Friday, March 4, 2011

Melchizedek, a Jew and other Torah Figures

Melchizedek-- Heb. meaning, "the god Zedek is king."

The Hebrew name Melchizedek appears in many current documents as if something new to humankind is being uncovered. In fact the name means in English, the god Zedek is King. It is also the name of the ‘mysterious’  (Greek word meaning ‘the initiate(d)’) personage mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20.

He is also mysterious because little is actually known of this person whom the Bible records as being a priest and king. In the book of Hebrews 7, he is presented as one who presages the appearance of the Christ come into the world. Here the name Melchizedek, owing back to its original Hebrew, takes the additional connotation of ‘the king of justice.’

There are three main points of resemblance between Melchizedek and the Christ who it may be said later fulfills his oracle. Both men were both priest and king; both offer bread and wine as sacrifice to G-d; both derive their priestly state directly from the ancient Hebrew tribe of Aaron, because neither man is from the tribe of Levi, another branch which served a different priestly function.

Who and why are the tribes of Israel important to the story of Melchizedek? First of all, the bible records for history that the ancient tribes of Israel performed several distinct functions in their society and that this ordering reflected well upon their religion which in time comes to us as Judaism. While the Torah records many tribes from far and wide, the tribes most important to the story of Melchizedek are the Levites, those men who were the hereditary priests, or sacred ministers with duty to offer sacrifices at the altar of the holocausts (Leviticus 1:3-4); they also entered the place of worship morning and evening to offer incense at the golden altar. See Psalms 99 and 110:4, also Hebrews 7:1-17.  The significance of the “order of Melchizedek” is that his authority arose by means different than the traditional hereditary one of other priests. They were made priests on the mandate of G-d, the Creator. Nothing more is made of their priestly state.

Aaron was a member of the tribe of Levi (Exodus 4:14-16 and 7:28-30) and the brother of Moses; he was the designated tribal spokesman before the Egyptian Pharaoh. The Levite priests were also charged with several other duties, including the care and cure of Lepers in their communities. Luke 1 and 5. They officiated at the temple, and all the Tribe of Levi along with those of Aaron ministered together during the great festivals. Their dress was a long, light linen tunic worn with a decorated sash and turban. Compare this with the modern, Orthodox Christian practice owing its tradition back to the Hebrews, in all ways of the priests. So it is the priest of modern day who presides as Melechizedek's descendant, anointed with Holy Chrism.

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