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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 7

 

 

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Verses 1-28

Hebrews 7:1. This Melchizedec, to whose illustrious history he now returns, from Hebrews 5:11, was first by name or title king of righteousness, and afterwards king of Salem, that is, king of peace. But surely it is hard work for critics to write a commentary of this, the most remarkable of ancient characters, after St. Paul has given the finishing touch to the portrait. How would the rabbins read it, to find an illustration here which none of the doctors could see.

Priest of the most high God, which was the right of the firstborn. He blessed Abraham, who had delivered the country from the robbers and murderers that had invaded it; for those who have defeated the fleets and armies of the enemy, have the justest claims of eulogy and reward. How strange that jews and christian fathers should waste their time in researches, whether Melchizedec were a patriarch, or the Messiah sojourning with men, when Moses has described him as a patriarch, a priest, and prince, and the city where he reigned. Those three characteristics of this ancient man, being typical, demonstrate that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.

Hebrews 7:3. Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. As a man he must have had father and mother, and must have died, but his pedigree was unknown, and he had no descendants. As a priest he had no predecessor, and no successor; his priesthood, by the special appointment of heaven, was one and indivisible, out of the ordinary course of things, that in this he might be a more eminent type of the great Highpriest to come, whose supreme and original dignity the Aaronic priesthood did but inadequately represent. Hence the prophets, when speaking of Christ, declare him to have been without beginning of days or end of life, saying, From everlasting to everlasting thou art God. Psalms 90:2. Micah also uses the same word: whose goings forth were of old, from everlasting: Micah 5:2. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old. Proverbs 8:22.

Melchizedec was made like to the Son of God, a priest (cohen, ìeréa) continually. The learned Syrus reads, sed in similitudinem filii Dei permanet pontificatus ejus in æternum. But in the similitude of the Son of God he remaineth a priest for ever, as in Hebrews 7:25. The rabbins having written largely on Melchizedec, St. Paul turns here the whole artillery of the temple upon the infidelity of the jews.

Hebrews 7:4-10. Now consider how great this man was, honoured by Abraham, as a prince and a priest. Though the father of the Hebrews, yet he received the blessing of this stranger; and in Abraham, Levi paid him tithes. By consequence, a greater priest was expected than Levi’s house could boast. The priests of Aaron’s line receive tithes indeed, but they all die in succession; but this priest was a figure of him who liveth for ever.

Hebrews 7:11. If therefore perfection were by the Leviticum, as the jews with one voice contend, what further need that another priest should arise? A priest holy and undefiled, a priest whose sacrifice should be offered up once for all; once, and but once. A priest who should not be succeeded by another; a priest and prince who should live and reign for ever. The rabbins are silent here.

Hebrews 7:12. The priesthood being changed, translated, or transferred, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. The transfer is not only to another tribe, but to a priest of an infinitely superior order; to a priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but at the same time of divine descent. He is the priest also, as was Melchizedec, according to the better covenant and richer promises of mercy. He was always a king, but on the assumption of our nature, and the oblation of his sacrifice, he became a priest for ever unto God. By consequence, the shadows of Aaron’s priesthood and his tabernacle have for ever ceased. It could not save, because it does not remain; and though the moral law remain as the brightness of the deity, yet, as Mr. Fletcher remarks in his last check, we may, under this better covenant, the priest himself being clothed with our infirmities, enjoy the Comforter in all his grace, and the Father and Son to make his abode with us, notwithstanding the weaknesses of our nature. Love is the end of the commandment, and the fulfilling of the law.

Hebrews 7:18. There is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before. It was proper that the shadows should go before the substance, to instruct the ancients by figures till the heir should be born. But Paul, in addition to the eleventh verse, here uses the epithet of “verily,” certainly, or indeed, to speak with assurance to the Hebrew christians, that Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to those that believe. As the pharisees who had believed in Christ were all zealous of the law, it is requisite to speak in strong words. Aaron, in case of infirmity, had a sagon or second priest, but our Melchizedec has no sagon, being himself the only Mediator.

Hebrews 7:25. Wherefore he is able also [even] to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him. This is the conclusive and luminous inference drawn from the glory of our regal Highpriest at the Father’s right hand. Aaron’s altar could save ceremonially only, and leave the road to glory open to those who died in the faith of him that was to come. But Christ being the minister of a more perfect tabernacle, is able to save to the uttermost, by opening the eyes of our understanding, by the washing of the new birth, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and by a glorious resurrection from the dead. In other places Paul adds, that he is able to do far more abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Like the serpent of brass in the wilderness, his virtue does not diminish by healing; he saves to the uttermost all that come to God by him. As the unclean and the guilty came to Aaron, so the foulest lepers, and the chief of sinners may come, and receive assurance of life and salvation.

Above all, he ever lives to make intercession for us. He lives, he never dies, he pleads the merits of his death, which have through all ages an infinitude of virtues. He prays not as sinners for mercy, but solicits our salvation as a right, not due to us, but in reward of his own obedience. His sacrificial prayers have the form of demands: Father, let that sinner live, for I have died. — These are the prayers which the rigours of justice cannot deny, for justice itself is fully satisfied.

Hebrews 7:26. Such a Highpriest became us. One less in dignity and in sanctity could not appear in the presence of God for us.

REFLECTIONS.

What grandeur of argument runs through the whole of this chapter. The circumstances, few and brief, are placed in the most advantageous light. All opens with the glory of Christ, and throws judaism into the shade. We are charmed with the contrast, and the image of truth rests on the mind.

The illustrious Melchizedec was a type of Christ, who as touching his divine descent hath neither father nor mother on earth, as we considered on Genesis 14. This priest, this prince, was greater than Abraham; and Levi paid him tithes. The levitical priesthood was therefore altogether inferior, shadowy, temporary.

This Melchizedec was both a king and a priest. Now the sceptre was promised to Judah. Hence David predicted an eternal priesthood to the Messiah. And it was the more necessary that the leviticum should give way to Christ, because it could purify the flesh only; but the gospel purifies the heart, and cleanses the whole soul by grace. Besides, the eternal order of the church required a perfect and an abiding prince and priest, able to save to the uttermost, and who dieth no more, but ever lives to plead our cause, and present the prayers of his saints. These are all grand and solid arguments that the glory of the law should be absorbed in the superior glory of the gospel, clothed with eternal perfection.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 7:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/hebrews-7.html. 1835.

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