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For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him,
The Apostle now proceeds to unveil the face of Moses in the account which he gives of Melchisedec. We have formerly adverted to the depth and fullness of the instruction contained in the Word of God. We have seen how much instruction our Apostle elicits from what is recorded of the oath in Psalm 95:11, and the same observation applies to the history of Melchisedec, respecting whom we may observe that we can know no more than what Moses records in the Book of Genesis, and the commentary on the account given by our Apostle. All conjectures which we may form on the subject are out of place. We must take the narrative of Moses just as it stands. The Apostle had repeatedly spoken of Christ as our high priest, chapter 2:17, 3:1, 4:14, 15, 5:5, 6. To this effect he had been called of God, and his priesthood was after the order of Melchisedec, which is proved by a quotation from Psalm 110 : Chap 5:6. This was a subject of great importance, and is therefore repeated v10. After some preliminary observations the Apostle again describes Jesus as made an high priest after the order of Melchisedec, Chap 6:20, and at the same time enters more fully into the account given of him, explaining the mystery and what Moses records concerning this very eminent personage.
Before entering upon this subject we may advert to the opinion which has been advanced that Melchisedec was the Son of God. This notion is sufficiently refuted by his being said to be made like unto the Son of God; language which could not be employed if he were actually such: a thing cannot be said to be like to itself. Again, Christ was a high priest after the order of Melchisedec; if then he were Melchisedec he was made a high priest after his own order. It is true Christ in the character of the angel Jehovah, the angel of the Covenant, appeared in the likeness of man to the patriarch, but Christ was not incarnate till he was born of Mary, and therefore could not be a priest; for every high priest is represented as taken from among men, chap, and it "behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest," chap 2:17, not merely having the appearance of a Prayer of Manasseh, but being actually such.
Melchisedec, after whose order Christ had been declared to be a priest, was king of Salem. This was, probably, Jerusalem, but of this we can have no certainty, nor is it of the smallest importance in order to our entering into the meaning of the Apostle. He was also priest of the most High God, Genesis 14:19, so that he united in his own person the offices of king and priest; he was, therefore, a royal priest. He met Abraham and blessed him, after the slaughter of the kings who had taken Lot, his nephew, prisoner.
This was a part of the duty of a priest in Israel. He offered the sacrifices, burnt incense, and blessed the people. Numbers 6:22; Numbers 6:27. The blessing which he pronounced on the patriarch is recorded. Genesis 14:19-20.
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which Isaiah, King of peace,
Abraham gave to Melchisedec tithes of all, viz, of the spoils of the kings whom he had slain. This is the first time that we read of tithes in the Scripture, and, no doubt, this was the example followed by Jacob when he vowed a vow at Bethel, Genesis 28:22, although it does not appear to whom the portion devoted by him to God was to be given.
There is a mystery in the name of Melchisedec. [Names in Scripture were frequently, if not always, given to denote something characteristic concerning them, such as Noah, Genesis 5:29; Isaac, Jacob, &c.; and sometimes their names were changed in token of some favor vouchsafed to them, such as Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Solomon.] Its interpretation is king of righteousness. This is descriptive of the Son of God, Psalm 45:6, Habakkuk 1:8, Luke 19:38, Isaiah 32:1, John 1:49; John 18:37. He was also king of Salem, which is by interpretation king of peace, which completed his resemblance to the Son of God. Psalm 72:1; Psalm 72:3; Psalm 72:7.
Without father, without mother, without descent, hating neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
We have already observed that Melchisedec was a man; he must, therefore, have had a father and a mother, but his priesthood was not by descent like that of the sons of Aaron, "having neither beginning of days nor end of life." We may again observe that in the description given of Melchisedec no conjecture is admissible; we must suppose nothing, but take the account given in Scripture as we find it, without addition or diminution. Now in regard to his parents the Scripture is silent, and it was not the intention of the Holy Ghost by the Apostle to add to the information already given. We read nothing of his father or mother, or of his descent. We read of Aaron and his sons being consecrated to, and entering on, the priest's office, and of their deaths, but nothing of this kind is related of Melchisedec. He appears in the Scripture as a royal priest executing his office, and there he remains a remarkable type of the Son of God whose priesthood is everlasting.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
Having directed the attention of the Hebrews to this royal priest, who in so many particulars was an emblem of the high priest of our profession, the Apostle pauses to consider how great this man was to whom even the patriarch [The word patriarch means head of the fathers, and is so translated in the Syriac version.] Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that Isaiah, of their brethren, though they came out of the loins of Abraham.
The priests in Israel were of the tribe of Levi and of the family of Aaron. By Divine appointment they received tithes of their brethren, who were, like themselves, descendants of Abraham.
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
But he whose descend it not counted from them, and who, consequently, did not derive his title to receive tithes from them, received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him, to whom God had given the promises of being the progenitor of Christ and the father of all believers.
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
Upon this there can be no question, a father blesses his children, a priest blesses those for whom he ministers, and Abraham, by receiving Melchisedec, blessing and paying him tithes, acknowledged himself his inferior.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
Under the Jewish economy men that die receive tithes, but in the account of Abraham"s intercourse with Melchisedec he received tithes, of whose death we have no account, it is only testified that he lived. [He received them; this is a supplement, and should be in the imperfect tense, as likewise lived instead of liveth. The Scripture testifies of Melchisedec, as living and exercising his priesthood. It gives no hint of his death.] Of all the Jewish priests we read that they died and were succeeded by others, but we find Melchisedec engaged in the discharge of the duties of his office, and there we leave him.
And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
And indeed Levi may be said to have paid tithes in Abraham, the progenitor of the whole family of Israel.
V:10. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
We have already noticed that the word perfect occurs very frequently in this Epistle, it means the fulfilment, or completion, of an object.
Here our Apostle argues the weakness and insufficiency of the Levitical priesthood, from the Scripture foretelling that another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec and not after the order of Aaron.
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For the priesthood being changed, there is necessarily a change also of the law. Sacrifices were to be offered and incense offered only by the family of Aaron. Theirs was an everlasting priesthood coeval with the Mosaic dispensation, and therefore the change of the priesthood necessarily involved a change of the law.
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
For he was declared a priest after the order of Melchisedec, Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14-15; Hebrews 5:4-10, and pertained to another tribe of which no man officiated at the altar. We have seen that the priesthood had been expressly limited to the family of Aaron, and the appointment was confirmed in a very remarkable manner. When Izhar, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, sought the priesthood, Numbers 16:3-31, alleging that all the congregation was holy, and complained that Moses and Aaron lifted up themselves above the congregation of the Lord, they took their censers and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, standing in the door of the tabernacle. The earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and of their censers were made broad plates for a covering of the altar,—"To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the Lord said to him by the hand of Moses." Numbers 16:40. And not only so, but by the Lord's commandment the rods of the princes of the congregation, twelve rods, were laid before the Lord in the Tabernacle, and next day Aaron's rod was budded and bloomed blossoms and yielded almonds, Numbers 17 : This settled the matter; the children of Israel said, "Whosoever cometh anything near unto the tabernacle of the Lord shall die." Numbers 17:13.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
The language of the Apostle merits special attention. We have seen that the priesthood in Israel was irrevocably limited to the family of Aaron. Here we are told that Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood in the tribe of Judah. [One of the greatest of the kings of the same tribe presumed to offer incense, and was struck with leprosy to the day of his death. 2 Chronicles 26:21.] At first sight this may appear but a negative proof, but the proof that the priesthood was exclusively confined to the family of Aaron was most positive. The family of Aaron was expressly designated to this office, and we have seen that the earth opened and swallowed up250 chief men of the congregation for presuming to burn incense, and that the priesthood was further established in Aaron's family by his rod blossoming and bearing almonds. Why then does this Apostle say that Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood in the tribe of Judah? No doubt to show the fallacy of the assertion that if such a thing is not prohibited it may therefore be practiced.
Here we are guarded against this sophistry, and taught that whatever is not enjoined in the worship of God is virtually forbidden. There are two ways in which any religious observance is enjoined, precept and example. When we have an express precept nothing more is necessary; but apostolic example is equally binding. The Apostles delivered the same directions to every church, 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 7:17; of this we have conclusive evidence in what is written on a comparatively unimportant subject. In the Church at Corinth some of the women, probably from the false principle that there was neither male nor female in Christ Jesus, and that therefore there should be no distinction in the Church, prayed and sang praises with their heads uncovered. The Apostle showed that this was improper, and concludes his argument,—"But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." 1 Corinthians 11:16. It is impossible for language more clearly to prove that we are to be guided by the recorded example of the apostolic churches. This is all that is necessary to put a stop to the endless divisions which prevail among the disciples of Christ.
But it has happened to them, as to mankind after the fall, God revealed himself in the seed of the woman, that is Christ, and appointed ordinances of worship. This is evident from the sacrifices of Cain and Abel. Through faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, and faith must have respect to the Divine testimony; but when they thus knew God they glorified him not as God, by receiving and acting upon the instructions which he was pleased to deliver. They professed themselves to be wise, and capable of discovering the most acceptable mode of worshipping God, and their wisdom issued in their changing the image of the incorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible Prayer of Manasseh, and birds and beasts and four-footed things; and as the meet reward of their folly and wickedness God gave them up to every moral abomination.
Precisely the same course has been adopted since the promulgation of the Gospel, and this has issued in the manifestation of the man of sin, and the innumerable divisions of the people of God, fully realizing the description of what took place when there was no king in Israel; every man did what seemed right in his own eyes. Now as Moses, speaking nothing concerning priesthood in the tribe of Judah, precluded our Lord from acting as a priest under that dispensation, so the Lord and His apostles, speaking nothing of any ordinance of worship, is tantamount to a positive prohibition.
Here we may observe the directions given by the Apostle to guard the Thessalonians against being involved in this mystery of iniquity:— "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle." 2 Thessalonians 2:15. This is a sufficient, and, in fact, the only security against their being involved in the apostasy. It originated in the fancied liberty of introducing into the worship of God ceremonies He had not enjoined, but which appeared calculated to have a good effect on the worshippers. This principle, once introduced, opened the floodgates of corruption. The doctrine of Christ is embodied in the few and simple ordinances which He has appointed; but, when these ordinances were changed, a new and false doctrine was exhibited, and gradually the Gospel of Christ was transformed into a system of will-worship and idolatry. The only remedy for this state of things was to adhere, without addition or diminution, to what is prescribed by the apostles, or exhibited in their practice, as recorded in their epistles.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest.
It is still more evident that another priest was to arise after the similitude of Melchisedec. This was plainly declared in the110th Psalm. In chap the Apostle describes the Lord Jesus as a Priest after the order of Melchisedec, here He is said to be after the similitude of Melchisedec. The resemblance holds in a variety of particulars. He united in Himself the kingly and priestly offices; He did not succeed to them by birth, nor had He any successor. There are also other particulars of resemblance to which the Apostle adverts.
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
The Aaronic priesthood was made after the law of a carnal commandment, the son succeeding his father as death opened the succession; but the priesthood of Christ was after the power of an endless life, enduring in immortal strength.
For he testifieth Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
For He (the Father) testified of Him, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, which the Apostle had proved was altogether different from the order of Aaron.
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, which the Apostle had described as a carnal commandment, and, consequently, weak through the flesh. Romans 8:3. This, however, is applicable to the whole law, the stability or removal of which depends on the continuance or abolition of the priesthood, which we have seen was to be coeval with the dispensation, of which it formed the most important part.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
The Apostle had previously inquired if perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, under which the people had received the law—they were closely and inseparably blended—why another priest was foretold after a different order? Here he says the law made nothing perfect, it was merely the introduction of a better hope, [Our translators have inserted the supplement did, but it evidently should be was. This passage generally corresponds with chap.] by which we draw near to God. It was no more than a shadow of good things to come, chap10:1, and of that glorious dispensation under which believers draw nigh to God, having access by one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2.
And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest.
Here the Apostle proceeds to another point of superiority of the priesthood of Christ, proceeding still to comment on Psalm 110. The Apostle's object is to prove the superiority of the priesthood of Christ to the Levitical priesthood, from the description given of the former in Psalm 110. He had shown that Christ's priesthood was everlasting, while the Levitical priesthood passed from father to son; and here he proceeds to another argument for its superiority—it was made with an oath. Our translators have inserted a supplement, "He was made a priest," which is necessary for completing the sense.
(For those priests were made without an oath; but this 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 Melchisedec.).
This is a parenthesis, and contains a proof of the superiority of the priesthood of Christ from the Levitical priesthood, which was made without an oath, because it was only temporary; but the priesthood of Christ with an oath, which rendered it, and, consequently, the covenant with which it stood connected, everlasting.
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
By so much Jesus was made the surety of a better covenant.—The word rendered "surety" does not occur in any other passage of the New Testament; it is derived from the word near, and is equivalent to mediator—one through whom we draw near. Israel drew near to God through the Levitical priests; but the Apostle had shown that the Mosaic dispensation was temporary, and merely introductory to a better, even an eternal covenant, of which Jesus is the Mediator. It had been previously proved that the continuance of the law depended on the continuance of the Aaronic priesthood, ver12. Aaron had four sons, two of whom died immediately after they had entered on their office; so that the continuance of the Jewish dispensation depended on the lives of the survivors, and their leaving male children. The priests might, therefore, with great propriety, he called the sureties of the Sinai covenant; while Jesus, whose priesthood is everlasting, is the Surety of a better covenant. Our translators have rendered the word ???????? in this place testament. The LXX. [The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek was made about three hundred years before Christ.] uniformly translates the Hebrew word Pruth, by covenant, and in the Old Testament they are followed in our version.
It occurs thirty-one times in the New Testament, and is translated covenant, excepting in seven places; and it would have been much better if it had been uniformly translated covenant, and there is no good reason for this not having been done.
V:23-24.—And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death. But this Prayer of Manasseh, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
The priesthood of the house of Aaron comprehended many individuals, because they were mortal, which implied the temporary nature of the Sinai covenant, to which they were attached, and of which they were the sureties.
But this Prayer of Manasseh, because, according to the oath, he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood, which, in like manner, implies the stability of the covenant of which He is the Surety.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
In consequence of His unchangeable priesthood, He is able to save to the uttermost, or for evermore, those that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. The intercession of Christ is founded on His atonement, whereby He hath magnified the law of God, and made it honorable, restoring what He took not away. He bore the sins of His people in His own body on the tree. He once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring them to God. " Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that Isaiah, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." . "He gave himself for them, an offering and a sacrifice unto God of a sweet-smelling savour." Ephesians 5:2.
Had it so pleased God, the whole race of mankind might doubtless have been saved by His death. It was a sacrifice of infinite value; and, had it so pleased God, might have expiated the sins of all men. Had such been the case, however, it might have been alleged that mankind had been hardly dealt with; but a part of them, like the rebel angels, perished, while an innumerable multitude of our fallen race chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, are washed in His blood, and created anew in Him who is to them the spring and source of their spiritual, as the first Adam was of their natural life; and as their first father's death was the death-knell of the whole family, so the eternal life to which Christ has risen is the assured pledge of all His people, even those whom He is not ashamed to call brethren, in contradistinction to those to whom He will declare, "I never knew you," living and reigning with Him for ever and ever.
For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.
The Apostle then proceeds to describe the character of our High Priest. "Such an High Priest became us." We have the same expression, chap, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." It corresponded with and necessarily resulted from His character, that the Captain of our salvation should be fully qualified for His office through sufferings. In exercising mercy, God could not cease to be just and true. There could be no jarring of His glorious attributes. He had denounced death as the wages of sin, and fallen man must die after a life of sorrow and suffering. When He constituted His only-begotten Son the Head of the seed of the woman, it was necessary that this second Adam should take part with the children whom God had given Him in flesh and blood; that He should be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and not only so, but that He should be made free among the dead, because the wages of sin is death.
The full penalty was exacted of Him. The first man had violated the law of God, as if its burden was too grievous to be borne; and it behoved the second Adam, the surety and representative of God's chosen family, to wipe off the foul aspersion by cheerfully obeying that law; although now, in consequence of sin, his obedience was connected with self-denial and suffering. He tasted all the bitterness of death, as the expiator of the guilt of His brethren, and as the reward of His obedience unto death, receiving a new and endless life, which He communicates to all His brethren.
In the passage under consideration, we are taught that it necessarily resulted from our circumstances that our High Priest should be holy; not merely separated from His brethren, to stand between them and God; not only free from any bodily defect or blemish; but holy, perfectly and absolutely holy, as God is holy, harmless, and undefiled even in passing through this polluted world. [The priests under the law were liable to contract defilement, both by contact with anything unclean, and by bodily infirmities; but our High Priest is undefiled. He was purity itself; nothing could render Him unclean. It is remarkable that our Lord proved this by laying hands on lepers, and touching the dead. ; Luke 7:14. Temptation proved like the application of fire to an incombustible substance.]
The prince of this world came, but he found nothing in Jesus on which his venom could fix; neither the pangs of hunger, the desire of admiration, nor the possession of power led Him for a moment to swerve from that undeviating obedience which the holy law required. He could challenge His enemies to convict Him of sin, and He could appeal to His Father for His love to the law. It is exceeding broad; it extends to the thoughts and intents of the heart; but He felt no wanderings of desire that the obedience it required should be less extensive. Being Himself infinitely holy, as Immanuel, God with us, the image of the invisible God, an image so exact that he who saw Him saw the Father, the law was in His heart on account of its perfect purity. Psalm 119:140.
Another qualification essential to our High Priest was that He should be made higher than the heavens. The Apostle had already proved the superiority of Christ to the angels. He had by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they, Hebrews 1:4; nay, had been described as God seated on His eternal throne, Hebrews 1:8. He had ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. Eph. iv10. In delivering their commission to His Apostles, He informed them that all power was committed to Him in heaven and in earth.
Matthew 28:18. As God over all, He ever possessed this power; but, in the passage referred to, he speaks of it as given to Him in the character of Mediator. Power was given Him over all flesh, that He might give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him. John 17:2. As the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom He will. John 5:21. All that are in the grave shall hear His voice, and receive from Him their irreversible sentence. Such is the matchless glory of our High Priest, and such an high priest became us. It is the property of wisdom in the use of means neither to employ such as may prove insufficient, nor such as are redundant. This is exemplified in the character of our High Priest; all His power and glory are essential to the discharge of His office. Such an high priest became us.
We see, then, in our great High Priest every necessary qualification; unspotted holiness, to meet the utmost demands of the law. We are taught that the heavens are not clean in the sight of God, but He is ever well-pleased in His beloved Son. He sees all His own perfections fully reflected by Him. Those whom He came to deliver were dead; the curse of God lay heavy on them; and so great was the work of redeeming His people, that the whole creation was, so to speak, put in motion for their recovery; and therefore angels, principalities, and powers were made subject to Him, and thus He was made higher than the heavens.
Who 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, when he offered up himself.
It follows that he had no occasion, like the Jewish high priests, to offer many sacrifices; first, for his own sins, and then for those of the people. Sins he had none; his hands were clean, his heart was pure, and he fully expiated the sins of his people by once offering himself as a Lamb without spot or blemish.
The grave had not ceased to cry, Give, give, and those who entered its gloomy chambers mouldered to dust; but the Holy One of God could see no corruption, the earth cast forth her dead, thus declaring that the dominion of death was at an end; that, in fact, it was abolished, being deprived of its sting, and the grave converted into a bed of rest from which all the redeemed shall come forth, that in one body they may occupy those mansions which the Firstborn is gone before to prepare.
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity: but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the son, who is consecrated for evermore.
The law constitutes men high priests which have infirmity, and who, by reason of death, cannot continue in their office; but the word of the oath, which was uttered since the law, Thou art a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, constitutes the Son of God a priest for evermore.
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Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 7". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13