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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Hebrews 5

Verses 1-7

Aaron and Christ as High Priest

Hebrews 5:1. The writer is now going to explain more about the person of the high priest. His readers were very familiar with this person. They knew him well from the Old Testament and also from practice before they believed in the Lord Jesus. First he points at the high priesthood as how that functioned among God’s earthly people and had in Aaron its first representative. Then he compares the high priesthood of the Lord Jesus with that of Aaron, in order to show the eminence above that of Aaron.

He already touched on the high priesthood of the Lord Jesus in the chapters 2, 3 and 4 (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 3:1Hebrews 4:14-Ezra :), only now he explains it in detail. This teaching goes on till chapter 10. For the Jewish Christians, who continually had a tendency to return to the old traditions, this teaching was of great importance. It is also important for Christianity, where many things are present that remind us of Judaism.

The high priest in Israel was characterized by some things. In particular he was somebody from among the people, “from among men”, a man taken from among men. Therefore it was necessary that Christ became Man, although you ought not to forget that He is much more than that, He is actually the unique eternal Son of God.

Furthermore the ministry of high priest regards men. He is “appointed on behalf of men”. Men are the object of his ministry and he makes efforts on their behalf. However, they are not a goal in themselves. In the ministry of the high priest it is about “things pertaining to God”. It is about His interests and His honor and about a cleansed nation that is consecrated to Him that worships and serves Him.

In the Old Testament that ministry is presented explicitly by the offering of “both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (cf. Hebrews 8:3; Hebrews 9:9). Regarding ‘gifts’ you may think of all possible offerings and regarding ‘sacrifices’ you may think especially of bloody offerings. Sins cause separation between God and His people. When offerings were brought for the sins, God could be with His people again. It was the task of the high priest to restore the connection between God and the people.

Hebrews 5:2. Because Aaron, as human high priest, was a sinner himself, he could “have compassion” with others. Christ could never have compassion with sins, for that’s what He died for. The compassion of the human high priest is something in the sense of ‘expressing moderate feelings’. It indicates an infirm and an incomplete sympathy. He has that compassion “with the ignorant and misguided”. Those are sinners, but not sinners who live in conscious rebellion against God. For the latter there is no offering possible (Hebrews 10:26-Joel :).

Hebrews 5:3. Because Aaron was a human high priest, he also had to bring offerings for himself. That applied both to Aaron and to his successors in the next centuries up to Christ. He indeed performed for the people with God, but at the same time he was one of them, also in their sinfulness. The weakness that is meant here, indicates the tendency to sin. That was not the case with Christ. He did not sacrifice for Himself, He sacrificed Himself.

Hebrews 5:4. The high priesthood is not a function that one can claim to oneself. That this nevertheless happened in the unfaithful Israel (2 Chronicles 26:16-Ecclesiastes :; cf. Luke 3:2 where there is mention of two high priests), doesn’t change anything to God’s statutes. God has determined His choice who finally will be high priest, as it is to be seen with Zadok and his sons (Ezekiel 44:15-Nehemiah :; Ezekiel 48:11). A person is high priest on the ground of his calling, not by pretention. Like Aaron was called by God, Christ is called by God, albeit that it at the same time shows a great difference with Aaron.

So you see that there are some similarities in the Hebrews 5:1-Numbers : between Aaron and Christ. I read them again and I discover the following. Both Christ and Aaron
1. are appointed for men in the things pertaining to God,
2. sacrifice for the sins of the people and
3. do not honor themselves.

There are also differences and even more than similarities:
1. Aaron was taken from among men, while Christ became Man and is also the unique Son of God.
2. Aaron was surrounded by infirmities and had the tendency to sin, while Christ is without sin, neither was the tendency to sin in Him.
3. Aaron had to sacrifice for himself, while Christ sacrificed Himself for others.

In what follows also the difference becomes apparent:
1. The difference between the way Aaron is called and the way Christ is called (Hebrews 5:5) and
2. the difference between the priesthood according the order of Aaron and that according the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6).
3. In Hebrews 5:5 the glory of Christ’s calling as High Priest above the calling of Aaron is confirmed by Psalm 2 (Psalms 2:7).
4. In Hebrews 5:6 the glory of Christ’s priestly order above that of Aaron is placed in the light by Psalm 110 (Psalms 110:4).

Hebrews 5:5. We first look at the quotation from Psalm 2 (Psalms 2:7), where the glory of His Person becomes apparent. The beginning of the verse still shows a similarity with Aaron. Christ never sought His own honor, not even in the high priesthood. Then the contrast follows: He is personally the Son. That gives a much higher dignity to His high priesthood than that of Aaron. He was begotten by God in Mary (Luke 1:35) and therefore He is as Man also God’s Son. This Man is the High Priest with God, what He was not and could not be as God the Son. Only when He became Man, He became able to be High Priest.

Hebrews 5:6. The other quotation, from Psalm 110 (Psalms 110:4), adds more glory, which becomes apparent from the introductory words: “Just as He says also in another [passage].” The writer draws – of course under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – from the riches of God’s Word, in order to let fall continually another ray of light on Christ. Thereby he doesn’t act randomly, but he continually quotes portions that magnify the radiance and honor of Christ and which causes his argumentation to be strengthened and clarified.

In the quotation of Psalm 110 the glory of the function of Christ becomes clear. Psalm 110 is a psalm that, as many psalms, refers to the millennial kingdom of peace. The enemies of the Messiah are made His footstool (Psalms 110:1). He receives out of Zion the rod of His strength (Psalms 110:2) in the midst of God’s people who will volunteer freely and celebrating (Psalms 110:3), while He executes hostile kings and judges among the nations (Psalms 110:5-Joshua :). Besides all this glory and magnificence there is also a review of His life on earth when He was dependent on the refreshment by God (Psalms 110:7).

From both quotations (Psalm 2 and Psalm 110) it becomes clear that God declares that the Messiah is both Son and Priest. Sonship and priesthood are therefore closely related to each other. That goes for Christ and also goes for us.

I will not comment yet on “the order of Melchizedek”, for that will be further explained in chapter 7. What becomes clear though, is that He is not high priest according to the order of Melchizedek, but priest according to the order of Melchizedek. There is a nice explanation for this. A high priest assumes other priests, but the Lord Jesus alone is priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The order of Melchizedek is an order of blessing. Melchizedek blessed Abraham from God’s side and he praised God for what He did for Abraham (Genesis 14:18-Proverbs :). According to that order the Lord Jesus is King-Priest Who brings blessing from God to God’s people, what will be fully fulfilled in the millennial kingdom of peace. The priesthood of Melchizedek, which is only mentioned in Genesis 14 (Genesis 14:18) and in Psalm 110 (Psalms 110:4) in the Old Testament, existed earlier than that of Aaron and will also remain to exist when that of Aaron will not be necessary anymore.

Hebrews 5:7. Here the writer refers most impressively to something that had no room in the life of Aaron or Melchizedek, but which certainly had in the life of Christ. Between when He was conceived as Son of God on earth and His glorification to Priest in heaven lie “the days of His flesh”, by which His life on earth is being indicated. His glory doesn’t bring Him nearer to the misery of man, while His life on earth does.

In what is described of Him here you learn how real it is for Him to have part in your hardships and sorrows. On earth (‘His days of the flesh’) He endured, in dependence of God, all the fear of death. He offered up supplications to be saved, for He did not want to save Himself, because He came to obey. His life on earth made Him suitable to be High Priest in connection to us. His life on earth also led to the offering of Himself, wherein He is unique.

He did not offer up prayers and supplications when He was tempted by satan in the desert. That He did in Gethsemane, when the moment came before Him that He would be forsaken by God. All sufferings from man’s side He bore with joy, something that many martyrs have done in His footsteps. But to be made sin He could not encounter with joy. Nobody could possibly follow Him there. When He was facing that, He offered His prayers and supplications unto God.

He did that with confidence that God “was able to save Him from death”. It was not that He wanted to be saved of death, for that was necessary. He knew that and therefore He prayed: “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42). And He was answered, for God resurrected Him. “He was heard because of His piety”, means that He was heard because of His perfect confidence in His God, because of His Godly fear and because of His perfect devotion and His dependence of God. What a Lord!

Now read Hebrews 5:1-7 again.

Reflection: Name some glories of the Lord Jesus from this section and thank God for them.

Verses 8-14

Milk and Solid Food

We ended the last portion with a glance at an exceptional period from the life of the Lord on earth. Therein the writer took us to Gethsemane where the Lord Jesus was confronted with the deepest suffering that could ever happen to a man. He endured intensively the suffering on the cross ahead. By fully surrendering Himself He offered up prayers and supplications unto His Father to be saved from that suffering. In full acceptance of the will of His Father He complied with His will. We see here a special event in a life of obedience.

Hebrews 5:8. His whole life was about suffering, suffering as a result of the temptations that He was heading for because He obeyed God perfectly. Before He became Man, obedience was unfamiliar to Him. In heaven He did not have to be obedient to anyone. In heaven He could not be familiarized with obedience. Up there angels were obeying Him. Only when He came on earth He took a place of submission, primarily towards God, but also towards His parents (Luke 2:51). In that way He had to practice obedience as a deed and in that sense He had to learn what it is to obey.

Hebrews 5:9. Unlike us He had no will of His own. He did not need to unlearn something, nothing had to be restrained or bend or changed with Him. With Him there was nothing that wasn’t subjected. In this way “having been made perfected” through His life on earth, means that in that way He was made perfectly suited to be able to exert his ministry as High Priest in heaven for us who are also in a position of obedience. He became obedient to death, yes to the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8).

Obedience was the secret of His way. It is also the secret of your way, by which you will be kept from walking in the traps of the enemy. When you obey Him Who by His own obedience achieved the end perfectly, He will also bring you there where He already is now. Through His ministry as High Priest He keeps you from the dangers and temptations of the wilderness until you have reached the final salvation, the Sabbath rest. He is the Author of an “eternal salvation”, which means that the range and its blessings extend to eternity.

Hebrews 5:10. Because Christ successfully concluded His way on earth He became perfectly suited to be our High Priest. Due to His perfectly obedient life God could greet Him “as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek”. God called Him that after His work on earth and by that He confirmed His ministry in heaven now for us. After God called Him in Hebrews 5:6 for that ministry, He is now called as such by God (in Hebrews 5:10) to carry out this ministry.

That necessary condition was fulfilled by Him: He was perfected. A Priest Who is the Son of God would not have been able to do much for us if He had not learnt to know the reason of His ministry by experience. Precisely because He knows from His own experience what you can possibly face, He is perfectly able to help you. He is the absolute assurance for your final and eternal salvation.

Hebrews 5:11. Hebrews 5:11 is the beginning of a third parenthesis that runs till chapter 6:11. A parenthesis is an interruption in the argument of the writer in which he seriously warns his readers to take his teachings to heart; he warns them about the consequences when they don’t do that. In earlier parentheses he warned not to drift away from the Word (Hebrews 2:1-4) and not to doubt the Word (Hebrews 3:7-4:13). The warning in this third parenthesis is not to get bored with the Word for that will cause you to become dull of hearing.

The writer points out that there is still much more to be said about Him, that is Christ as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. He was willing to speak about that with them, but that would only be possible when the readers had an appropriately spiritual mind. In this parenthesis he tries to achieve that they would come far enough that he could speak with them about it.

At this moment it was, however, difficult to explain that. That was not caused by his ability or qualification as teacher, but it was caused by his pupils. They were not able to understand his teaching because of their spiritual laziness. They were not always lazy, but they became lazy. They became lukewarm; they lost their first freshness because religious traditions started to influence their mind again. There is nothing that makes a person that dull in spiritual matters like religious traditions.

When heavenly matters lose their radiation, earthly and visible matters become powerful and meaningful again, which has the effect that it delays the practice of the Christian and heavenly calling more. It was not that the readers were lacking in intelligence and neither did the writer note a hostile or worldly mind. The dull making and lazing making factor was that in their heart they longed again for the old religious forms of Judaism. This hindered them to grow practically in the truth of God as it is revealed in Christendom.

They were prepared to listen to the teaching of Christ on earth, for that was connected to their religion. Then at least the visible and tangible remained to exist and in that way they had a hold on their religion for their own sense. The glorified Christ as the fulfillment of all that is visible and tangible was not everything for them yet. When they were told about the latter, they delayed their speed to hear, which caused that they did not understand their true Christian position.

Hebrews 5:12. They were, however, for such a long time Christians that they should have been able to teach others. Instead of that they themselves needed to be taught again about “the elementary principles of the oracles of God”. They ought to be teachers in that sense that they spiritually had grown in such a way that they were able to share the spiritual things together. But the old forms of their religion, which they abandoned when they converted, became attractive again.

There is hardly any greater hindrance for making progress in your spiritual life and for growing in spiritual insight. The maintaining of an old form of religion is often seen as the highest proof of devotion, while in reality formalism forms a barrier between your soul and what God wants to show you.

Another hindrance for your spiritual growth is the wisdom and the philosophy of the world (1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:1-Exodus :). In Colossians 2 both hindrances are called together “principles of the world” and are put against Christ (Colossians 2:8). Both religious traditions and worldly wisdom are enemies of the faith that is only fed by the Word of God of which Christ is the center.

It was not only that the Hebrews remained stuck in their spiritual growth, due to their dullness or slowness in hearing, but they went back to the beginning. That’s why they had to be taught again what they had already known for a long time, but what had lost the essence for their heart. It did not have authority any more in their life. The moment God’s Word doesn’t fill your heart and doesn’t guide your life anymore you go down and you run the risk of returning to the world. Then you need to be taught again about the first principles of the oracles of God, which indicates the speaking of Christ on earth (Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 1:1).

Hebrews 5:13-2 Chronicles :. The writer calls that “milk”. ‘Milk’ is the word of and about Christ on earth. They were not ready for solid food. Solid food is the word about Christ in heaven. As a Christian you live by milk when you for instance take the beatitudes as standard for your Christian life, while you don’t think about your heavenly position in Christ. It is not wrong to be a babe, but it is when you remain one or when you act like one again.

When you think about your heavenly position in Christ you are partaking of solid food or as it is called in Hebrews 5:13 “the word of righteousness”. Then you are partaking of the righteousness of God in which everyone who believes shares through the perfected work of Christ. On the ground of that righteousness Christ received the place He now has in heaven and that you have in Him there. Are you unskilled in that (while you ought to know better!) then you are a babe. To say it with the words of Galatians 4 (Galatians 4:1-Judges :), where the same things are the issue: You are a child.

On the other hand stands the spiritual mature believer who has gone through a healthy spiritual growth and who knows his position in Christ and lives accordingly. To become spiritually mature is not an automatic procedure, but a result of a habit to exercise your senses. By “senses” is meant, your perceptivity or discernment. Your spiritual growth is extremely dependent on the discernment of good and bad. If you focus your eye on the heavenly Christ you are not a disconnected eccentric, but you get more insight in doing the good and disposing the wrong.

Now read Hebrews 5:8-14 again.

Reflection: Are there things in your life that are delaying your spiritual growth?

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Hebrews 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/hebrews-5.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.