Having neither beginning of days nor end of life–namely, history not having recorded his beginning nor end, as it has the beginning and end of Aaron. The Greek idiom expressed by “without father,” &c., one whose parentage was humble or unknown. “Days” mean his time of discharging his function. So the eternity spoken of in Ps 110:4 is that of the priestly office chiefly.
Made like–It is not said that he was asbsolutely “like.” Made like, namely, in the particulars here specified. Nothing is said in Genesis of the end of his priesthood, or of his having had in his priesthood either predecessor or successor, which, in a typical point of view, represents Christ’s eternal priesthood, without beginning or end. Aaron’s end is recorded; Melchisedec’s not: typically significant. “The Son of God” is not said to be made like unto Melchisedec, but Melchisedec to be “made like the Son of God.” The epithets, “without father,” &c. “beginning of days, “nor end,” “abideth continually,” belong to Melchisedec only in respect to his priesthood, and in so far as he is the type of the Son of God, and are strictly true of Him alone. Melchisedec was, in his priesthood, “made like” Christ, as far as the imperfect type could represent the lineaments of the perfect archetype. “The portrait of a living man can be seen on the canvas, yet the man is very different from his picture.” There is nothing in the account, Ge 14:18-20, to mark Melchisedec as a superhuman being: he is classed with the other kings in the chapter as a living historic personage:. He was probably of Shemitic, not Canaanite origin: the last independent representative of the original Shemitic population, which had been vanquished by the Canaanites, Ham’s descendants. The greatness of Abraham then lay in hopes; of Melchisedec, in present possession. Melchisedec was the highest and last representative of the Noahic covenant, as Christ was the highest and ever enduring representative of the Abrahamic. Melchisedec, like Christ, unites in himself the kingly and priestly offices, which Abraham does not.. He was first and last king-priest there, till Christ, the antitype; and therefore his priesthood is said to last for ever, because it both lasts a long time, and lasts as long as the nature of the thing itself (namely, his life, and the continuance of God’s worship in Canaan) admits. If Melchisedec were high priest for ever in a literal sense, then Christ and he would now still be high priests, and we should have two instead of one (!). THOLUCK remarks, “Melchisedec remains in so far as the type remains in the antitype, in so far as his priesthood remains in Christ.” The father and mother of Melchisedec, as also his children, are not descended from Levi, as the Levitical priests (Heb 7:6) were required to be, and are not even mentioned by Moses. The wife of Aaron, Elisheba, the mother from whom the Levitical priests spring, is mentioned: as also Sarah, the original mother of the Jewish nation itself.
The object of the apostle, in thus producing the example of Melchisedec, was to show, 1. That Jesus was the person prophesied of in the 110th Psalm; which psalm the Jews uniformly understood as predicting the Messiah. 2. To answer the objections of the Jews against the legitimacy of the priesthood of Christ, taken from the stock from which he proceeded. The objection is this: If the Messiah is to be a true priest, he must come from a legitimate stock, as all the priests under the law have regularly done; otherwise we cannot acknowledge him to be a priest: but Jesus of Nazareth has not proceeded from such a stock; therefore we cannot acknowledge him for a priest, the antitype of Aaron. To this objection the apostle answers, that it was not necessary for the priest to come from a particular stock, for Melchisedec was a priest of the most high God, and yet was not of the stock, either of Abraham or Aaron, but a Canaanite. It is well known that the ancient Hebrews were exceedingly scrupulous in choosing their high priest; partly by Divine command, and partly from the tradition of their ancestors, who always considered this office to be of the highest dignity. 1. God had commanded. Le 21:10, that the high priest should be chosen from among their brethren, i.e. from the family of Aaron; 2. that he should marry a virgin; 3. he must not marry a widow; 4. nor a divorced person; 5. nor a harlot; 6. nor one of another nation. He who was found to have acted contrary to these requisitions was, jure divino, excluded from the pontificate. On the contrary, it was necessary that he who desired this honour should be able to prove his descent from the family of Aaron; and if he could not, though even in the priesthood, he was cast out, as we find from Ezr 2:62, and Ne 7:63.
To these Divine ordinances the Jews have added, 1. That no proselyte could be a priest; 2. nor a slave; 3. nor a bastard; 4. nor the son of a Nethinim; 5. nor one whose father exercised any base trade. And that they might be well assured of all this, they took the utmost care to preserve their genealogies, which were regularly kept in the archives of the temple. When any person aspired to the sacerdotal function, his genealogical table was carefully inspected; and, if any of the above blemishes were found in him, he was rejected.
He who could not support his pretensions by just genealogical evidences, was said by the Jews to be without father. Thus in Bereshith Rabba, sect. 18, fol. 18, on these words, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, it is said: If a proselyte to the Jewish religion have married his own sister, whether by the same father or by the same mother, they cast her out according to Rabbi Meir. But the wise men say if she be of the same mother, they cast her out; but if of the same father, they retain her, “for a Gentile has no father;” i.e. his father is not reckoned in the Jewish genealogies. In this way both Christ and Melchisedec were without father and without mother; i.e. were not descended from the original Jewish sacerdotal stock.
“It is said of Melchisedec in the first place that he was, without father and without mother, whereon part of the latter clause, namely, without beginning of days, doth depend. But bow could a mortal man come into the world without father or mother? ‘Man that is born of a woman’ is the description of every man; what, therefore, can be intended! The next word declares he was agenealoghtov. ‘without descent,’ say we. But genealogia is a generation, a descent, a pedigree, not absolutely, but rehearsed, described, recorded. genealoghtov is he whose stock and descent is entered on record. And so, on the contrary, agenealoghtov is not he who has no descent, no genealogy; but he whose descent and pedigree is nowhere entered, recorded, reckoned up. Thus the apostle himself plainly expresses this word, Heb 7:6: ‘whose descent is not counted;’ that is, reckoned up in record. Thus was Melchisedec without father or mother, in that the Spirit of God, who so strictly and exactly recorded the genealogies of other patriarchs and types of Christ, and that for no less an end than to manifest the truth and faithfulness of God in his promises, speaks nothing to this purpose concerning him. He is introduced as it were one falling from heaven, appearing on a sudden, reigning in Salem, and officiating in the office of priesthood to the high God.
On the same account is he said to be, ‘without beginning of days or end of life.’ For as he was a mortal man he had both. He was assuredly born, and did no less certainly die than other men. But neither of these is recorded concerning him. We have no more to do with him, to learn from him, nor are concerned in him, but only as he is described in the Scripture; and there is no mention therein of the beginning of his days, or the end of his life. Whatever therefore he might have in himself, he had none to us. Consider all the other patriarchs mentioned in the writings of Moses, and you shall find their descent recorded, who was their father, and so up to the first man; and not only so, but the time of their birth, the beginning of their days, and the end of their life, are exactly recorded. For it is constantly said of them, such a one lived so long, and begat such a son, which fixed the time of birth. Then of him so begotten it is said, he lived so many years, which determines the end of his days. These things are expressly recorded. But concerning Melchisedec none of these things are spoken. No mention is made of father or mother; no genealogy is recorded of what stock or progeny he was; nor is there any account of his birth or death. So that all these things are wanting to him in his historical narration, wherein our faith and knowledge are alone concerned.”