The word literal is complicated. According to one of the first definitions in the dictionary, literal means: “adhering...to the ordinary construction of primary meaning of a term or expression.” In other words, being literal can just mean saying what you mean to say, giving primary importance in the moment to...
The Hebrew Scriptures contain prophecies about Jesus beyond counting. If you do a Google search, you will get a number of at least 300, a figure I deem conservative. But many of these individual prophecies also intertwine, creating a still richer tapestry, that I would consider the Hebrew Scriptures in their entirety as a single unit of prophecy. If we pick up a single thread, we can’t help but find several more to follow, all connecting to Jesus and each other.
My hope is that this small vision of God’s self-revelation through Scripture will whet your appetite, filling you with wonder and curiosity, and that you will desire to know him more through deeper study of his Word. Ultimately, the goal is not information, but transformation.
Get ready to flip back and forth in your Bible…
Melchizedek is a mysterious figure. He appears in Genesis 14 with little introduction, then we do not see him again except in reference. His name means “king of righteousness,” and he is the king of Salem, later called Jerusalem. Salem means “peace,” and so Melchizedek is rightly called both king of righteousness and king of peace. He is also called a priest of God Most High. What chiefly stands out about him is that he combines the offices of king and priest.
The next time we hear about Melchizedek is in Psalm 110. Writing in the Spirit, David says,
The Lord says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”…The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:1,4, NASB)
David would not have understood who was being referred to in this prophetic writing. It was actually the Pharisees who developed the concept of Messiah during the intertestamental period (between Malachi and Matthew). But Jesus used this passage to challenge some of their ideas about the identity of the Messiah and give them something to think about (Matthew 22:41-46).
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Genesis 49:10, NASB)
This verse falls in the middle of a passage wherein the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons before he dies. These 12 sons will become the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel, and the blessings in this passage foreshadow what will happen later with the nation. For various reasons, Jacob’s first three sons (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) are not given places of preeminence over the others. Favor passes to Judah, the fourth son.
This word “Shiloh” has been translated in various ways for different versions of the Bible, and it can have multiple meanings, depending on context. For this passage, the Rabbis and the Septuagint agree on the phrase “until he comes whose right it is.” A scepter always indicates royalty, and indeed the tribe of Judah was the tribe of King David and all his descendants, including Jesus himself.
Later scriptures add further dimension to this prophecy. During the time of Ezekiel the prophet, Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians. The puppet king, Zedekiah, was a wicked king, and the priests went the way of the nations and followed their idolatrous practices, defiling the temple (2 Chronicles 35:14). Therefore God pronounced judgement on both king and priest:
“Thus says the Lord God, Remove the turban and take off the crown; this will be no more the same. Exalt that which is low and abase that which is high. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I will make it. This also will be no more until he comes whose right it is, and I shall give it to him.” (Ezekiel 21:26-27, NASB)
The turban here refers to the ceremonial headdress of the high priest (Exodus 28:37).
In this passage, the prophecy seems to indicate that the priesthood and kingship will both be given to he “whose right it is.” Historically, the tribe of Judah was the tribe of kings, and the tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe. So a priest could not be a king, nor a king a priest, in ancient Israel. But if Shiloh, “he whose right it is,” were a priest of the order of Melchizedek, the offices could be combined.
After the Babylonian captivity, the prophet Zechariah was given a word from the Lord concerning the high priest at the time, whose name was Joshua. Zechariah was told to make a crown and set it on Joshua’s head, and then to say these words:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for he will branch out from where he is; and he will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he who will bear the honor and sit and rule on his throne. Thus, he will be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.” (Zechariah 6:12-13)
There are two significant names here. The name of the high priest is Joshua, an English version of the Hebrew name Y’Shua, which in Greek translates to Jesus. And “Branch” is the name of the man about whom the prophecy is made. The Hebrew word for branch here is Netzer, and it shares the same word root with Nazarene—Nazareth was Jesus’ hometown.
Hebrews 7 is a treatise on the priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the order of Melchizedek. A priest officiates at the intersection of life and death. But he must make sacrifices for himself, because he himself is subject to death (Leviticus 16:6). Jesus Christ, instead of making a sacrifice for himself, is able to make himself a sacrifice, because he alone is not subject to death, but its master (Revelations 1:18). He is our great High Priest. He is our King of Righteousness. He is Shiloh, the one whose right it is.
A Never-Ending Journey
We are only scratching the surface of the prophetic character of the Hebrew Scriptures (we aren’t even exploring what the offices of king or priest look like). Each of the trails I am taking leads to several others. This is why the study of Scripture is a never-ending journey, but simply accumulating data is not the point—
May you be amazed by the richness and density of prophecy in the Scriptures as you discover the way God’s plan unfolds.