The fragment manuscript 11QMelch is interesting enough. It preserves the midrash interpretation of Old Testament themes and the figure of Melchizedek, and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews applied the figure of Melchizedek to Jesus.
Melchizedek is described as king of Salem as well as a priest of El Elyon in Gen 14:18-20. He is also mentioned as the eternal priest of YHWH in conjunction with the Israelite king in Ps 110:4. The Letter to the Hebrews portrayed Melchizedek as “a primeval, immortal being, coeternal with the Son of God” (Astour 1992, 687). The Qumran community portrayed Melchizedek as a heavenly high priest in 11QMelch (11Q13). The way Melchizedek is portrayed in 11QMelch is very ineresting to me. The author describes the figure of Melchizedek (a heavenly high priest) with the midrash interpretation of Old Testament themes, such as jubilee year (Leviticus 25) and the seventy weeks of years (Dan 9:24-27). I will discuss his figure in 11Q13 with the discussion of the midrash interpetation of the OT passages.
Manuscript of 11Q13 (11QMelch) Col. II
The transcription is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (eds.García Martinez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, 1208). Highlights in the transcription indicate the parts of the Old Testament verses which are quoted in the Hebrew text of the manuscript.
Translation of of 11Q 13 (11QMelch) Col. II
1 [...] … [...]
2 [...] And as for what he said: Lev 25:13 « In [this] year of jubilee, [you shall return, each one, to his respective property », concerning it he said: Deut 15:2 « Th]is is
3 [the manner of the release:] every creditor shall release what he lent [to his neighbour. He shall not coerce his neighbour or his brother, for it has been proclaimed] a release
4 for G[od ». Its interpretation] for the last days refers to the captives, who [...] and whose
5 teachers have been hidden and kept secret, and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, fo[r ...] … and they are the inherita[nce of Melchize]dek, who
6 will make them return. And liberty will be proclaimed for them, to free them from [the debt of] all their iniquities. And this [wil]l [happen]
7 in the first week of the jubilee which follows the ni[ne] jubilees. And the d[ay of aton]ement is the e[nd of] the tenth [ju]bilee
8 in which atonement shall be made for all the sons of [light and] for the men [of] the lot of Mel[chi]zedek. [...] … over [the]m … [...] accor[ding to] a[ll] their [wor]ks, for
9 it is the time for the « year of grace » of Melchizedek, and of [his] arm[ies, the nat]ion of the holy ones of God, of the rule of judgment, as is written
10 about him in the songs of David, who said: Ps 82:1 « Elohim will [st]and in the assem[bly of God,] in the midst of the gods he judges ». And about him he sai[d: Ps 7:8-9 « And] above [it,]
11 to the heights, return: God will judge the peoples ». As for what he sa[id: Ps 82:2 « How long will you] judge unjustly and show partia[lity] to the wicked? [Se]lah. »
12 Its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot, wh[o ...] turn[ing aside] from the commandments of God to [commit evil.]
13 But, Melchizedek will carry out the vengeance of Go[d's] judgments, [and on that day he will fr]e[e them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the sp[irits of his lot.]
14 To his aid (shall come) all « the gods of [justice »; and h]e is the one w[ho ...] all the sons of God, and … [...]
15 This [...] is the day of [peace about whi]ch he said [... through Isa]iah the prophet, who said: [Isa 52:7 « How] beautiful
16 upon the mountains are the feet [of] the messen[ger who] announces peace, the mess[enger of good who announces salvati]on, [sa]ying to Zion: your God [reigns. »]
17 Its interpretation: The mountains [are] the prophet[s ...] … [...] for all … [...]
18 And the messenger i[s] the anointed of the spir[it] as Dan[iel] said [about him: Dan 9:25 « Until an anointed, a prince, it is seven weeks. » And the messenger of]
19 good who announ[ces salvation] is the one about whom it is written that [...]
20 « To comfo[rt] the [afflicted », its interpretation:] to instruct them in all the ages of the wo[rld ...]
21 in truth … [...] … [...]
22 [...] has turned away from Belial and will re[turn ...] … [...]
23 [...] in the judgment[s of] God, as is written about him: [Isa 52:7 « Saying to Zi]on: your God rules. » [« Zi]on » i[s]
24 [the congregation of all the sons of justice, those] who establish the covenant, those who avoid walking [on the pa]th of the people. And « your God » is
25 [... Melchizedek, who will fr]e[e them from the ha]nd of Belial. And as for what he said: Lev 25:9 « You shall blow the hor[n in] all the [l]and of
The translation is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (eds.García Martinez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, 1209). Highlights in the translation indicate the parts of the Old Testament verses.
Melchizedek in 11Q13
The figure Melchizedek in 11Q13 (11QMelch) has usually been described as an angel (Martínze 1992, 176). However, some scholars argue that Melchizedek is a divine title (Van de Water 2006, 75-86). In order to understand the figure of Melchizedek, it is necessary to discuss how the manuscript interprets the Old Testament passages in relation with Melchizedek. 11Q13 interprets a number of verses from Isaiah, Leviticus, and other books in the Old Testament dealing with remission of debts and liberation of slaves at the end of a jubilee cycle as referring to the last judgment.
Joseph A. Fitzmyer discussed widely the midrash interpretation of 11Q13 Col. II (Fitzmyer 1967). Most discussions below came from Fitzmyer’s article. I will not discuss the problem of reconstruction of the manuscript. If you are interested in the discussion of reconstruction of the manuscript, see Fitzmyer’s article for details.
Melchizedek as God’s Agent for the Execution of Divine Judgment
The name Melchizedek does not appear until v. 5. But the figure of Melchizedek is described in relation to the year of jubilee in vv. 1-4 and is developed as one who proclaims the year of jubilee in vv 6-14. He is the one who proclaims the year of jubilee (וקרא להמה דרור; v. 6) and release to the captives to those who are to return to their own possessions. The phrase [בשנת היובל [הזואת (In [this] year of jubilee) in v. 2 is quoted from Lev 25:13: “In this year of jubilee (בשנת היובל הזואת) you shall return, every one of you, to your property.” The year of jubilee is further identified in v. 9 as a year of good favor (לשנת הרצון) decreed by God for Melchizedek and the tenth jubilee ([ה]יו[בל העשירי) in v. 7. The figure of Melchizedek is introduced into this context of a jubilee year. What then is meant by "the year of jubilee" in this manuscript? Fitzmyer interprets the year of jubilee mentioned in this manuscript as follows:
In the course of the midrashic development the year of jubilee mentioned first in line 2 becomes "the last jubilee" (line 7), or "the tenth jubilee" (line 7, at the end). In other words, it seems to refer to the end of the 490 years, or "the seventy weeks of years" of Dan 9:24-27. It is called the year of "release" (šmth) proclaimed for the Lord (lines 3-4) and of "liberation" (drr), such as was announced to the captives of Isa 61:1.
As the year of liberation, the year of jubilee is identified with the day of judgment which is executed by Melchizedek. Accordingly, Fitzmyer argues that "Melchizedek is given a special role in the execution of divine judgment which is related a jubilee year (Fitzmyer 1969, 29)." Fitzmyer's opinion on the figure of Melchizedek is plausible because Melchizedek carries out the vengence of God's judgments in v. 13 (ומלכי צ̇דק יקום נקם משפטי א[ל וביום ההואה).
Melchizedek in Association with God's Deliverance
The day of jubilee or the day of judgment executed by Melchizedek is further identified with the salvation proclaimed by the herald of Isa 52:7: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messager who announces peace, who bring good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" There is no doubt that vv. 15-16 are quoted from Isa 52:7: "This [...] is the day of [peace about whi]ch he said [... through Isa]iah the prophet, who said: [Isa 52:7 « How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet [of] the messen[ger who] announces peace, the mess[enger of good who announces salvati]on, [sa]ying to Zion: your God [reigns. »].” Fitzmyer emphasizes that the “herald” (מבשר) in the book of Isaiah is explicitly identified with “the Messiah” (Firzmyer 1969, 30). Thus, Melchizedek himself is to be identified with the “herald” who is also “the Messiah” or “anointed one.” Fitzmyer proposed to restore the end of the line 18 as follows:
I propose to restore the end of the line, reading Daniel and referring it to the [anointed prince] (משיח נגיד) of Dan 9:25. this identification of the herald with the Anointed One of Dan 9, though not wholly certain, is in reality not so striking as the idntification of the mebasser, or “herald of good tidings,” with a Messiah.
The two figures of Melcizedek in 11Q13, God’s agent for the execution of divine judgment and association with God’s deliverance, probably reflect Jewish tradition to the figures of Melchizedek. For example, 1 Enoch also preserves the judgment which is declared to Michael by God (1En 10:12). Jewish tradition regarded Melchizedek as “high priest” and Michael is called the heavenly high priest in the Babylonian Talmud (Hagigah 12b).
Astour, Michael C. 1992. “Melchizedek.” ABD IV: 685-88.
Brooke, G. 1992. “Melchizedek (11QMelch).” ABD IV: 687-88.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. 1967. “Further Light on Melchizedek from Qumran Cave 11.” JBL 86/1: 25-41.
Garcı́a Martı́nez, Florentino ; Tigchelaar, Eibert J. C.:The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Translations). Leiden; New York : Brill, 1997-1998.
Martinze, García. 1992. Qumran and Apocalyptic. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
Van de Water, Rick. 2006. “Michael and Yhwh: Toward Identifying Melchizedek in 11Q13.” JSP 16/1: 75-86.
Filed under: Manuscripts