There is a silly misconception that people have that Jesus is simply a New Testament character in the Bible. In ignorance, many have assumed that the person of Jesus is one that appears only at His birth in the Gospel accounts, so that some have even gone so far to foolishly assume that the testimony of Jesus is one that is “borrowed” from other pagan religions and such. This belief is untrue and reflects a lack of understanding of the scriptures. The Gospel of John proclaims that Jesus first existed before the foundations of the world in the form of God’s Word. Therefore, Jesus’ birth would more appropriately be referred to as His “incarnation.” Understanding this truth, one can look to the Old Testament and expect to find appearances of the Savior there as well. Since He existed as the Word before the creation of the universe, one should expect God to manifest Himself in human form as He did being Jesus at any time He desires. There are many places in the Old Testament referred to as “Christophonies,” which are Old Testament appearances of Jesus Christ. One of the first of these appearances comes in Genesis 14:17-24.
In Genesis 14:17-24 the Bible describes the affects of Abram’s victory over the 5 kings that Chedorlaomer was leading. Since king Chedorlaomer had defeated the king of Sodom and captured Abram’s nephew Lot, Abram took 318 trained men to seek out his nephew and rescue him. Abram, who was well over 75-years old, was successful in defeating 5 of the most powerful kings in the Jordan Valley and was able to rescue his nephew. The Bible testifies that after Abram returned from his victory, he met up with a man named Melchizedek. Since Abram was a man that had a developing relationship with the Living God, the Bible explains that Abram spent quality time with Melchizedek because Abram acknowledge that God had provided the victory he had achieved. Abram understood that it was not by his own power and strength that 318 men were able to defeat 5 powerful kings in his old age. Abram attributed the victory to God, and sought out Melchizedek to pay his tribute. It is for this reason that one must pay especially close attention to the person of Melchizedek.
The Bible first describes Melchizedek as the “king of Salem.” Thus, most fundamentally, Melchizedek was a king. As Abram sought to honor God, he sought to do so by honoring this king called “Melchizedek.” The name “Melchizedek” translates into the Hebrew phrase, “my king is Sedek.” The Hebrew word “Sedek” means “righteousness.” The king that Abram sought to honor possesses a name that defines Him as the king of righteousness. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied about the identity of the Messiah King of Israel that He would be “The Lord Our Righteousness (Jehovah Tsidkenu).” Since Jesus later came to fulfill every jot and tittle of the Law on behalf of believers, and impart His righteousness unto the humble in heart, Jesus revealed Himself to be the Lord Our Righteousness. As Melchizedek is called the “king of Salem,” one must consider that “Salem” has two significant meanings in the Hebrew language. Psalm 76 confirms that “Salem” was an ancient name for Jerusalem. The Book of Hebrews also confirms that “Salem” means peace. Thus, Melchizedek was referred to as the King of Jerusalem, who is also the King of Peace while being named “King of Righteousness.” These are two more Messianic identity traits. The Messiah would be considered the King of Israel while ruling from Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah referred to the Messiah as a king that would sit on the throne of David for all of eternity and be known as the “Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7).” Jesus’ birth circumstances and genealogy confirm that His incarnation was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Genesis 14:17-24 also states that Melchizedek was “a priest to the Most High God.” This is critically important to recognize. There is only one other person in the entire Bible that assumed the role of both king and priest – Jesus Christ. The Bible does mention some kings that sought to exercise the authority of a priest and they paid terrible consequences for such. There is no other person in the history of Israel aside from Melchizedek and Jesus that was referred to as both king and priest. Thus, Melchizedek possessed the earthly authority to rule as a king, but also is considered to be a mediator between man and God as a priest. Melchizedek is referred to as a high priest 600 years before God gave the Law to Moses – well before Aaron was born. In this way, the scriptures define Melchizedek as the Lord of Righteousness who rules over Jerusalem as the King of Peace, and as such, is the anointed representative of God. The Book of Hebrews takes this point a step further to state that as Melchizedek appears to Abram in the Book of Genesis, the author of Hebrews mentions that Melchizedek has “no beginning or end” and has “no genealogy.” In other words, the Bible refers to Melchizedek as being eternal – just as the “Alpha and the Omega.” Therefore, it is not just that Melchizedek is both king and priest, but that He serves in those positions forever!
Genesis 14:17-24 then states that when Melchizedek and Abram met together, that Melchizedek brought out bread and wine to Abram and blessed Abram. This is highly unusual behavior for a king. It was not common in those days, or many other days, for a king to serve an old man like Abram. Though Melchizedek was a priest and king, He presented Himself as a Servant. The prophet Isaiah stated that the Messiah would come in the manner of God’s Servant (Isaiah 42:1), and the Gospel accounts confirm that Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy. As Melchizedek served Abram, He blessed Abram with the authority of God Himself, and then received a tithe from Abram further exercising the authority of God. The Book of Hebrews states that one of the facets of Melchizedek’s greatness, as a high priest is that He received a tithe before God gave the command to give tithes. It is true that Aaron and his descendants possessed the authority to receive tithes on behalf of God, but that was only because God commanded such in the Law. The only reason the descendants of Aaron were allowed to collect tithes was because they were related to Aaron, and the Law God wrote said so. Melchizedek’s position was much different. He received a tithe well before Aaron, and well before Levi, the “father” of Aaron. In this way, the Bible confirms that Melchizedek was not just a high priest, but the greatest of all high priests since He was performing the duties of the high priest before the Law was even written.
As Genesis 14:17-24 reveals Abram tithing to Melchizedek, the Bible shows that Abram was able to identify the deity of Melchizedek as well. Abram sought Melchizedek to honor God after the victory that God had brought. Abram received the blessing of Melchizedek as though it were from God Himself. Abram was compelled to tithe a tenth of the spoils of his victory to Melchizedek even though there was no command to do so at that time. His tribute to God went through the person of Melchizedek. In John 8:56-58 Jesus stated that He had seen Abram and that Abram had seen Him. The Jews then felt that Jesus was crazy. They felt that since Jesus was so young, there was obviously no way that He could have seen Abram who died thousands of years before. However, Jesus responded to the crowds, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus referred to Himself as the eternal God. As such, many Bible commentators believe that when Jesus referred to His encounter with Abram, He may have been referring to His encounter with Abram appearing in the form of Melchizedek. Since Melchizedek is both king and priest of the Most High God, is the King of Jerusalem, the King of Peace, the King of Righteousness, is eternal in nature, and possessed the authority of God, thereby connecting Abram to God, He is seen to be the Old Testament manifestation of Jesus Christ Himself who is the only one in all of scripture to possess those exact same titles and attributes!
The Bible goes on to show that Abram continued to seek to honor God. While the king of Sodom sought to befriend Abram as a token of thanks for defeating Chedorlaomer, the scriptures shows the king of Sodom seeking to give Abram a larger portion of the spoils. Abram rejected the king’s offer. Abram appreciated the gesture, but told the king of Sodom that he could not receive any of his riches lest the king of Sodom be able to say, “I made Abram rich.” Abram trusted in God to fulfill His promises so that if Abram was going to be rich, it would be by God’s hand and not man’s. Abram simply took enough food to replenish his men from the war and moved on, trusting in the eternal Living God to fulfill His promises as God demonstrated He would.