Q.

Isaiah 9:6 refers to Christ as the Prince of Peace, while Hebrews 7:2 refers to Melchisedec as the King of Peace. Since the office of a king is higher than that of a prince, it would seem that Melchisedec were greater than Christ. How can this be? Also, please comment on Melchisedec and who he is.

A.
In regard to the first part of your question, no problem exists at all. The Scriptures refer to Christ as both Prince of Peace and King. In fact, He is referred to as King quite a number of times. The wise men asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). Nathaniel exclaimed, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49). John, witnessing what he had seen in Heaven, stated, “Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3). In the Old Testament, the psalmist wrote: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7). So to describe Jesus as both Prince and King is no more contradictory than calling Him both the Lamb (John 1:29) and the Shepherd (John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20)! Antonymic-seeming titles such as these emphasize various aspects of the Lord, His work and His ministry.

Melchisedec is a mystery to many readers of the Word of God because he seems to appear out of nowhere. But I do not think he has to be as much of an enigma as people tend to make him. He has to have been a real person, for we have the account of him in Genesis 14:18–20. In this passage we find him, the king of Salem (or peace), coming to Abraham (Abram) with bread and wine—the elements of our Lord’s Supper—and also blessing Abraham. Abraham and his 318 men had just won a war in which his nephew Lot had been taken a prisoner. The war involved armies from the East with the land of Palestine. It included Sodom and neighboring kingdoms.

Though Genesis is a book of genealogies, we do not see anything in the account of Melchisedec about his father and mother. There is a purpose in that. Melchisedec typifies Jesus Christ, Who has no beginning or end. Hebrews 7:3 says, “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.” So in Genesis, the book of “begats,” we find no such information. Again, not that there was none; it is not given because Melchisedec is to be a picture of Jesus Christ, Who is eternal God.

This passage in Hebrews on Melchisedec becomes more meaningful if we see that the purpose of the writing is to show ways in which Christ is superior. A danger seemed to exist among the Hebrews. They were thinking that in order to be sons of Abraham, they would need to observe the law system. But the writer of Hebrews showed that Christ is above that, and he did it in part by introducing them to Melchisedec.

Up to this point the writer of Hebrews had shown that Christ is superior to the prophets (Hebrews 1:1–4), to the angels (1:5—2:18) and to Moses (3:1—4:16). Now he tells the Hebrew Christians that Christ is superior to Aaron (5:1—7:28). Christ is superior in the order of His priesthood because it is a different priesthood from Aaron’s. The Aaronic priesthood, associated with the Mosaic law, was inferior because it was incomplete. Hebrews 9:12 states, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” The sacrifices of the law system and Aaronic priesthood could never give redemption and acceptance before God. These could come about only by the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for sin.

Another passage, Psalm 110:4, reads, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of [Melchisedec].” This, of course, refers to Christ. Here, too, we see the superiority of Christ over the Aaronic priesthood. Melchisedec was both a priest and king. Somehow, somewhere Melchisedec came to a knowledge of the true and living God. And he was a king and priest of righteousness (Genesis 14:18) who contrasted with Aaron, who was only a priest but not king. Christ is both Priest and King, as pictured by Melchisedec. In fact, the name Melchisedec comes from the Hebrew words melek, meaning “king,” and tsidek, meaning “righteousness,” but he was also king of “Salem,” which indicates he was also “king of peace.”

The Old Testament law system was fussy about its priests also. They had to have descended not only from Levi but also from the priestly family of Aaron within that tribe. Genealogy was the big thing. But contrast that with Christ, Who has no beginning or end, as we have already seen. And Meichisedec, as we have noted, was “without father, without mother, without descent.” This does not mean he had no father or mother—he did. But the Spirit of God suppressed that information about him so that he would be a visible type of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (April 1991).
© 1991 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.