Melchizedek Biography

(Priest and King of Salem)

Melchizedek, also known as Melchisedech in the Old Testament, is a biblical figure that appears in the 14th chapter of The Book of Genesis. He is described as the king of Salem and the priest of El Elyon, who brings bread and wine for Abram when Abram returns after defeating several Mesopotamian kings and rescuing his nephew Lot. Though the main strain of the story remains universally accepted, there are multiple variations of his tale across various scriptures. In some texts, Melchizedek is even identified as a version of the Messiah. There is no clear depiction of his lineage anywhere, though according to some texts, he is most probably Shem, Noah’s son.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Melchisedech, Melkisetek, or Malki Tzedek


siblings: Noah

Emperors & Kings Israeli Male

Origin & Early Life

Melchizedek, also known as Melkisetek, Melchisedech (in the Old Testament), or Malki Tzedek, is a biblical figure mentioned as the ruler of Salem and the priest of El Elyon (“God Most High”). He has been referred to in the 14th chapter of Genesis. He is depicted as the one who brings bread and wine and then blesses El Elyon and Abram.

Chazalic literature mentions the name as a nickname of Shem, Noah’s son. The Masoretic Hebrew texts mention his name as two words, “Malḵi” and “ṣedeq.” The King James Version of 1611 mentions “Melchizedek,” while the New Testament mentions “Melchisedec.”

The name essentially consists of the words “melek(h),” meaning "king," and “ṣedeq,” meaning "righteousness." The name thus means “king of righteousness.” It is also mentioned as "Zedek” in some texts.

Multiple variations of Melchizedek’s origins appear across Christian and Jewish texts. The Second Book of Enoch (also known as "Slavonic Enoch"), a Jewish text dating back to the 1st century AD, mentions (in its last section, the Exaltation of Melchizedek) that Melchizedek was born of a virgin named Sofonim (or Sopanima).

Sofonim was the wife of Nir, one of Noah’s brothers. It also mentions that Sofonim died at childbirth and that Melchizedek sat beside her corpse.

It also mentions that Melchizedek was already grown up, clothed, and speaking when he was born. He also had a mark of priesthood.

After 40 days of his birth, Melchizedek was taken to the Garden of Eden by archangel Gabriel (Michael, according to some texts) and was saved from the Deluge, although he was not on Noah's Ark.

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Melchizedek and Abram

The biblical story of Melchizedek begins with the Mesopotamian rulers (once allies) who declared war in the Siddim Valley. They also imprisoned Abram’s nephew, Lot.

Abram returned after defeating Chedorlaomer, the king of Sodom. The King of Salem, Melchizedek, then met him. Following this, the first recorded tithe is given to a high-ranked priest.

It is not known how Melchizedek came to know about Abram, as none of the scriptures mention him. After Abram and Melchizedek part ways, Melchizedek does not appear till Psalm 110.

Nothing is mentioned about Melchizedek’s lineage. Melchizedek is referred to as a priest of an order that had no recorded beginning. Jesus is later described as the order’s greatest priest.

Multiple Interpretations of His Story

Though the main bits of the story about Abram and Melchizedek is universally accepted, there are multiple variations to it, across various scriptures.

Verses 18–20 of Genesis focus on how Abram returns after defeating king Chedorlaomer and meets Bera, the king of Sodom. It then mentions how Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brings out bread and wine. Melchizedek is probably an informal addition to the narration in the Bible, to validate the priesthood associated with the Second Temple. Genesis 14:18 mentions Melchizedek as a "Priest of the Most High God.”

The Samaritan texts mention his home as "Salem," located on the slopes of Mount Gerizim. It was as a blessing place for the children of Israel when they crossed the Jordan river. However, the Rishonim versions debate whether Salem was Melchizedek’s/Shem's home (inherited from his father, Noah) or whether he had come to Salem as a foreigner. Salem is also mentioned as land of his brother, Cham, in many texts.

Ramban believed that the land was owned and ruled by Cham’s child, and states that Melchizedek/Shem had left his home to reach Salem as a foreigner, as he wished to serve God as a Kohen.

However, Rashi stated that the land of Canaan was allotted to Shem, by Noah, and that Cham had acquired the land by force.

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In Hellenic Judaism, Josephus mentioned Melchizedek as a "Canaanite chief" in The War of the Jews, but also as a priest in Antiquities of the Jews. Philo mentioned Melchizedek as a “priest of God.”

The Qumran Scrolls mention that Melchizedek was another name of the Archangel Michael, who later came to be known as a heavenly priest. Michael thus became “Melchi-zedek.”

Rabbinic literature mentions a little bit of history before Melchizedek's introduction. It speaks of how Abram rescues his nephew, Lot, and defeats multiple kings. It then narrates how Abram meets Melchizedek at "Emek HaShaveh.” The place was associated with Emek Yehoshaphat (the Valley of Josaphat).

Midrashic texts explain how a group of governors and kings united at the site to pay homage to Abram for defeating several kings and how they wished to declare him a deity. Abram, however, credited his victory to God's will.

The 1789-published Seder ha-Dorot states that Melchizedek was the first to build a wall surrounding his city. It also describes how he had to leave Salem to reach Abram and his men. He then presented them with "bread and wine" to help them refresh after their arduous journey.

If Melchizedek was Shem, he would have been 465 at that time, while Abram was 75. The Talmud Bavli credited him as the first to have banned prostitution.

His Identification with the Messiah

The New Testament refers to Melchizedek only in The Epistle to the Hebrews. However, Melchizedek’s identification with the Messiah dates back to days before the evolution of Christianity, mostly in Jewish messianism of the Second Temple period.

Some Gnostic scripts from around the 4th century (unearthed in 1945) and known as the Nag Hammadi library, contain references to Melchizedek. Melchizedek is said to be Jesus Christ in those texts. Melchizedek, as Christ, is depicted as preaching, dying, and then being resurrected. The Coming of the Son of God Melchizedek describes his return to bring about peace and justice as a priest-king.

In The Epistle to the Hebrews, Melchizedek is described as the "king of righteousness" and the "king of peace" who is related to the "eternal priesthood" of the Son of God. It also mentions Jesus Christ as the "High priest forever in the order of Melchizedek." Thus, Jesus becomes “High Priest” eventually, but is associated with Melchizedek.

According to the Christological interpretation of this Old Testament character, Melchizedek is a prototype of the Christ. The Pelagians viewed Melchizedek as a man with a perfect life.

In Protestantism, Melchizedek appears as a historical figure and Christ’s archetype. Melchizedek also appears in the Book of Mormon of the Latter-day Saints movement.


There is some ambiguity in the Hebrew texts, which makes it unclear whether Abram gave tithe to Melchizedek, or Melchizedek gave it to Abram.

See the events in life of Melchizedek in Chronological Order

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