Shem and the (Possible) Melchizedek Connection

 

I generally do not enjoy or like discussions revolving around speculation, and I try to avoid them like the plague.  However, and for some reason that I can not explain, when it comes to the case of Melchizedek, I find myself drawn into realms of speculation regarding his origins, and just who he might have been.

One of the great mysteries of the Bible concerns Melchizedek.  Since there is very little written about him in the Old Testament, it is only natural that many wonder just who he was.  And for someone who has little specifically said about him, what is said is some mighty powerful testimony to his godly character!

For those not familiar with this story, Melchizedek was the King and High Priest of Salem, the original name given for the city of Jerusalem.  He met and greeted Abraham, who was still called Abram at this time, after he had rescued his brother Haran’s son, Lot, from Chedorlaomer, one of the kings who fought against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and had taken Lot and his good captive (Genesis 14:9-18).

Upon meeting Melchizedek, Abram then gave Melchizedek a tithe of all the booty he had taken from the defeated kings, and Melchizedek blessed Abram.  Melchizedek said: "Blessed be Abram by Elohim (God) Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be Elohim (God) Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand."  (Genesis 14:19-20)

So who is Melchizedek?  We really do not know, but a strong case can be made for him being none other than Noah’s oldest son, Shem.

Melchizedek is disclosed in only three books of the Bible:

#1 Genesis 14:18:

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: he was the priest of God Most High.

#2 Psalm 110:4:

4 The LORD has sworn and will not relent, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

#3 Hebrews 5:6:

6 As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek:,

Hebrews 6:20:

20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1,9-11,15,17,21:

1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,

9 Even, Levi who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. 11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people receive the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not according to the order of Aaron?

15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest.

17 For He testifies: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: "The LORD has sworn and will not relent, 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'")….

Melchizedek is not in the order of Levi.  In fact, we are told Levi pays tithes to Melchizedek by the very act of Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek.  (This is found in Hebrews 7:9.)

Melchizedek is a priest who precedes the entire Levi line.

Melchizedek, who is the King of Salem, which means the king of peace, of whom Abraham pays tithes, has no known parents to the people of that time.

A mystery in the Bible!?  Who is Melchizedek?

SHEM!  Some believe we can get the answer from Genesis 11:10-26:

10 This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood.

11 After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.
12 Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah.

13 After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.

14 Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber.

15 After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.

16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg.

17 After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters.

18 Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu.

19 After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters.

20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug.

21 After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters.

22 Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor.

23 After he begot Nahor, Serug lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters.

24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah.

25 After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters.

26 Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Now if my calculations are correct, Shem actually outlived Abraham, who was his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson, by 35 years!  Who knows, he may have even attended or, being the High Priest of God, even officiated at the funeral service of this great patriarch.  Even Noah, Shem's father, was alive during the same time as Abraham, being 892 years old when Abraham was born, some 293 years since the flood.  Noah would continue to live an additional 58 years before finally passing away, just missing out on the birth of the seed of Abraham in which the promise of a Deliverer would come, that being Isaac.

Shem, therefore, was 390 years old when Abraham was born, and once Abraham died at the age of 175, Shem would have been 565 years old, with still 35 years more in which to live upon this earth.

What makes Shem so special to be the candidate for Melchizedek?  Melchizedek, as we have noted, blessed Abram and therefore must have been someone who possessed the power to bless in God’s name.  Such an individual, such a personage, would have commanded the recognition and respect that Abram provided Melchizedek.  Abram, it also turns out, was a direct descendant of Shem (Genesis 11:10-27), so he would have been in line to receive the blessing that Shem originally received from Noah in Genesis 9:26:

And he said, "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem.  And let Canaan be his servant."

So we see from the testimony of Noah himself that Shem was a faithful and righteous man of the One True God, Jehovah.  In this case, we see a blessing invoking a father’s prayer of peace and prosperity upon his son.  In addition, Abram’s deference to Melchizedek, despite having just gained a major triumph on the battlefield, indicates the kind of homage one would expect to be given to a revered forefather such as Shem would have been, especially in the culture of the Mideast.

The only other reference to Melchizedek in the Old Testament outside the book of Genesis is when David compared Yahweh-Elohim to a priest after the order of Melchizedek.  He wrote the following in the Psalms about him.  "Yahweh hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."  (Psalm 110:4)  This is the first indication of the high esteem the nation of Israel held toward Melchizedek’s priesthood.  David by the Holy Spirit is clearly associating Yahweh Elohim with the priesthood of Melchizedek, and not the Aaronite priesthood.  He also reveals that it was without end.  This showed that the former priesthood was of a higher order than the latter, which was a temporary priesthood and a shadow of the Melchizedek priesthood.

It was astonishing that the Apostle Paul spoke the following about the Aaronite priesthood.  "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.  But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience."  (Hebrews 9:6-9)

Moses’ account of Melchizedek in Genesis 14th was very brief and furnishes very little detail about the man.  There is neither a mention of Melchizedek’s genealogy nor life history, but there are some important facts that Moses does reveal about Melchizedek.

First, he was king of the city of Salem, which as has been pointed out was the ancient name of Jerusalem.  It appears that even at this time before the formation of Israel, Salem held some special significance among the Gentiles as a place of religious consequence.

This is further confirmed when Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, entered the land of Canaan and began to fight the inhabitants for their inheritance.  A Gentile king named Adonizedek ruled Jerusalem at that time (Joshua 10:3).  He called the Gentile nations together to make war against Israel.

Second, Melchizedek was a "priest of the Most High" (Genesis 14:18) that the kings of this region held in high esteem.  The fact that Melchizedek was a priest implied that he communicated with Elohim and that Elohim had given him some special powers to bless people.  In this same manner Elohim gave Baalam the Prophet, a Gentile, power to bless and curse people (Numbers 22:5-6).

The fact that both Baalam and Melchizedek had paranormal abilities shows that Elohim was no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Deuteronomy 10:17), did communicate with the Gentiles, and gave them spiritual powers.  I believe this also disproves the belief that Melchizedek was an angel or some other supernatural being, but showed that more than likely he was just a man in whom Elohim had blessed with special capacities.

The fact that King Melchizedek was a priest and blessed Abram, the father of the Israel, after he had defeated kings of Babylon, Persia and the Canaan (Genesis 14:18-20), who had taken Abram’s nephew, Lot, captive, holds special significance.

As has been stated earlier, it is clear from the writings of King David that the Hebrew tradition had high veneration or esteem for the priesthood of Melchizedek.  This priesthood was thought of as a higher order than the Aaronite priesthood that officiated in the tabernacle and the temples because Melchizedek was equated with the priesthood of Elohim.

The fact that Melchizedek, a Gentile priest, would be used in analogy to describe the Messiah’s priesthood that would replace the Aaronite priesthood is astounding.  This showed that Elohim was not a respecter of persons.

The Hebrews writer correlates the Messiah under the New Covenant as being the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek in Hebrews 5:6, 10, which had no beginning or end (Hebrews 7:3).

This spiritual priesthood succeeded the Aaronite or Levite priesthood, which was established under the Old Covenant at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:6) and was brought to an end (Romans 10:4) by Yahshua the Messiah fulfilling this Old Covenant or the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17-18; Romans 10:1-4).  This is a further revelation of King David’s writing we read from Psalm 110:4.

In the seventh chapter of Hebrews the writer points out various correlations between the Messiah and Melchizedek that was revealed after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Paul says the names of "Melchizedek" and "Salem" have special meaning in that they prefigured the Messiah.  Now "Melchizedek" means "righteousness" and the city named "Salem" means "Peace" (Hebrews 7:1-2).  The Messiah is both peace and righteousness (John 14:26-27), which He has revealed in our hearts by the shedding of His blood.

Moses did not reveal Melchizedek’s birth, death, or his genealogy in Genesis.  The Hebrews writer correlates the omission of non-lineage with him having no beginning or end and being without mother and father likened unto the Yahshua the Messiah, who is Elohim in a body and the true priest throughout eternity.

The fact that Melchizedek was set up first before the Aaronite priesthood shows the end declared from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10).  The Aaronite priesthood was a type and shadow of the true priesthood that eventually had to come an end.  The Hebrews writer states: "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 Melchizedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?"  (Hebrews 7:11)

Now Melchizedek represents the Messiah who is the King and Priest in our hearts and minds. Just as Israel was made a kingdom of priests under the Law of Moses (Exodus 19:5-6), the Messiah has made all true believers, male and female, kings and priests after the order of Melchizedek under the New Covenant.

John in Revelation wrote: "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth.  Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen."  (Revelation 1:5-6)

Below is a chart I made showing the descendants of Noah through Abraham, the year they were born in relation to the flood, how long they lived, and Noah’s and Shem’s ages at the time of birth of their descendants:

DESCENDANTS OF NOAH (950)

YEAR OF BIRTH AFTER FLOOD

AGE OF NOAH

AGE OF SHEM

 

 

 

 

Shem (600)

98 BF

500

XXX

 

 

 

 

Arpachshad (438)

3

602

100

 

 

 

 

Shelah (433)

38

637

135

 

 

 

 

Eber (464)

68

667

165

 

 

 

 

Peleg (239)

102

701

199

 

 

 

 

Reu (239)

132

731

229

 

 

 

 

Serug (230)

164

763

261

 

 

 

 

Nahor (148)

194

793

291

 

 

 

 

Terah (205)

223

822

320

 

 

 

 

Abram (175)

293

892

390

So is Shem Melchizedek?  Possibly.  Can we be absolutely certain he was?  Not at all.  But what we do know is that Melchizedek was a great man, as was Shem.  And we can see from the above chart that Shem was a contemporary of that great patriarch, Abraham.  At the very least, I hope I have made at least an interesting case that Melchizedek was none other than Shem, Noah’s oldest offspring.

David Ferguson