Who Was Melchizedek?  (3)

“Hidden Savior” Pattern

This article concludes our analysis of 11QMelchizedek.  As we have seen in our previous posts, this whole text  presents an eschatological scenario of the coming judgment. In this sense, we have all the necessary components here: coming end and judgment, on the one hand, and salvation of the righteous ones, on the other. No doubt Melchizedek is given here a central role in the eschatological salvation of the righteous and judgment of the wicked. At the completion of the ninth Jubilee, in the first week of the tenth Jubilee, on the Day of Atonement, atonement will be made for “all the sons of light and the men of the lot of Melchizedek” (2.8). At this time Melchizedek will also execute judgment on Satan and on the spirits of his lot. Melchizedek here is the instrument of God’s eschatological judgment. He is an eschatological savior of the righteous ones; as the instrument of God, he will judge on the Day of Atonement at the time of God’s final judgment, when Belial and the spirits of his lot will be defeated.

“Melchizedek will carry out the vengeance of Go[d’s] judgments [on this day and they shall be f]r[eed from the hand of] Belial and from the hands of all the sp[irits of  his lot]” (Column 2.13).

Thus, we see that the Qumranic figure of Melchizedek is a superhuman, transcendent image being revealed and manifested in the Day of Judgment, and in this sense, the fragment might be seen as representing the same Hidden Savior” pattern as the one we discussed and saw in the Gospels.  It is very important to note that, not only does salvation comes here through the hidden end-time Savior, but it comes also only to those belonging to himonly the sons of light belonging to the lot of Melchizedek. Thus, this typical New Testament motif occurs here already!  11QMelcizedek probably dates from the end of the second half of the second century BCE; the question is, whether we will see any changes and any developments in the “Hidden Messiah” pattern in the later Qumran documents?

The Teacher of Righteousness as the Secret Messiah

“I think the Qumran sectarians are likely to have believed that the eternal Melchizedek, whose human prototype encountered Abraham to receive gifts and to bestow bread and wine, came as man and was known as the Teacher of Righteousness,”[1] John O’Neill writes. They believed that he would be revealed on the day of liberation as the judge of all.  Even in the title, Teacher of Righteousness, O’Neill sees a hidden reference to the name of Melchi Zedek, King of Righteousness. In order to sustain this thesis, O’Neill quotes the passage in the commentary on Habakkuk which explains that salvation on the Day of Judgment shall depend on faith in the Teacher of Righteousness.  Habakkuk 2.4b reads, “But the righteous one shall live by his faith”. 1QpHab 8.1-3 comments: “Interpreted, this concerns all those who observe the Law in the House of Judah, whom God will deliver from the House of Judgment because of their suffering and because of their faith in the Teacher of Righteousness.” If those who are to be saved on Judgment Day are saved by faith in anyone, that one can be no less than Messiah. Thus, according to O’Neill, the Qumranites believed that the Messiah, who had been hidden in the heaven as heavenly Melchizedek, came and lived among them under the form of the Teacher of Righteousness.

 

A book of Michael Wise, The First Messiah, argues along the same lines. The main thesis of the book is that the Teacher of Righteousness—Judah, as Wise calls him—was seen by his followers as the Messiah. Wise brings his arguments primarily from literary and historical sources. Having analyzed the historical and literary texts, he comes to a startling conclusion that before Judah (mid-first century BCE) there were almost no texts about messiah while after mid-first century BCE we find many texts  concerned with the messiah. In addition to this proof from external evidence, Wise also provides a detailed examination of the Qumran Texts (The Thanksgiving Hymns) in search of Judah’s Messianic identity. Having done that, he arrives to the definite conclusion: the Teacher of Righteousness, believed himself to be the Messiah of Israel—and so did his followers.

 

If indeed the Teacher of Righteousness believed himself to be the Messiah of Israel, then why did so few recognize him?  It is precisely here that the theme of non-recognition—of ‘incognito’ messiah who comes and goes unrecognized—comes into focus. “Judah came to believe that the nation had refused him because that was the way God had always planned it. He was the messiah, but he was also a secret;[2] he was hidden, unrecognized for what he was by most of his contemporaries. “He who nurtures the Holy Shoot to become a Tree of Truth is himself hidden, without esteem, his secret sealed up.”[3] When God does reveal him to his people and makes him manifest, then the people will recognize their error and esteem Judah for who he really is. Until then, however he would have to remain silent and secret: “Surely they will not esteem me until You manifest your mighty power through me.”[4]

 

Remarkably, Michael Wise believes that Judah’s understanding of his secret messiahship came straight from the Servant Songs of Isaiah: He was despised, and we did not esteem him… He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.[5]   Very soon, we will start analyzing Isaiah’s prophecy here;  for now, it is important for us just to note the fact that, for Wise, this connection between messianic incognito and the Servant Songs of Isaiah is quite clear.   

 

Now, having analyzed the texts and the commentaries, we can draw the following picture. The Qumran sectarians believed that the eternal Melchizedek, whose human prototype encountered Abraham to receive gifts and to bestow bread and wine, had been hidden in the heaven till the appointed time; then he came as man and was known as the Teacher of Righteousness; he knew he was the Messiah and his followers knew it as well; nevertheless, most of his people did not recognize him for who he was; in a response to that, he taught that this was the way God had always planned it. It was God’s original plan for His Messiah – and in obedience to this plan, the Messiah had to remain silent.  

 

 

 

 

 

[1] O’Neill, J. C. Who Did Jesus Think He Was? (Biblical Interpretation Series, Vol 11), Brill Academic Publishers, 1995 – p.72.

 

 

[2] Wise, Michael, The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Jesus, 1999 -p.209

[3] 1QH xi 11

[4] 1QH xii 25.

[5] Isa 53:2,3

 

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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By Julia Blum

Who Was Melchizedek?  (3)

By Julia Blum

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  1. Mario

    Melkizedek is the savior and the presence of God on eart.
    Thanks for your effort wonderful gift!!

  2. Johnny Ash

    Date Setting The article gives the ninth and tenth Jubilees. So if we count back 450 years from 2020, then we arrive here: 5550 1571 CE Sabbath year (Shmita שמיטה‎) 111th Jubilee (yovel יובל)
    Tenth Jubilees back from 2020 arrives here: 1517 CE Ottomon Turks capture Jerusalem; the Ottoman Empire exists for 400 more years until 1917.Ottoman During the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Population of the Jewish community in Jerusalem increased. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church on October 31,1517 which begins the German Protestant Reformation. 1517+400 generation=1917+100 generation = 2017 100 years is the limit of a generation found in the Bible (as defined by Abraham’s 4 generations of a total of 400 years (400 years divided by 4 generations = 100).
    5500 1521 CE 110th Jubilee (yovel יובל)

    This reminds me of the Judah ben Samuel Prophecy that the 8th Jubilee from 1517 was the Battle of Jerusalem in 1917, the 9th Jubilee was the 6th Day War in 1967, and the 10th Jubilee is when the Messiah comes.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Johnny, maybe you will be interested to read an article I wrote about Judah Ben Samuel prophecy and about year 2017. You can find it on this blog, it’s called “Entering 2017 from Jerusalem”, and it was published last year on December. 28th.

  3. Brian Lantz

    Loved it! It goes a long way to defining Paul’s description of the veil over Israel. Just one thing that gives rise to ‘the teacher of righteousness’ hidden nature in a more definitive light. Just one thing. The quotation of 1QH xii 25 tends to set it aside
    “When God does reveal him to his people and makes him manifest, then the people will recognize their error and esteem Judah for who he really is. Until then, however he would have to remain silent and secret: “Surely they will not esteem me until You manifest your mighty power through me.”[4] Indeed, their Messiah is ‘hidden’, but hidden for the wrong reasons, namely disobedience. And that disobedience will be reversed when ‘they (Israel) say “blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord’.

    I do find it interesting that the ‘teacher of Righteousness’ phraseology isn’t used in the Scriptures. Instead we only find Torah, teaching. Effectively the Qumran community never had one, though I’m beginning to believe they thought they did.

    1. Julia Blum

      You are right, Brian, the expression “Teacher of Righteousness” doesn’t occur in the Scriptures – but on the other hand, if we accept the scholarly opinion I quoted in my article (that the eternal Melchizedek came as man and was known as the Teacher of Righteousness,), then we can also agree that the very title “Teacher of Righteousness” is just a hidden reference to the name of Melchi Zedek, King of Righteousness. If this is the case, then we can see a lot of similarities between Qumran’s and the New Testament’s understanding of Melchizedek.

  4. Jackie McClure

    Julia, you might be interested in a poem I wrote on this a few years ago.

    THE ORDER OF MELCHIZIDEK
    According to the order of Melchizidek
    He is a Priest forever
    Holy, Innocent, Undefiled
    Eternally continuing, changing never.

    Sinless Himself, making intercession,
    Able to save, able to keep,
    Forgiving His people of their sins,
    The Great Shepherd cares for His sheep.

    The minister of the true tabernacle
    Entered, offering Himself without blemish.
    His death for our transgressions
    Brought redemption to a finish.

    Christ appeared for us in the presence of God,
    His sacrifice having put away sin.
    Now, with hearts sincere and sprinkled clean
    We can come to the Holy Place and enter in.

    And render our service and our praises,
    Royal priests from the line
    Of the Melchizidekian order of Jesus Christ,
    The same yesterday, today, and for all time.

    Jackie McClure, 10/25/2014
    *Scripture references: Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6, 7:24-27, 8:2, 9:12-26, 10:19-22, 13:8,20; 1Pe. 2:9; Is.61:6

    1. Julia Blum

      Beautiful poem, Jackie! Thank you for sharing!