Melchizedek


Melchizedek
/mel kiz"i dek'/, n.
1. a priest and king of Salem. Gen. 14:18.
2. the higher order of priests in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

* * *

Canaanite king and priest revered by Abraham.

In the Book of Genesis, Abraham rescues his kidnapped nephew, Lot, from the Mesopotamians, and on returning from battle he meets Melchizedek, king of Salem (probably another name for Jerusalem), who gives him bread and wine and blesses him in the name of "God Most High." St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews treats Melchizedek as a foreshadowing of Christ.

* * *

▪ biblical figure
also spelled  Melchisedech,  

      in the Old Testament, a figure of importance in biblical tradition because he was both king and priest, was connected with Jerusalem, and was revered by Abraham, who paid a tithe to him. He appears as a person only in an interpolated vignette (Gen. 14:18–20) of the story of Abraham rescuing his kidnapped nephew, Lot, by defeating a coalition of Mesopotamian kings under Chedorlaomer.

      In the episode, Melchizedek meets Abraham on his return from battle, gives him bread and wine (which has been interpreted by some Christian scholars as a precursor of the Eucharist, so that Melchizedek's name entered the canon of the Roman mass), and blesses Abraham in the name of “God Most High” (in Hebrew El ʿElyon). In return, Abraham gives him a tithe of the booty.

      Melchizedek is an old Canaanite name meaning “My King Is [the god] Sedek” or “My King Is Righteousness” (the meaning of the similar Hebrew cognate). Salem, of which he is said to be king, is very probably Jerusalem. Psalm 76:2 refers to Salem in a way that implies that it is synonymous with Jerusalem, and the reference in Gen. 14:17 to “the King's Valley” further confirms this identification. The god whom Melchizedek serves as priest is “El ʿElyon,” again a name of Canaanite origin, probably designating the high god of their pantheon. (Later, the Hebrews adapted another Canaanite name as an appellation for God.)

      For Abraham to recognize the authority and authenticity of a Canaanite priest-king is startling and has no parallel in biblical literature. This story may have reached its final formulation in the days of King David, serving as an apologia for David's making Jerusalem his headquarters and setting up the priesthood there. Abraham's paying tribute to a Jerusalem priest-king then would anticipate the time when Abraham's descendants would bring tithes to the priests of Jerusalem ministering in the sanctuary at the Davidic capital. The story may also relate to the conflict between the Levite priests descended from Abraham and the Zadokite priests of Jerusalem, who later changed their allegiance to Yahweh, the Hebrew god. The Zadokites monopolized the Jerusalem priesthood until forcibly taken away to Babylon, at which time Levite priests asserted their own hegemony; the Melchizedek episode could reveal the reascendancy of Zadokite power.

      The biblical account also poses textual problems. Abraham paying a tithe to Melchizedek is an interpretation, though a likely one, of the original biblical text, in which the matter is ambiguous; it seems incongruous that Abraham gives a tenth of the booty to Melchizedek and then refuses to take any of it for himself (verses 22–23). Again, some scholars have asserted that it would be unusual for an author of Davidic times to construct a narrative with a Canaanite protagonist.

      Psalm 110, in referring to a future messiah of the Davidic line, alludes to the priest-king Melchizedek as a prototype of this messiah. This allusion led the author of the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament to translate the name Melchizedek as “king of righteousness” and Salem as “peace,” so that Melchizedek is made to foreshadow Christ, stated to be the true king of righteousness and peace (Heb. 7:2). According to the analogy, just as Abraham, the ancestor of the Levites, paid tithes to Melchizedek and was therefore his inferior, so the Melchizedek-like priesthood of Christ is superior to that of the Levites. Furthermore, just as the Old Testament assigns no birth or death date to Melchizedek, so is the priesthood of Christ eternal.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • MELCHIZEDEK — (Heb.: מַלְכִּי צֶדֶק; legitimate/righteous king ; the English spelling follows LXX Melxisedek as opposed to MT Malkizedek), king of Salem (or Jerusalem; cf. Ps. 76:3) according to Genesis 14:18–20. He welcomed abraham after he had defeated the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Melchizedek — steht für: Melchisedech, eine biblische Figur (englische Schreibweise) Dominion of Melchizedek, ein Phantasiestaat im Südpazifik Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer mit demselben Wort bezeich …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Melchizedek — name of a priest king in the Old Testament, from Hebrew Malki tzedeq, lit. king of righteousness, from melekh king; second element related to tzadaq he was righteous, tzaddiq just, righteous …   Etymology dictionary

  • Melchizedek — ☆ Melchizedek [mel kiz′ə dek΄, melkē′zədek΄] n. [Heb malkī tsedheq, lit., king of righteousness] Bible the priest and king of Salem who blessed Abraham: Gen. 14:18 adj. Mormon Ch. designating or of the higher order of priests: cf. AARONIC …   English World dictionary

  • Melchizedek — For other uses, see Melchizedek (disambiguation). Melchizedek Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek by Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–67 Priest, King of Salem …   Wikipedia

  • Melchizedek — King of Salem (Jerusalem). After Abraham s victory over Chedorlaomer he was greeted by Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17 ff.) and in return was given a tenth of the captured booty. Described as ‘priest of God most High’ who brought out bread and wine,… …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Melchizedek —    King of righteousness, the king of Salem (q.v.). All we know of him is recorded in Gen. 14:18 20. He is subsequently mentioned only once in the Old Testament, in Ps. 110:4. The typical significance of his history is set forth in detail in the… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Melchizedek — noun a) A king and priest mentioned in the book of Genesis; contemporary of Abraham. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. b) A very large champagne bottle (named after the King)… …   Wiktionary

  • melchizedek — melˈkizəˌdek adjective Usage: usually capitalized Etymology: after Melchizedek, Biblical priest king (Gen 14:18 ff.) : being the greater or higher order of priesthood in the Mormon Church compare aaronic 2 …   Useful english dictionary

  • Melchizedek — I. noun Etymology: Greek Melchisedek, from Hebrew Malkīṣedheq Date: 14th century a priest king of Jerusalem who prepared a ritual meal for Abraham and received tithes from him II. adjective Date: 1842 of or relating to the higher order of the… …   New Collegiate Dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.