FAQ: What is the relationship between Shem and Melchizedek?
BACK References
Shem and Melchizedek are most likely the same person.
About Shem:
  • Known as the great high priest.
  • "... Shem, the great high priest; ..." ( D&C 138:41)

  • The scriptures give us the details of Shem´s birth and ancestry but are silent as to his ministry and later life.
  • Son of Noah
  • "... and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth." (Gen. 5:32) ... which lists Shem first, which may imply that he is the oldest of the sons of Noah, or it may imply another ranking.
    " And Noah was four hundred and fifty years old, and abegat Japheth; and forty-two years afterward he begat Shem of her who was the mother of Japheth, and when he was five hundred years old he begat Ham." (Moses 8:12) ... which states that Japheth is oldest.

  • Shem is the progenitor of Abraham.
  • "Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram; the same is Abraham." (1 Chronicles 1:24-27)

  • Assumptions:
    • He held the keys to the priesthood and was the great high priest of his day.
    • In this patriarchal order of priesthood, Shem stands next to Noah.
    • The priesthood descended through Shem to all the great patriarchs after Noah.

About Melchizedek:

  • Also known as a great high priest.
  • "Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever." (Alma 13:14)
    "...he was the priest of the most high God." (Gen. 14:18)
    "Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest." ( D&C 107:2)

  • There are accounts of Melchizedek´s ministry and later life, but almost none touching to his birth or ancestry.
    • He did have a father: "...and he did reign under his father." (Alma 13:18)
    • Conserning the tranlation of "Without father, without mother, without descent, ..." (Heb 7:3)
    • Also consider: "For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually" (JST Heb 7:3).
      "That is the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is without father, without mother, or descent, or beginning of days, or end of life, which the great high priest, Melchizedak, so honored and magnified in his time that it was called after his name, in honor to him and to avoid the too frequent repetition of the name of the Son of God." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, [Deseret Book Co., 1919] p238)

  • Melchizedek was the king of Salem
  • "And Melchizedek king of Salem..." (Gen. 14:18)
    "...for he was the king of Salem;..." (Alma 13:18)

  • Melchizedek was Abram´s (who is later called Abraham) ecclesiastical leader.
  • "And he blessed him..." (Gen. 14:19)
    "... And he[Abram] gave him[Melchizedek] tithes of all." (Gen. 14:20)
    "Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." (Heb. 7:4)
    "Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek,..." ( D&C 84:14)

  • "Melchizedek" means "King of righteousness."
  • "...first being by interpretation King of righteousness, ..." (Heb. 7:1-2)

  • Concerning his ministry and life we have several interesting and important facts. ( Gen. 14:18-20; Heb. 7:1-4; Alma 13:17-18. )

Favoring that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person:

  • Were there two high priests presiding at the same time?
  • Why is the record silent concerning Shem´s ministry?
  • Why is nothing known concerning Melchizedek´s ancestry?
  • The inheritance given to Shem included the land of Salem.
  • Melchizedek appears in scripture as the king of Salem, who reigns over this area.
  • Shem, according to later revelation, reigned in righteousness and the priesthood came through him.
  • Shem was the great high priest of his day.
  • Abraham honored the high priest Melchizedek by seeking a blessing at his hands and paying him tithes.
  • Abraham stands next to Shem in the patriarchal order of the priesthood and would surely have received the priesthood from Shem; but D&C 84:14 says Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek.
  • Jewish tradition identifies Shem as Melchizedek.
  • President Joseph F. Smith´s remarkable vision names Shem among the great patriarchs,
  • but no mention is made of Melchizedek.
  • Times and Seasons (vol. 6, p. 746) speaks of "Shem, who was Melchizedek. …"

Statements that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person:

  • "11 And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem, went out with his men to meet Abram and his people, with bread and wine, and they remained together in the valley of Melech. 12 And Adonizedek blessed Abram, and Abram gave him a tenth from all that he had brought from the spoil of his enemies, for Adonizedek was a priest before God." (Book of Jasher 16:11-12)
  • "Jewish tradition pronounces Melchizedek to be a survivor of the Deluge, the patriarch Shem." (Smith´s Bible Dictionary, p. 393.)
  • "When Abraham returned from the war, Shem, or, as he is sometimes called, Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of the Most High God. " (Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews, p. 233.)

Favoring that Shem and Melchizedek are tow distinct people:

  • Many persons believe D&C 84:14 is proof that there are perhaps several generations between Melchizedek and Noah. The scripture says, "Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah."

    If it does turn out that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person, this scripture should prove no stumbling block, because it could be interpreted to mean that priesthood authority commenced with Adam and came through the fathers, even till Noah, and then to Shem.