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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Hebrews 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-10

SECOND SECTION

The eternal and perfect high-priesthood of Jesus Christ

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I

The person of Melchisedek has, as a type of Christ, a triple superiority to the Levitical priests

Hebrews 7:1-10

1For this Melchisedek, king of Salem, priest[FN1] of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2To whom also[FN2] Abraham gave a tenth part of all;2first being [being in the first place] by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that [in the second place] also King of Salem, which Isaiah, King of peace; 3Without father, without mother, without descent [without recorded lineage], having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like [having been assimilated] unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually [perpetually, 4in perpetuum]. Now [And] consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth part of the spoils [choicest spoils, ἀχροθινίων]. 5And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who [they, indeed, who, as being of the sons of Levi], receive the office of priest, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that Isaiah, of their brethren, [even] though they come out of the loins of Abraham; 6But he whose descent is not counted from them, received 7 tithes of [hath tithed] Abraham,[FN3] and [hath] blessed him that had [possessed] the promises 8 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better [superior, κρείττονος]. And here [indeed] men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth 9 And as I may so say [so to speak], Levi[FN4] also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes [hath been tithed] in Abraham 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedek[FN5] met him.

[ Hebrews 7:2.—ἐμέρισεν, apportioned, imparted.—πρῶτον μέν, in the first place.—ἔπειτα δέ, and then, and in the next place. In the classics ἔπειτα without δέ, commonly answers to πρῶτον μέν.

Hebrews 7:3—ἀγενεαλόγητος, ungenealogized, without recorded lineage; not as Eng. ver, without descent.—ἀφωμοιωμένος, having been assimilated, or rendered similar.—μένει, remaineth, abideth, emphatic.—εἰς τὸ διηνεκές, perpetually.

Hebrews 7:4—θεωρεῖτε δε, and contemplate behold; not, “now consider.” “Now” impairs the natural flow of the sentence. Alford’s “But observe” is objectionable.—The patriarch Abraham: in the original πατριάρχης, is separated from Ἀβραάμ, and thrown emphatically over to the end of the sentence.—ἐκ τῶν ἀκροθινίων, from the top of the heap, hence, the selectest, or choicest spoils.

Hebrews 7:5.—καὶ οἱ μέν, and they indeed, or while they. Eng. ver, and verily, which Alf. says “is rather too strong.” It is not merely “too strong;” ‘verily,’ as a rendering of μέν is totally inappropriate.—οἱ ἐκ τῶν υἰῶν—λαμβ. they indeed, or while they, who, of the sons of Levi (or possibly, with Del, as being of the sons of Levi) receive the priesthood; or perhaps as suggested by Alf, “they of the sons of Levi when they receive (when receiving) the priesthood.—ἀποδεκατοῦν (Sin B. D1 ἀποδεκατοῖν, received by Alf.), to tithe.—κατὰ τὸν νόμον, belongs to ἐντολὴν ἔχουσιν—καίπερ ἐξεληλυθότας, although having come out.

Hebrews 7:6—δεδεκάτωκεν, hath tithedεὐλόγηκεν, hath blessed—construction chiastic, the verb preceding in one clause, and following in the next.

Hebrews 7:7.—ὑπὸ τοῦ κρείττο·νος, by the greater, superior, not, of the better.

Hebrews 7:8.—Καὶ ὦδε μέν, and here indeed, or, while here, i. e., in the case of the Levitical priests.

Hebrews 7:9.—ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, so to speak, very well rendered as to the sense, by the Eng. ver, as I may so say. Some take the phrase as=in a word, of which and the “so to speak,” Alf. says that they, “in fact both run into one,” which is incorrect. “So to speak,” always implies a certain conscious license on the part of the speaker, which in a word does not necessarily nor ordinarily imply at all. The former, so to speak, Isaiah, as in the immense majority of cases, the meaning.—δεδεκάτωται, hath been tithed=stands before our eyes or recorded as tithed: Eng. ver, was tithed, exchanges the perfect for Aor, and loses in accuracy and picturesqueness.—K.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Hebrews 7:1. For this Melchisedec, etc.—To establish the justice with which—not merely to explain the sense in which—the author at Hebrews 6:20 has referred to Psalm 110:1, he shows primarily that Melchisedek was a higher priest than the Levitical, because in the narrative Genesis 14:18-20, he has been put forward as type of the everlasting Priest, and because in Abraham he received tithes from Levi. The Hebrews 7:1-3 form a period with the verb μένει, abideth; so that we need not, and should not, with Erasm, Luth, Calv, etc., supply ἦν with the opening verse. The author first brings together the historical traits which the Scripture narrative assigns to Melchisedek, then from πρῶτον μέν he gives his interpretation of them in which he but follows in the steps of the Psalmist. Melchisedek is not in reality, like to the Son of God, but in the Scripture representation he has according to the purpose of the Holy Spirit, that he might be a type of the Messiah, been made like or assimilated to him. Αφομοιοῦν has this signification in Plato (Rep. VII:517, B; VIII:564, B). Nor do ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ involve any supernatural mode of coming into the world, but imply that his progenitors are either of humble origin, or are unknown, or are mentioned in no historical narrative, or came not into account in any legal relations (Examples in Bl.). Ἀγενεαλόγητος, also, means not (like ἀγένητος) without lineage, but Without recorded lineage, without a registered descent. Hence the following words indicate neither that he came from heaven, nor that he was snatched away into it, (Braun, Akersloot, Nagel in Stud. u. Krit., 1849, II:332 ff.; Nickel in Reuter’s Repert., 1858, p 102 ff, Alf, etc.). An everlasting existence is not ascribed to Melch. But neither is the language to be restricted to the beginning and termination of his priesthood (Camero, Seb. Schmidt, Limb, Kuin, Hofm.), inasmuch as personally he has been made the type of the Son of God.

[Alford (after Bleek) is still inclined to find in the author’s language some marvellous and inexplicable mystery investing the person of Melchisedek, though he confesses himself totally unable to conjecture what it may be. The emphatic phrase “having neither beginning of days nor end of life,” he conceives can scarcely be conceived as applying to a mere man. The language is certainly very striking, yet I cannot conceive it more striking than the purposes which call it forth, and these seem to me abundantly sufficient to account for its striking and apparently mysterious character. The author’s purpose is to show the points in Melchisedek’s recorded life and position, which fitted him in his priesthood to be a type of the priestly Son of God. For this purpose he turns to the record of the Old Testament, and draws his reasonings alike from what is and what is not there stated; alike from the recorded facts of Melchisedek’s transient and remarkable appearance, and the silence of the sacred narrative concerning all preceding or subsequent facts appertaining to his history. Both the record and the silence are equally remarkable. In the one Melchisedek appears as a king in relations which associate him at once with Righteousness and with Peace, as priest of the Most High God in the midst of idolatrous communities, and as blessing and receiving tithes from Abraham, the spiritual heir of the world. In the other, a personage so great and so remarkable, Isaiah, contrary to all the usage of the sacred history, which is generally very studious and exact in giving the lineage of its important personages, and usually notices alike their birth and their death, passed over without a solitary intimation as to his lineage or family relations, as to his birth or his death. The reason of this silence on the part of the Spirit that dictated the narrative, cannot be doubtful. It is intended to exhibit Melchisedek under personal relations, which should fit him also to be the priestly type of the High-Priest of the New Covenant. The facts seem abundantly sufficient to account for the Old Testament silence, and for the New Testament representation. Our author looks back to the Old Testament to see what there was in the record of Melchisedek to explain the language of the Psalm regarding his peculiar Priesthood. These facts present themselves prominently to him, and he exhibits them in such a manner as to bring out most strongly and forcibly the typical character of Melchisedek. We must remember that the sacred historian is generally studious to give the lineage of all the sacred persons with whom he has to do, and almost invariably signalizes the fact of their death. Here we have a singular and marked exception. Melchisedek, evidently, by the relations in which he appears in Genesis, one of the most extraordinary men of sacred history, is yet passed over without one gleam of light shed on the darkness either of his past or his future. He thus stands on the sacred page—amidst a narrative which, in its faithful record of births and deaths, seems intended to illustrate the truth that “Death reigned from Adam to Moses,”—as one who liveth. Without wishing, therefore, to derogate in the least from the depth of our author’s meaning, or from the dignity and mystery that invest the person of Melchisedek; without wishing to reduce him to the prosaic level of ordinary humanity, I yet can see no reason for finding in him any thing superhuman, or for departing from the prevailing view of the best modern expositors, which seems to me to have judiciously and wisely discarded all the old mysteries regarding Melchisedek. The truth Isaiah, our author’s language itself receives far greater depth and significance by our making its statements regarding Melchisedek derive their peculiar character and dignity from the supernatural personage whom he represented, than from any supposed supernatural attributes of Melchisedek himself. And we must remember, too, that for all the purposes which Melchisedek was to subserve as a type, the appearance, the mere representation of these qualities in him, answers precisely the same purpose as the realities. Here the principle truly applies, “De non existentibus, et non apparentibus, eadem est ratio.”—K.].

By Salem we are probably to understand Jerusalem (which bears this shortened name also at Psalm 76:3; comp. Knobel Genesis, 2 Aufl, p149 ff.) although according to Judges 19:10, the older name of Jerusalem was Jebus, and we find in Jerome ( Ephesians 126 ad Euagrium) that later tradition makes the Salim (or Salumias) of John 3:23, lying eight Roman miles south of Sycthopolis, the residence of Melchisedek, Bleek, Tuch, Ewald, Alf, decide after Primas, Rel, Rosenm, etc., in favor of this latter place, which is also probably mentioned Judith 4:4. The author says designedly not εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, but εἰς τὸ διηνεκές=perpetually, because the priesthood which he has in sacred history, from the beginning to the end, without interruption and without transmission to another, is his own (Hofm. Schriftb. I:402; 2Ed. II:1, 550, Del, Stier, etc., after Theodor. Mops.); not because his priesthood is perpetuated in Christ, the type remaining in the antitype (Thol. after Primas, Haymo, Thom. Aquin.), nor because the name of Priest, according to Revelation, is applied to all the blessed (Auberl. Stud. u. Krit., 1857, III:497).

Hebrews 7:4. And consider how great, etc.—The metabatic δέ introduces the consideration of the other side of the matter. It is more in harmony with the impassioned and elevated style of the passage, to take θεωρεῖτε as Imper. than as Indic. Πηλίκος refers ordinarily, according to the connection, to age, to size, or to moral greatness; but here to exaltedness and dignity of position. The καί is to be referred, not to Abraham (Luth, Grot, etc.), but to δεκάτην, as indicated by the order of the words. Ἀκροθίνια literally, the top of the heap, denotes commonly the first fruits of the harvest offered to the Deity; sometimes, as here, the choicest spoils of war selected out as a sacred offering. Of such select portions consisted the tithe of the entire booty, that was now presented by Abraham: the entire spoils cannot be denoted by ἀκροθίνια, as supposed by Chrys, Erasm, Luth, Calv, etc. The name of honor πατριάρχης, which denotes the ancestral father and head of the Israelitish nation, is applied Acts 2:29, to David, and Acts 7:8-9, to the twelve sons of Jacob.

Hebrews 7:5. And they indeed who, from the sons of Levi, etc.—In the words ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευΐ, Bl, De W, Lün, etc., take ἐκ partitively; but it is better, with Hofm, Del, etc., taken causatively. For the contrast is not drawn between those who as descendants of Aaron were priests, and those who were mere Levites, but between the Levitical priests and Mel, who has tithed Abraham, although (μὴ γενεαλογ. ἐξ αὐτῶν) not deriving his lineage from them. [The reason Isaiah, however, hardly conclusive. For although the writer does not intend a contrast between the priests and the other sons of Levi, yet the natural method of designating the Levitical priest is precisely that which is here employed, viz., those of the sons of Levi who received the priesthood.—K.]. Ἐξ αὐτῶν is by some erroneously referred to the Israelites, and by Grot, to Levi and Abraham together. A second contrast is this, that the Israelites received the tithes on the ground of a legal ordinance, while Melchisedek received it as a spontaneous offering. Add to this, that the Levites had to do with their countrymen over whom, although brethren, they were placed, and to whom they were at the same time restricted, while the relation of Melchisedec to Abraham was entirely different. The last point is the relation of him who blesses to the man who as Patriarch is the historical bearer of those promises of God which include the blessings. Ἱερατεία denotes the priestly service, and the priestly prerogative. In all other passages of our Epistle stands ἱερωσύνη=priesthood, i.e, priestly office and dignity (comp. Sirach 45:7 with Sirach 45:24). But even in the LXX. the meanings of the two words run into each other. Since, now, at Numbers 18:1, the term ἱερατεία is used to designate the Aaronic service, and Jehovah calls the Levites in relation to Aaron τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου, Biesenthal makes (see Del, p278 Anm.) the sagacious conjecture that our author refers to Numbers 18:25-32, where the Levites are required to give the tenth of the tenth to the priests, and that, instead of ἀποδεκατοῦν τὸν λαόν, we are to read at Hebrews 7:5, Λευΐν. This would remove the difficulty occasioned by the fact that our author ascribes to the priests what, according to Leviticus 27:30, belonged to the Levites, viz., to receive all the tithes in Israel from Jehovah, to whom all the tithes of the land belong. For we cannot along with Bl. (followed by Bisp, while most recent intpp. do not touch the difficulty in question, and Ebr. seeks to evade it by a rendering inconsistent with the order of the words) assume that in the period after the exile the priests perhaps took the whole tithes for their own subsistence, and the maintenance of the temple service, and that the remaining members of the tribe of Levi surrendered to those who were actually engaged in the temple service what was demanded for their support. The passages Nehemiah 10:38 ff; Nehemiah 12:44; Nehemiah 13:10; Tobit 1:6-8, state precisely the reverse. The simplest solution is the assumption of the older comm. (Drus, Seb. Schmidt, etc.), that ἀποδεκατοῦν, is to be understood of the indirect tithing of the people by the priests, in that they received their tenth from the tenth of the Levites.

[The fact that there should ever have been any trouble about the solution of this point, shows how easily difficulties are found in the Scriptures, by an unnecessary rigidness of verbal interpretation. In a detailed account of the Mosaic Institutions, we should of course expect a statement of the precise relations of the priests to the Levites, and of the Levites to the people. But in a brief reference to them made merely for the sake of illustrating a principle, it is sufficient to state the general fact that the Levitical priests tithed the people, i.e, had their subsistence by the tithing of the people, without any intimation of the mode in which it was done, whether by tithing directly or through another body.—K.].

The conjecture of Ribera that under the term λαός, the author jointly includes the Levites, and that of Thom. Aquin. that the author starts from the supposition that the Priestly class furnish the ground and purpose of all the tithing, inasmuch as they alone receive tithes without rendering them, are both to be rejected. The Infin. form ἀποδεκατοῖν adopted by Tisch. after B. D*. (which MSS. also read at Matthew 13:32, κατασκηνοῖν), appears to be of Alexandrian origin; comp. ξηλοῖν as a var. lec. in Dressel Patr. Apost. p322, n4, and στεφανοῖν, after an Inscription given by Krüger (I:1, § 32, Anm. 7). Seb. Schmidt, Böhme, etc., connect the κατὰ τὸν νόμον with τὸν λαόν, Bleek, Bisp, Lün, with ἐντολὴν ἔχουσιν, the majority with ἀποδεκατοῦν.

Hebrews 7:8. Of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.—Inasmuch as the Melchisedek of history is certainly dead, while yet the author is speaking not of an office but of a person, Cappell, Heins, Storr, in entire violation of the context, take the subject to be Christ. Equally unnecessary too is it with Theod, Bl, etc., to appeal to Psalm 110, which speaks of the Antitype of Melchisedek. We need only refer for the explanation of the language to Genesis 14. (Œc, Calv, Este, etc.), as we have here but a variation in the statement of Hebrews 7:3, that Melchisedek is “without end of life.” The person of Melchisedek is indeed treated as historical, but only in so far as he is a type of the Christian Messiah.

[Alford heads his comm. on Hebrews 7:8 thus: “Second item of superiority in that Melchisedek’s is an enduring, the Levitical a transitory priesthood.” This language is not quite accurate. The author is not comparing the priesthood of Melchisedek with the Levitical priesthood, but illustrating the personal greatness of Melchisedek, which he does by showing his superiority to Abraham, and then again his superiority to the Levitical priests, in that while they receive tithes as dying men, he receives them as one of whom it is testified that he liveth. His priesthood is not primarily in question.—K.].

Hebrews 7:9. And so to speak, etc.—In itself ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν may mean, “to say in a word (briefly),” and “so to speak” (Theophyl.). The former signification which is here adopted by Camerar, Beng, etc., is much less appropriate than the second, which with the Vulg. and Luth. is maintained by most intpp. [I doubt the classical use of the phrase in the first signification. At all events it is incomparably more common with Greek writers in the second, which is here in like manner most decidedly in accordance with the context.—K.]. The phrase implies that the author is not speaking with strict accuracy, but only with virtual or approximative truth. Δι’ Ἀβραάμ is not on account of Abraham (August, Phot.), but, through Abraham; the Gen. not the Acc.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. In the biographies of persons who in the Holy Scripture itself have received a typical significance, we are to regard not merely what is recorded of them, but also what, in regard to them, is designedly past in silence. So of the silence of the Holy Scripture regarding the origin and end of Melchisedek, who, with bread and wine in his hands, went forth from his royal city to meet and bless Abraham in the vale of Shittim, or the king’s dale, which 2 Samuel 18:18 is mentioned as the place in which Absalom erected a monument, and is sought for in the neighborhood of Jerusalem (Jos. Antt. 1, 10, 2). The conjectures of Jewish and Christian interpreters in Deyling (Observv. Sacr. II:71 seq.) which identify Mel. with Shem, Ham, or Enoch, are as much opposed to the history, as the conjecture of Nork (Bibl. Mythol. I:154) who here finds the Phœnician god Sydik, i.e, צַדִּיק=Kronos, Saturn. He is simply an otherwise unknown king, whose meeting with Abraham, however, Isaiah, in the history of redemption, at once of the greatest historical and typical importance.

2. In the narrative itself lies the basis of the author’s typical interpretation. For Melchisedek is designated Genesis 14:19; Genesis 14:22 priest (כּחֵן) of the Most High God (אֵל עֶלְיוֹן). He thus not merely performed priestly acts, as did also Abraham as princely chief, and as did every father of a family. The language points to a priesthood distinct from his royal authority, and from the patriarchal character, which was united with royalty only in the person of Melchisedek. When, therefore Abraham bows before this priestly king, receives his blessing, and renders to him tithes, he recognizes not merely their relationship in modes of faith, in their common worship—a worship untainted by idolatry—of the God who created the world (while, at the same time, Abraham on his own part emphasizes, Hebrews 7:22, the specific reference of his faith to Jehovah, as the God who reveals himself in the work of human redemption), but he places himself personally in a subordinate relation in respect of office to this priestly king—a relation thus naturally and necessarily suggesting a typical explanation, and a Messianic reference. Historically, the phenomenon of his appearance is explicable in the fact that, according to Scripture itself, the worship of Jehovah, which characterized the descendants of Abraham ( Genesis 28:13; Exodus 3:6) did not actually owe its origin to Abraham. Abraham is not the first professor of this faith, but only its main representative and transmitter among the children of Noah, as Seth among those of Adam. Just as at a later period, in contrast with the false particularism of the Jews, Jehovah is designated as the God who is מֵעוֹלָם, Psalm 90:2; Psalm 93:2; Psalm 103:17, or מִקֶּרֶם, Habakkuk 1:12, so the Jehovah worshipped by Abraham appears in Gen. as the Creator of the world already worshipped by primitive men on the ground of the revelation of Himself. And the agency of Abraham in maintaining the knowledge and worship of this God, is expressed in the same words as that of Seth, Genesis 4:26. In the statement, however, that men then “began to call on the name of Jehovah,” the historian cannot intend to be understood that then absolutely the name of Jehovah was first made known; for but a little before the same name had been put in the mouth of Eve. He employs the term of the religious worship of Jehovah, which also at Psalm 79:6; Psalm 116:17; Isaiah 12:4, this expression very decidedly designates.

3. The existence of a priestly king, entitled to utter a blessing and to receive tithes, and in this character acknowledged by Abraham—a personage who is indebted for his position to no lineal descent, or legal ordination, but who exercises a ministry purely personal, so that alike his origin and his end are veiled from our view, furnishes the natural ground and justification of the thought that a non-Levitical priesthood, outside indeed of the Mosaic legal enactments, yet still according to the will of God, holds an authorized relation to the descendants of Abraham; nay, that the Messiah predicted ( Psalm 110) within the very sphere and by the very prophets of Judaism, as a priest after the order of Melchisedek, possesses alike in his royal priesthood and his personal character, an infinite elevation above the Levitical priests, and the Aaronic high-priests, and that to recognize this is a sacred duty of the Hebrews.

4. The typical elements which attach themselves to the Scripture account of Melchisedek are found not merely in the acts which the Scripture narrative ascribes to him, but also in the significance of his name. This designates him as a type of the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:5, and Branch of righteousness, Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15, who as a Ruler standing near to Jehovah, Jeremiah 30:21, coming forth from the midst of Israel, spreads righteousness and peace in the land, Psalm 72.; Micah 2:13; Jeremiah 23:5 ff.: establishes them according to the Divine will, Ezekiel 34:24; Ezekiel 37:25 : in that He creates peace among the nations, Zechariah 9:10, and is himself Peace, ( Micah 5:5). This typical character is entirely overlooked by those who ascribe to our author the idea that Melchisedek came miraculously into life and miraculously departed from it, (Nagel, Zur Characteristik der Auffassung des A. T. im N. T., 1850); or that he is the incarnation of an angel (Orig, Didym.), or of the Holy Spirit; (The author of the Quæst. in vet. et Nov. Test. in Hilarius and the Ægyptian Hierakas, Epiph. hær., 67); or of a Divine power transcending even Christ in majesty (the Melchisedekites, a section of the Theodotians), or of the Son of God Himself (Molinæus, Cunæus, Hottinger, D’Outrein, Starke and others, after some orthodox Fathers in Epiphanius hær., 55).

5. “The Melchisedek of human history has indeed died; but the Melchisedek of sacred history lives without dying, fixed for ever as one who lives by the pen of the sacred historian, and thus stamped as type of the Song of Solomon, the ever-living Priest.” (Del.).—“Likened, he says, to the Son of God.” And wherein does this likeness display itself? In the fact that we know neither the end nor the beginning either of the one or the other; but of the one, because the beginning and the end are not recorded; of the other, because they have no existence.” (Chrys.).—“As Prayer of Manasseh, Christ was without Father, and as God, without mother; as high-priest He was without genealogy, and as Eternal Son of God without beginning and without end of days.” (Bisp.)—“Christ, in the Divine counsels, is before all figures and types: He is the original; all others are copies. They are modeled after Him, not He after them; so also Melchisedek after Jesus Christ, not Jesus Christ after Melchisedek.”—(Heubner).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The appearance and work of Jesus Christ have been pointed out to us in the Old Testament not only by words of prophecy, but also by types and figures alike in persons and acts.—We understand the history of the world, only as we conceive it from the point of view of sacred history, and interpret it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.—To what should we be moved by the thought that our actions have a far-reaching and profound influence on the fortunes of our posterity?—It is those who have been already blessed who are always receiving new blessing.—Pious men render mutual service to each other for the honor of God.

Starke:—To heroes and warlike men, who venture their life to protect their country and people, belong respect, refreshment and intercessory prayer.—Happy are the kings who are kings of righteousness and of peace.—The Divine Administration has many a time wrought something through the primitive fathers, not merely for their sakes, but also for the sake of their posterity.

Heubner:—The priesthood of Christ, not the priesthood of the Law, is the source of all blessing.—To our Melchisedek belongs every thing in sacrifice, since we have all from Him and through Him.—Let us learn that our true nobility springs not from men but from Heaven; that we are to forget time, and think only of eternity.—The Levites take a tenth from their brethren; Melchisedek from Abraham; but Christ receives the reverence, the service of the whole world.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Hebrews 7:1.—The Art. before ὑψίστου, is attested by Sin. A. C. D. E. K. L, 28, 44, 46, 48.

FN#2 - Hebrews 7:2.—The καί is sustained against the authority of B. D*. E*. by Sin. A. C. Dm. E**. K. L. and the minusc.

FN#3 - Hebrews 7:6.—The Art. before Abraham is erased by some, on the authority of B. C. D*. 23, 57, 109. The Sin. has it from a later hand. [It is retained by Tisch. on preponderating authority.—K.].

FN#4 - Hebrews 7:9.—The form Λευΐς is found in A. B. C*. Λευει in Sin, where the corrector has put Λευεις, which is received by Tisch, Ed. VII.

FN#5 - Hebrews 7:10.—The Art. before Melch. is after Sin. B. C*. D*. 73, 118, to be omitted.


Verses 11-19

II

The Old Testament itself predicts the abrogation of the Levitical high-priesthood which rests on the basis of the Mosaic law, and the merging of it in the eternal priesthood of the Messiah

Hebrews 7:11-19

11If therefore [If indeed now, If to be sure now, εἰ, μὲν οὖν] perfection were by [=through, διά] the Levitical priesthood, (for under it [on the basis of it, ἐπ’ αὐτῆς][FN6] the people [have] received the law,) what further need was there [om. was there] that another [different, ἕτερον] priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 12For the priesthood being changed [transferred, μετατιθεμένης], there is made [becometh] of necessity a change also of the law 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of [from] which no man gave [none hath 14 given] attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang [hath sprung] out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood [priests, ἱερέων].[FN7] 15And it is yet far more [is still more abundantly] evident, for that [if, εἰ] after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another [a different, ἕτερος] priest, 16Who is made, not after the law of a carnal[FN8] commandment, but after the power of an endless17[indestructible] life. For he testified [is testified of, μαρτυρεῖται][FN9] Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec 18 For there is verily [there becometh indeed, γίνεται μέν] a disannulling of the [preceding] commandment going before [om. going before] for the [on account of its] weakness and unprofitableness thereof [om. thereof]; 19For the law made nothing perfect, but [(for the law perfected nothing), and] the bringing in of a better hope did [om. did], by which we draw nigh unto God.

[ Hebrews 7:11.—εἰ μὲν οὖν, if to be sure now, if, indeed, therefore, οὖν, looking back and linking the proposition in a general way with the preceding; the μέν looking forward, and implying that the writer has in his mind some alternative sentiment to that which immediately follows, and which would naturally be introduced by δέ, but which may be, as here, suppressed. The words μέν οὖν, do not affect in the slightest degree the construction or meaning of εἰ with its verb. Alford absurdly translates: “If again” as “the nearest English expression to εἰ μὲν οὖν.” It could not well be more unfortunately rendered, unless possibly by yea if, by which Alford renders the same combination at Hebrews 8:4, while the rendering of μὲν γάρ, Hebrews 7:18 of Hebrews 7, by for moreover, is equally regardless of the meaning of the particles, and the demands of the context. In the present case the author passes ( Hebrews 7:11) from a consideration of the personal greatness of Melchisedek,—a greatness guaranteeing, by implication, the greatness of the priesthood in which his should find its antitype—to the points of superiority of the Melchisedek priesthood of Christ over the Levitical priesthood.—ἐπ’ αὐτῆς, on the basis of it—νενομοθέτηται Perf. like δεδεκάτωται, Hebrews 7:9, have had their legislation, stand recorded as having received the law.—τίς ἔτι χρεία, what need any longer; ἔτι, logical here, not temporal.—ἓτερον ἱερέα, a different priest, not merely ἄλλον, another, numerically.

Hebrews 7:12.—μετατιθεμένης,while it is undergoing a change or transfer; not simply being changed=μετατεθείσης.

Hebrews 7:13.—ἐφ’ ὅν, upon, in relation to whom.—μετέσχηκεν, hath participated in, hath shared in (perf. not as Hebrews 2:14, μετέσχεν); Eng. ver, pertaineth to.—οὐδεὶς προσέσχηκεν, none hath given attendance.

Hebrews 7:14.—πρόδηλον γάρ, for it is conspicuously evident—ἀνατέταλκεν, hath sprung or risen, not sprang.—περὶ ἱερέων, concerning priests.

Hebrews 7:15.—περισσότερον ἔτι κατάδηλόν ἐστι, more abundantly still is it evident, κατάδηλος, intensive of δῆλος, and περισσότερον, stronger than the simple comparative of κατάδηλος.—εἰ, if=if it is the case that—and it is; Eng. ver, for that which gives the meaning.—ἀνίσταται, there ariseth.

Hebrews 7:16.—γέγονεν, hath become, viz, priest; Alford, is appointed; Eng. ver, is made.—ἀκαταλύτου, not exactly as Eng. ver, endless; but not to be dissolved, indissoluble, indestructible.

Hebrews 7:19.—Οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐτελεί., for the law brought nothing to perfection, should be in parenthesis, and ἑπεισαγωγή, a bringing in upon, or in place of, coördinated with ἀθέτησις as subject of γίνεται, as shown clearly both by the μέν and δέ, and the much greater clearness and elegance of the construction; “there takes place an abrogation on the one hand—and an introduction thereupon ἐπί).” Ebr. follows the Eng. ver. in its erroneous construction. Alf. constructs the sentence otherwise correctly, but (misunderstanding apparently a statement of Hart. Pertikel. II:414) regards μέν as here used elliptically, and pointing to an understood contrast in the permanence of the ζωή ἀκατάλ. just mentioned. “It is hardly possible, even with the right construction of the sentence, to regard this μέν as answering to the δέ following ἐπεισαγωγή; its connection with the γάρ will not allow this. If this had been intended we should have expected the form of the sentence to be ἀθέτησις γὰρ γίνεται τῆς μὲν προαγούσης ἐντολῆς.” No criticism could be more incorrect. There is not the slightest reason why μέν cannot stand with γάρ, and yet be followed by its corresponding δέ, unless it is impossible for a sentence to stand in the relation indicated by γάρ to a previous sentence, and yet itself be susceptible of a distribution of its members by μὲν and δέ. We have in fact just such a construction at Hebrews 7:20-21, and it is among the most natural and familiar in the language. And the construction proposed by Alf. as required in case the μέν and δέ here were in contrast, is totally wrong. The order of words which he has given would imply a contrast not between the abrogation of the preceding commandment and the introduction of a better hope, but a contrast between the abrogation of the preceding commandment on the one hand, and of something else on the other. The construction, as it stands, brings out, regularly and elegantly, the required antithesis. It might indeed have stood γίνεται γὰρ ἀθέτησις μὲν προαγούσης—ἐπεισαγ. δέ, and also in one or two other modes of arrangement; but no change is needed.—K.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Hebrews 7:11. If, indeed, now perfection were, etc.—Εἰ μὲν οὖν ἦν is the genuine Greek construction for a hypothetical proposition which denies the reality of the case supposed.[FN10] The οὖν does not refer back to Hebrews 6:20 (De Wette, Bisping). The γάρ in the parenthetical clause refers to the obvious but unexpressed thought that one might be inclined to assume that perfection was brought about through the Levitical priesthood, inasmuch as this stood in reality in organic connection with the Mosaic law. The supposition that the sentiment merely is that the people received legal ordinances regarding the priesthood (Schlicht, Grot, Bl.), is contradicted not merely by the utter superfluousness of such a remark, but chiefly by the fact that it is only with verbs of speaking that ἐπί with the Gen. stands in such a sense (Bernhady, Synt., p248). Many, as Seb. Schmidt, Rambach and others, have even explained it barely of rites and institutions pertaining to the τελείωσις. Clauses denoting necessity are commonly followed by the Inf. with μή (Hart. Partikellehre II:125). When, however, the negation refers not to the entire sentence, but, as here, to an individual portion of it, οὐ also occurs (Madvig Gr. Synt., § 205; Kühn, § 214, Anm2). Luther makes λέγεσθαι depend on χρεία, and all that intervenes depend on λέγεσθαι. It is more easy and natural to make the two Infinitives, ἀνίστασθαι and λέγεσθαι coördinate with each other, and both dependent on χρεία. Ἕτερον emphasizes the diversity in kind.

Hebrews 7:12. For if the priesthood is undergoing a change, etc.—The γάρ refers not (as with Lün.) to the parenthetical clause, but introduces the first argument in support of the main idea of Hebrews 7:11, viz., that the appointment of a Melchisedek priest, is incompatible with the assumption of the sufficiency and efficiency of the Levitical priesthood. Νόμος is neither to be restricted to the law of the priesthood (Bez, Grot, etc.), nor to the ceremonial law (Calv, à Lapide, Carpz, etc.). For although it is true that Hebrews 7:13 merely introduces the proof of the proposition of Hebrews 7:12, that the change of the law, there asserted as inseparable from the change of the priesthood, appears historically in the fact that the Old Covenant itself predicts the Melchisedek priest as a non-Aaronic and Levitical priest, while Hebrews 7:14 attaches to this the historical proof of the fulfilment of this prediction in the person of Jesus, and thus far the law spoken of might be the mere law of the priesthood; yet inasmuch as it has been previously stated that the Israelitish people had received their νόμον in organic connection with the institution of the priesthood, of course the change of law here referred to can by no means be regarded as a partial one. [Moll then regards Hebrews 7:13 as still lingering back in the realm of prophecy, and simply asserting that the person of whom the language of the prediction is uttered, viz., “thou art a priest,” etc, appears in the very fact of the prediction as belonging to another tribe, where none gave attendance at the altar; for if he was a Melchisedek priest, he could not be an Aaronic and Levitical priest, and therefore could not be of the tribe of Levi; and he then regards Hebrews 7:14 as coming down into the actual historical life of our Lord, and confirming the inference from prophecy by the well known testimony of fact. The main scope of the paragraph, he thinks, is to illustrate the cardinal idea of Hebrews 7:11, viz., that the institution of the Melchisedek Priesthood of Christ is incompatible with the supposition of the competence of the Levitical priesthood to accomplish its intended work of perfection. This is shown, first, by the fact that the Old Testament itself, as shown by the prediction of Psalm 110, contemplated a transfer of the Levitical priesthood to another tribe—a transfer actually realized in the person of Jesus (12–14). Secondly, by the essential difference in the character of the Melchisedek Priesthood of Christ (15–17)—K.]. Ταῦτα, Hebrews 7:14, refers to the words of the Psalm 110:4. The Perfects μετέσχηκεν, προσέσχηκεν, ἀνατέταλκεν, point to the historical facts as now standing completed before the eye. Ἀφ’ ἦς denotes the springing forth from the φυλή. Προσέχειν τινι=to give one’s attention, or devote one’s activity to a thing. The reading προσέστηκε in Erasmus is a Patristic gloss. The πρό in πρόδηλον is not temporal (Pierce), but strengthens the conception of a thing as lying open or conspicuous by the facts, while κατάδηλον in like manner emphasizes the reasonings of Hebrews 7:15.

Hebrews 7:15. And it is still more abundantly evident, etc.—Ebrard entirely erroneously supposes that the thing here asserted to be evident is the fact of our Lord’s springing from Judah ( Hebrews 7:14). Bisping, following Chrys. and others, supposes it to be the greatness of the difference between the Levitical and the New Testament priesthood. Klee, with Primas, Just, Rambach, etc., supposes it to be the reality of the change of the priesthood. Delitzsch, with J. Cappell. and Bengel, regards it as the inefficiency of the Levitical priesthood; while Bleek, De Wette, Thol, Lün, find in it the statement that the change of the priesthood involves the change of the law. But this statement itself served merely as the first proof of the capital thought contained in Hebrews 7:11, viz., that the appointment of a Melchisedek priest was incompatible with the efficiency of the Levitical priesthood, and was itself again substantiated by the fact of the actual occurrence of the change. The author now advances to the second proof of the same point, a proof in which is involved alike the insufficiency of the Levitical priesthood, and the greatness of the distinction between the Levitical and the New Testament priesthood. In the previous argument the stress was laid on the circumstance that with the change of the priesthood stood actually and as matter of fact connected a change of the Mosaic law. It is now laid on the intrinsic idea and character of a Melchisedek priest. A Melchisedek priest, as such, is the subject of the clause. Had the author had in mind Jesus personally, he would have personally designated the subject, of which the predicate would then be the priest of a different character. The greater clearness of this proof, however, lies in the fact that His birth from a different Israelitish tribe does not so much constitute the Messiah a ἕτερος ἱερεύς as his “likeness” to Melchisedek. This not merely places him in another τάξις of Priests, but gives him a priesthood forever (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα), and such a priesthood can alone work τελείωσις, comp. Hebrews 7:25.

[The passage Hebrews 7:11-16, Isaiah, as indicated by the great diversity of opinions regarding it, while easy enough to translate, among the most difficult in the Epistle to analyze so as to assure us that we have the precise scope and drift of the author. Some, as Lönemann, regard Hebrews 7:12, with its ratiocinative γάρ, as simply illustrating the parenthetical clause of Hebrews 7:11, a view which at first glance seems probable. Others, as Bleek, De Wette, Delitzsch, regard it as paving the way for what follows, and “laying down the ground why, not, without urgent cause, the priesthood is changed” (De Wette), admitting at the same time that the parenthetical clause of Hebrews 7:11 has an important bearing on the illustration. Moll considers the capital thought which the whole passage is designed to illustrate, to be the incompatibility of the institution of the Melchisedek priesthood, with the idea of the sufficiency and competence of the Levitical priesthood. Equally, perhaps still more diverse, are the views regarding the reference of the κατάδηλον, Hebrews 7:15. Let us follow a little the course of thought. The author passes, at Hebrews 7:11, from illustrating the personal greatness of Melchisedek—involving by implication, the superiority of his priesthood to that of Aaron, and a fortiori the superiority of that of which his was but a type, to the Aaronic—to the consideration of the relative claims of the two priesthoods themselves, viz., the Levitical priesthood and the Melchisedek priesthood of Christ. The main ideas which he introduces, and which lie in the very nature and relations of the case, are the following: 1. That the Mosaic economy rested for its execution and effectiveness on the Levitical priesthood; the abrogation, therefore, of the latter involves an abrogation of the former. This abrogation he mildly calls a transfer. 2. That this abrogation of the priesthood and of its associated and superincumbent economy is already predicted in the Old Testament, (in the declaration of God, Thou art a priest forever, etc.), and that this prediction is actually realized in the well-known descent of Jesus Christ from the stock of Judah—a non-priestly tribe3. That the change of priesthood, and of course the superiority of the latter, consists even more in the internal character of the Melchisedek priesthood, as compared with the Levitical, than in the mere external fact of change4. That the oath which accompanied the inauguration of the Melchisedek priest marks its superiority5. That its superiority is also marked by its singleness, untransferableness, and perpetuity, in all which features it stands contrasted with the Levitical. These are the general ideas from Hebrews 7:11 to Hebrews 7:26, and it is only at two or three points, chiefly at Hebrews 7:12-13; Hebrews 7:15, that the difficulty is found in tracing the precise thread of connection. Without feeling over confident, I think it as nearly as follows:

If, indeed, now (the now οὖν, linking it in a general way with what precedes, the μέν pointing to the suppressed affirmation, contrasted with the supposition as; if, indeed it were, but it is not) perfection were by the Levitical priesthood—and that priesthood was bound to make the law effective, for the legislation of Moses was based upon it—there were no need for another priest to be spoken of in prophecy as about to arise after the order of Melchisedek, and not after the order of Aaron. And that such a change would not take place without urgent cause is evident, for see how far-reaching it is. For when the priesthood is transferred, as in the prediction of the Psalm it Isaiah, it carries with it a transfer and an abrogation of the Law. And that such a transfer is made is clear; for he in regard to whom the language of this prediction is uttered, belongs to another tribe, of which none has ministered at the altar;—(Delitzsch considers that in this verse ( Hebrews 7:13) the author has already descended from the region of prophecy to that of fulfilment. Moll regards him as still standing on the ground of the prophecy, and simply stating what the prophecy implies regarding the birth and tribal relations of the predicted priest. In favor of Moll’s view is the indefinite ἐφ’ ο͂ν λέγεται ταῦτα; in favor of that of Delitzsch are the definite statements with the perfect tense of the verb, which seem to point to actual historical facts. I concur on the whole with Delitzsch; Alford scarcely touches the question).—For it is a well-known historical fact, that our Lord hath sprung from Judah, to which tribe appertains no regular priesthood. From this fact now it is evident that that change of priesthood has taken place which brings change of law, viz., the fact that the old priesthood belonged to a particular tribe, and that when it passes to another tribe, of course the Mosaic priesthood is subverted, and therefore the whole structure reared upon it falls to the ground; but it is still more abundantly evident from another fact, viz., the intrinsically different character of this new priesthood, in that this priest arises after the likeness of Melchisedek—having those properties which this likeness would presuppose—who hath been made, etc. From this point the course of thought is easy. I thus do not regard the course of thought as carried out with strict logical precision. The author shows how great consequences depend on the overthrow of the Levitical priesthood—no less consequences than the abrogation of the whole law that rests upon it—shows how this transfer is actually made in the person of Jesus, and how still more vital and deep-reaching than the mere transfer, is the change in the intrinsic character of the Melchisedek priesthood itself. Here he has, as it were, drifted into the topic of the superiority of Christ’s Melchisedek priesthood to the Aaronic, which he then farther illustrates by the matter of the oath, and the singleness and perpetuity of the Melchisedek priest as against the plurality and transitoriness of the Levitical priests.—K.].

Hebrews 7:16. Who has been made not after the law, etc.—By νόμος here Chrys, Calv, Beng, Böhme, Thol, and others, understand the Mosaic law, whose elements are collectively designated as a fleshly institution. But the expression κατὰ νόμον ἐντολῆς σαρκίνης in antithesis to κατὰ δύναμιν ζωῆς ἀκαταλύτου, requires certainly that we take νόμος as at Romans 7:21; Romans 7:23 in the sense of norm. We are not, however, to infer from this that ἐντολὴ σαρκίνη is the special requisition of the Mosaic law regarding the Levitical priesthood (Lün.), and is so designated because it lays stress merely on outward, earthly things, which are liable to destruction, as on lineal descent, etc., and installs only mortal men as priests (Theod, Grot, Bl, De Wette, etc.). Still less may we appeal to the fact that in later Greek the distinction between adj. ending in ικός and ινος is done away (Winer, Thol, etc.). For no New Testament writer could characterize the Mosaic law, whether taken as a whole or in any of its ordinances, as fleshly, inasmuch as they are collectively to be referred back to the will of God, and for this reason Paul expressly emphasizes the spiritual nature alike of the νόμος and of the ἐντολή, Romans 7:12; Romans 7:14. Doubtless, indeed, the signification of perishableness, which Beng, Carpz, etc., have found in σαρκικός, is possible for σάρκινος (=made of flesh). Still I should prefer to refer the epithet to the qualities of externality, frailty and impotence, which belong to the nature of the σάρξ, and which are also at the same time predicated of the ritual and statutory character of the Mosaic law. It is this property of the law which I conceive to be expressed by ἐντολὴ σαρκίνη. To this corresponds the fact that it is not placed in contrast directly with the historic Jesus but with the ἔτερος ἱερεύς, which finds its realization in Him, whose characteristic, as shown by Hebrews 7:18, is drawn from the words of the Psalm. Any reference to the capacity of Christ to impart life to others (as supposed by Cam, Dorsch, Calov, etc.), is not for a moment to be assumed. As previously κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχ. was explained by κατὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα M, so here εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα is explained by κατὰ δύναμιν ζωῆς άκαταλύτου. The language then has not reference to the incarnation of Christ the Messiah, but to His appointment as Melchisedek priest in the presence of God, in the completeness and perfection of His personal life. He is also the subject of μαρτυρεῖται [so Alf.], which Bleek and others take impersonally. Ὅτι is the ὅτι of citation as Hebrews 10:8; Hebrews 11:18.

Hebrews 7:18. For there becometh a doing away, etc.—The author is showing that the thought expressed in Hebrews 7:15-16 is contained in the passage of the Psalm. To this passage points the Pres. γίνεται, which belongs to the two clauses that are separated by the parenthesis. Some interpreters remove the parenthesis, erroneously and make Hebrews 7:19 an independent sentence, either making ἐπεισαγωγή a predicate to νόμος, and supplying ἐστίν or ἦν (Erasm, Calv, Ebr, etc.), or making ἐπεισαγωγή subject and repeating ἐτελείωσεν (as Beza, Grot, E. Ver.). In the former case the meaning would be: “but the law is indeed, or was, an introduction to a better hope:” in the second case: “but the ἐπεισαγωγή, etc., did bring in perfection.” The latter construction would demand the article before ἐπεισαγ. as before νόμος, indicating the subject. The former is opposed alike by the fact that the μὲν γάρ without the corresponding δέ is not=namely, but only=for to be sure, for at least, (Hart. Partik. II, 414), which is here entirely out of place, and that ἐπεισαγωγή is not=εἰσαγωγή, but denotes the introduction of something either as added to an object already existing, or as a substitute for it. This object is here προάγουσα ἐντολή, whose meaning is determined by the connection, for which reason the absence of the article does not require that the clause be taken as a general one (Schlicht, De Wette), while the use of ἐντολή as substantially equivalent to the Mosaic νόμος, would be adverse to it, (Primas, Chrys, Theod, Calv, Grot, etc.). The thought contained in the parenthesis (so rightly at first constructed by Luther, and erroneously changed in his later version), is weakened by changing the neut. οὐδέν into the masc. οὐδένα, (Chrys, Schlicht, Grot, Carpz, Bisp, etc.).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

From this passage Chr. Ferd. Baur takes occasion (“Christianity and the Church of the three first centuries,” p99), to maintain that our author holds an essentially different position from Paul, saying, “To the Apostle Paul Judaism is essentially law, while in the law again appears only its negative relation to Christianity. To the author of the Hebrews, Judaism is essentially a priesthood. The priesthood is with him the primary thing, and the starting point of his entire discussion; the law is but secondary. The latter must regulate itself by the former.” It is only when torn from its connection that our passage can be so explained. It points rather to the historically known fact, that the Mosaic law, through which the Israelites in general were constituted a people, and especially a people of God, was given to them with direct reference to, and on condition of the ministry of the priesthood, which, in its establishment and functions, stood indissolubly connected with it. From this, then, could the conclusion be drawn, that the change of so essential an institution as the priesthood would include and draw after it the change of the law itself. If then, farther, as an historical fact it must be acknowledged, that in the Old Testament itself, by the divine word of prophecy, this change of the priesthood is announced as one designed by God, and with certainty to be introduced through the Messiah, there could be drawn the farther conclusion that the whole law and the legal covenant relation in general, has, in the plan of God himself, only a transitory, and as elsewhere indicated, disciplinary significance. The fact was thus demonstrated, that in the establishment of the Law, and of its institutions, God did not promise and pledge within the covenant of the law itself, and within its means of grace, the attainment of the demanded and designed perfection. Rather this perfection must and can be attained by other means of grace, which are in like manner announced by God, and have been already introduced.

2. The Law can, as the verbal expression of the Divine will, only describe perfection; it cannot exhibit it personally. It can further, as the command of God to His people, only demand from them human perfection, but not create it in them. Finally, as the law of the holy God, it cannot overlook the universal lack of perfection, nor leave those whose duty binds them to this perfection, exempt from punishment. It must rather judge the sin everywhere disclosed by it, and, since all men prove themselves to be sinners, can only condemn and not acquit. This is the imperfection and the weakness—this incapacity to produce perfection—which lies in the nature of law as such, and of course also in the law of God; comp. Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:9, where Paul calls the law τὰ ἀσθενῆ καί πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα.

3. Should, with this condition of things, a positive covenant relation between God and His people, bound solemnly to the law, be possible, this could only take place by instituting an expiation, upon the foundation of which rests a reconciliation for the forgiveness of sin, and the introduction of the spiritual peace and blessing, which we so deeply need. But since man as a sinner is incapacitated for it, his only hope rests upon the Divine interposition in providing such an expiation.

4. This divinely originated plan is not merely promised by the word of prophecy, but was immediately, by a system of legal arrangements, by the institution of the Levitical priesthood, at once prepared for and prefigured. So far was it from lying within the divine purpose to introduce perfection by this institution, that on the one hand its typical and symbolical character was made clearly manifest, and on the other its transitory nature and import were expressly declared by the direct prediction of a priesthood of another character in the Old Testament itself, where the Messiah is purposely represented not merely as a priest-king, but also as not an Aaronic, but a Melchisedek Priest.

5. It is true that Christ is also the antitype of the high-priest Aaron; yet only in so far as His death on the cross, which wrought an eternal redemption, is compared with the annual expiatory sacrifice, which only the high-priest, after first making expiation for himself, was permitted to offer. But in respect, on the other hand, to the origin and dignity of the Song of Solomon, who, forever perfected, sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father; in respect to that ministry of intercession and of blessing, which gives perpetual efficacy in heaven to the sacrifice which once for all was offered upon earth,—in respect to these He is the counterpart of the Priestly King Melchisedek.

6. In this relation Christ exercises forever His mediatorial function, because in His person He possesses an indestructible life. He is Priest, not in consequence of any commandment, or on the ground of any priestly descent, but in virtue of His personality, which renders Him the bearer of an eternal and untransferable priesthood, on the ground of His offering of Himself on the cross, and in consequence of the position which He assumes as the Risen, eternally living God- Prayer of Manasseh, exalted above all heavens to the throne of God.

7. The origin of Jesus from the tribe of Judah ( Revelation 5:5), through His descent from the house of David ( Acts 2:30; Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8), which Isaiah, on the one hand, like the rising of a star, Numbers 24:17, or of light from on high, Isaiah 60:1; Malachi 3:20; Luke 1:78; on the other, like the sprouting branch, Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12, shows that the priesthood of Jesus is not the Levitico-Aaronical, but the Melchisedek priesthood; that thus the change predicted in the Old Testament has already historically taken place, and with this the abrogation of the Mosaic law received its authorized beginning. In this connection the remark of the author that this birth of Jesus from Judah is a perfectly well-known fact, so that he can make of it as of an unquestionable foundation, the most decided use in addressing his readers, is of great historical importance, especially in view of the circumstance that this epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem.

8. In the old covenant the Levitical priests were the mediators between God and the people; they had the honorable appellation of “those who draw near to Jehovah,” Numbers 10:3. Since Christ entered on His office as the only and eternal mediator, the whole people of God have received the appellation of a royal priesthood; a free access to the Father has been opened to all believers, and the realization of a better hope has commenced, which in the Old Testament prophecy came from the Melchisedek priest to the law, and passed over, out of and beyond it.

9. Also the hope of the believers of the Old Covenant was not directed merely to earthly goods, to long life and possession of the promised land, to security from enemies, and to dominion over unbelievers. The hope of a future life was according to Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:13-14 by no means wanting to the Patriarchs, and the Messianic hope gave them not only a concrete subject matter of their hope, but led also to better means for perfection than the legal institutions could furnish.

10. The idea of perfection embraces all points and elements in that state of perfectness in which the Divinely appointed goal is reached, to which Christ was led by sufferings ( Hebrews 2:10), and to which man ( Hebrews 10:1) can attain only through this ἀρχηγὸς τῆς σωτηρίας on the ground of the sacrifice of this New Test. high-priest ( Hebrews 10:14). But this state is not with Reuss (Hist. de la Theol. II., 551) to be limited to subjective and moral perfection. It rather has only its beginning in the purification which appertains to the conscience, Hebrews 9:7; its progress in that drawing near to God ( Hebrews 7:19), in which the outward objective principle of sanctification described in Hebrews 10:14, now proves itself actually efficacious; and its conclusion in eternal life, primarily in the spirits of just men made perfect, Hebrews 12:23, then after the resurrection, in their participation in glory, Hebrews 11:40.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The likeness and unlikeness of Christ to the priests of the law.—Wherein consists the strength, and wherein the weakness of the law?—The hope, by which we draw near to God, as already foretold in the Old Testament, by means of the old covenant, however, was not to be realized.—God changes not His plan, but does change sometimes the means of its accomplishment.—The glorious harmony of prophecy and history in the person of Jesus Christ.—How do law and Gospel stand related to each other?—The hope to which we are called: a. as to its substance; b. as to its foundation; c. as to its nurture.—Christ, a priest of a different kind from all other priests whatsoever.—Christ at once God and Prayer of Manasseh, Priest and King, subject to the law, and free from its statutory observance.—The mutual relation of law and priesthood.

Starke:—The Old Testament, as one which in itself was much too weak, must necessarily be changed, and through the New Testament, a better hope be brought in, through the efficacious sacrifice and intercession of Jesus Christ, as the perfect high-priest, who alone gives us salvation. The Levitical Priesthood is fulfilled through the Messianic, and thereby has been done away.—The holy and wise God has in His word set forth, for the good of men, the mystery of Christ, in manifold ways, with so many reasons, of which some are at once clearer and more binding than others.—What the prophets have predicted of Christ so many hundred years ago, has been in Him so exactly fulfilled. Who sees not also in this, the divinity of the Holy Scriptures?—While all believing Christians are permitted to draw near to God in Christ, they are also all spiritual priests, whose dignity and office it is to offer themselves in sacrifice to God, ( Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9) as those who are animated with the Spirit of Christ, and adorned with the white priestly garment of righteousness, Isaiah 61:10.—Blessed is he who from time to time draws near in faith to Christ, and in Christ unto God, and makes his whole life nothing else than, as it were, a perpetual going out from himself and the world, and going in unto God, James 4:8.—He who, while he lives on earth, draws not near to God, in faith and prayer, will not come to God after death, Hebrews 4:16; Romans 5:1-2.

Hahn:—As Priest, Christ assists from within; creates an internal atmosphere, gives freedom and joy. As King, He aids also from without, and removes everything which can hinder the inner life of His people, and brings to naught the assaults of their foes.

Rieger:—From the fact that another Priest was to appear, was to be inferred an entire change in the economy of God.

Heubner:—The present religion of the Jews is an exceedingly defective Judaism. They admit some of its elements, while what is most important in it, they are utterly unable to carry out.—All mysteries, orders, societies, which claim equal or even superior rank to the Church of Christ, are a sin against the high-priestly dignity of Christ.

Stein:—Christianity is by so much the more perfect covenant, in that the covenant of God in the Old Testament, merely introduced, prepared for, and prefigured it; in that it then removes imperfections which the former was not able to remove; and finally, in that there are also blessed prospects for the future, which indicate Christianity as the more perfect covenant.

Footnotes:

FN#6 - Hebrews 7:11.—Instead of ἐπ’ αὐτῇ, read after Sin. A. B. C. D*. E*. 17, 31, 46, ἐπ’ αὐτῆς; and instead of the Pluperf. νενομοθέτητο, read after Sin. A. B. C. D*., 17, 47, 73, νενομοθέτηται.

FN#7 - Hebrews 7:14.—Instead of οὐδὲν περὶ ἱερωσύνης, read after A. B. C*. D*. E, 17, 47, περὶ ἱερέων οὐδέν. So also in Sin, excepting that there οὐδέν stood originally after Μωυσης, and has been placed before it by a later hand.

FN#8 - Hebrews 7:16.—Instead of σαρκικῆς, read with Sin. A. B. C. D*. L, σαρκίνης.

FN#9 - Hebrews 7:17.—Instead of μαρτυρεῖ, should be read with Sin. A. B. D*. E, 17, 31, μαρτυρεῖται.

FN#10 - The μὲν οὖν has nothing whatever to do with the character of the hypothetical construction. The words simply indicate, the one (οὖν) its logical relation to that which precedes, and the other (μέν) its connection with that which follows. The εἰ ἦν (all that belongs intrinsically to the construction) is indeed genuine Greek, for the protasis of a hypothetical proposition which denies the reality of the case supposed, but so it is equally for that of one which admits it. All turns upon the character of the apodosis. If the apodosis be an Indicative past with ἄν, the proposition denies; if any Ind. tense Without ἄν, it admits. Thus εἰ ἦν τελείωσις, χρεία οὐκ ἂν ἦν would be; if there were perfection, there would not be need, but there was, or Isaiah, not. Εἰ τελείωσις ἦν, χρεία οὐκ ἦν would be: if there was perfection there was no need—and there was perfection.—K].


Verses 20-22

III

The New Covenant is by so much the more excellent as Jesus Himself is its personal guarantee

Hebrews 7:20-22

20And inasmuch as not without an oath [the swearing of an oath, ὁρχωμοσία] was he made priest: 21(For those priests were made [for they indeed have become priests] without an oath; but this [he] with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek:)[FN11] 22By so much[FN12] [also] was Jesus made [hath Jesus also become] a surety of a better testament [covenant].

[ Hebrews 7:20.—ὁρκωμοσία, the swearing of an oath: so the fuller form (like μισθαποδοσία, Hebrews 2:2) had better be rendered (with Alf.), than by the simple oath (ὃρκος, as Hebrews 6:17).

Hebrews 7:21.—οἰ μὲν γὰρ χωρὶς ὃρκωμ. εἰσὶν ἰερ. γεγ, for they indeed=for while they, without the swearing, etc, have become priests. It is difficult to reproduce in English the force of the periphrastic είσὶν γεγονότες, are having become, bringing out more fully the two-fold idea of becoming and continuance. We cannot, perhaps, render better than simply have become as if it were γέγονατε.

Hebrews 7:22.—καὶ κρείττονος διαθ. γεγ. ἔγγυος Ἰης., also of a better covenant (not testament), hath Jesus become (not, been made) surety.—K.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Hebrews 7:20. And inasmuch as, etc.—Luther translates erroneously, “and besides, what is much,” from a misconception of the Vulgate et quantum est. He connects also, like Chrys, Theodoret, Erasm, Calv, etc., these words with the preceding. True, the text in fact emphasizes the idea that this hope was not introduced without the swearing of an oath, but in form a protasis precedes to which the κατὰ τοσοῦτο corresponds, and in which we are not to supply ἱερεὺς γέγονεν (Œc, Beng, Böhme, Lün.), still less ἔγγυος γέγονεν, but, γίνεται τοῦτο (Bleek, De W, Thol, Hofm, Del.).

Hebrews 7:22. Surety of a better covenant.—Luther erroneously understands here διαθήκη as testament, and translates without authority ἔγγυος, ausrichter=executor. In classic Greek διαθήκη always denotes an arrangement, in general, a disposition or settlement, of which will or testament is a special form. The Sept, however, employs the word regularly instead of συνθήκη, as a translation of בְּרִית, so that it is also to be regarded in the New Testament as a terminus dogmaticus = covenant, from which signification we are to depart, only when compelled by the connection. The justification of this view of the word on the part of the LXX, and of the New Testament writers, lies in the fact that the covenant of God with men is not a compact concluded between two equally authorized and independent parties; but is essentially a Divine arrangement and disposition against sin and for human salvation, into which those who are called enter under a religious obligation, and to which God binds Himself in His truth and faithfulness. The Hebrew expression appears, on the contrary, to spring from this latter view, since for the word בָּרָה the signification “determine, constitute, establish,” assumed by Hofm, cannot be proved, but only either the signification “separate, choose out,” is admissible, 1 Samuel 17:8, or the signification “cut,” with reference to the original mode of ratifying a covenant, to which Jehovah ( Genesis 15.), as matter of convenience condescends.—Ἔγγυος is not to be explained by μεσίτης, mediator, although this word (not found elsewhere in the New Testament) may have been selected with allusion to the preceding ἐγγίζειν. Moreover the strictly juristic conception of the term fidejussor, and a reference to Christ’s vicarious satisfaction (Thom. Aquin, Calov, etc.), as well as any supposed reference to Christ’s sufferings in general, as sealing the covenant (Bl, De W, Lün.) is against the context, which in Christ, the Everlasting One, exalted at the right hand of God, recognizes the voucher and guaranty for the eternal maintenance and validity of the covenant which He mediates.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The Levitical priests entered the priestly office by a simple command; Christ entered it by an arrangement confirmed with a Divine oath. In this lies an undoubted pledge: 1. for the fulfilment under the conduct of the Messiah, of the Divine promise; 2. for the exaltation of the New Covenant above the earlier one; 3. for its everlasting duration.

2. Jesus is the promised eternal priestly king, whose personal character, position and dignity, give to the covenant which He mediates a closely allied and corresponding preëminence.

3. In the very nature of a royal command in regard to an arrangement and institution whose perpetuity is not specially indicated, still less promised and pledged, lies already the possibility of the reversing of the command, of the annulling of the institution, of a change of the arrangement by the Ruler Himself, without His thereby of necessity becoming untruthful, unrighteous and untrustworthy, falling into contradiction with Himself, or throwing back into confusion the products of His own creative power.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Jesus Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, is at the same time the pledge: a. of its everlasting continuance; b. of its divinely approved character; and c. of the perpetual accomplishment of its promises.—How the preëminence of the New Covenant over the Old is assured a. by the promise and oath of its author; b. by the person of its priestly mediator.—From the Old Testament itself we might infer the exaltation of the Priest of the Promise above the priests of the law, and above their service.—The Promise connects with one another Law and Gospel, and at the same time leads over from time into eternity.

Starke:—As it was conceived and determined in the counsels of the adored Trinity, so in Christ Jesus has all been carried out that in Him all should become blessed, and whatever will may become blessed.

Rieger—From the swearing of the oath the Apostle justly infers the great earnestness, the weighty interest and the extraordinary pleasure with which God has entered into and sealed this His arrangement.—Elsewhere he swears who undertakes an office in order that persons may entrust to him their interests; but here He swears who confers the office in testimony of His high purposes, and of His unchangeable will.

Footnotes:

FN#11 - Hebrews 7:21.—The words κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχ., are wanting in Cod. Sin, B. C, 17, 80. In the Sin. are wanting also the preceding words εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

FN#12 - Hebrews 7:22.—Instead of the Rec. τοσοῦτον, we are to read τοσοῦτο according to the Sin. A. B. C. D*. In the Sin. the ν has been added by a later hand, as also previously the words εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα as far as Μελχ.


Verses 23-25

IV

Christ lives forever, and can therefore, in His unchangeable Priesthood, forever intercede in the presence of God on behalf of the redeemed

Hebrews 7:23-25

23And they truly[indeed] were many priests [have more than one been made priests], because they were[FN13] not suffered to continue by reason of death[on account of their 24 being hindered by death from continuing]: But this man [he], because he continueth 25 forever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore [whence also] he is able also [om. also] to save to the uttermost [completely, unto perfection, εἰς τὸ πανταλές] them that come unto God by him, seeing that he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

[ Hebrews 7:23.—Καὶ οἱ μέν, and they indeed=and while, they—πλείονές εἰσιν, etc, have in larger numbers, as more than one, become priestsδιὰ τὸ θαν. κωλεύεσθαι, on account of their being hindered by death, etc. If the finite verb is used it should be in the present, not “were not suffered.”

Hebrews 7:24.—Ὁ, δέ, but he, not, but this man—ἀπαραβάτον ἔχει τὴν ἱερωσύνην, hath his priesthood, not to be passed by, hence superceded; or, perhaps, better (with reference to the active παραβαίνω, go aside from, transgress, violate, παράβασις, transgression, violation) not to be transgressed or transcended, inviolate.

Hebrews 7:25.—Ὅθεν καί, whence also.εἰς τὸ παντελές, unto completion, completely, πάντοτε ζῶν, always living.—K.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

[But by no means necessarily in the same signification. I think Grot, Del, etc., are clearly right. To make μένειν and παραμένειν identical in meaning makes an intolerable platitude: “they are hindered by death from remaining in life!” But the change of reference is both suggested by the change in the verbs (μένειν and παραμένειν) and gives to each an appropriate and beautiful force: ‘They are hindered by death from abiding in their priesthood;’ He on account of His abiding forever in life, hath His priesthood unchangeable. The necessity of giving to both verbs the same reference is only apparent. The real contrast is against it—K.].

Hebrews 7:24. Unchangeable.—Ἀπαράβατος belongs to the later Greek, and with Theodor, Œc, Theoph, Erasm, is by most taken actively=not passing over to another, whence Este and Justiniani explain that the priests of the Catholic Church are not successors, but vicarii et ministri Christi. More accordant with usage is the Passive construction, not to be passed beyond or overstepped, hence inviolable, unchangeable.

Hebrews 7:25. To the uttermost, completely, to the consummation.—Εἰς τὸ παντελές is erroneously referred by the Peshito, Vulg, Chrys, Luth, Calv, Schlicht, Grot, etc., to time. Ὅθεν καί, whence also, shows that the declaration in this clause is to be regarded as the consequence, and indeed the natural consequence, of the statement of the clause just previous. [This seems hardly decisive against the reference of the adverbial clause to time; yet in the connection we can scarcely doubt that the reference is not to His saving always, or forever, but to His saving completely, those who come to God through Him. The perpetuity of His priesthood enables Him to carry through the salvation which He has commenced—K.].

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. A further prerogative of the New Covenant lies in the unchangeableness of the Priesthood, attached to one and the same person, and by Him carried out in the most perfect manner forever. The ground of this lies in the fact that Christ tasted death indeed, but has also forever overcome it; and that to both these alike, to His sufferings and His victory, as He originally undertook and accomplished them on our behalf, so also in heaven He gives on our behalf perpetual validity and efficacy.

2. The eternally unchanging, high-priestly, and royal sway of the glorified Son of Prayer of Manasseh, is the cause of our perfect salvation, in that, by means of this, we, reconciled, draw near to God, and are kept in perpetual fellowship of life with God.

3. The Priesthood of Jesus Christ does not commence with His ministry in heaven. There rather, Hebrews, the eternally Living One, as antitype of the priestly-king, Melchisedek, gives entire completeness and efficacy ( Romans 8:34) to the sacrifice which, as antitype of the Aaronic high-priest, He offered in His death upon the cross, by the sacrifice of Himself.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Salvation and blessedness are the grand aim of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.—The Priesthood of Christ is not less efficacious than it is permanent and comprehensive.—Nearness to God is possible only through the Song of Solomon, but through Him is ultimately enjoyed in blissful perfection,—Wherein lies, on the one hand, the indispensableness, on the other, the imperishableness of the Priesthood of Christ?—In what consists, on what rests, and by what means is effected, the complete deliverance of men through Jesus Christ?—Christ has in His Priesthood no successor, since He lives forever, and no substitute, because He Himself exercises His office perfectly and all-sufficiently.

Starke:—The exalted Jesus prays actually before the throne of His Heavenly Father, on behalf of men, in a way that is pleasing to Him, so long as the kingdom of grace continues, since He can still bring man to salvation.—True members of Christ evince their spiritual priesthood toward others, in the fact that they pray for them zealously, although not with the meritorious supplication with which Christ pleads for us, yet still acceptably, and in a manner that is productive of blessing.—Priest, Bishop, and Prelate, all are nothing. Christ is the true Archbishop and Chief Shepherd, to whom all things minister, and through whom all are nurtured and live, physically, spiritually and eternally.

Rieger:—The death of Jesus Christ was no hinderance to the continuance of His Priestly office and employment, rather was itself a part of it. That Christ lives forever, is not only a prerogative of this Living Person Himself, but is also a blessing for us. Many circumstances that contribute to my happiness may change, but this capital circumstance changes not: “He ever lives and makes intercession for us.” Who would ever reach the destined goal, were there not such a priestly office and intercession ever exercised on our behalf in the Sanctuary of God?

Heubner:—Drawing near to God implies not merely coming to Him in prayer, but obtaining His grace on earth, and His heavenly kingdom hereafter.—Christ is not merely an intercessor on behalf of those who are to be made subjects of grace, but also on behalf of those already converted, in their state of moral weakness and infirmity.—All human dignities, institutions, schools, perish; the dignity and office of Christ are imperishable.

Hahn:—In heaven we are more regarded and cared for than we believe, and in the heart of the Father and of the Son there is much that is taking place on our behalf.


Verses 26-28

V

As the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ has once for all offered Himself in sacrifice for the sins of the world

Hebrews 7:26-28

26 For also [om. also] such an high priest [also] became[FN14] us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate [having been separated] from sinners, and made [become] higher than the heavens; 27who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once [for all], when he offered up himself 28 For the law maketh [constitutes, καθίστησιν] men high priests, which [who] have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Song of Solomon, who is [hath been] consecrated [perfected] for evermore.

Hebrews 7:26.—Τοιοῦτος γάρ. The clause is constructed with exquisite rhetorical beauty. In place of τοιοῦτος γὰρ ἱερεύς which would have sprung naturally from the preceding, the author, with reference to the following discussion, changes the noun to ἀρχιερεύς, and then skilfully throws this over to the end of the clause, where it takes the reader by surprise.—ἄκακος hardly harmless by which word our Eng. ver, also renders ἄκεραιος. The latter is properly guileless, the former, perhaps,=void of malice. ‘Harmless’ is certainly too negative a term.—κεχαρισμένος, having been separated, locally withdrawn, from sinners.—γενόμενος, not made, but becoming, viz: in His exaltation at God’s right hand.

Hebrews 7:27.—καθ’ ἡμέραν, day by day, daily.—ἀνενέγκας, by offering up.

Hebrews 7:28.—ἀνθρώπους emphatic, those who are mere men.—υἱόν him who is Son—the art. omitted as Hebrews 1:1, τετελειωμένον, having been perfected.—K.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Hebrews 7:26. For such an high priest, also, etc.—Τοιοῦτος refers back to the high-priest described in Hebrews 7:25; γάρ finds the reason of His existence in His adaptedness to our needs; καί emphasizes the naturalness and justness of such a reference; and the following predicates holy, etc., define the special traits of our Melchisedek High-priest: Ὅσιος, with the LXX, a common translation of חָםִיד, refers to one’s relation toward God; ἄκακος to His relations toward men; ἀμίαντος to His personal unceasing fitness for priestly service; κεχ. ἁπὸ τ. ἁμαρτ. to His withdrawal from all disturbing contact with the wicked, John 7:32-36; Isaiah 53:8; not to His inward purity in His outward association with sinners during His earthly life (Ebr.); ὑψηλ.—γενομ. to that absolutely supraterrestrial, supramundane mode of existence which followed His exaltation.

Hebrews 7:27.—Who hath no daily need, etc.—Καθ ἡμέραν, daily, day by day, cannot mean “on a definite day in the course of the year,” (Schlicht, Michael.), nor can it with διαπαντός be taken as indicating annual repetition=still ever and ever recurring, (Grot, Böhm, De W, Ebr.). It is supposed, therefore, with Calov, and the best older interpreters, by Bl, Thol, Lün, that the author, with his mind specially on the singleness and finality of the sacrifice of Christ, has in loose and inexact expression, blended the priestly sacrifices in general with the grand high-priestly sacrifice on the annually recurring day of atonement. They point, in support of the assumption, to the fact that the high-priest was not merely empowered to take part in the daily burnt offering as often as he chose (Mishn. Tract. Thamid VII:3) but that he made frequent use of this privilege, particularly on Sabbaths, new moons, and festal occasions, (Joseph. Bell. Jud. Hebrews 7:5-6), and that the same is true of the daily incense offerings, to which there was ascribed an atoning significancy, Leviticus 17:11-12; Numbers 33:10, LXX. As this sacrifice would seem to have been originally offered morning and evening by Aaron in person, Exodus 30:7; and the author of our epistle goes back in various ways, to the original institutions which were intended to be binding on all the generations of Israel, Exodus 12:14; Exodus 30:8, the words ἀνάγκην ἔχει may admit this explanation all the more, as already Sirach 45:14; Sirach 45:16, the sacrificial service is designated generally as the service of Aaron, and also Philo (Ed. Mang. II:321) calls the high-priest εὐχὰς καὶ θυσίας τελῶν καθ’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν. Against Wieseler’s assumption that this passage attests a rite existing merely in the Egyptian temple of Onias, we have the decisive fact that also in the Jerus. Talmud, tr. Chagiga, II:4, and in the Babyl. Talmud, tr. Pesachim, 57 a, it is said of the high-priest that he offers daily sacrifice (Del. Talmud. Studien XIII. in Rudelb. and Guer. Zeitschr. für die luth. Theologie und Kirche, 1860, I:7:593 ff.). In like manner we may observe that, according to Philo, I:497, in the daily sacrifices the priests offered a meat-offering for themselves, and the sacrificial lamb for the people. In this the πρότερον and ἔπειτα standing in relation to the daily offering, may find an explanation. We shall thus be under no necessity of referring the language exclusively to the high-priestly minhha, i.e, to the vegetable meat offering, which according to Leviticus 6:13-16, the high-priest has to offer from the day of his anointing, daily, morning and evening, and this not for the people, but as a matter of daily consecration for himself; and to lay the emphasis on the fact that this meat-offering is designated Sirach 45:14; Philo, I:497, 26; II:321, 38; Joseph. Antt. III:10, 7, as a θυσία, and is also mentioned by Origen (Homil. IV. in Levit.): See Lundius Jüd. Heiligth, III:9, § 19, more recently Thalhofer: ‘The bloodless sacrifices of the Mosaic Ritual,’ p139–156. It may, however, well be urged that our author Hebrews 5:1, designates every sacrifice including the δῶρα in the narrower sense, as a sacrifice made in its ultimate ground and purpose, ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν. Only we must not deny that primarily the comparison of our passage with Hebrews 5:3, points certainly to a proper expiatory offering made by the high-priest περὶ ἑαυτοῦ, and that the sin-offerings following in succession suit no other day so well as the annual great day of atonement. The statements above made, however, show that we need not necessarily on this account yield our assent to the view of Hofmann (Schriftb. II:1, 287, 2 Ausg. II:1, 404), as is done by Riehm, Alford, and Delitzsch in his commentary: “The comparison is not made between what Christ would have to do, and that which the high-priests have daily to do; but between that which the high-priests have to do, and that which Christ would have to do day by day. He would be obliged, inasmuch as ever new and perpetual expiation would be required, to do day by day that which he has now done once for all.” Delitzsch remarks that this view is favored alike by the nicely chosen position of καθ’ ἡμέραν, and by the plural expression ὤσπερ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς; but he has retracted his concurrence (Rudelbach, Zeitschrift, 1860, I:7:595). Hofmann refers the τοῦτο ἐποίησεν to the whole expression πρότερον—λαοῦ, as also Schlicht, Grot, Hammond did, though with different special views, inasmuch as Hofmann regards as the antitype of the sin-offering presented by the High-priest περὶ ἑαυτοῦ, the supplication of Jesus in Gethsemane ( Hebrews 5:7-8); while against all use of language, Schlichting understands by ἀμαρτίαι Christ’s infirmitates et perpessiones, Grotius understands by it the dolores assumed and submitted to by Christ as punishment for the sins of humanity, from which dolores He was only set free by death. Delitzsch, however, with the majority, refers it to the high-priestly θυσίας ἀναφέρειυ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τοῦ λαοῦ. The γάρ Hebrews 7:28 introduces the reason, as lying in the fact of the case, for the above-mentioned relation of Christ to the Mosaic priests.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is in its essential significance to be conceived as a voluntary self-sacrifice, corresponding to the purpose of God, yet not barely in the sense of a moral offering for the benefit of others, but as a vicarious sacrifice, expiating the guilt of sin for collective humanity, taking away the punishment of sin, and working reconciliation with God.

2. Its fitness for such a work this death derives from the character of the person, who is at the same time priest and victim, and unites in himself, and possesses in their truth and reality, all qualities which in the Levitical service are divided between priest and victim, and which there have but a mere symbolical efficacy.

3. The nature of this self-sacrifice of Christ excludes the continuance of the symbolico-typical priesthood and sacrificial service, just as its eternal validity and efficacy admits no repetition of this perfect sacrifice, and no substitution, or the offering of any other sacrifice of like dignity and importance with the Song of Solomon, who is perfected forever.

4. The weakness which inheres in mortals is partly a creaturely limitation, partly an inborn sinfulness, partly a personal guiltiness. From this springs the partial nature of the legal high-priesthood, its purely symbolical significance, and the necessity of a plurality of persons relieving one another, and of actions which repeat themselves with special mutually supplementary acts. But within the Old Testament revelation itself, the promise of God, confirmed by His oath, points to the universal character, to the reality and to the efficacy of the atonement accomplished by the eternally perfected Son.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. The character of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, in its dependence on the nature of the person of the Lord.—The sole and single high-priesthood of Jesus Christ, corresponds perfectly to the necessities of the human race, and to the revealed purpose and will of God.—The weakness of men and the eternal perfection of the Son.—Christ at the same time priest and victim.—The causes of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ are: a. the sin of the world; b. the purpose of God; c. the loving obedience of the Son.—The effects of the offering of Jesus Christ by Himself: a. on the perfection of His own person; b. on the relation of the world to God; c. on the character of the priesthood exercised by man.—Wherein consists the preëminence of the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ?

Starke:—Preachers bear their treasures in earthen vessels. When they err let none be stumbled thereat; they are obliged also for themselves to bring the offering of repentance.—Christ has made an offering once for all; by this we should and must abide; and thus it is to depreciate His sacrifice, to desire still daily to offer it as Popish priests assume and undertake to do.—The sacrifice of Christ made once for all, serves us, as for the strengthening of our faith, so also for the cleansing of our walk, that we may abide therein and not draw back.—Behold the ground of the efficacy and perfection of the single and final propitiatory sacrifice of Christ; He is the Son of God whom the Father hath raised from the dead, received into His glory, and placed at the right hand of His majesty.

Rieger:—The depth of our need, and the loftiness of the purposes for which God has commenced His dealings with us, demanded such a High-priest as God in this One has prepared for us.—Such a high-priest was necessary for us, who, with the purest zeal for the honor of God, could still in a becoming manner lead to Him a world full of sinners.—Jesus has shown satisfactorily that He is at once a true friend of sinners, and from the heart an enemy of sin.

Heubner:—The ground of the priestly dignity of Christ lies in His innocence, righteousness and holiness.—The repetition of sacrifices was a constant reminder of the weakness and sinfulness of men.

Menken:—Holiness in feeling and in conduct the Scripture ascribes to mortal men while they live in the flesh and on the earth, as it also demands of believers and righteous men, that they shall cherish in their heart, and evince in their life, holiness, not merely in the future but also in the present world. But it styles no mortal man perfect.

Footnotes:

FN#13 - Hebrews 7:23.—Instead of γεγονότες ἱεριές, we are to read with A. C. D. E, ἱερεἰς γεγονότες. Yet the Sin, has the words in the order first named.

FN#14 - Hebrews 7:26.—Instead of the bare ἔπρεπεν we should read with A. B. D. E. καὶ ἔπρεπεν, although Sin. has not the καὶ [καὶ adds force and beauty to the clause, and is undoubtedly genuine. It is as if he said, “not only do we have such an high priest, but such an one also became us.”—K].

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hebrews 7:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/hebrews-7.html. 1857-84.

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