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In this chapter you finally get more to learn about the person of Melchizedek. In that way the writer goes back to his main subject with which he started in chapter 5. He also said in chapter 5 that it is difficult to explain when we have become dull of hearing (Heb 5:11). Still he wants to explain it now, for concerning his readers he is convinced of better things. He assumes that they will make efforts to understand him. You want to do that too, undoubtedly. That is also necessary, for it is not all that simple. At the same time, the greater the joy when you get to understand something about it.
When you look at the priesthood of the Lord Jesus you should do that through the eyes of a Hebrew believer. As you are (most probably) a Christian of Gentile origin, you have never been under a priesthood that was instituted by God. However, you will find a lot here that encourages and edifies you.
Heb 7:1. In his explanation about Melchizedek it is about two things: the dignity of his person and the importance of his priesthood. In this letter Melchizedek is mentioned eight times. The only thing we know about Melchizedek, is written in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. To be able to explain this priesthood the writer first pays attention to the history of Melchizedek as you find that in Genesis 14 (Gen 14:18-20).
When Abraham defeated five foreign kings with the help of his servants and delivered Lot he encountered the even more dangerous appearance of the world. In the person of the king of Sodom the world doesn’t approach him with hostility, but with temptations (Gen 14:17; 21). However, God guided him in such a way that he first met Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God (Gen 14:18-20). After this meeting Abraham had the strength to meet with the king of Sodom.
Herein lies a great encouragement. There is nothing that strengthens you so much in this hostile and tempting world like a ‘meeting’ with the One Who is seated at God’s right hand as the true King-Priest. When you have that meeting, He blesses you, poor warrior, with a wonderful blessing with which He shortly will bless the whole creation.
The Melchizedek in Genesis was a common king like the other kings of that area that God was going to turn upside down. In addition to that he was a priest as well. But not in the way the others were priests in that area. Those were idol priests, while he on the contrary was priest of the Most High God. The name “Most High God” is therefore significant. It is the name of God in relation to the millennial kingdom of peace. He is the everlasting highest Ruler over all things. He possesses heaven and earth (Gen 14:19; cf. Eph 1:20; Col 1:16). To the unbeliever it is still hidden now, but in the millennial kingdom of peace He will be visible for everyone and be acknowledged by everyone. Likewise Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Him after his humiliation (Dan 4:34-35).
Abraham is blessed by Melchizedek in relation to the name of God as the Most High. This anticipates the kingdom of Christ when He shall reign as Priest on His throne in blessing (Zec 6:13). This Melchizedek blessed the Abraham who was tired from the war, as Christ will do to the whole creation. Melchizedek brings praise to God and blesses Abraham in the Name of God. He gives Abraham bread and wine. That is far better than what the king of Sodom could offer him. Bread and wine speak of Christ Himself as food and joy after the war (and not of the Lord’s Supper, for that is not for the purpose of strengthening, but that is in remembrance of!).
Heb 7:2. Abraham expresses his appreciation and gratitude towards Melchizedek by giving the tenth to him. The writer pays more attention to the tenth in Heb 7:4. First he explains the meaning of the name Melchizedek. That name is a junction of ‘righteousness’ and ‘peace’. These are especially the features of Christ in His reign in the millennial kingdom of peace. Then it becomes fully visible that in Him righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psa 85:10). Besides, here you find an important indication that you may apply spiritually to the meaning of names that are mentioned in the Old Testament (cf. 1Cor 9:9; 1Cor 10:1-11; Gal 4:21-31), without giving any room to your own fantasy.
Righteousness and peace are also the characteristics of His kingdom now, even if it still only exists in a hidden form (Rom 14:17). What shall fill the earth in future, should now already be present in your life. After all you have accepted the Lord Jesus as your Lord and you are baptized and due to that you came onto a territory where His authority is acknowledged, haven’t you? The order is: first (“first of all”) righteousness (Isa 26:9) and then peace (Isa 32:17), for there can be no true peace than on the basis of righteousness alone. That goes also for you personally (Rom 5:1).
Heb 7:3. In the way the Scripture introduces Melchizedek, it becomes clear that he is a beautiful picture of Christ. If you read in Genesis 14 about Melchizedek, there he, as it were, suddenly comes out of nowhere. Earlier you do not hear anything of him and later in the history he neither appears anymore. There is nothing known about his ancestors to whom he might owe his priesthood. Neither is there a list of descendants known of him, something that was essential for the priesthood of Aaron (cf. Ezra 2:62; Neh 7:64). No limits were prescribed to his priesthood (cf. Num 4:3). It is a man without historical background of whom also no other actions are told. He appears and disappears. There is something timeless about him.
As man he was born like all other men of course and he must have died. Neither is he a revelation of Christ. On the contrary, it is written that he, in his performance, was made like Him, from which it appears that he was not the Son of God. But by the way he appears in the Scripture, God wants to tell something about His Son.
You have seen that in the meaning of the name Melchizedek and you now see what is said about him, or better put, what is not said about him. The lack of information about his genealogy and about his birth and death makes him a prime example of the Son of God. The Son of God is the eternal Son of God and thus without origin, without a beginning and an end. Regarding His priesthood, it means that it never ceases and that it will never be handed down to someone else. This makes a great contrast with the priesthood of Aaron, which was handed down from father to son.
Heb 7:4. You ought not to forget what you just saw of Melchizedek. The writer exclaims with the words “now observe” to carefully pay attention with great interest to all the details of his greatness. Like the Hebrew readers you may think great of Abraham, but Melchizedek was far greater! Abraham is emphatically mentioned "patriarch”, which emphasizes his dignity. But the fact that Melchizedek received the tenth from Abraham proves the higher and more excellent dignity of this person. He, who receives the tithes, is actually greater than he who gives the tithes.
Heb 7:5. Then the writer involves the tribe of Levi in his argumentation. He had proved that the person he described in the previous verses, is greater than Abraham. That means that that person also is therefore also greater than Abraham’s descendants Levi and Aaron and that therefore also the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than that of Levi and Aaron.
That appears also from the giving and the receiving of the tithes. The Levites actually received as a whole the tithes from the people (Num 18:21; 24), of which they then gave the tithes to the priests (Num 18:26). The similarity between Levi and Melchizedek is that they both received the tithes from others. But there is a great difference here too. The Israelites did not give the tithes to the Levites out of respect for them because they stood above the people, but they did that because God commanded them to, as compensation to the Levites for their service and for their missing an inheritance.
That was also the reason why the Levites were allowed to accept the tithes of the people. They were entitled to receive the tithes because God designated it like that for them. The tithes belonged to God (Lev 27:30; Pro 3:9; Mal 3:8-9). They were given to the Levites by the Israelites because they represented the Lord.
Heb 7:6. In the case of Melchizedek it was different. The entitlement that Melchizedek had to receive tithes was not designated through a command from God. He didn’t even belong to the descendants of Levi and neither did he belong to another generation for whom something was designated. He accepted the tithes of Abraham on the ground of his own person and function. Thus he is greater than Abraham and therefore also greater than Levi.
After receiving the tithes he blessed Abraham as the vessel of promises. Abraham was the holder and preserver of Divine promises. He was going to become the father of a multitude of people, in whom all people on earth would be blessed by God! The person by whom Abraham is blessed, is therefore really someone who is supposed to be called great. For a Christian all true blessing is also related with the Person and the office of Christ in heaven.
Heb 7:7. He who blesses is “without any dispute” greater than he who is being blessed. The fact that the greater blesses the lesser is forgotten in Christianity. You see that for example in cases where the pastor blesses the church, as if he is greater than those he serves. In Christendom, however, there is no believer superior to the other (Mt 23:8).
Now read Hebrews 7:1-7 again.
Reflection: What are the similarities between Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus?
Priesthood of Levi and of Melchizedek
Heb 7:8. The writer does his utmost to clarify the huge difference between Abraham and Levi on the one hand (“in this case”) and Melchizedek on the other hand (“in that case”). Thereby you should consider that, concerning these Hebrew Christians, there was an exceptional appreciation for the great patriarch. Also for the tribe of Levi they had great respect. This tribe was indeed connected in an exceptional way with Him, as a link between the people and God. That tribe had to make sure that the connection between the people and God was maintained. But after all they were all “mortal men”, while of Melchizedek on the contrary, is witnessed that he lives.
Levi needed the tithes to stay alive, but the moment would come that he had to die, for he was a mortal man. Melchizedek did not need the tithes to stay alive. He accepted the tithes as an homage. In that way you are not able to give something to Christ as if He couldn’t possibly be without it. Whatever you give Him from your property, from your time, from your abilities and from your worship, you do that out of honor and obeisance.
Melchizedek was, in type, as a reference to Christ, also the living one. Christ is forever Priest; death cannot rule over Him anymore. Of Him Who became Priest after the order of Melchizedek, is witnessed that He lives. We do not learn anything from the death of Melchizedek.
Heb 7:9-10. The arguments are concatenating to magnify more and more the person of Melchizedek before the eyes of the Hebrew Christians. That goes also for the remark that Levi, who received the tithes himself, still was the lesser of Melchizedek because Levi, as it were, gave the tithes in Abraham to Melchizedek. When Melchizedek accepted the tenth from Abraham, he actually accepted that of Levi as well, because he, although was not born yet, is seen as present in Abraham, as he descended from Abraham. [This way of speaking you also see in Genesis 25, where Rebecca is not told that there are two ‘children’ in her womb, but two ‘nations’ (Gen 25:23). In that way it is said that these two children represent two nations (cf. also 1Cor 15:22)].
Heb 7:11. Up to Heb 7:10 the writer has tried to make clear that Melchizedek is greater than Aaron. From Heb 7:11 he goes a huge step further. Melchizedek not only is greater than Aaron, but he came instead of Aaron, he replaced him. The writer again will put forward the necessary arguments to explain that. Then you become convinced that the disappearance of the order of Aaron is no loss and also that the replacement by the order of Melchizedek is nothing but gain.
It is not about replacing something good by something better. No, the replacement occurs because the priesthood of Levi was not satisfactory; it did not lead anything to perfection. That doesn’t mean that there was something wrong with the Levitical priesthood on itself, just as there was nothing wrong with the law. The priesthood was given by God, though only in relation with the law.
However, man himself is only to blame for the fact that both law and priesthood didn’t bring man to perfection. By ‘perfection’ is meant that the conscience is freed from every burden and that there is a free access to the sanctuary in the presence of God. If the Levitical priesthood would have been able to achieve that, it was not necessary that another priest had to arise in connection with another order, fully independent of the order of Aaron. But that aim could not be achieved. Therefore the Levitical priesthood had to disappear and had to be replaced by another one.
Heb 7:12. However, because the priesthood changed, the necessity for “a change of law” also arose. Mind you that it is about the change of law, by which is meant a certain principle, a certain law and order. The Levitical priesthood was connected to the law of Sinai. Therein miscellaneous rules were dictated regarding the priesthood in Israel, concerning matters like succession, garments, when to bring sacrifices and which sacrifices should be brought. Those laws applied to the priesthood of Aaron. They couldn’t be transferred to that of Melchizedek, because this priesthood is exerted according to totally different rules.
Heb 7:13. By the replacement of the priesthood that is exerted according to other rules, it was also not coerced anymore that the new priest had to be from the tribe of Levi. Christ indeed did not arise from Levi, the priestly tribe, but from Judah, the kingly tribe (Rev 5:5). Judah was never connected to the altar. Moses never made even the slightest reference or allusion that somebody from the tribe of Judah would be consecrated to be a priest for the service at the altar.
“The one concerning whom these things are spoken”, is Christ. He is the object of all things that is said in the Scripture and here it is particularly regarding His priesthood.
Heb 7:14. The argument of the writer was clear and evident. His readers knew for sure and without any doubt that “our Lord” arose from Judah. Very sensitively he called Him, Who is King, ‘our Lord’. In that way he indicates that the Lord Jesus has authority over the life of His people as much over that of himself. Judah is the kingly tribe. That’s where the Lord Jesus ‘arose’ from, as “descended” also can be translated. He is the Shiloh, the Prince of Peace from Judah (Gen 49:10).
Thus the new Priest comes from the kingly tribe. That makes Him that unique King-Priest. These two offices together with His name ‘Branch’ are wonderfully presented in Zechariah 6 (Zec 6:12).
Heb 7:15-16. All the previous teachings of the writer, wherein he shows that the Levitical priesthood has brought nothing to perfection and that a new kind of priesthood is required, become only clearer by the rise of the other Priest who resembles Melchizedek. The other priest, the Lord Jesus, is not a priest according to a commandment that God had put on people, without demanding anything from the inward man, the mind of the heart. Each person who participated in the prescribed conditions, participated in that priesthood. It is not like that with the Lord Jesus. He became priest “according to the power of an indestructible life.”
Not a new fleshly commandment determined His priesthood, for example a commandment that instead of from Levi the priest has to come from Judah now. Christ is not a priest because He arose from Judah, but because He possesses an endless life.
Heb 7:17. That endlessness became evident in His resurrection and the result of that is that He has no succession. In Him you see that new life from death is the feature of the true high priest, as God has shown in the rod of Aaron which he made to produce blossoms (Num 17:1-8). Not only that He has no successor, but as Man He is also “a priest forever”. Therefore Psalm 110 is quoted again.
Heb 7:18. Again the writer contrasts the old and the new. He calls the old “a former commandment” (Heb 7:18) and calls the new “a better hope” (Heb 7:19). He also makes clear that the old commandment really had to be annulled “because of its weakness and uselessness”. It was ‘weak’ because it did not give man any power to fulfill God’s commandments (Rom 8:3-8). It was ‘useless’, because it did not produce the desired result: it did not make the conscience free from burdens and it could not realize a free access to God.
Heb 7:19. The entire old system of the law therefore “made nothing perfect”. God gave the law to His people on mount Sinai so that through the law it would become clear how sinful man is. The law therefore is also called ‘the power of sin’ (1Cor 15:56; Rom 7:7) and the ‘ministry of death’ (2Cor 3:7). Therefore the law is abolished, like sin is put away (Heb 9:26). With regard to the believer, that happened because he died through the law to the law (Gal 2:19).
The law showed man the right way, but did not give him the power to actually go the right way. It prescribed what should happen in case of sin, but the prescribed sacrifice could not take away sin and had to be repeated again and again in case of new sins. Instead, a new hope has come and the access to God has been opened through the new priesthood, to which other laws are connected.
The better hope assures you that you will achieve the final goal through all temptations and afflictions. In the meantime you are allowed to freely come to God and be close to Him.
Now read again Hebrews 7:8-19.
Reflection: What are the differences between the Levitical priesthood and that of Melchizedek (that means: that of the Lord Jesus)?
Such a High Priest Was Fitting for Us
Heb 7:20-21. Still the writer is not finished with clarifying the difference between the priesthood of Melchizedek and that of Aaron. He makes use of all differences to make his readers aware of the excellence of the priesthood of Melchizedek beyond that of Aaron. The following difference is that God, with the introduction of the Levitical priesthood, didn’t swear an oath, while He on the contrary did with that of Melchizedek (i.e. of Christ). Again the writer uses the quotation of Psalm 110 (Psa 110:4) to prove it.
By swearing an oath God declares that His intention concerning the priesthood of Christ is absolute. The oath is additional assurance that He will never ever reconsider this, otherwise He would dishonor the One to Whom He had sworn – that is He Himself. Also human weakness or sin has in no way an impact on this priesthood. This priesthood can never be put aside. The Levitical priesthood was totally different. There was no oath connected to this priesthood, which was not designated with the intention to be everlasting, but was only intended to function for a certain time.
Heb 7:22. Because the priesthood of Melchizedek was established by the swearing of an oath, it is therefore better than that of Aaron. This fact leads the writer then to speak about “a better covenant”, which means better than the covenant of Sinai. This covenant is as much better as the priesthood made by an oath is better than the priesthood without an oath. There are two parties obliged in making a covenant. At Sinai the people obliged themselves to keep the law and God obliged Himself to bless them at keeping the law. But it has become evident that man under the old covenant, under the law, has failed, as the priesthood without an oath neither was satisfying.
However, with the better covenant “Jesus has become the guarantee” and therefore the blessing is sure. He has fulfilled the law and has therefore met all obligations. And not only that. He also took away all debts that rested on the people by bearing them and paid for them. As a guarantee He met the obligations for the party that has failed. He did not make Himself a guarantee in an impulsive action, without overseeing the consequences (Pro 6:1-5). He knew what He was doing and He also knew that He was able to bear the costs.
Heb 7:23. The writer yet mentions a difference between the old and the new priesthood. The old priesthood had to be passed on to someone else over and over again, due to the death of the previous official priest. Therefore no Israelite could ever set his hope on a high priest forever. Therefore the succession of the high priest was also regulated in the law. When Aaron died he was followed by Eleazar (Num 20:25-28). A high priest under the old covenant did not live forever. In case a member of the people needed him and had told him everything, it could happen that this member had to tell his whole story again to another high priest, because the previous one had died.
Heb 7:24. This can never happen to you. The Lord Jesus has a totally different priesthood. That is not to be passed on to others, for it is everlasting. That has to do with the glory of His Person. One of His glories is that He remains forevermore. He also knows what death is, for He died once. However, He became alive again. Because He has been into death and is now alive forevermore (Rev 1:18), His priesthood can never ever be abolished by death anymore.
His priesthood is wonderfully related to life, His life. In Heb 7:8 you have read that He lives and in Heb 7:16 that He is Priest according to the power of an endless life. Therefore He exerts an unchangeable priesthood. His priesthood will never be handed down to someone else for the reason that He wouldn’t be able to exert it anymore. What a surety you have in Him!
Heb 7:25. The results of such a priesthood are presented in Heb 7:25-26 in such a way that is tremendously encouraging to you. The Lord Jesus is a High Priest Who continually lives for you. He is able to keep you entirely safe and up until the end of your journey through the wilderness. He can help you through anything. He is able to save you from all possible temptations and at last bring you to the ultimate eternal salvation, the eternal Sabbath rest.
He has the necessary power to do this work. Christ’s salvation is a perfect redemption, whatever your need is or whoever’s need of His own. He is not going to carry you through for only a part of the journey through the wilderness to drop you on a certain moment or hands down the care to another person. He will carry you through the whole journey. He shall really save you perfectly.
Through Him you are allowed to draw near to God. God sees each of His sons in relation to His Son, Who lives in heaven. This life is not a passive life He lives peacefully in rest after the defeat of sin and death. He is not in heaven to rest, but “to make intercession for them”. That is active; that’s what His life exists of; that’s what He continually is occupied with. As long as believers live on earth, He lives for them. He is always and uninterruptedly available to them.
He intercedes between you as a weak believer on earth and the strong and holy God in heaven. He prays to God (cf. Rom 8:26-27; 34) for you with a view to what you are going through on earth. He knows exactly what you’re going through, because He knows from experience. He makes sure that you will not give up.
If Christ intercedes like that for you, would God reject Him? Of course not! Therefore it is incredibly important for you to approach God with the consciousness that He sees you in relation to Christ. You cannot come to God without that consciousness. He cannot receive you in His presence when you come to Him with the thought that He has to see you as so gorgeous or so miserable. On the contrary, it will give you the greatest assurance and boldness to come into God’s presence if you go there with the thought that you are together with Christ. God can accept you, because He sees Christ and He listens to you, because He hears Christ.
Heb 7:26. Christ is exactly the High Priest that is fitting for us. What He is to God, we are too, which means that He represents us to God. He is “such a high priest” Who is exalted far beyond the high priest from the old covenant. He is High Priest according to the glory and purity of heaven, the dwelling place of God where we are allowed to enter. His exalted high priesthood is fitting for our high position as sons of God.
For us a High Priest is fitting Who is “holy”, not because we are unholy, but because we are holy too. He is “innocent”, which means without evil, blameless, without deception and through Him we too are like that to God. Christ is completely separate from sin; He has no sin (1Jn 3:5), He knew no sin (2Cor 5:21), He committed no sin (1Pet 2:22). That is fitting for our perfect condition before God as we are seen in this letter.
“Undefiled” means spotless, clean. We get defiled by touching sin. If we are conscious of our connection with Him, we shall avoid every contact with sin.
On earth He was always “separated from sinners”, although He welcomed them and ate with them (Lk 15:2). His accessibility for sinners never caused Him to ever be united with them. Only in the hours of darkness on the cross He did that for those who acknowledged to be sinners. Now He is also literally separated from them. Our connection with Him means that we are morally separated from the sinners around us; that means that we do not participate with them.
Finally it says that He has become “exalted above the heavens”. Therein you see that He is exalted above all that is created. That is your position in connection with Him.
Heb 7:27. The difference between the former high priests and Christ is big. They were imperfect and sinful and therefore they had to offer up sacrifices for themselves. Those sacrifices were imperfect as well. They couldn’t take away sins and they had to be repeated over and over again. But Christ is without sin. He is a priest Who sacrificed Himself as a perfect sacrifice and did that “once for all”, so that it is not necessary to be repeated. The value of His sacrifice is everlasting and sufficient for all God’s people.
Heb 7:28. The last verse provides a summary. The law regulates a high priesthood that is exerted by failing people and therefore doesn’t satisfy. Opposite to the law is a high priesthood that is based on the word of the swearing of an oath. And who is that high priest? That is Somebody Who is “Son”. That is a name that hasn’t been used before in connection with the new High Priest. Then you think of His relation to God as Father. He was eternally Son, but He has become Priest.
The fact that He is priest as Son, adds a particular radiance to His priesthood. Rightly and naturally this priesthood is perfect to eternity, because the Son has been “made perfect forever”. Who would want to exchange such a priesthood for a human priestly system?
Now read Hebrews 7:20-28 again.
Reflection: What signs or characteristics demonstrate the excellence of the Lord Jesus as High Priest above the high priest under the law?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Hebrews 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13