailis: "(Ismaili's believe in) a 'permanent Imam' (namely Malik Shulim, Malik Yazdaq, Malik as-Salim - all different names for Melchizedek) - Ma'add, the ancestor of the North Arabians, and, again, Ali..."
  87. Jump up^ The Urantia Book. The Urantia Foundation. 2008. p. 389. ISBN 978-0-911560-07-7.

Further reading