Heb 7:1-28. CHRIST'S HIGH PRIESTHOOD AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDEC SUPERIOR TO AARON'S.
1. this Melchisedec--(Heb 6:20 Ps 110:4). The verb does not come till Heb 7:3, "abideth." king . . . priest--Christ unites these offices in their highest sense, and so restores the patriarchal union of these offices. Salem--Jerusalem, that is, seeing peace; others make Salem distinct, and to be that mentioned (Ge 33:18 Joh 3:23). the most high God--called also "Possessor of heaven and earth" (Ge 14:19,22). This title of God, "the Most High," handed down by tradition from the primitive revelation, appears in the Phoenician god "Elion," that is, Most High. It is used to imply that the God whom Melchisedec served is THE TRUE GOD, and not one of the gods of the nations around. So it is used in the only other cases in which it is found in the New Testament, namely in the address of the demoniac, and the divining damsel constrained to confess that her own gods were false, and God the only true God. who met Abraham--in company with the king of Sodom (Ge 14:17,18). slaughter--perhaps defeat, as ALFORD translates. So Ge 14:17 (compare Ge 14:15) may be translated. Arioch, king of Ellasar, lived and reigned after the disaster [BENGEL]. However, if Chedorlaomer and Amraphel and Tidal were slain, though Arioch survived, "slaughter of the kings" would be correct. blessed him--As priest he first blessed Abraham on God's part; next he blessed God on Abraham's part: a reciprocal blessing. Not a mere wish, but an authoritative and efficacious intercession as a priest. The Most High God's prerogative as "Possessor of heaven and earth," is made over to Abraham; and Abraham's glory, from his victory over the foe, is made over to God. A blessed exchange for Abraham (Ge 14:19,20).
2. gave--Greek, "apportioned"; assigned as his portion. tenth . . . of all--namely, the booty taken. The tithes given are closely associated with the priesthood: the mediating priest received them as a pledge of the giver's whole property being God's; and as he conveyed God's gifts to man (Heb 7:1, "blessed him"), so also man's gifts to God. Melchisedec is a sample of how God preserves, amidst general apostasy, an elect remnant. The meeting of Melchisedec and Abraham is the connecting link between to two dispensations, the patriarchal, represented by Melchisedec, who seems to have been specially consecrated by God as a KING-PRIEST, the highest form of that primitive system in which each father of a household was priest in it, and the Levitical, represented by Abraham, in which the priesthood was to be limited to one family of one tribe and one nation. The Levitical was parenthetical, and severed the kingdom and priesthood; the patriarchal was the true forerunner of Christ's, which, like Melchisedec's, unites the kingship and priesthood, and is not derived from other man, or transmitted to other man; but derived from God, and is transmitted in God to a never-ending perpetuity. Melchisedec's priesthood continueth in Christ for ever. For other points of superiority, see Heb 7:16-21. Melchisedec must have had some special consecration above the other patriarchs, as Abraham, who also exercised the priesthood; else Abraham would not have paid tithe to him as to a superior. His peculiar function seems to have been, by God's special call, KING-priest whereas no other "patriarch-priest" was also a God-consecrated king. first being--Paul begins the mystical explanation of the historical fact (allegorical explanations being familiar to JEWS), by mentioning the significancy of the name. righteousness--not merely righteous: so Christ. Hebrew "Malchi" means king: "Tzedek," righteousness. King of Salem--not only his own name, but that of the city which he ruled, had a typical significance, namely, peace. Christ is the true Prince of peace. The peace which He brings is the fruit of righteousness.3. Without father, &c.--explained by "without genealogy" (so the Greek is for "without descent); compare Heb 7:6, that is, his genealogy is not known, whereas a Levitical priest could not dispense with the proof of his descent. having neither beginning of days nor end of life--namely, history not having recorded his beginning nor end, as it has the beginning and end of Aaron. The Greek idiom expressed by "without father," &c. one whose parentage was humble or unknown. "Days" mean his time of discharging his function. So the eternity spoken of in Ps 110:4 is that of the priestly office chiefly. made like--It is not said that he was asbsolutely "like." Made like, namely, in the particulars here specified. Nothing is said in Genesis of the end of his priesthood, or of his having had in his priesthood either predecessor or successor, which, in a typical point of view, represents Christ's eternal priesthood, without beginning or end. Aaron's end is recorded; Melchisedec's not: typically significant. "The Son of God" is not said to be made like unto Melchisedec, but Melchisedec to be "made like the Son of God." When ALFORD denies that Melchisedec was made like the Son of God in respect of his priesthood, on the ground that Melchisedec was prior in time to our Lord, he forgets that Christ's eternal priesthood was an archetypal reality in God's purpose from everlasting, to which Melchisedec's priesthood was "made like" in due time. The Son of God is the more ancient, and is the archetype: compare Heb 8:5, where the heavenly things are represented as the primary archetype of the Levitical ordinances. The epithets, "without father," &c. "beginning of days, "nor end," "abideth continually," belong to Melchisedec only in respect to his priesthood, and in so far as he is the type of the Son of God, and are strictly true of Him alone. Melchisedec was, in his priesthood, "made like" Christ, as far as the imperfect type could represent the lineaments of the perfect archetype. "The portrait of a living man can be seen on the canvas, yet the man is very different from his picture." There is nothing in the account, Ge 14:18-20, to mark Melchisedec as a superhuman being: he is classed with the other kings in the chapter as a living historic personage: not as ORIGEN thought, an angel; nor as the Jews thought, Shem, son of Noah; nor as CALMET, Enoch; nor as the Melchisedekites, that he was the Holy Ghost; nor as others, the Divine Word. He was probably of Shemitic, not Canaanite origin: the last independent representative of the original Shemitic population, which had been vanquished by the Canaanites, Ham's descendants. The greatness of Abraham then lay in hopes; of Melchisedec, in present possession. Melchisedec was the highest and last representative of the Noahic covenant, as Christ was the highest and ever enduring representative of the Abrahamic. Melchisedec, like Christ, unites in himself the kingly and priestly offices, which Abraham does not. ALFORD thinks the epithets are, in some sense, strictly true of Melchisedec himself; not merely in the typical sense given above; but that he had not, as mortal men have, a beginning or end of life (?). A very improbable theory, and only to be resorted to in the last extremity, which has no place here. With Melchisedec, whose priesthood probably lasted a long period, the priesthood and worship of the true God in Canaan ceased. He was first and last king-priest there, till Christ, the antitype; and therefore his priesthood is said to last for ever, because it both lasts a long time, and lasts as long as the nature of the thing itself (namely, his life, and the continuance of God's worship in Canaan) admits. If Melchisedec were high priest for ever in a literal sense, then Christ and he would now still be high priests, and we should have two instead of one (!). THOLUCK remarks, "Melchisedec remains in so far as the type remains in the antitype, in so far as his priesthood remains in Christ." The father and mother of Melchisedec, as also his children, are not descended from Levi, as the Levitical priests (Heb 7:6) were required to be, and are not even mentioned by Moses. The wife of Aaron, Elisheba, the mother from whom the Levitical priests spring, is mentioned: as also Sarah, the original mother of the Jewish nation itself. As man, Christ had no father; as God, no mother.4. consider--not merely see, but weigh with attentive contemplation, the fact. even--"to whom (as his superior) Abraham even paid tithe (went so far as to pay tithe) of (consisting of, literally, 'from') the best of the spoils (literally, 'the top of the heap"; whether of corn, the first-fruits of which, taken from the top, used to be consecrated to God; or of spoils, from the top of which the general used to take some portion for consecration to God, or for his own use)." He paid "tithes of ALL," and those tithes were taken out of the topmost and best portion of the whole spoils. the patriarch--in the Greek emphatically standing at the end of the whole sentence: And this payer of tithe being no less a personage than "the patriarch," the first forefather and head of our Jewish race and nation See on Heb 7:3, on Melchisedec's superiority as specially consecrated king-priest, above the other patriarch-priests.5. sons of Levi--namely, those alone who belonged to the family of Aaron, to whom the priesthood was restricted. Tithes originally paid to the whole tribe of Levi, became at length attached to the priesthood. according to the law--sanctioned by Jehovah (Heb 9:19). of their brethren--with whom, in point of natural descent, they are on a level. though, &c.--Though thus on a level by common descent from Abraham, they yet pay tithe to the Levites, whose brethren they are. Now the Levites are subordinate to the priests; and these again to Abraham, their common progenitor; and Abraham to Melchisedec. "How great" (Heb 7:4) then, must this Melchisedec be in respect to his priesthood, as compared with the Levitical, though the latter received tithes! and now unspeakably great must "the Son of God" be, to whom, as the sacerdotal archetype (in God's purpose), Melchisedec was made like! Thus compare the "consider," Heb 7:4, in the case of Melchisedec, the type, with the "consider" (Greek, "contemplate attentively," see on Heb 3:1, a stronger word than here) in the case of Christ, the archetype.
6. he whose descent is not counted from them--not from "the sons of Levi," as those "who receive the priesthood." This verse explains "without descent" (Greek, "genealogy" in both verses, Heb 7:3). He who needs not, as the Levitical priests, to be able to trace his genealogy back to Levi. received--Greek, "hath received tithes." blessed--Greek, "hath blessed." The perfect tense implies that the significance of the fact endures to the present time. him that had--"the possessor of the promises," Abraham's peculiar distinction and designation. Paul exalts Abraham in order still more to exalt Melchisedec. When Christ is the subject, the singular "promise" is used. "The promises" in the plural, refer to God's promise of greatness to himself and his seed, and of the possession of Canaan, twice repeated before the blessing of Melchisedec. As the priests, though above the people (Heb 7:7) whom it was their duty to "bless," were yet subordinate to Abraham; and as Abraham was subordinate to Melchisedec, who blessed him, Melchisedec must be much above the Levitical priests.
7. The principle that the blesser is superior to him whom he blesses, holds good only in a blessing given with divine authority; not merely a prayerful wish, but one that is divinely efficient in working its purport, as that of the patriarchs on their children: so Christ's blessing, Lu 24:51 Ac 3:26. 8. Second point of superiority: Melchisedec's is an enduring, the Levitical a transitory, priesthood. As the law was a parenthesis between Abraham's dispensation of promise of grace, and its enduring fulfilment at Christ's coming (Ro 5:20, Greek, "The law entered as something adscititious and by the way"): so the Levitical priesthood was parenthetical and temporary, between Melchisedec's typically enduring priesthood, and its antitypical realization in our ever continuing High Priest, Christ. here--in the Levitical priesthood. there--in the priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. In order to bring out the typical parallel more strongly, Paul substitutes, "He of whom it is witnessed that he liveth," for the more untypical, "He who is made like to Him that liveth." Melchisedec "liveth" merely in his official capacity, his priesthood being continued in Christ. Christ, on the other hand, is, in His own person, "ever living after the power of an endless life" (Heb 7:16,25). Melchisedec's death not being recorded, is expressed by the positive term "liveth," for the sake of bringing into prominence the antitype, Christ, of whom alone it is strictly and perfectly true, "that He liveth." 9. as I may so say--to preclude what he is about to say being taken in the mere literal sense; I may say that, virtually, Levi, in the person of his father Abraham, acknowledged Melchisedec's superiority, and paid tithes to him. who receiveth tithes--(Compare Heb 7:5). in Abraham--Greek, "by means of (by the hand of) Abraham"; through Abraham. "Paid tithes," literally, "hath been tithed," that is, been taken tithes of. 10. in the loins of his father--that is, forefather Abraham. Christ did not, in this sense, pay tithes in Abraham, for He never was in the loins of an earthly father [ALFORD]. Though, in respect to His mother, He was "of the fruit of (David's, and so of) Abraham's loins," yet, being supernaturally, without human father, conceived, as He is above the natural law of birth, so is he above the law of tithes. Only those born in the natural way, and so in sin, being under the curse, needed to pay tithe to the priest, that he might make propitiation for their sin. Not so Christ, who derived only His flesh, not also the taint of the flesh, from Abraham. BENGEL. remarks, The blessings which Abraham had before meeting Melchisedec were the general promises, and the special one of a natural seed, and so of Levi; but the promises under which Christ was comprehended, and the faith for which Abraham was so commended, followed after Abraham's meeting Melchisedec, and being blessed by him: to which fact. Ge 15:1, "After these things," calls our attention. This explains why Christ, the supernatural seed, is not included as paying tithes through Abraham to Melchisedec. 11. perfection--absolute: "the bringing of man to his highest state, namely, that of salvation and sanctification." under it--The reading in the oldest manuscripts is, "Upon it (that is, on the ground of it as the basis, the priest having to administer the law, Mal 2:7: it being presupposed) the people (Heb 9:19, 'all the people') have received the law (the Greek is perfect, not aorist tense; implying the people were still observing the law)." what further need--(Heb 8:7). For God does nothing needless. another--rather as Greek, "that a different priest (one of a different order) should arise (anew,Heb 7:15). not be called--Greek, "not be said (to be) after the order of Aaron," that is, that, when spoken of in the Ps 110:4, "He is not said to be (as we should expect, if the Aaronic priesthood was perfect) after the order of Aaron." 12. For--the reason why Paul presses the words "after the order of Melchisedec" in Ps 110:4, namely, because these presuppose a change or transference of the priesthood, and this carries with it a change also of the law (which is inseparably bound up with the priesthood, both stand and fall together, Heb 7:11). This is his answer to those who might object, What need was there of a new covenant?
13. Confirming the truth that a change is made of the law (Heb 7:12), by another fact showing the distinctness of the new priesthood from the Aaronic. these things--(Ps 110:4). pertaineth--Greek, "hath partaken of" (the perfect tense implies the continuance still of His manhood). another--"a different tribe" from that of Levi.
14. evident--literally, "manifest before the eyes" as a thing indisputable; a proof that whatever difficulties may now appear, then Jesus Christ's genealogy labored under none. our Lord--the only place where this now common title occurs without "Jesus," or "Christ," except 2Pe 3:15. sprang--as a plant, and a branch. Judah--Ge 49:10 Lu 1:27,39 (Hebron of Judah, where LIGHTFOOT thinks Jesus was conceived) Lu 2:4,5 Re 5:5. of which tribe . . . priesthood--"in respect to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests" (so the oldest manuscripts read, nothing to imply that priests were to be taken from it). 15. Another proof that the law, or economy, is changed, namely, forasmuch as Christ is appointed Priest, "not according to the law of a carnal (that is, a mere outward) commandment," but "according to the power of an indissoluble (so the Greek) life." The hundred tenth Psalm appoints Him "for ever" (Heb 7:17). The Levitical law required a definite carnal descent. In contrast stands "the power"; Christ's spiritual, inward, living power of overcoming death. Not agreeably to a statute is Christ appointed, but according to an inward living power. it--the change of the law or economy, the statement (Heb 7:12,18). far more--Greek, "more abundantly." for that--"seeing that," literally, "if"; so Ro 5:10. after the similitude of Melchisedec--answering to "after the order of Melchisedec" (Heb 5:10). The "order" cannot mean a series of priests, for Melchisedec neither received his priesthood from, nor transmitted it to, any other mere man; it must mean "answering to the office of Melchisedec." Christ's priesthood is similar to Melchisedec's in that it is "for ever" (Heb 7:16,17). another--rather as Greek, "a different." 16. carnal . . . endless--mutually contrasted. As "form" and "power" are opposed, 2Ti 3:5; so here "the law" and "power," compare Ro 8:3, "The law was weak through the flesh"; and Heb 7:18, "weakness." "The law" is here not the law in general, but the statute as to the priesthood. "Carnal," as being only outward and temporary, is contrasted with "endless," or, as Greek, "indissoluble." Commandments is contrasted with "life." The law can give a commandment, but it cannot give life (Heb 7:19). But our High Priest's inherent "power," now in heaven, has in Him "life for ever"; Heb 9:14, "through the eternal Spirit"; Heb 7:25, "able . . . ever liveth" (Joh 5:26). It is in the power of His resurrection life, not of His earthly life, that Christ officiates as a Priest. 17. For--proving His life to be "endless" or indissoluble (Heb 7:16). The emphasis is on "for ever." The oldest manuscripts read, "He is testified of, that Thou art," &c. 18. there is--Greek, "there takes place," according to Ps 110:4. disannuling--a repealing. of the commandment--ordaining the Levitical priesthood. And, as the Levitical priesthood and the law are inseparably joined, since the former is repealed, the latter is so also (see on Heb 7:11). going before--the legal ordinance introducing and giving place to the Christian, the antitypical and permanent end of the former. weakness and unprofitableness--The opposite of "power" (Heb 7:16). 19. For, &c.--justifying his calling the law weak and unprofitable (Heb 7:18). The law could not bring men to: true justification or sanctification before God, which is the "perfection" that we all need in order to be accepted of Him, and which we have in Christ. nothing--not merely "no one," but "nothing." The law brought nothing to its perfected end; everything in it was introductory to its antitype in the Christian economy, which realizes the perfection contemplated; compare "unprofitableness," Heb 7:18. did--rather connect with Heb 7:18, thus, "There takes place (by virtue of Ps 110:4) a repealing of the commandment (on the one hand), but (on the other) a bringing in afterwards (the Greek expresses that there is a bringing in of something over and above the law; a superinducing, or accession of something new, namely, something better than the good things which the pre-existing law promised [WAHL]) of a better hope," not one weak and unprofitable, but, as elsewhere the Christian dispensation is called, "everlasting," "true," "the second," "more excellent," "different," "living," "new," "to come," "perfect." Compare Heb 8:6, bringing us near to God, now in spirit, hereafter both in spirit and in body. we draw nigh unto God--the sure token of "perfection." Weakness is the opposite of this filial confidence of access. The access through the legal sacrifices was only symbolical and through the medium of a priest; that through Christ is immediate, perfect, and spiritual. 20. Another proof of the superiority of Christ's Melchisedec-like priesthood; the oath of God gave a solemn weight to it which was not in the law-priesthood, which was not so confirmed. he was made priest--rather supply from Heb 7:22, which completes the sentence begun in this verse, Heb 7:21 being a parenthesis, "inasmuch as not without an oath He was made surety of the testament (for . . . ), of so much better a testament hath Jesus been made the surety." 21. Translate in the Greek order, "For they indeed (the existing legal priests) without the (solemn) promise on oath (so the Greek [TITTMANN]) are made priests." by him--God. unto him--the Lord, the Son of God (Ps 110:1). not repent--never change His purpose. after the order of Melchisedec--omitted in some oldest manuscripts, contained in others. 22. surety--ensuring in His own person the certainty of the covenant to us. This He did by becoming responsible for our guilt, by sealing the covenant with His blood, and by being openly acknowledged as our triumphant Saviour by the Father, who raised Him from the dead. Thus He is at once God's surety for man, and man's surety for God, and so Mediator between God and man (Heb 8:6). better--Heb 8:6 13:20, "everlasting." testament--sometimes translated, "covenant." The Greek term implies that it is appointed by God, and comprises the relations and bearings partly of a covenant, partly of a testament: (1) the appointment made without the concurrence of a second party, of somewhat concerning that second party; a last will or testament, so in Heb 9:16,17; (2) a mutual agreement in which both parties consent. 23. Another proof of superiority; the Levitical priests were many, as death caused the need of continually new ones being appointed in succession. Christ dies not, and so hath a priesthood which passes not from one to another. were--Greek, "are made." many--one after another; opposed to His "unchangeable (that does not pass from one to another) priesthood" (Heb 7:24). not suffered to continue--Greek, "hindered from permanently continuing," namely, in the priesthood.24. he--emphatic; Greek, "Himself." So in Ps 110:4, "THOU art a priest"; singular, not priests, "many." continueth--Greek, simple verb, not the compound as in Heb 7:23. "Remaineth," namely, in life. unchangeable--Greek, "hath His priesthood unchangeable"; not passing from one to another, intransmissible. Therefore no earthly so-called apostolic succession of priests are His vicegerents. The Jewish priests had successors in office, because "they could not continue by reason of death." But this Man, because He liveth ever, hath no successor in office, not even Peter (1Pe 5:1). 25. Wherefore--Greek, "Whence"; inasmuch as "He remaineth for ever." also--as a natural consequence flowing from the last, at the same time a new and higher thing [ALFORD]. save--His very name JESUS (Heb 7:22) meaning Saviour. to the uttermost--altogether, perfectly, so that nothing should be wanting afterwards for ever [TITTMANN]. It means "in any wise," "utterly," in Lu 13:11. come unto God--by faith. by him--through Him as their mediating Priest, instead of through the Levitical priests. seeing he ever liveth--resuming "He continueth ever," Heb 7:24; therefore "He is able to the uttermost"; He is not, like the Levitical priest, prevented by death, for "He ever liveth" (Heb 7:23). to make intercession--There was but the one offering on earth once for all. But the intercession for us in the heavens (Heb 7:26) is ever continuing, whence the result follows, that we can never be separated from the love of God in Christ. He intercedes only for those who come unto God through Him, not for the unbelieving world (Joh 17:9). As samples of His intercession, compare the prophetical descriptions in the Old Testament. "By an humble omnipotency (for it was by His humiliation that He obtained all power), or omnipotent humility, appearing in the presence, and presenting His postulations at the throne of God" [BISHOP PEARSON]. He was not only the offering, but the priest who offered it. Therefore, He has become not only a sacrifice, but an intercessor; His intercession being founded on His voluntary offering of Himself without spot to God. We are not only then in virtue of His sacrifice forgiven, but in virtue of the intercession admitted to favor and grace [ARCHBISHOP MAGEE]. 26. such--as is above described. The oldest manuscripts read, "also." "For to us (as sinners; emphatical) there was also becoming (besides the other excellencies of our High Priest) such an High Priest." holy--"pious" (a distinct Greek word from that for holy, which latter implies consecration) towards God; perfectly answering God's will in reverent piety (Ps 16:10). harmless--literally, "free from evil" and guile, in relation to Himself. undefiled--not defiled by stain contracted from others, in relation to men. Temptation, to which He was exposed, left no trace of evil in Him. separate--rather, "separated from sinners," namely, in His heavenly state as our High Priest above, after He had been parted from the earth, as the Levitical high priest was separated from the people in the sanctuary (whence he was not to go out), Le 21:12. Though justifying through faith the ungodly, He hath no contact with them as such. He is lifted above our sinful community, being "made higher than the heavens," at the same time that He makes believers as such (not as sinners), "to sit together (with Him) in heavenly places" (Eph 2:6). Just as Moses on the mount was separated from and above the people, and alone with God. This proves Jesus is GOD. "Though innumerable lies have been forged against the venerable Jesus, none dared to charge Him with any intemperance" [ORIGEN]. made--Jesus was higher before (Joh 17:5), and as the God-MAN was made so by the Father after His humiliation (compare Heb 1:4). higher than the heavens--for "He passed through [so the Greek] the heavens" (Heb 4:14). 27. daily--"day by day." The priests daily offered sacrifices (Heb 9:6 10:11 Ex 29:38-42). The high priests took part in these daily-offered sacrifices only on festival days; but as they represented the whole priesthood, the daily offerings are here attributed to them; their exclusive function was to offer the atonement "once every year" (Heb 9:7), and "year by year continually" (Heb 10:1). The "daily" strictly belongs to Christ, not to the high priests, "who needeth not daily, as those high priests (year by year, and their subordinate priests daily), to offer," &c. offer up--The Greek term is peculiarly used of sacrifices for sin. The high priest's double offering on the day of atonement, the bullock for himself, and the goat for the people's sins, had its counterpart in the TWO lambs offered daily by the ordinary priests. this he did--not "died first for His own sins and then the people's," but for the people's only. The negation is twofold: He needeth not to offer (1) daily; nor (2) to offer for His own sins also; for He offered Himself a spotless sacrifice (Heb 7:26 Heb 4:15). The sinless alone could offer for the sinful. once--rather as Greek, "once for all." The sufficiency of the one sacrifice to atone for all sins for ever, resulted from its absolute spotlessness. 28. For--reason for the difference stated in Heb 7:27, between His one sacrifice and their oft repeated sacrifices, namely, because of His entire freedom from the sinful infirmity to which they are subject. He needed not, as they, to offer FOR HIS OWN SIN; and being now exempt from death and "perfected for evermore," He needs not to REPEAT His sacrifice. the word--"the word" confirmed by "the oath." which--which oath was after the law. namely, in Ps 110:4, abrogating the preceding law-priesthood. the Son--contrasted with "men." consecrated--Greek, "made perfect" once for all, as in Heb 2:10 5:9; see on Heb 2:10; Heb 5:9. Opposed to "having infirmity." Consecrated as a perfected priest by His perfected sacrifice, and consequent anointing and exaltation to the right hand of the Father.