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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Hebrews 7

 

 

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Verses 1-28

Hebrews 7:1-28. The Melchizedek Priesthood of Christ.—It is shown that Scripture itself makes reference to a type of priesthood which is quite distinct from the Levitical. The nature of this priesthood is set forth (Hebrews 7:1-10) in terms of the description given in Genesis 14 of the priest Melchizedek. That some peculiar significance attached to him may be inferred from his name, and the name of his city. Still more suggestive is the fact that nothing is said as to his parentage, or his descent, or his birth and death. He was not one of a family of priests, but stands solitary, a priest in his own right, who never assumed and never lost his office. In all his attributes he comes before us as an earthly type of the Son of God (Hebrews 7:1-3).

Hebrews 7:3. without father, etc.: nothing more is meant than that his father, etc., are not mentioned. It was a rule of allegorical exegesis that inferences might be drawn not only from what the Scripture said, but from what it omitted.

Hebrews 7:4-10. His priesthood was unique in dignity. Even the ordinary priests have a place given them by Mosaic law above their brethren, and in token of this they are authorised to exact tithes. But Melchizedek took rank above Abraham himself receiving tithes from him and blessing him, as the greater blesses the less. Moreover, the honour which he claimed as his right was not one that would presently pass from him, as in the case of a mortal priest; for his priesthood, according to the implicit testimony of Scripture, was not broken short by death. So much higher was he than the Levitical priests that this whole line of priests may be said to have bowed down before him in the person of Abraham its ancestor.

Hebrews 7:11-25. Transition is now made to Christ, whom Melchizedek was meant to prefigure. The exposition, therefore, departs from Genesis 14 and attaches itself to Psalms 110, in which the correspondence between Melchizedek and Christ is plainly intimated. First it is shown (Hebrews 7:11-14) that the Levitical priesthood was at best provisional. If it had achieved "perfection"—i.e. if it had fully realised the purpose of priesthood—the psalm would not have spoken of "another priest.' Those words imply the abrogation, not merely of the Levitical priesthood, but of the whole legal system which is inseparably bound up with it. How completely the priesthood is changed is made evident by its being vested henceforth in another tribe; for Christ, who was the priest foretold in the psalm, came of the tribe of Judah, although the Law had ordained that the tribe of Levi alone should exercise the priesthood.

Hebrews 7:11. under it, etc.: rather, "in connexion with it.' The meaning is that the high priesthood is like the keystone of the whole structure of the Mosaic Law; all the other regulations fell away of their own accord when the priesthood passed over to Christ. In this incidental way the writer disposes of the great problem of the Law which had so perplexed the earlier Church.

Hebrews 7:15-17. But the change of priesthood goes much further than the transference of the office to another tribe. The psalm speaks of "a priest for ever." It contemplates one who holds his priesthood not by the accidental operation of a law which attaches the dignity to a particular descent, but by the intrinsic right of a life that never ends.

Hebrews 7:16. carnal commandment: i.e. a rule which takes account only of outward and physical qualifications.—power of an endless life: an immortal energy resides in him as a Divine being, and in virtue of this he continues for ever to exercise his priesthood.

Hebrews 7:18 f. The appointment of the Melchizedek priest, then, involved a change in the whole institution of priesthood; and this change has at once its negative and its positive sides. On the one hand, it meant the abolition of the old legal relation between God and man as altogether inadequate; for the Law, by its very nature, was provisional. On the other hand, it replaced the legal relation by another, grounded in a living hope, which made possible a true communion with God. The contrast before the writer's mind is that of a religion of external ordinances and an inward, spiritual religion, which alone can ensure true fellowship with God.

Hebrews 7:20-25. The superiority of the Melchizedek priest is apparent from two further facts. (a) Unlike the Levitical priests he is appointed with an oath. In this manner God affirmed the lasting validity of his priesthood; and the covenant for which it stands is one, therefore, that cannot be broken. (b) The Levitical priests, being only mortal men, held office for a brief time and then gave place to others. But he who is "a priest for ever" is not merely one in a long succession. The priesthood which he exercises is vested eternally in his own person, and for this reason he is able to secure for his people a complete salvation. Amidst all changes they can look to the same priest as their unfailing refuge.

Hebrews 7:26-28. Other points of contrast are indicated in a closing summary, which makes it abundantly clear that the priesthood of Christ is far superior to that of the old covenant. The Levitical priests were required to be free from all outward blemish; Jesus was altogether pure within. He was marked off from sinful men, not by dress and ceremonial circumstance, but by ascending out of this world of sin to a throne above the heavens. He did not need to maintain a routine of daily sacrifices, interceding for Himself as well as for the people; for the one great sacrifice, in which He was both priest and victim, availed for ever. In one word, the Law could only appoint weak men to the priestly office; while the solemn oath of God, recorded in that psalm which was later than the Law and therefore superseded it, ordained His own Son to be the ideal and ever-living Priest.

Hebrews 7:27. daily: strictly speaking the sacrifice of the High Priest was offered once a year, on the Day of Atonement, but the idea of this sacrifice is blended here with that of the sacrifice which was offered daily on his behalf by the ordinary priests (cf. Leviticus 6:4-16).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Hebrews 7:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/hebrews-7.html. 1919.

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