Why Did Melchizedek Bring Out Bread and Wine?


Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) —Genesis 14:18

Is it significant that Melchizedek brought out bread and wine? Might that be connected to the death of Jesus the Messiah?

Before I answer those questions, let’s first get our bearings about Melchizedek.

Getting Our Bearings about Melchizedek

Melchizedek appears in the Bible only three times—with about one thousand years between each occurrence:

  1. Genesis 14:18–20. Around 2,000 BC, Melchizedek appears to Abraham.
  2. Psalm 110:4. About 1,000 years later, David writes about the Messiah as a priest in the pattern of Melchizedek.
  3. Hebrews 5–7. About 1,000 years later, the author of Hebrews exults in Jesus the Messiah as the supreme priest in the pattern of Melchizedek.

The author of Hebrews is reading Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 very carefully, and he draws at least eight inferences. Because Jesus the Messiah is our priest in the pattern of Melchizedek …

  1. he is the supreme priest (Heb 4:14–5:10).
  2. he has entered the Most Holy Place on our behalf (Heb 6:19–20).
  3. he is both king and priest (Heb 7:1–2).
  4. his priesthood is eternal (Heb 7:3).
  5. he is greater than both Abraham and Levitical priests (Heb 7:4–10).
  6. he is better than Levitical priests, and he fulfills the Mosaic law (Heb 7:11–17).
  7. he guarantees a covenant that is better than the Mosaic covenant (Heb 7:18–22).
  8. he can save his people completely (Heb 7:23–28).

Note the seventh inference above. My colleague Jared Compton, who wrote his PhD dissertation on how Hebrews uses Psalm 110, points out that Hebrews 7:18–19 concludes a syllogism about the Levitical priesthood that begins in verse 11:

  • Major premise: God establishes a priesthood to perfect people (Heb 7:11).
  • Minor premise: Another priest has replaced the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7:11).
  • Conclusion: Therefore, the Levitical priesthood did not perfect people (Heb 7:18–19).

(In the above syllogism, I am paraphrasing Jared Compton, Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews, Library of New Testament Studies 537 [London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015], 89.)

We need a priest after the pattern of Melchizedek. The Mosaic law couldn’t perfect anyone; it only condemned. But Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant perfects his people.

Now we are ready to address what might be significant about the bread and wine.

Melchizedek Brought Out Bread and Wine

Here’s a connection between Genesis 14 and Jesus the Messiah that I can’t definitively prove by citing a passage in Hebrews. But I think it’s right in line with how the author of Hebrews reads Genesis 14 and Psalm 110.

The passage about Melchizedek in Genesis 14 begins, “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High)” (Gen 14:18). What does “bread and wine” remind you of? I think God, the divine author of Scripture, intends that it prophetically pictures what 1 Corinthians 11:23–25 celebrates:

The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Why is this significant? Melchizedek brought out bread and wine, and bread and wine symbolize the broken body of the new and greater Melchizedek. I think this is another example of picture prophecy (i.e., typology) that God intended all along. (Matthew H. Emadi also makes this connection in The Royal Priest: Psalm 110 in Biblical Theology, New Studies in Biblical Theology 60 [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2022], 166.)

When Jesus the Messiah died, he inaugurated the new covenant—the better covenant. And we remember that with bread and wine. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Melchizedek “brought out bread and wine.” I think that’s another example in which Jesus the Messiah is our priest in the pattern of Melchizedek.

Andy Naselli, Ph.D.
Professor of Systematic Theology and New Testament

Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise God that Jesus the Messiah is our priest in the pattern of Melchizedek.
  2. Pray that we each wonder anew at the glories of the resurrection.
  3. Pray for the prospective students coming to Spring Preview Day April 26, that God will guide their steps.
  4. Pray that the remaining Serious Joy Scholarships would be subscribed by June 30.