Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 5

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-14


It has already become evident to the careful reader that the author of this epistle is particularly desirous to bring out the comparison between the priesthood of Christ and that of Aaron. He approached it at the close of chapter 2 (Hebrews 2:17-18 ), and was on the point of making the comparison (Hebrews 3:1 ) when he was led into the digression about Moses (Hebrews 3:2-6 ), and then Joshua (Hebrews 3:4-11 ). But he returns to it again at the close of chapter 4 (see Hebrews 4:14-16 ), and at the beginning of chapter 5 clears the way for its discussion by the dictum that Christ was a priest. This is necessary to be proven before he can advance, and he proves it in two ways. Christ was a priest in that he possessed our human nature with its capacity for sympathy (Hebrews 5:1-3 ), and in that He received the divine appointment to that office as Aaron did (Hebrews 5:4-10 ). His appointment however, was after another order than Aaron that of Melchisedec (Hebrews 5:6 ; Hebrews 5:10 ), of whom he will speak later after a digression of warning and encouragement.


This digression covers Heb. 5:12-6:29, and consists of an explanation as to why they should be so seriously tempted to apostatize (Hebrews 5:11-14 ). Paul’s readers had become “dull of hearing,” spiritually deaf to the appeals of the Gospel. They had been in the faith long enough to become teachers of others, and yet they themselves needed teaching again, even in the A-B-C of the Scripture. They were still babes in Christ, as indicated by their lack of experience in the word. The offset to this, or the remedy for their situation, was to grow in grace and divine knowledge (Hebrews 6:1-3 ). To leave “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” does not mean to discard the foundation of the Gospel but rather to build upon it. “Perfection” refers not to sinlessness but to full growth in the knowledge of Christ. “Repentance for dead works” means those not wrought for God’s glory. “Faith towards God” was so primary that once experienced it was inconsistent to think of its being “laid” again. “The doctrine of baptisms” may mean “washings,” “ablutions,” after the purifying of the Jews. “Laying on of hands” was a symbolic act among the Jews connected with prayer and invoking the divine benedictions. Note that “the resurrection of the dead” with “eternal judgment,” which some Christians in these days affect to doubt, was considered a primary doctrine of the New Testament church. The six particulars here named were fundamental, and yet as Dr. Saphir says, they did not set before these Hebrew Christians with sufficient fullness the truth of which they stood in need to keep them from apostasy, and to strengthen them in their sore temptation.

The peril of their situation is set forth in Hebrews 6:4-8 . Some think these “present the case of a Jewish professed believer who turns back from Christ after advancing to the very threshold of salvation,” but who never experienced real faith. But we differ, and hold the opinion that a true believer is meant. It is not said however, that such an one will be lost, indeed the opposite is shown to be the case (Hebrews 6:9 ), but this warning is given to keep him from being lost.

Their encouragement in the premises follows (Hebrews 6:9-20 ). They were bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit, let them thus continue in well-doing (Hebrews 6:10-12 ). Their salvation was secured by the divine promise confirmed by the divine oath (Hebrews 6:12-18 ). Nay more, they had laid hold upon the hope, which as an anchor of the soul had entered into that which is within the veil. Jesus Himself was their hope, and He had entered there “an high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”


We are now brought back again to Melchisedec, who is described and compared with Christ (Hebrews 7:1-3 ). For his historical record see Genesis 14:17-20 . He is a type of Christ in his office as a king-priest (see Zechariah 6:12-13 ); in his name, “king of righteousness” (Isaiah 11:5 ); and in his location, “king of Salem,” i.e., peace (Isaiah 11:6-9 ). Also in the fact that he had “neither beginning of days nor end of life.” This last does not mean that it was literally so in his case, but that so far as the record went it appeared so. (Compare here John 1:1 ; Romans 6:9 ; and Hebrews 7:23-25 .) After this description and comparison the inspired writer shows the superiority of his order to that of Aaron in seven particulars (Hebrews 7:4-24 ): Abraham gave him tithes (Hebrews 7:4-6 ), he blessed Abraham (Hebrews 7:6-7 ); he was an undying priest, i.e., so far as the record goes he did not see death (Hebrews 7:8 ); the unborn Levi (or Levitical priesthood) paid him tithes in the person of Abraham (Hebrews 7:9-10 ); the permanence of his priesthood, continued by Christ, implied the abrogation of the whole Levitical law (Hebrews 7:11-19 ); His priesthood was founded on an oath (Hebrews 7:20-22 ); it was intransmissible, not being vacated by death (Hebrews 7:23-24 ). The whole argument is summed up in Hebrews 7:25-28 .


1. What seems to be the chief purpose of the author?

2. Indicate his approaches to it.

3. In what two ways is Christ shown to be a priest?

4. Name four main divisions of the digression in this case.

5. What is the meaning of these words or phrases: “perfection,” “repentance for dead works,” “the doctrine of baptisms”?

6. What is the object of the warning in Hebrews 6:4-6 ?

7. In what ways is Melchisedec a type of Christ?

8. Name the seven particulars in which his order shows superiority to that of Aaron.

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. 1897-1910.