[6:19]This hope we have as an anchor of the souls, both sure and steadfast, and which enter the Presence beyond the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
[7:1]For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'”), by so much better Jesus has become surety of a better covenant.
Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (NKJV)
Just to remind ourselves of the purpose of Hebrews, the writer sought to explain, exhort and encourage. His believing Jewish audience had indeed professed Christ, but for whatever reason were being tempted to return to the beloved and familiar OT ritual and sacrifices. He writes to them not to do that, not to risk their eternal souls with such a grievous mistake and sin, 10:32-39. He explained to them that the person and work of the Lord Jesus were the fulfillment of all those sacrifices and ceremonies, which were only a shadow of what was coming, 10:1. He encouraged them that, though they were suffering persecution and would suffer more, 10:32, 33; 11:12-14, they weren’t following some pipe dream, mere doctrines of men, or “cunningly-devised fables,” as Peter put it, 2 Peter 1:16. They were following the One who was the Creator of the universe, the One who will ultimately complete and consummate that for which the universe was created.
Again, a key word is “better.” The immediate context, from 3:1, deals with the priesthood of Christ. It is “better” than the Levitical priesthood of Moses and Aaron for several reasons the writer lists through 10:18.
The priesthood of Christ was briefly introduced in 2:17, Christ and Moses were compared and contrasted, and then in the section ending in 6:20, the writer applied the preeminence of Christ to the lives of his readers, before again returning to the priesthood of Christ.
Beginning in 7:1, he continues his teaching:
1. The type of the priesthood of Melchizedek,7:1-10.
2. The temporary nature of the Aaronic priesthood, 7:11-28.
1. Type of the priesthood of Melchizedek, 7:1-10.
The Historical Incident, vs. 1-3. Genesis 14:18-20 is the only place Melchizedek actually appears, and nothing is known of him except what is mentioned there and in Hebrews 7:13. There are those who believe, from Hebrews 7:3, that Melchizedek was, or is, actually Christ (remains a priest continually). However, there are some difficulties with that view and for the following reasons, we believe that Melchizedek was an ordinary man, highly blessed though he may have been.
1. Both Genesis and Hebrews call him “king of Salem.” While it is true that “Salem” is a form of “shalom,” (“peace”), and Jesus is “the Prince of Peace,” we believe this is simply a reference to Jerusalem.
2. Note vs. 3, which says that Melchizedek was made like the Son of God (emphasis added). It doesn’t say that he was the Son of God. In Christ, there arises another priest, after the likeness of Melchizedek, v. 15 (emphasis added). Melchizedek was merely a type, a foreshadowing, of the coming Son of God.
3. What about v. 3, which describes Melchizedek as being without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end or life? Doesn’t this prove Melchizedek to have been Christ? I don’t think it does. After all, as a man, Christ had a father (though virgin-born, Joseph was His “legal” father), and mother, a genealogy (two of them, in fact: both Joseph’s and Mary’s), birth and death. He had all those things which Melchizedek is said not to have had.
4. Note again in v. 3, “made like”. For the purpose of Scripture in treating Melchizedek as a type of Christ, none of these things is mentioned. 7:6 implies that he did, in fact, have a genealogy, distinct from that of Aaron.
The Practical Application, vs. 4-10. So, we might say, what is the purpose of these references to Melchizedek? Simply this, as a “priest of the Most High God” (was Aaron ever called this?), Melchizedek was not dependent on Aaron or his priesthood for his own priesthood. Neither was he dependent on the Mosaic Law. He lived more than 400 years before Moses and Aaron.
Remember what the author taught in the last part of ch. 6. He spoke of our two-fold “hope” of inheriting God’s promise: the oath of God Himself with regard to that promise, and the priestly ministry of Christ, which rises out of that promise. As Melchizedek was independent of the Mosaic Covenant and the Aaronic priesthood, likewise the promise of God and the priesthood of Christ are independent of them.
The writer develops that thought in vs. 4-10. Usually used in connection with trying to enforce tithing on Christians, this portion actually has nothing to do with either the practice or the applicability of tithing. It simply points out that the Levitical priesthood (so named after “Levi,” a son of Aaron) descended from Abraham, and so could be said to be “in him” in Genesis 14. Under the Law, the Levitical priesthood received tithes; this was their means of livelihood as well as the upkeep of the Tabernacle. “In Abraham” they paid tithes, hence, the writer argues, Melchizedek was superior to the Levitical priesthood. Typically shown, therefore, Christ is superior to Aaron.
2. The Temporary Nature of the Aaronic Priesthood, 7:11-28.
As seen by it’s “imperfection,” vs. 11-15.
1. as regards it’s “effectiveness,” vs. 11, 18-19. The very fact that the Law was unable to produce “perfection” demonstrates the need for something that could produce it, cf. Romans 8:3, 4. The word translated “perfection” doesn’t refer to “sinlessness,” but “completion”. The Law and the priesthood could not “complete” redemption, therefore the Law only served until the introduction of its replacement, cf. Galatians 3:19.
2. as regards its “exclusiveness,” vs. 12-15. There were strict instructions regarding who could be a priest, even in the Aaronic line. A priest had to be a Levite, but our Lord was of the tribe of Judah, v. 14. The change from Aaron to Christ also intimates a change of the Law, vs. 12-14. In this way the temporary nature both of the Mosaic Law and of the Aaronic priesthood was shown.
As seen by its inferiority, vs. 16-28.
1. in contrast to the commencement of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 16-22. In all the Law, there is no promise to any particular priest of a lasting priesthood. Indeed, in the very beginning, God made provision for the passing of the priesthood from father to son, Exodus 29:29. No oath was ever given to any priest.
2. in contrast to the continuity of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 23-25. This goes along with the previous thought. Only the Lord Jesus has a guarantee of personal perpetuity.
3. in contrast to the completeness of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 26-27. Christ was able to do what no Levitical priest could ever do, v. 25. Though this thought will be developed by the writer further on, here he just points out the unique nature of Christ’s one sacrifice in contrast to the monotonous frequency of OT sacrifices.
4. in contrast to the character of Christ’s priesthood, v. 28. Cf. 5:2, 3. There is no such thing as “infirmity” in the Lord Jesus. Cf. 7:26.