In this Psalm we find that the Messiah (or his ancestor David) is designated with a priestly title. The Psalmist declares God’s words to the King – “You are a priest forever after the manner of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). But there is no reason to make the leap and assume that the only connotation that the priesthood carries is the function of expiating sin as missionaries would have us believe. In the days of Melchizedek, when there was no Temple – anyone could have brought an offering. The processing of the animal offerings was not limited to the priesthood except in the context of the Temple or the Tabernacle. The priests were always charged with administering justice (Deuteronomy 17:9). As king of Salem, it is clear that this duty was well within the scope of Melchizedek’s station. If the scriptures wanted to imply that the Messiah’s role includes the expiation of sin, it would have referred to the Aaronic priesthood, which is explicitly associated with atonement. The fact that the Psalmist refers to Melchizedek and not to Aaron, indicates that the Messiah is charged with the roles of teacher and judge (Isaiah 11:4).
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal