Hebrews 7:1-3 Expansion of Melchizedek King of Salem



 Damien F. Mackey



Commentators and Bible readers generally have puzzled over the nature and identification of that most mysterious biblical figure, “Melchizedek king of Salem”, who makes a brief appearance in the presence of the victorious patriarch Abram in Genesis 14:18-20.

And Saint Paul has greatly added to the mystery by declaring Melchizedek to have been (Hebrews 7:3): “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever”.

Who, and what, was this Melchizedek? Was he a human being, an angel, or was he divine?



Biblical ‘Types’


According to Luke’s Gospel account about the two disciples accompanied by the Lord on the way to Emmaus (24:25-27): “[Jesus] said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself”. Here Jesus was emphatically proclaiming that the Scriptures were all about, were all leading to, Him.

Incidentally, a Roman Cardinal who once spoke to a large gathering in Sydney (Australia), when the suggestion was put to him by a nun that at least one of those two disciples may have been a woman, replied that he, too, had heard of this, but he could not accept it. Jesus, he said, never addressed a woman with those words, ‘foolish and slow to believe’.

The nun promptly sat down.

At http://www.theopedia.com/biblical-typology we learn the following about:

Biblical typology


Typology is a method of biblical interpretation whereby an element found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament. The initial one is called the type and the fulfillment is designated the antitype. Either type or antitype may be a person, thing, or event, but often the type is messianic and frequently related to the idea of salvation. The use of Biblical typology enjoyed greater popularity in previous centuries, although even now it is by no means ignored as a hermeneutic.

Typological interpretation is specifically the interpretation of the Old Testament based on the fundamental theological unity of the two Testaments whereby something in the Old shadows, prefigures, adumbrates something in the New. Hence, what is interpreted in the Old is not foreign or peculiar or hidden, but arises naturally out of the text due to the relationship of the two Testaments.  ….


The study of types, particularly, types of Christ, is motivated by a number of factors related to New Testament use of the Old Testament. Firstly, the authors of various New Testament books use the Old Testament as a source of pictures pointing forward to Jesus. Among the most obvious passages are 1 Cor. 10:1–6, Gal. 4:21–31 and the letter to the Hebrews. From 1 Corinthians, we find Paul using the desert wanderings as typological of the Christian life, while in Galatians, he famously uses Sarah and Hagar as typological of slavery to Law under the Old Covenant against the freedom of grace in the New Covenant. The author of Hebrews is concerned to write explaining how the Old Testament points forward to Jesus; in so doing, he draws on heavily on Moses the man, as well as the Mosaic Law, with its sacrifices and Temple rituals. ….

Saint John the Baptist is an interesting case in this regard.

‘In the Spirit of Elijah’, but not Elijah


When the angel Gabriel foretold the birth of the Baptist to his father, Zechariah, the former likened him to the prophet Elijah (Luke 1:17): ‘And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’. This same John, upon whom Jesus himself would bestow the highest of accolades: ‘Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist’ (Matthew 11:11; cf. Luke 7:28), was, also according to Jesus, ‘Elijah who is to come’ (Matthew 11:14). This, a reference to the prophet Malachi, is well explained at: http://www.gotquestions.org/Elijah-end-times.html

According to Malachi 4:6, the reason for Elijah’s return will be to “turn the hearts” of fathers and their children to each other. In other words, the goal would be reconciliation. In the New Testament, Jesus reveals that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy: “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:13-14). This fulfillment is also mentioned in Mark 1:2-4 and Luke 1:17; 7:27.

Specifically related to Malachi 4:5-6 is Matthew 17:10-13: “His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. . . .’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”

Yet John the Baptist himself seems to contradict this very statement in the Gospel of John, when, having told the priests and Levites that he was not the Messiah (1:20), then also denied that he was Elijah (v. 21): “They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not’.” Though the “Elijah” foretold by Malachi, who would come “before that great and dreadful day of the Lord” (4:5), was specifically identified by Jesus as the John the Baptist, the latter, in turn, would make it quite clear that he was not the actual Old Testament prophet Elijah. The Baptist, of the same fiery and ascetical spirit and disposition as the ancient prophet Elijah was nevertheless a person quite distinct from the historical Elijah.

The very same situation occurs with the Old Testament’s “Immanuel”, who is yet another type of Jesus Christ.

I have had pious Christians insist to me that this Immanuel is Jesus Christ purely and simply, and no other. And they have become extremely angry when I have disagreed with them.

Here follows my explanation.


Despite the fact that the prophet Isaiah is obviously placing Immanuel, his soon to be born son, in the context of the neo-Assyrian invasions of Syro-Palestine, at the time of king Ahaz of Judah (7:10-17):

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights’.

But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test’.

Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria,”

and hence this text has nothing vaguely hinting at the Roman scenario into which Jesus Christ was born, Matthew has no qualms about expanding its meaning to embrace Jesus Christ (1:23): “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)”.

Jesus, a divine Person, is more Immanuel, ‘God is with us’, than was Isaiah’s son.

Nevertheless, “the virgin” who gave birth to Jesus did not call him “Immanuel”, as had Isaiah’s wife in the case of her son, but called him “Jesus” (Luke 1:3-33):

… the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end’.

Nor can it be said that Isaiah’s wife – who may have been a virgin when she married Isaiah – was a virgin when she gave birth, as according to Matthew 1:23. The rare Hebrew noun used to describe Isaiah’s wife, ‘almah, is however an interesting choice. It is explained as follows at: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/isaiah7.14

With respect to the Hebrew noun ‘almah,[2] the editors of HALOT[3] list among its meanings: “marriageable girl,” “a girl who is able to be married,” and “a young woman” (until the birth of her first child). The basic meaning is a woman (the age is less important) ready (able) to be married. The span of life covered by this term is poorly defined and quite long, ranging from the onset of puberty to the birth of a woman’s first child.[4]

We propose a different etymology, namely, to derive the noun ‘almah from the root ‘-l-m I “to be concealed, hidden,” well attested in Hebrew. If this etymology proves to be correct, ‘alem (masculine) and ‘almah (feminine) would designate an engaged couple, which would accordingly be rendered as “the concealed ones.” During the period of betrothal, fiancés used to live in their parents’ homes, separated, secluded, forbidden from seeing one another. The feminine form, ‘almah, may also be rendered “the concealed one” or even “the veiled one.” This last rendition would reflect the custom of engaged women wearing veils over their faces as a sign of seclusion, or concealment, during the time of betrothal. We may mention that, given the ethical standards of the ancient Israelite society, the idea of virginity, though not distinctly stated, is nevertheless implied in the term ‘almah. As is the case concerning the providential woman from Genesis 3:15 (ha-‘ishshah the woman”), the noun ha-‘almah the concealed one” from Isaiah 7:14 has the definite article attached, which points to a special female character ….

It appears that Matthew the Evangelist has cleverly expanded the Immanuel of the neo-Assyrian era in order to demonstrate that this child was merely a type of the real Immanuel, who was Jesus Christ the son of the Virgin Mary.




Thus Melchizedek was, like Immanuel son of Isaiah, a real Old Testament character and most certainly a flesh and blood human being. But, as well as this, he was a type of the One, Jesus Christ, of whom the descriptions, “God is with us” (Immanuel) and “King of Righteousness” (Melchizedek), were far more befitting.


“Melchizedek” is first introduced under that title (“King of Righteousness’) in the Genesis 14 narrative, which belongs to the toledôt of Ishmael according to my:

The “Toledoths” of Genesis


In Genesis 14:17-20, we read this:

After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,

Creator of heaven and earth.

And praise be to God Most High,

who delivered your enemies into your hand’.

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

At the beginning of an article, Did Melchizedek Eternally Exist? Who Was He?, the author, William F. Dankenbring, asks questions about Melchizedek similar to the ones that I posed at the beginning (http://www.triumphpro.com/melchizedek-origin.pdf):

What does it mean in Hebrews 7:3 where we read that Melchizedek was “without father or mother . . . without beginning of days or end of life”? Did Melchizedek eternally exist? Who was he, anyway? Was he the patriarch Shem? Was he an angel? Was he the Logos, the one who later was born as Jesus Christ? Was he a human being, a created being, or did he eternally exist? What do we know about this mysterious figure?

Whilst I have always recognised Melchizedek as a type of Jesus Christ based on Hebrews 7 and also Paul’s interpretation of Psalm 110, my understanding was that the original Melchizedek, who was the contemporary of Abram as introduced in Genesis 14, was – as according to certain traditions – the great Shem, son of Noah.

Thus Melchizedek was, like Immanuel son of Isaiah, a real Old Testament character and most certainly a flesh and blood human being. But, as well as this, he was a type of the One, Jesus Christ, of whom the descriptions, “God is with us” (Immanuel) and “King of Righteousness” (Melchizedek), were far more befitting.

One of those traditions naming Melchizedek as Shem is from the Book of Jasher. Here Dankenbring tells of it:

The book of Jasher, which is ancient Jewish literature apart from the Bible, dating to hundreds of years before Christ and most probably even earlier, says:

And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem, went out with his men to meet Abram and his people, with bread and wine, and they remained together in the valley of Melech. And Adonizedek blessed Abram, and Abram gave him a tenth from all that he had brought from the spoil of his enemies, for Adonizedek was a priest before God” (Jasher 16:11-12).

Shem, of course, was the first born son of Noah who held the office of high priest in the patriarchal system, long before the Levitical priesthood.

In the patriarchal age, the oldest son was the “priest” of the family, and the oldest son of the oldest son, descended from Seth, son of Adam, was the “chief priest” or “high priest” in the earth. The righteous men of God, descended from Adam, were in each generation both “king and priest” – Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. The high priesthood then went to Shem, after the Flood and the death of Noah, his father. Thus Shem was a king of “righteousness” – “Melchizedek” – and a king of “peace” – “Salem,” representing the city of Jerusalem.


They were, like Noah, “a preacher of righteousness” (II Pet.2:5).

Shem was also a “preacher of righteousness.” ….

This makes basic sense to me, and it is apparently chronologically plausible if one is not bound to the Ussherian system. Dankenbring shows how it is possible for Abram to have encountered Shem (though I do not necessarily accept his dates as being fully accurate):

At this point, the Biblical genealogy tell us, “And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran” (Gen.11:26). Yet the book of Jasher clearly states that “Terah was thirty eight years old, and he begat Haran and Nahor” (Jasher 9:22). Therefore, the fact that the Bible says Terah was 70 when he begat Abram, Nahor and Haran, must refer to the date when ABRAM was begotten – 32 years after his two brothers. Abram was the youngest of the three, but is listed first because the birthright became his due to his righteousness and excellency.

This is a straight-forward chronology. However, it differs from that of Archbishop James Ussher. Ussher, in his mammoth chronological work, concluded erroneously that Abram was born seventy five years before Terah his father died. Terah died at the age of 205 (Gen.11:32). The next chapter of Genesis tells us that God told Abram to leave his country and Abram did so at the age of 75 (Gen.12:1-4). Ussher assumes that Terah’s death and Abram’s departure for Canaan was the same year – therefore, since Terah died in 1921 B.C., Abram’s birth would have been, according to Ussher, 75 years sooner – in 1996 B.C.

Notice! This date is precisely 60 years later than the true date for Abram’s birth! Unfortunately, Archbishop Ussher did not have access to the book of Jasher when he calculated the birth of Abram!

When this correction is made, however, it suddenly frees up our understanding of events that occurred after the Flood. But which are we to believe – the book of Jasher or the conclusion of Archbishop James Ussher?

As incredible as it may sound, we have solid confirmation of the dates given in the book of Jasher. The ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus of the first century corroborates the date given by Jasher for the birth of Abraham! Notice this remarkable fact. Josephus writes in Antiquities of the Jews:

“I will now treat of the Hebrews. The son of Phaleg, whose father was Heber, was Ragau; whose son was Serug, to whom was born Nahor; his son was Terah, who was the father of Abraham, who accordingly was the tenth from Noah, and was born in the two hundred and ninety second year after the Deluge; for Terah begat him in his seventieth year” (bk.1, chapt.6, sec.5).

The Flood was in 2348 B.C. According to Josephus, Abraham was born 292 years after the Flood. This would put his birth in 2056 B.C., just as the book of Jasher states! Archbishop Ussher, who puts Abraham’s birth 60 years later, in 1996 B.C., is thus proved to be in error on this point. Josephus also confirms that Abraham was born in Terah’s 70th year – not in his 130th year. Of course, this also confirms the Scriptural account which states plainly that Abram was born in Terah’s 70th year (Gen.11:26). A straightforward reading of this passage could be interpreted as follows: “And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram [and he had also begotten] Nahor, and Haran . . .” Abraham was seventy five when he departed from Haran to the land of Canaan, in obedience to God (Gen.12:1-4), in 1981 B.C. He was 100 years old when Isaac was born 29 (Gen.17:1, 21), which would have been in 1956 B.C. Thus the war Abraham fought with the kings of the east would have been perhaps midway between the two dates – or about 1969 B.C. At that time Shem, who was born in 2248 B.C. and who died at the age of 600 years, in 1848 B.C., would have been 479 years of age. He lived for another 121 years. Thus Shem and Abraham were definitely contemporary, and Shem was the ruling patriarch of those willing to obey God. He was God’s representative and king over the earth, for those willing to obey God’s laws. Very few, however, were willing, as the story of human rebellion, led by Nimrod, unfolds.

Shem was still alive when Abraham defeated the kings of the east in battle, rescuing his nephew Lot and his household. So it makes sense that Melchizedek, in the personage of Shem at that time, conferred a blessing on Abraham, and Abraham gave him, as God’s representative on earth, a tenth of all the spoils.

Nevertheless, we must remember – the name “Melchizedek” is really a TITLE – an OFFICE – not a personal name as such. He had a dual office – he was a peacemaker, and was “king of peace.” And he was a righteous servant of God, thus “king of righteousness.”

Shem then was serving in the office of high priest on the earth during his lifetime. ….

[End of quote]

The Pauline Expansion


There were in fact two persons Immanuel, two persons Melchizedek, the flesh and blood version, and the blueprint heavenly version who “became flesh” (John 1:14).

Dankenbring well explains this also:


King of Salem and Righteousness

Notice that Melchizedek was king of Salem. “Salem” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “peace.” Salem was the city of “Jerusalem” – the city of “peace.” The Hebrew word “Melek” means “King” or “Ruler.” Therefore, that would make Melchizedek the Ruler or King of Peace (Heb. 7:2). The word “Zedek” in Hebrew means “righteousness.” The Hebrew name Melchizedek itself literally means “King of righteousness” (Heb. 7:2). Shem held this title of office during his lifetime, as had Noah and his predecessors before him.

Therefore, in truth, the TITLE “Melchizedek” goes back to Adam, the first human priest of God of the human family.

However, there is a strange prophecy in Psalm 110:4, where David stated: “The Eternal hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” This verse is quoted again in Hebrews 5:6,10, and is a prophetic reference to the coming of Christ, Yeshua the Messiah.

And he will find support for this from:

The Dead Sea Scrolls


New light on the mystery of Melchizedek is provided by a text found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, appropriately labeled “11Qmelchizedek.” In the Qumran text, “Melchizedek is presented as an angelic being who raises up God’s holy ones for deeds of judgment and who takes divine judgment on evil. Here Melchizedek has superhuman status, which clearly involved living eternally, just as he has in Hebrews” 30 (James Vanderkam, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity,” Bible Review, December 1991, p.46).

Another Qumran text which appears to mention Melchizedek has also been published – the “Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice.” Says Bible Review, “Although the relevant fragments are poorly preserved, here Melchizedek seems to officiate as the heavenly high priest, just as Jesus does in Hebrews” (ibid.).

In other words, there was a HIGH PRIEST “MELCHIZEDEK” IN HEAVEN even before the patriarchs, serving the Father! It was none other than the Logos, the Word of God, the One who became Jesus Christ!

No one really knew who the original “Melchizedek” was until the apostle Paul identified him as the One who became Jesus Christ.

[End of quote]

Concluding Point


According to the above I would insist that it is wrong to suggest that such biblical types as Elijah, Immanuel and Melchizedek did not have a real flesh and blood existence and individuality back in Old Testament times, as personally distinct from those to whom they pointed in the New Testament, be it John the Baptist or Jesus Christ.

But Jesus Christ, as the pre-existent Logos (John 1:1), was the perfect Exemplar from whom these types arose and to whom they again pointed.

As said earlier, “the Scriptures were all about, were all leading to, Him”.


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