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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 5

Verses 1-14

Hebrews 5:1-3 . Every highpriest taken from among men is ordained for men. He is to officiate in all the hallowed services of the sanctuary, to offer the mincha, or oblations and gifts of thanksgiving, and sacrifices for sin, that the congregation might be set right with God. He must be perfect in body, and pure in mind: he must offer sacrifices for his own sin, and then for the sins of the people. He must be a prophet to instruct the ignorant, to reclaim those that are out of the way, and pray for the people. He must be a holy man, arrayed with the mitre, the ephod, the pectoral, and splendid robes, the better to designate the glory of which he was a figure. He must not be self-appointed, but taken from among men, and consecrated to the service of God.

Hebrews 5:4 . No man taketh this honour to himself. In the Bangorian controversy, this text has been pressed to prove an uninterrupted succession of bishops from Christ to the present time! Bossuet has done more; he asserts an uninterrupted succession from Adam to Christ, and from Christ to us. In this manner dignified men amuse themselves. Suffice to say, that in Biblia Magna, not one of the learned critics have attempted to force any such gloss on this text. In what respects is G. Faber called of God, as was Aaron? Yet this person while a boy, unchristianised half the protestant world in a sermon before the university of Oxford, as having no gospel, and no sacraments for want of episcopasy!

Hebrews 5:5 . So also Christ glorified not himself, but was designated of the Father to be the prophet, the priest, and prince of the whole human kind. Psalms 2:7; Psalms 110:4. In all these, and in every view, Christ was superior to Aaron, and to all his race. They were taken from the common mass of men, but Christ was nominated of the Father. Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee. Thy throne, oh God, is for ever and ever. These declarations have no relation to the resurrection of Christ, farther than as a link in the chain of our salvation: the whole scene is anterior to his rising from the tomb.

The highpriest was to offer gifts and sacrifices. The words are plural, that the number might in some degree supply the defects, as the two goats adumbrated the death and the life of Christ better than one could do. But Christ by the one offering of himself on Calvary, once for all, hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified: they need no other sacrifice.

Aaron was a priest, chosen from among men, that he might have compassion on the ignorant. When sinners pray without a mediator, God will hide his face; one, and only one, must be heard for the people. But Christ ever liveth to make intercession; he prays with all the glory of his person, and the worth of his sacrifice. And being partaker of our infirmities, we can come boldly to the throne of grace through him.

We may farther observe, Aaron was a priest succeeded by others; but Christ has an unchangeable priesthood. The Lord has thus constituted him with an oath: “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedec.”

Hebrews 5:7-8 . And was heard in that he feared. Ευλαβεια properly signifies reverence, piety, and obedience. So our apostle defines it in the next words, saying, though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience. It is also said, he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He offered up strong cries and tears, in the garden and on the cross, as it had been foretold. Psalm 22, 69. 88, 89. Through his obedience we obtain righteousness and eternal life.

Hebrews 5:10-14 . After the order of Melchizedec, of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. See on Genesis 14:18-20. And who but Paul could have said these things to the saints in Jerusalem? Who but Paul could have told the Hebrews that they were yet in a state of infancy, having need to be taught the first principles of the mysteries of godliness, and to be fed with milk? How futile are the socinian efforts to get rid of this most christian epistle, and to palm it upon some less conspicuous person. They have even the effrontery to say that it was written, like Peter’s letters, to the jews scattered abroad through proconsular Asia. Others contend that it was written to the jews in Spain, forgetful surely that he thanks them for having had compassion on him in his bonds. Oh reader, never, never give up Paul, and with him, all revelation, for their dry philosophy.


As the pearly drops of dew in a morning, irradiated with the rising sun, bespangle all the fields, so this epistle shows us the whole Leviticum irradiated with the glory and grace of the gospel. The foremost character in that ritual is the highpriest, a figure of Christ; who once softened Alexander in his career of conquest, and often turned away the wrath of God by the oblation of incense, and the sprinkling of blood. But this august character, sinful in himself, and imperfect in his service, could find no more than a mystical glory and temporary lustre with the Lord. The purity of the divine nature required an approach of perfection in the priesthood. Hence David in the spirit made a transition from Aaron to Christ, and saw him seated at the Father’s right hand, with his enemies under his feet; and a priest for ever unto God, after the order of Melchizedec, not of Aaron’s but of Judah’s house. He resembled Aaron in tenderness, being touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

Our great Highpriest had compassion on the ignorant, and such as were out of the way; and his sole mission was to seek and to save the lost. He offered up strong cries and tears in the days of his flesh, more especially in the garden, and on the cross; and now he is entered into heaven to make intercession, and solicit our salvation on the ground of right. His oblation was not a bird, or a beast, but his own body, as a lamb without spot or blemish to redeem us to God. Oh how great is his glory, how high his service, and how great his worth. Well does the apostle gently reprove the Hebrews for being yet only as babes, who knew little of these adorable mysteries of our redemption.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.