Let’s start at Genesis.
If you’ve read this book you’ll remember that a lot happens here. The world is created and sin sneaks in on the slithering tongue of a snake. Brother kills brother. Men live for centuries. Then the sons of god fornicate with the daughters of man and more sin creeps in. A tower is built with the intent of poking the eye of God or maybe giving glory to him by reaching as far up as man can, but he thought it was poking his eye so languages come. We have a great flood and we meet the first of the Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham the unbending. A man possessed of a faith and certainty that is admirable and terrible.
Somewhere along the story of his life the war of the nine kings breaks out. They array themselves 5 against 4. In their number we have the King of Sodom and the King of Gomorrah, the other side numbers among it’s member Tidal the King of Nations. As usually happens in the bible, Sodom and Gomorrah get the worst possible ending. They lose the war, all their goods are carried away aaand all their people including recent emigrants like Lot the nephew of Abram.
Abram is not having that shit. He arms his servants, the ones born in his own house numbering 318 (he’s as rich as a lord) and then tells them, “we’re going after the army of the 5 kings, they have my nephew and we can’t let people start thinking they can just cart away my family members where would that end?” I imagine there was some protest, I imagine Abram shut it right down, this man remember will one day carry his own son up a mountain with the assurance that God will provide the ram.
Abram and his 318 go and they smite the army of the 5 kings so hard the battle is known as the slaughter of Cherdolaomer. Coming back he gets a heroes welcome, the King of Sodom is there to receive him and also the King of Salem, Melchizedek. Salem, which sounds suspiciously like Shalom and also lends root to that famous city or in Hebrew that famous “Jeru”, means peace.
The King of Peace promptly brings out some bread and some wine. He, we are told, is a priest of the Most High God and knowing how mass needs to be celebrated brought his tools. Then Abram makes his tithe. The King of Sodom only wants his people back ready to give up all his treasure to Abram for saving them but Abram refuses to take anything that’s not his. These three men get thrown apart by life. The King of Sodom goes off to his city with his wealth and presides over the complete destruction of its morality and then the reckoning of its mortality. Abram modifies his name, almost kills his son, dies himself, and leaves a seed that goes off to Egypt, comes back, throws out the inhabitants of this place, and forms a Kingdom whose baffled King will compose hallelujah…
As well as a much lesser known song of praise, the Psalm of the two Lords. It begins rather abruptly “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Yaani kaa hapa hadi ukanyagie maadui wako.
David sings to his Lord who sits at the right hand of the Lord and praises his strength and the steadfastness of his people, talking about the “beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning” that is attributable to his Lord. His Lord he tells us is a priest after the order of Melchizedek the King of Peace who we haven’t heard from for so many books. As it turns out more and more has been revealed about him in the background, so much more in fact that being a priest in the order of Melchizedek is an attribute of David’s Lord. This being of glory deserving worship and a title equal to Yahweh’s who is admitted into the presence of the Lord to sit at his right hand and await vengeance is only following something established in the person of Melchizedek. David’s Lord, we are told will strike through Kings in his days of wrath, he will fill places with dead bodies, judge among the heathens and wound the heads over many countries.
Here we leave the baffled King as he spends the rest of his life composing his psalm to the glory of God. His kingdom is inherited and expands and turns to dust. His people are carried away in the manner feared by Abram. Trials and tribulations visit them as they are handed from empire to empire to Rome. From amongst them arises a man who preaches peace and love. He implores all to forgive their neighbours and to love their Lord. A man who for all his troubles is strung up like the worst kind of criminal and allowed to die on a wooden cross.
His philosophy is too powerful to die with him. He gives us the lesson that love cannot be buried in the darkness, he shows us that it will rise out of the earth and ascend to the heavens on the wings of angels. Men see this and men believe. They take it upon themselves to spread the gospel of love as well and as far as they can.
One of them from far away decides to write a letter back home. And in this letter he muses on the qualities of a high priest: that he must be taken from the people and know their suffering because how otherwise would he have compassion? A high priest when he makes sacrifices for sins should make sacrifices for both his sins and that of the people. This honour is not given by men but by God. It was given to Aaron for example. Jesus did not take it but was appointed by God when he was called his son. The man writing the letter remembers the cries of anguish made by the Nazarene in the fear of death and reminds us of the ultimate obedience we all owe and tells us that by submitting to it Jesus became perfect and the author of salvation, called of God, a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek who met Abraham when he was still Abram. Melchizedek who is called here the King of Righteousness and again the King of Peace. Melchizedek who is “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the son of God.” That’s just the beginning of how awesome this guy was, it seems that the revelations about him never stopped coming. The writer reminds us that even Abraham gave this guy a tenth of his spoils. He mentions that this is usually done to the Levites but goes on to say that even Levi gave our man a tithe for “he was yet in the loins of his father.”
The King of Righteousness is raised by the attributes given to him above all men, he is raised above angels. He is the embodiment of the perfect priesthood and when Jesus was here he was only following his example, joining that holy order instead of the one established by Aaron.
Some characteristics of this priesthood seem to be the ability to live forever in order to keep interceding. In fact with this changing of the guard a lot becomes different, “for the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change in the law.” Or rather a return to basics sealed by the death of the second priest in the order of Melchizedek.
If we could for a moment stop and consider the momentousness of the introduction and weaving of this character throughout the bible. In three disparate books covering different time zones we are reminded over and over that there is someone here who is the utmost. He is given not just immortality but his example is also used to exalt beings who the people writing about clearly believe to be Gods.
We don’t hear from Melchizedek again in the bible or even usually during Christian discourse. The disappearance of this King of Peace and Righteousness, the big brother of Jesus Christ from general Christian consciousness is an abiding mystery. One almost as impenetrable as the central mystery of Melchizedek, who in the world was he supposed to be?