Hebrews 7


The Greatness Of The Priesthood Of Melchizedek

“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” Hebrews 7:1-3

The author begins by bringing the history of Melchizedek to mind, who is found in Genesis 14. He was the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God. After Lot had been captured, Abraham conquers those kings and rescues Lot. Abraham paid a tenth to Melchizedek and Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Now the author is going to make several arguments based on this very short narrative found in Genesis 14.

First, Melchizedek is special because of who he is. His name means “king of righteousness” and he was the king of Salem, and “Salem” (same root as shalom) means “peace.” So he is the king of righteousness and the king of peace. We should be able to quickly see that the author is building an allusion to Christ.

Further, Melchizedek is “without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Melchizedek suddenly appears on the sacred pages without any previous information about him. We do not know who his parents were.

We do not know where he came from. We do not know how he died. He seems to have no beginning or end. Therefore the priesthood is continuous. In particular, the comparison is explicitly stated that Melchizedek resembles the Son of God by continuing as priest forever.

The writer of Hebrews may be recalling this knowledge from these Jewish Christians and is now going to expand upon it.

“Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” Hebrews 7:4-10

The writer wants us to know the greatness of Melchizedek. Abraham paid a tenth to him. Levi, hence the Levitical priesthood, is a descendant of Abraham. Therefore, Levi is lesser than Abraham. Melchizedek is greater than Abraham because he does not descend from Levi, received the tenth from Abraham, and blessed Abraham. Obviously, the one who gives the blessing is greater than the one who receives the blessing.

Therefore, Melchizedek is far greater than Levi and the priesthood of Melchizedek is far greater than the Levitical priesthood. Further, the Scriptures record the death of the Levitical priests. But Melchizedek lives on. The writer is strongly playing upon the idea of the eternal nature of the priesthood of Melchizedek.

“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Hebrews 7:11-14

If we could be made in a condition acceptable to God through the Levitical priesthood, then we would not need another priest. We would not need a saviour. We would not need a deliverer.

We could just stay with the priesthood of Aaron and continue to offer our sacrifices for our sins and we would be found acceptable and whole toward God. The implied argument is that we know that the Aaronic priesthood does not perfect us before God.

We needed a change in the priesthood. If there is a change in the priesthood, then there must be a change of law. Why? The Law of Moses said that the priests would be sons of Aaron through the tribe of Levi. If we change the priesthood then we must have a new law in effect.

Particularly, since Jesus is our High Priest, as the writer has argued repeatedly throughout this letter, then we have a problem because He belongs to another tribe.

Jesus our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:8-12 / Revelation 5:5, and no one from Judah ever functioned as a priest of God and Moses did not speak about that tribe being a priesthood. Exodus 32:25-29. So there must be a change of law since there has been a change of priesthood.

“And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:15-19

Proof of the change in the priesthood is the quotation from Psalm 110, which we looked at when it was quoted by the writer in Hebrews 5:6.

Remember that Psalm 110 is the prophecy of a priest and king maintaining the office forever in the order of Melchizedek. Since we have a new priesthood, there must have been a change of law. Therefore, the former law has been set aside (annulled) because of its weakness.

The weakness is not within the law itself but its effect on those who are disobedient. The law does not make us in an acceptable condition to God after our disobedience. In this, the law is weak and useless. It cannot reconcile us to God.

But the new law that has been established because there is a new priesthood, introduces to us a superior hope because this law and priesthood can draw us near to God. This is the way for us to be reconciled.

“And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.” Hebrews 7:20-22

Superior because of a Divine oath. This priesthood is also superior to the Aaronic priesthood because it was established with the Lord’s oath. The Lord swore to the permanency of the priesthood of Christ. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, Christ is Priest forever.

Further, Jesus is the guarantee of this better covenant. He guarantees to men that God will fulfil His covenant of forgiveness, and He guarantees to God that those who are in Him are acceptable.

“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:23-28

Superior because of a permanent Priesthood. The author returns to the contrast of the temporal nature of those who acted as priests on behalf of the people under the Levitical priesthood. They could not continue their role in office because of death. However, Jesus holds the priesthood permanently because He will never die.

Therefore, Jesus is able to save completely those who draw near to Him because He always lives to make intercession. Remember, the theme of this book has been not to turn back, not to give up, and not to drift away from God.

Here is a reminder of that. Those who draw near to God have an advantage under the priesthood of Christ who is always making intercession and is able to completely save.

Superior because of our Priest’s superior character. We have a special High Priest with His unique character. He is holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Because of this, He does not have the need to offer daily sacrifices on His own behalf, as the priests of Aaron had to. Leviticus 9:8-14.

He made one offering for sins on behalf of the people because of His perfect nature. But the sacrifice was himself.

Go To Hebrews 8