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Bible Commentaries

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews

Hebrews 5

Verse 1

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.

The Apostle had said that under the Gospel believers have a great High Priest who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, chap; and, referring to the institution of the Jewish law, he says, "Every high priest taken from among men." That reference is here made to the Jewish law, appears by the Apostle speaking of a high priest. This was peculiar to Israel. Previously to the giving of the law, the head of each family seems to have acted as its priest. Thus we read of Noah, Abraham, Job, and Jethro, chap13:, Exodus 18:2, offering sacrifices; but it does not appear to have been confined to them, for Cain and Abel both offered; and we read, "And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace- offerings of oxen unto the Lord," Exodus 24:5, Here the young men were the offerers; but, after the giving of the law, Aaron and his family were exclusively appointed to the priesthood. They alone were permitted to enter the tabernacle, or house of God, and to burn incense, and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifices. The tabernacle was divided by a vail into two compartments—the holy, and holiest of all. Into the former the priests had daily access. The chief or high priest alone was admitted within the vail, and that only upon one day of the year, when he made an atonement for all Israel, and sprinkled with blood the mercy-seat which covered the ark, and which was the throne of the God of Israel, intimating that mercy could only flow to sinners through an atoning sacrifice.

The first time the priesthood is mentioned in Scripture is in the case of Melchisedec, who, as the Apostle afterwards teaches us, was a remarkable type of Christ, who is said to be a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, for the priesthood of Aaron was but temporary. Even among the heathen the office of priest was known. Thus we read of the Egyptian priests, Genesis 47:22; and of the priest of Midian, Exodus 2:16.

The Lord took Israel to be his peculiar people, and he chose Aaron and his sons to be His priests. The great object of the institution was that they might offer gifts and sacrifices, and for this purpose they were selected and set apart. The office of the priesthood was also an intimation that fallen man could have no immediate access to God, but that he required a daysman, an intercessor. He was to offer gifts and sacrifices; this is repeated, chap. Gifts, as distinguished from sacrifices for sin, were expressions of gratitude to God for His goodness in general, or for any manifestation of it on a particular occasion.

Verse 2

Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.

Being himself a Prayer of Manasseh, he could have compassion on the ignorant and erring, being conscious that he was compassed with infirmities.

This is probably mentioned by the Apostle, because no sacrifice was appointed or accepted for presumptuous sin. Psalm 51:16. This is one of the many proofs of the inferiority of the Jewish to the Christian dispensation—of the shadow to the substance.

The man who sinned presumptuously was to be taken from God's altar and put to death; of this we have an example in the case of Joab; but the blood of Jesus cleanseth the believer from all sin. However aggravated our guilt, pardon is proclaimed to us through faith in Jesus.

Verse 3

And by reason hereof "he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

Since the high priest was himself compassed with infirmities, it was necessary that he should offer sacrifices not only for the people but for himself.

Verse 4

And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

The office of the priest, more especially of the high priest, was peculiarly honorable; he stood between God and the people. He was, as it were, brought nigh to God. This was indeed the case with the whole tribe of Levi, who are described as brought near to God. Numbers 16:9. They alone had access to the Tabernacle, the royal pavilion.

They were, so to speak, the household servants of the King of Israel, but the High Priest was the head servant, so far as the worship of God was concerned; he was the chief, the ruler of all God"s house, and no man took the honor to himself. What should we say of a man who entered the palace of an earthly king, and assumed authority to give directions to the servants? Such conduct would not be tolerated, and how much less that any one should assume the office of High Priest in Israel, without a special call similar to that given to Aaron? Exodus 28:1. His appointment to the office was conducted in a very solemn manner. He was distinguished by a peculiar dress emblematic of his office, and minute directions were given him as to the mode of executing his office. In causing his rod to bud, to bring forth blossoms, and bear almonds, God confirmed his appointment; and again, by consuming Korah and his company, who dared to burn incense, and whose censers were made broad plates for a covering of the altar. Numbers 16:39, 40. This was a standing memorial that no stranger, who was not of the seed of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the Lord.

Verse 5

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Song of Solomon, today have I begotten thee.

This, like all the other ordinances of Moses, had its fulfilment in the Kingdom of God, for Christ did not glorify Himself by assuming uncalled the office of High Priest. He received this high office from Him who declared him to be His only begotten Song of Solomon, and thus setting Him far above all principality and power, and every name that is named not only in this world but in that which is to come.

Verse 6

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

And in another place he pronounces him to be a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec. This is taken from Psalm 110 :, and is applied by the Lord to himself, and by his Apostle, ; and also in a previous part of this Epistle, Hebrews 1:13, under Melchisedec.

Verse 7

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.

In the days of his fleshy during his abode in this world, John 1:14 :, he offered up most earnest supplications and prayers to him with whom are the issues from death, Psalm 68:20, with strong crying and tears, as we find in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was heard in that he feared; hearing prayer implies receiving a favorable answer. 1 John 5:16; 1 John 5:18.

No man took the life of Jesus from him, he laid it down of himself. To the last he asserted his power to rid himself of his enemies. His death was an act of obedience to his Father, as indeed was every action of his life and every word that he spoke. John 12:49. My doctrine, says Hebrews, is not mine, but His that sent me. In John 8:16 it is said, To Him that was able to save him from death. If we understand this to mean to prevent him from dying, the Lord's prayer was not heard, for he actually tasted death. When he said, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour," he adds, "but for this cause came I unto this hour." John 12:27. He knew that he came forth from God and was going to God, and that the Son of Man was to be glorified and that his death was essential to this consummation, for he says: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24. When, therefore, we read of his supplications and tears to be delivered from death, we cannot understand him as meaning that he might not die, for the Father heareth him always, and had not his death been perfectly voluntary he would not have died; but his being saved from death refers to his resurrection, being brought from the fearful pit and miry clay. Psalm 40:2. He knew that his soul was not to be left in Hades, nor was the Holy One of God to see corruption. In the regions of death, the path of life was to be shown him, and at his Father's right hand he was to enjoy pleasures for evermore.

We have an account of his agony in the garden, and the supplications and prayers which he offered up, but these are to be found more fully in the Book of Psalm,—a book by which we are admitted into our Redeemer's closet and learn his entire submission to his Father's will, together with the keenness of his feelings when, as the surety and representative of his people, he bore the sins of his people, which, as a heavy burden, were too heavy for the man Christ Jesus, and brought him to the dust of death. But he could not be held under the power of death, and his resurrection to the power of an endless life was the pledge of his having magnified the law and made it honorable, having finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness.

With his dying breath he exclaimed, it is finished or perfected, and his Father Revelation -echoed the declaration by raising him from the dead and crowning him with glory.

His resurrection is ascribed sometimes to the power of the Father, sometimes to his own power, and sometimes to the power of the Spirit. These three are one in operation, whatever is done by one is done by all. We especially see their unity in the plan of salvation, each taking a share: " Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." .

While the subsistence of the Eternal Jehovah in three persons, who are one, is an unfathomable mystery, it is essential to the right understanding of the plan of salvation, which indeed is founded upon it. The Father chooses his people and gives them to the Song of Solomon, whom he sends to deliver them from condemnation, and, as their head and representative, to communicate to them a new and endless life. The Son takes part with them in flesh and blood, thus becoming a member of Adam's fallen race, and having the right of redemption as the near kinsman of the children whom God has given him. The Spirit is given to him without measure, and as the precious oil poured on the head of Aaron ran down to the skirts of his garments, so the Spirit is through him communicated to all whom he is not ashamed to call brethren. They are all accepted in the beloved, are saved with an everlasting salvation, and thus the eternal purpose of God, the manifestation of his manifold Wisdom of Solomon, is accomplished.

Verse 8

Though he were a Song of Solomon, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.

Though he were a Song of Solomon, yet learned he... He was the Son of God, the object of the worship and adoration of the angels of God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, yet he learned obedience, &c. In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, and therefore, like them, it was necessary that he should yield obedience to the law which they had broken, and thus he practically learned obedience by suffering the just for the unjust, that he might bring them to God.

From them obedience to the holy law of God was required; but from him it was obedience unto death. He received a commandment to lay down his life, and he was not disobedient.

Verse 9

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.

Christ was absolutely perfect, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. The prince of this world came, and found nothing in Him. The perfection here spoken of refers to His priesthood. The Apostle had previously spoken of Him as the Captain of His people's salvation, being made perfect through sufferings, chap. How else could He atone for sin? Thus we are taught that it was necessary that He whom God gave as a leader and commander of the people should be fully qualified for the office through sufferings. Under the law there was no remission of sins without shedding of blood. Now the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. The Church could only be ransomed by the blood of Christ. The wages of sin is death; and, in order to show to His people the path of life, it was necessary that He should tread the path of death, and give His life a ransom for many.

In this passage we are taught that, as our great High Priest, He was made perfect, that Isaiah, His consecration was completed. There is a reference here to the process of the consecration of the Jewish high priest. In the first place, the holy garments were to be prepared and put upon Aaron and his sons, after they had been washed with water. They were then to be anointed with oil. A bullock was next to be brought, on which they were to lay their hands, which was then to be killed, and the ram was to be burned upon the altar. The ram completed the consecration of Aaron, and there fore was called the sacrifice of consecration or of perfection, because by it the consecration of the priest was perfected or completed. So the consecration of the great High Priest being completed by His death, and the pouring out of the blood of the everlasting covenant, He became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.

To obey and to believe are synonymous; for Christ saves all believers from their sins; He writes the law upon their hearts; and, under the constraining influence of His love, they deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, walking in newness of life. Eternal salvation is here mentioned in contrast with the temporal salvation of Israel from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

Verse 10

Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

In His discourse with the Pharisees, , the Lord Jesus applies the110th Psalm to Himself. In it He is described as a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. This appellation was given Him by God. It may be observed that in the Psalm it is said, "Thou art a priest for ever." The Apostle gives Him the title of High Priest because, although all the Levitical priests were types of Christ, yet the high priest was the most eminent. And as there is but one priest in the kingdom of God, the Lord Jesus is here and in many other parts of this epistle described as a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. The Apostle afterwards points out the superiority of the priesthood of Melchisedec to that of Aaron, Here he merely quotes from Psalm 110 :, where the priesthood of Christ is said to be after the order of Melchisedec, which implies what is afterwards fully stated, that our Lord's priesthood was far superior to that of Aaron.

Verse 11

Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

The Apostle, however, does not immediately enter upon the subject of the difference of the order of the priesthood of Aaron and Melchisedec, but takes occasion to rouse the attention of the Hebrew believers by informing them that he had much to say concerning Melchisedec which was not easily explained, not so much from the difficulty of the subject, as from their slow apprehensions of spiritual things.

Verse 12

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which he the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

Considering the time during which they had been in the school of Christ, they ought to have been capable of teaching others, but they required to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God. This appears to refer to their ignorance of the types and shadows of the Mosaic dispensation, which are termed by the Apostle rudiments or elements, the misunderstanding of which prevented many from discerning the truth. The Mosaic ordinances were a kind of hieroglyphic, having a hidden meaning. They are termed weak and beggarly elements, and the elements of the world, because they were only the shadow of heavenly things.

The whole Mosaic dispensation was a parable for the time then present, in which spiritual and heavenly things were represented by earthly things. But the carnality of men's minds led them to rest in the shadow and overlook the substance.

We see in the history of the beginning of the Gospel, and in Paul's Epistles, especially that to the Galatians, the pernicious consequence of not understanding the nature of the Mosaic dispensation. It was a parable for the time then present, in which spiritual and heavenly things were set forth under the emblems of those which were carnal and earthly, with which we are most conversant.

To those by whom this was fully understood the old dispensation was a prophetic, and consequently obscure, intimation of the establishment of the spiritual and eternal kingdom of Messiah, together with the ordinances to be observed by its subjects.

The observance of the laws of Moses was calculated to maintain the expectation of the appearing of Christ, and thus preserve Israel in a state of separation from all other nations, as well as to present spiritual things in a palpable form to men in every age; and not only Song of Solomon, but to remain, till the consummation of all things, a conclusive evidence of the truth of the Scriptures, by the perfect correspondence of the two parts into which they were divided, which appeared at first sight very dissimilar.

But while the wisdom of God strikingly appears in his dealings with . Israel, this has been in every age the great stumbling-block in the way both of the Jews and of the followers of Christ. The Jews have adhered with an unaccountable obstinacy to the shadow, disregarding the substance; while the great body of nominal Christians, and many of the true disciples of Christ, have blended Judaism with Christianity; and to this we owe the great apostasy, in which Heathenism, Judaism, and Christianity are blended together, and by which the pure and holy doctrine of Christ has been converted into a system of gross superstition and idolatry.

The apostles foresaw the revelation of the man of sin, and prescribed the only infallible preservative from his wiles: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle." 2 Thessalonians 2:15. But the false principle that, while in regard to the great doctrines of the Gospel we are bound to abide by the rule of Scripture, we are at liberty, in what are termed external things, to be guided by circumstances, has induced the generality even of Protestants to go back to the weak and beggarly elements of Judaism. This system will continue till the great overturning predicted by the Word of God, Ezekiel 21:27, shall take place. The Lord will then "turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent." Zephaniah 3:9.

The object of this Epistle is to preserve believers to the end of the world from this snare of the devil, as well as to check the apostasy which it appears had taken place among many of the Jews who had professed the faith to which the Apostle repeatedly alludes. To the misunderstanding of this subject the Apostle attributes the little progress which the Hebrews had made, and that they had become as those that had need of milk, and not of strong meat.

Verse 13

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

Every one that feeds on milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. The Apostle uses similar language to the Corinthians. . They are thus characterized on account of their disposition to follow different leaders. Sometimes the term babes, or little children, is used in a good sense. We are commanded, as new-born babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word. In malice we are to be children, but in understanding to be men. If we do not receive the kingdom of heaven as little children we cannot enter therein. Our high imaginations must be cast down and our thoughts brought into subjection to Christ.

But here the word babes is not used in a good sense. The Apostle charges the Hebrews with being weak in the faith, babes in understanding. There Isaiah, probably, a reference to their attachment to Jewish observances, and their desire to remain under the bondage of the Jewish observances, which he elsewhere terms the elements of the world, Galatians 4:3, weak and beggarly elements.

Verse 14

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

As grown up persons do not feed upon milk, but are able to digest strong meat; so those who are perfect, [The word rendered "of full age" Isaiah, literally, perfect, a word which is very frequently used in this Epistle, and means well instructed. The Apostle uses the same word Philippians 3:15, where it has probably a reference to those who were initiated in the heathen mysteries. They were termed perfect.] well instructed, who have their senses exercised to discern good and evil, view the ordinances of the Mosaic dispensation in their true light, as what they really are: shadows; as shadows of good things to come, chap10:1, and thus discern the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7.

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Bibliographical Information
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hal/hebrews-5.html. 1835.