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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Hebrews 7

 

 

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Verse 1

For this Melchisedec, etc.

See Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:1-7.


Verse 2

First being by interpretation King of righteousness ( πρῶτον μὲν ἑρμηνευόμενος βασιλεὺς δικαιοσύνης )

The first designation is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew name. Being interpreted belongs only to this designation. So Joseph Ant. 1:10,2: σημαίνει δε τοῦτο βασιλεὺς δίκαιος “and this (the name Melchisedec) signifies righteous king.”

And after that also ( ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ )

Then follows a designation derived from his character, king of peace. Supply being; not being interpreted.

Salem

Commonly regarded as the site of Jerusalem. It has also been supposed to represent Σαλείμ Salimmentioned in John 3:23. Jerome says that the place retained that name in his day, and that the ruins of Melchisedec's palace were shown there. The ancient name of Jerusalem was Jebus. Others, again, suppose that Salem is not the name of a place, but is merely the appellation of Melchisedec. The passage in Genesis, however, points to a place, and the writer might naturally have desired to indicate the typical meaning of the city over which Melchisedec reigned.


Verse 3

Without father, without mother, without descent ( ἀπάτωρ, ἀμὴτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος )

The three adjectives N.T.oolxx. The meaning is that there is no record concerning his parentage. This is significant as indicating a different type of priesthood from the Levitical, in which genealogy was of prime importance. No man might exercise priestly functions who was not of the lineage of Aaron.

Having neither beginning of days nor end of life

That is to say, history is silent concerning his birth and death.

But made like unto the Son of God ( ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ )

The verb N.T.oMade like or likened, not like. “The resemblance lies in the Biblical representation, and not primarily in Melchisedec himself” (Westcott). Son of God, not Son of man, for the likeness to Jesus as Son of man would not hold; Jesus, as man, having had both birth and death. The words likened unto the Son of God stand independently. Not to be connected with the following sentence, so as to read abideth a priest continually like the Son of God; for, as a priest, Melchisedec, chronologically, was prior to Christ; and, therefore, it is not likeness with respect to priesthood that is asserted. The likeness is in respect to the things just predicated of Melchisedec. Christ as Son of God was without father, mother, beginning or end of days; and, in these points, Melchisedec is likened in Scripture to him.

Abideth a priest continually ( μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές )

Διηνεκής from διαφέρειν tobear through; born on through ages, continuous. Only in Hebrews. There is no historical account of the termination of Melchisedec's priesthood. The tenure of his office is uninterrupted. The emphasis is on the eternal duration of the ideal priesthood, and the writer explains the Psalm as asserting eternal duration as the mark of the Melchisedec order. Accordingly, he presents the following characteristics of the ideal priesthood: royal, righteous, peace-promoting, personal and not inherited, eternal. Comp. Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 53:7. It is, of course, evident to the most superficial reader that such exposition of O.T. scripture is entirely artificial, and that it amounts to nothing as proof of the writer's position. Melchisedec is not shown to be an eternal high priest because his death-record is lost; nor to be properly likened unto the Son of God because there is no notice of his birth and parentage.


Verse 4

d The superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood to the Levitical.

Consider ( θεωρεῖτε )

Only here in Hebrews and oP. Except this passage, confined to the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and Johannine writings. See on Luke 10:18; see on John 1:18.

How great ( πηλίκος )

Only here and Galatians 6:11.

The patriarch ( ὁ πατριάρχης )

Only here and in Acts.

The tenth ( δεκάτην )

Properly an adjective, but used as a noun for tithe. Only in Hebrews, as is the kindred verb δεκατοῦν toimpose or take tithes. Ἀποδεκατοῖν toexact tithes, Hebrews 7:5. Comp. Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42.

Of the spoils ( ἐκ τῶν ἀκροθινίων )

The noun N.T.ofrom ἅρκον topmostpoint, and θίς aheap. The top of the pile: the “pick” of the spoil.


Verse 5

d If Melchisedec was greater than Abraham, he was greater than Abraham's descendants, including the tribe of Levi.

They that are of the sons of Levi who receive, etc. ( οἱ ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευεὶ λαμβάνοντες )

Those out of the sons of Levi who become priests. Not those who receive the priesthood from the sons of Levi. Not all Levites were priests, but only those of the house of Aaron.

The office of the priesthood ( τὴν ἱερατίαν )

Only here and Luke 1:9.

A commandment ( ἐντολὴν )

A special injunction. See on James 2:8; see on Ephesians 2:15.

To take tithes ( ἀποδεκατοῖν )

See on Hebrews 7:4.

That is of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham

The people, the brethren of the Levites, are descended from their common ancestor, Abraham, yet the Levites exact tithes from them.


Verse 6

But he whose descent is not counted from them ( ὁ δὲ μὴ γενεαλογούμενος ἐξ αὐτῶν )

Lit. he who is not genealogically derived from them: Melchisedec. The verb N.T.oReceived tithes of Abraham

Melchisedec, who has no part in the Levitical genealogy, and therefore no legal right to exact tithes, took tithes from the patriarch himself. Hence he was greater than Abraham. The right of the Levitical priest to receive tithes was only a legal right, conferred by special statute, and therefore implied no intrinsic superiority to his brethren; but Melchisedec, though having no legal right, received tithes from Abraham as a voluntary gift, which implied Abraham's recognition of his personal greatness.

And hath blessed him that had the promises

Melchisedec accepted the position accorded to him by Abraham's gift of tithes by bestowing on Abraham his blessing, and Abraham recognized his superiority by accepting his blessing. He who had received the divine promises might have been supposed to be above being blessed by any man. The significance of this acceptance is brought out in the next verse.


Verse 7

Without all contradiction ( χωρὶς πάσης ἀντιλογίας )

Asserting a principle which no one thinks of questioning: it is the less who is blessed, and the greater who blesses.


Verse 8

Here ( ὧδε )

In the Levitical economy.

Men that die receive tithes

The emphasis is on ἀποθνήσκοντες dyingThe Levites are dying men, who pass away in due course, and are succeeded by others.

But there ( ἐκεῖ δὲ )

In the case of Melchisedec.

(He receiveth them of whom) it is witnessed that he liveth ( μαρτυρούμενος ὅτι ζῇ )

The Greek is very condensed: being attested that he liveth. The A.V. fills it out correctly. Melchisedec does not appear in Scripture as one who dies, and whose office passes to another. See on abideth continually, Hebrews 7:3.


Verse 9

d Levi himself, in the person of Abraham, was tithed by Melchisedec.

As I may say ( ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν )

= so to speak. N.T.oolxx. Introducing an unusual statement, or one which may appear paradoxical or startling to the reader, as this statement certainly is, to a modern reader at least.

In Abraham ( δι ' Ἀβραὰμ )

Lit. through Abraham.


Verse 10

In the loins of his father ( ἐν τῇ ὀσφύΐ τοῦ πατρὸς )

His own father; not of Abraham.

When Melchisedec met him

In the person of Abraham. The whole Jewish law, its ordinances and priesthood, are regarded as potentially in Abraham. When Abraham paid tithes, Levi paid tithes. When Abraham was blessed, Israel was blessed. It is a kind of reasoning which would appeal to Hebrews, who so strongly emphasized the solidarity of their race. Comp. Romans 9:4, Romans 9:5.


Verse 11

d In Christ, as the Melchisedec-priest, the ideal of the priesthood is realized.

Perfection ( τελείωσις )

Only here and Luke 1:45. The act or process of consummating. By this word is signified the establishment of a perfect fellowship between God and the worshipper. See Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1.

Priesthood ( ἱερωσύνης )

Only in Hebrews. See Hebrews 7:12, Hebrews 7:14. It expresses the abstract notion of the priest's office; while ἱερατία Hebrews 7:5, expresses the priestly service.

For under it the people received the law ( γὰρ ἐπ ' αὐτῆς νενομοθέτηται )

Under, rather on the basis of. The verb lit. the law has been laid down. Only here and Hebrews 8:6.

What further need ( τίς ἔτι χρεία )

Ἔτι afterthat, assuming that there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood.

Another priest ( ἕτερον ἱερέα )

Not merely another, but a different kind of priest. See on Matthew 6:24.

Should rise ( ἀνίστασθαι )

In Hebrews only here and Hebrews 7:15, both times in connection with priest.


Verse 12

Being changed ( μετατιθεμένης )

Or transferred to another order. See on Galatians 1:6.

A change ( μετάθεσις )

A transfer to a new basis. Only in Hebrews. See Hebrews 11:5; Hebrews 12:27. The inferiority of the Levitical priesthood is inferred from the fact that another priesthood was promised. If perfection was possible at all under the Mosaic economy, it must come through the Levitical priesthood, since that priesthood was, in a sense, the basis of the law. The whole legal system centered in it. The fundamental idea of the law was that of a people united with God. Sin, the obstacle to this ideal union, was dealt with through the priesthood. If the law failed to effect complete fellowship with God, the priesthood was shown to be a failure, and must be abolished; and the change of the priesthood involved the abolition of the entire legal system.


Verse 13

d As the law prescribed that the priesthood should be of the order of Aaron, a new priesthood, not of that order, must set aside the law.

Pertaineth to another tribe ( φυλῆς ἑτέρας μετέσχηκεν )

Lit. hath partaken of another tribe. Not only another, but a different tribe; one not specially set apart to sacerdotal service.

Of which no man gave attendance at the altar ( ἀφ ' ἧς οὐδεὶς προσέσχηκεν τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ )

Προσέχειν originally to bring to; bring the mind to; attend to. See on Hebrews 2:1. θυσιαστήριον altaroClass. Strictly an altar for the sacrifice of victims; but used of the altar of incense, Luke 1:11; Revelation 8:3; comp. Exodus 30:1. See on Acts 17:23. It was also used of the enclosure in which the altar stood. See Ignat. Eph. v; Trall. vii. See Lightfoot's interesting note, Ignatius and Polycarp, Vol. II., p. 43.


Verse 14

Evident ( πρόδηλον )

Obvious. See on 1 Timothy 5:24.

Sprang ( ἀνατέταλκεν )

Rend. hath sprung. In N.T. always of the rising of a heavenly body, sun or star, except Luke 12:54, of a cloud, and here. See lxx, Genesis 32:31; Exodus 22:3; Numbers 24:17; Judges 9:33; Isaiah 14:12; Isaiah 40:1; Malachi 4:2. Also of the springing up of plants, Genesis 2:5; Genesis 3:18; Deuteronomy 29:23; of the growing of the beard, 2 Samuel 10:5.


Verse 15

Evident ( κατάδηλον )

N.T.oThoroughly evident. Not referring to that which is declared to be πρόδηλον evidentin Hebrews 7:14, viz., that Christ sprang out of Judah, but to the general proposition - the unsatisfactory character of the Levitical priesthood.

Similitude ( ὁμιότητα )

Better, likeness: answering to made like, Hebrews 7:3, and emphasizing the personal resemblance to Melchisedec.


Verse 16

The law of a carnal commandment ( νόμον ἐντολῆς σαρκίνης )

The phrase N.T.o Νόμον thenorm or standard, as Romans 7:21, Romans 7:23. Εντολῆς, the specific precept of the Mosaic law regarding Levitical priests. Comp. Ephesians 2:15. Σαρκίνης fleshlyindicates that the conditions of the Levitical priesthood had reference to the body. Fitness for office was determined largely by physical considerations. The priest must be of proper descent, without bodily blemish, ceremonially pure. See Hebrews 9:1-5, Hebrews 9:10, and comp. Romans 8:3. Such a priesthood cannot be eternal.

After the power of an endless life ( κατὰ δύαναμιν ἀκαταλύτου )

Δύναμιν inherentvirtue. Rend. for endless, indissoluble. Comp. καταλύθῃ looseneddown, of a tent, 2 Corinthians 5:1; of the stones of the temple, Matthew 24:2. Jesus was high priest in virtue of the energy of indissoluble life which dwelt in him, unlike the priests who die, Hebrews 7:8. This truth the writer finds in the Psalm.


Verse 18

There is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before ( ἀθέτησις μὲν γὰρ γίνεται προαγούσης ἐντολῆς )

Verily is superfluous. Ἀθέτησις only here and Hebrews 9:26; a very few times in lxx: The fundamental idea is the doing away of something established ( θετόν ). The verb ἀθετεῖν tomake void, do away with, is common in N.T. and in lxx, where it represents fifteen different Hebrew words, meaning to deal falsely, to make merchandise of, to abhor, to transgress, to rebel, to break an oath, etc. The noun, in a technical, legal sense, is found in a number of papyri from 98 to 271 a.d., meaning the making void of a document. It appears in the formula εἰς ἀθίτησιν καὶ ἀκύρωσιν forannulling and canceling. Προαγούσης ἐντολῆς rend. of a foregoing commandment. The expression is indefinite, applying to any commandment which might be superseded, although the commandment in Hebrews 7:16is probably in the writer's mind. Foregoing, not emphasizing mere precedence in time, but rather the preliminary character of the commandment as destined to be done away by a later ordinance. With foregoing comp. 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 5:24.

For the weakness and unprofitableness thereof ( διὰ τὸ αὐτῆς ἀσθενὲς καὶ ἀνωφελές )

Rend. “because of its weakness and unprofitableness.” It could not bring men into close fellowship with God. See Romans 5:20; Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:21. Ἀνωφελής unprofitableonly here and Titus 3:9.


Verse 19

For the law made nothing perfect ( οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐτελείωσεν ὁ νόμος )

Parenthetical. The A.V. overlooks the parenthesis, ignores the connection of bringing in with disannulling, translates δὲ butinstead of and, and supplies did; thus making an opposition between the law which made nothing perfect and the bringing in of a better hope, which did make something perfect. What the writer means to say is that, according to the Psalm, there takes place, on the one hand, a disannulling of the preliminary commandment because it was weak and unprofitable, unable to perfect anything, and on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope.

The bringing in of a better hope ( ἐπεισαγωγὴ κρείττονος ἐλπίδος )

Επεισαγωγὴ N.T.oolxx, is “a bringing in upon ” ( ἐπὶ ), upon the ground formerly occupied by the commandment. So Rev., correctly, “a bringing in thereupon.” For κπείττων bettersee on Hebrews 1:4. The comparison is not between the hope conveyed by the commandment, and the better hope introduced by the gospel, but between the commandment which was characteristic of the law (Ephesians 2:15) and the hope which characterized the gospel (Romans 5:2-5; Romans 8:24).

By the which we draw nigh to God ( δι ' ἧς ἐγγίζομεν τῷ θεῷ )

Giving the reason why the hope is better. Christianity is the religion of good hope because by it men first enter into intimate fellowship with God. The old priesthood could not effect this.


Verse 20

Not without an oath ( οὐ χωρὶς ὁρκωμοσίας )

The A.V. is, on the whole, better than Rev. by inserting he was made priest. Ὁρκωμοσία only in Hebrews. In lxx see Ezekiel 17:18; 1Esdr. 9:93. For an oath rend. the taking of an oath.


Verse 21

For those priests were made ( οἱ μὲν γὰρ - εἰσὶν ἱερεῖς γεγονότες )

Rend. for they have been made priests. Lit. are priests, having become such.

Without an oath

Without the taking of an oath by God. Scripture says nothing of an oath of God when he appointed Aaron and his posterity to the priesthood.

But this with an oath ( ὁ δὲ μετὰ ὁρκωμοσίας )

Rend. but he with the taking of an oath. The taking of the oath accompanied ( μετὰ ) the inauguration into the priesthood.

That said ( λέγοντος )

Better, saith. Still says, since the promise is realized in Christ's priesthood.


Verse 22

Was Jesus made a surety of a better testament ( κρείττονος διαθήκης γέγονεν ἔγγυος Ἰησοῦς )

Ἔγγυος suretyN.T.oComp. 2 Maccabees 10:28. Occasionally in Class., where also occur ἐγγυᾶν togive as a pledge, ἐγγύη surety ἐγγύησις givingin surety, ἐγγυητής onewho gives security, and ἐγγητός plightedalways of a wife. The idea underlying all these words is that of putting something into one's hand ( ἐν in γύαλον hollowof the hand ) as a pledge. For testament rend. covenant and see on Hebrews href="/desk/?q=heb+9:16&sr=1">Hebrews 9:16. The thought of a covenant is introduced for the first time, and foreshadows Hebrews 8:6-13. It adds to the thought of the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood that of the inferiority of the dispensation which it represented.


Verse 23

Were many priests ( πλείονές εἰσιν γεγονότες ἱερεῖς )

Comp. Hebrews 7:21for the construction. Rend. have been made priests many in number.

Because they were not suffered to continue ( διὰ τὸ κωλύεσθαι παραμένειν )

Rend. because they are hindered from continuing. Παραμένειν “to abide by their ministration.”


Verse 24

Hath an unchangeable priesthood ( ἀπαράβατον ἔχει τὴν ἱερωσύνην )

Rend. hath his priesthood unchangeable. The A.V. misses the possessive force of the article, his priesthood, and the emphasis is on unchangeable ἀπαράβατος, N.T.oolxx. This may be explained either as inviolable, or which does not pass over to another. Comp. Exodus 32:8; Sirach 23:18. Usage is in favor of the former meaning, but the other falls in better with the course of thought.


Verse 25

To the uttermost ( εἰς τὸ παντελὲς )

Παντελής allcomplete, only here and Luke 13:11. Not perpetually, but perfectly.

Come unto God ( προσερχομένους τῷ θεῷ )

The verb oP., and in this sense only in Hebrews and 1 Peter 2:4. See a peculiar usage in 1 Timothy 6:3. Comp. ἐγγίζειν todraw near, James 4:8; Hebrews 7:19.

To make intercession for them ( εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν )

The verb only here in Hebrews. Comp. ὑπερεντυγχάνειν , Romans 8:26, see note. See also on ἐντεύξεις supplications 1 Timothy 2:1. The idea is not intercession, but intervention. It includes every form of Christ's identifying himself with human interests. The attempt has been made to trace this idea to Philo, who alludes to the λόγος ἱκέτης thesupplicant Logos, and the λόγος παράκλητος theadvocate-Logos. But the Logos is not treated by Philo as a divine-human personality intervening for men, but as a poetical personification allegorically considered. In one instance the suppliant Logos is the cry of the oppressed Israelites; in another, Moses, as the allegorical representative of the universal reason of mankind. It represents certain functions of human reason and speech. Again, the suppliant is the visible Cosmos striving to realize its ideal.


Verse 26

Became us ( ἡμῖν ἔπρεπεν )

See on Hebrews 2:10. For the verb see on Titus 2:1. There was an essential fitness in the gift of our great high priest. Comp. Hebrews 2:17.

Holy ( ὅσιος )

See on Luke 1:75. Always with a relation to God; never of moral excellence as related to men. Of Christ, Acts 2:27; Acts 13:35; of a bishop, Titus 1:8.

Harmless ( ἄκακος )

Rend. guileless. Free from malice and craft. Only here and Romans 16:18. Undefiled ( ἀμίαντος ), see on 1 Peter 1:4.

Separate ( κεχωρισμένος )

Rend. separated: denoting a condition realized in Christ's exaltation. Comp. Romans 6:10.

Higher than the heavens ( ὑψηλότερος τῶν οὐρανῶν )

Comp. Ephesians 4:10, Hebrews 4:14.


Verse 27

Who needeth not daily ( καθ ' ἡμέραν )

Apparently inconsistent with Hebrews 9:7: but the sense is, “who hath no need day by day as the high priest had (year by year) to offer sacrifices,” etc. The great point is repetition, whether daily or yearly.

Once ( ἐφάπαξ )

Rend. once for all. Contrasted with daily.

When he offered up himself ( ἑαυτὸν ανενέγκας )

A new thought. For the first time Christ appears as victim. Comp. Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:14; Ephesians 5:2.


Verse 28

d Summarizing the contents of Hebrews 7:26, Hebrews 7:27. - The law constitutes weak men high priests. God's sworn declaration constitutes a son, perfected forevermore. Ἀνθρώπους menmany in number as contrasted with one Son. Ἔχοντας ἀσθένειαν havinginfirmity, stronger than ἀσθενεῖς weakwhich might imply only special exhibitions of weakness, while having infirmity indicates a general characteristic. See on John 16:22.

A son

Again the high-priesthood is bound up with sonship, as in Hebrews 5:5, Hebrews 5:6.

 


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Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 7:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/hebrews-7.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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