After The Order
by Rachmiel Frydland
The "priestly" line of succession in Israel, according to God's Torah, was different from the "kingly" line. The kings were to descend from the tribe of Judah, whereas the priests were to be of the tribe of Levi. Within the ranks of the priests, a High Priest for the year was to be selected from the household of Aaron.
Messiah was to be both a King and a High Priest. (1) However, it would appear impossible for the Messiah to lay claim to both offices, since He would have to be from both the tribes of Judah and Levi. That obstacle is overcome because his priesthood is not of the order of the Levitical priesthood, but of the order of the Melchizedek priesthood.
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (2)
Melchizedek first appears in the book of Genesis. Abraham had returned from his victory over five mighty kings who had conquered the southern part of Canaan. Returning triumphantly from the victory, Abraham met Melchizedek. And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed [Abraham] ... . And [Abraham] gave him tithes of all. (3)
Melchizedek was a priest of the most high God, even though he predated the formal Levitical priesthood. He was part of the priesthood order of which the Messiah was to ascend.
There are but a few rabbinic references regarding the priestly office of the Messiah. Some Jewish sources interpret the phrase "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek," to refer to Abraham. (4) However, this cannot be since the Psalm postdated Abraham and is written in the present and in the Hebrew future-imperfect tense.
At least one Jewish source, Ibn Ezra, ascribes the subject of the prophecy to King David. Neither can this be so, for the first verse of the psalm reads:
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (5)
Here. there are three parties: David, the Lord, and David's Lord. David is the speaker, and he refers to the one that the Lord is speaking to as "my Lord." Certainly David is not equating "my Lord" with himself." This may be paraphrased as: "David says, The Lord said to my personal Messiah ... . The Midrash (6) is correct in recognizing the Messianic Character of the psalm.
Moses acted as a high priest, perhaps after the order of Melchizedek. He acted as a priest in a mediator role when God and Israel entered into a covenant relationship. (7) Moses also acted as high priest when he interceded for Israel after they made the golden calf. (8) Additionally, he acted as high priest when he was commanded by God to dedicate Aaron to the priesthood and purified the altar. (9) For these reasons the Talmud declares that "Moses was a high priest." (10) According to biblical and rabbinic teaching Messiah is to be like Moses. In this regard it is written in the Midrash that: As it was with the first Redeemer so will it be with the Last Redeemer. The first redeemer is Moses ... .(11)
One source in the Talmud refers to four Messianic personages who are called Artisans (Horoshim). They are Messiah Ben David, Messiah Ben Joseph, Elijah, and the Righteous Priest. (12) From the various discussions that developed in the Talmudic sources it is clear that each personage is referred to in a different scriptural passage. (13) The Righteous Priest here refers to Melchizedek. (14)
Melchizedek was not only a priest; he was the King of salem, which may be the forerunner name for the city, Jerusalem. His name, Melchizedek, means "King of Righteousness." Hence, he was both a priest and a king. Since Messiah is to be of the order of Melchizedek, then He, too, is to be Priest and King.
Some modern critical scholars theorize that the Psalm in question, along with others that recognize a priestly-kingly attribute to Messiah, were actually composed later than they would suggest. These theorists take the position that they were composed during the Hasmonean period, about the 2nd century B.C.E., in order to justify the Hasmonean rulers who, though priests, absorbed the Davidic throne.
The fact is that the religious leaders never acceded to this usurpation of the kingly throne. If these psalms were supposed to exalt the Maccabean rulers, pointing to them as the hope of Jewry as the anointed priest-kings, then the religious leaders would not have placed them in the canon of Scripture ascribing them to David.
It is worth noting that the Dead Sea sect which was developing about the time of the Hasmonean rule looked forward to a future time when the role of Anointed King and Priest would be fulfilled in the Messiah after the order of Melchizedek. They obviously rejected the theory that it was fulfilled in Hasmonean rule.
(1) Zechariah 6:12-13 (2) Psalm 110:4 (3) Genesis 14:18-20 (4) Sanhedrin 108; Nedarim 32 (5) Psalm 110:1 (6) Midrash on Psalm 18:36; See Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Eerdmans 1977) p. 721. (7) Exodus 24:6-8 (8) Exodus 32-34 (9) Leviticus 8:14-15. 21 (10) Zebahim 101a (11) Midrash Numbers Rabbah 11:3 (12) Sukkah 52a. In one later Midrash, Melchizedek has been substituted for Righteous Priest. (Genesis Rabbah 43) (13) Messiah Ben Joseph fulfills the "Pierced One" prophesied by Zechariah. (Zechariah 12:10) Messiah Ben David fulfills the King of Psalm 2. Elijah has reference to the forerunner in Malachi. (Malachi 4:5) See Sukkah 52. (14) Genesis Rabbah 43
What The Rabbis Know About The Messiah by Rachmiel Frydland
Reprinted With Permission of the Messianic Literature Outreach
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