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Hebrews 5

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Hebrews 5:1-4 Concerning the office of high priests taken from among men,

Hebrews 5:5-10 wherewith Christ’s priesthood is compared, and its privileges set forth.

Hebrews 5:11-14 A further account of which is deferred, and for what reason.

Verse 1

For every high priest taken from among men: for is a rational particle, enforcing the truth of what was asserted concerning the gospel High Priest before, that he was the most sensible and tender-hearted of all other, beyond what all his types were, even Aaron himself: how did it therefore behove those Hebrews to cleave to him and his religion, as to desert the Levitical priesthood which he had perfected in himself; he being more excellent for rise, qualities, office, call, than his preceding types, and the permanent truth of them all! For every one of that order in God’s institution, and according to his law, ought to be selected out of the numbers of men for whom he was to minister, and therefore to be a man. He was not to be an angel, nor to minister for them; and being separated from men, is to be put into another and higher rank and order, Exodus 28:1, than he was in before: no person was to usurp it, but to be designed to it according to the Divine law settled in that behalf. This was accomplished in Christ’s person, and he hath not since selected out of men any such order of priests properly so called in the Christian church. His officers being so far from being high priests, that they are not so much as in the enumeration of their titles styled ιερεις, priests; and as far is it from truth, that there are now as priests, so altars, sacrifices, temples in the Christian church properly so called; since it is expressly against the New Testament, and if so spoken of by the fathers, it must be understood figuratively and metaphorically, or else it is untrue.

Is ordained for men in things pertaining to God; καθισταται, the designed person, is constituted and set over others for their good, to seek either temporal or spiritual good, as the office is: compare Hebrews 8:3. By this ordination is power conveyed to this officer, and an obligation laid on him by a charge to exert it about things wherein men are concerned with God: he is a religious officer. Τα is imperfect, as Hebrews 2:7, for εν τοις, in things, or κατα τα, about things. A sinner can undertake to manage nothing towards God immediately, or by himself, but with a mediating priest, who must know God’s mind and perform it; and it was infinite mercy for God to institute such a help to sinners. The common sense of mankind about it since the fall doth evince it; no nation being without a religion, a temple, a place of worship, or a priest.

That he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; who may bring home to God, the supreme Lord and King of all, gifts, which were those free-will offerings, as of things inanimate, the first-fruits of corn, wine, and oil, &c., or of sacrifices, such whereby they were to atone and propitiate God for their sins, they being guilty, and he just; those were necessary to satisfy his justice, remove his wrath, and procure his blessing. What those sacrifices were which would please him, God only could reveal, as who should offer them both for himself and others: and this he did reveal to Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and to Moses fully in his law given him about them on the mount, and of which he hath written in his last four books.

Verse 2

Who can have compassion on the ignorant: the melting quality of the typical high priest is eminently to be fulfilled in the gospel one; each is to have an aptness, disposition, and a sufficiency of it, by the institution of God, for his ministrations, for manner as well as for matter, Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15. Μετριοπαθειν, strictly, is to bear, suffer, or be affected in measure, or suffer moderately, with the failings of others, in such a degree as is necessary to incline, as far as he is able, to succour, help, and comfort those who are in misery. It notes sympathy, Hebrews 2:18; Romans 12:15; and a suffering with them, yet so regulated by the Divine rule, as not to extend it unto unfit subjects, nor in an undue measure, lest it unfits him for ministerting for them. But the great High Priest excelleth in this, and is not bound to our measures, but sinlessly overabounds in it, to such as sin for want of knowledge of their duty, unwittingly, and without any forecast, for which the law provided a sacrifice, Leviticus 4:2; Numbers 15:24-29.

And on them that are out of the way; πλανωμενοις a metaphor borrowed from travellers gone out of their way; by which are understood such sinners as are misled by infirmity or violence of temptation, and so offend God by their opinions or practices; for the expiation of such were those sacrifices appointed, Leviticus 5:6,Leviticus 5:7; but then they were such as were sensible of their sins, confessed them, and begged for pardon, of whom the High Priest was to be compassionate; but not of presumptuous and capital sinners, who were unfit subjects of God’s mercy or man’s: there being no sacrifices provided for such, but they were to die without mercy, Numbers 15:30,Numbers 15:31; compare Exodus 22:14. God’s altar itself is no protection to them, 1 Kings 2:28,1 Kings 2:31. Such sins of infirmity which the Levitical high priest was liable to himself, was he to be compassionate of.

For that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; for that he was beset with infirmity, sin, ignorance, error, and disobedience; infirm in respect of duty and sacrifice, which was by reason of its weakness to be repeated yearly, Hebrews 10:1,Hebrews 10:11; and of the same infirm nature, liable to the griefs and miseries of his brethren both in soul and body. All these did surround and lie about him; he was sin and weakness all over, and therefore should be the more feeling of his brethren’s states, and more careful and ready to sacrifice and intercede for himself and them. But our great High Priest hath all the sense of these, but no sin, Hebrews 4:15.

Verse 3

This connection demonstrates the infirmity of the legal high priest: for this their infirmity, sins of ignorance and error.

And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people; he was obliged to his work by the express law of God, Leviticus 1:1-17. It is a rule for what the priests ought to do, and so is the whole book, to which they are to be punctually obedient, even to sacrifice for particular sinners in the church, as they were guilty and brought their sacrifice, Leviticus 4:1-35, and for the whole church of Israel on the atonement day, Leviticus 16:15-34.

So also for himself, to offer for sins; he had also his proper sacrifice for his own sins commonly, Leviticus 4:3, extraordinarily on the day of atonement annually, Leviticus 16:6-14. It is not necessary to a priest to be a sinner, but it is to be merciful. Adam offered prayers and praises to his Creator for himself and Eve in innocency; but since the fall our Lord Jesus Christ is the only High Priest without sin, and yet most merciful, as well as most sensible of the sins and miseries of penitent believing sinners. He offers up the sacrifice to God truly propitiatory, as his types did the typical ones, and procured the pardon which God promised to give upon his so sacrificing to him.

Verse 4

This connecteth the last thing describing the typical Levitical priesthood, their call to it.

And no man taketh this honour unto himself; not any person whatsoever hath or can lawfully take to himself the honourable office of a high priest, so as to be the author or end of it. Many have usurped this office, and others have distributed it contrary to God’s law, whose priesthood, offerings, and ministry are no true ones, especially where men are self-officiating, corruptly managing of it, as Eli’s sons and Jeroboam’s priests, or self-benefiting by it, 1 Samuel 2:13, &c.; Micah 3:11. This was so honourable an office as it was united to the princedom in Melchisedec and Jethro.

But he that is called of God, as was Aaron; he that is according to God’s law, (the Author of this priesthood, its work and success), qualified in himself, separated from others, and actually honoured by God with it, he onght to take this office and execute his work in it to God’s glory, depending on him for his blessing. Aaron is the particular instance of the Divine call to this office. God separated his tribe, family, and person for his service in the room of the first-born: God qualified him for it, entailed the high priesthood to his seed and offspring with the subordinate priesthood. He solemnly consecrated him by Moses, confirmed him in his work by fire from heaven at his first sacrifice, and vindicates his own call of him to it by the blossoming rod, and destroying the rivals with him for it, Exodus 28:29,Exodus 28:30; Numbers 16:35; Numbers 17:5.

Verse 5

The Spirit now draws the parallel, and shows, that whatsoever is requisite in God’s high priest, is transcendently fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, the infirmities of his types, which were accidental to the office, excepted.

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest: he begins the parallel in his call to it: God-man, the, great gospel High Priest, anointed to this office in the flesh with the Holy Ghost, was not tainted with ambition, neither did usurp this honour and dignity, John 8:54, though there never was person qualified for it, or deserved it, like him. He never did intrude himself upon the office, or take the sacerdotal power to him, whatever others have done, and usurped it.

But he that said unto him; but God the Father bespeaketh him, and calleth him to this high office, as he did Aaron: he chose him, separated, sent, and anointed him for it. No less person than the eternal Jehovah could constitute and invest him in what was so high for dignity, so glorious for power; he did by speaking commission him for it, and did publish and testify the constitution, glorifying him in it, as is testified, Psalms 2:7.

Thou art my Son: Thou, is not David, but Christ, as is interpreted, Hebrews 1:5; Acts 13:33. Art my only begotten Son, my natural Son, John 1:14,John 1:18; the first-born of God, Psalms 89:27; compare Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18. As his Son, the Father could appoint him to what calling he pleased. By his primogeniture he had right to the priesthood and kingship; and to these doth the Father call him, as who would not be denied by him.

To-day have I begotten thee; from eternity he had a right and title to this office, but his solemn investiture in it was on the resurrection day, then was he begotten to it; not only dedicated, as Hannah did Samuel to the priesthood, but solemnly, after his consecration by his own blood to it, Hebrews 9:10-12,Hebrews 9:23,Hebrews 9:24, compare Romans 1:4, was he by the Father proclaimed to be the Son-mediator, King, Priest, and Prophet, and made to enter the holy of holiest in heaven, and to sit down there on his Father’s right hand, invested with glory and power for the execution of his offices, and this of his priesthood in special, which tie is daily fulfilling with him by his intercession: see Hebrews 7:25,Hebrews 7:28; Hebrews 9:24; compare Psalms 2:8.

Verse 6

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest for ever: the Spirit proves his call and investiture into this office, its confirmation to him for ever, by another testimony of the Father about it, penned by David, Psalms 110:4, and ratified to be so by the Lord himself, Matthew 22:41-45; that he as man was David’s Son: as God-man, David’s Lord, and the grand officer to atone God by his sacrifice for sinners, and to intercede for them. By this word of God to him was he invested with the most glorious priesthood, and settled in that which he must execute for ever, Hebrews 7:24, having no successor in it.

After the order of Melchisedec; which order was a singular and most excellent one, such as Aaron’s did but imperfectly shadow to us. It was a royal priesthood God installed him in, such as was Melchisedec’s, largely described, Hebrews 7:1-28. This was by God the Father revealed to David, and prophesied by him to the church, but actually fulfilled as to proclamation and inauguration at his ascension into the holy of holiest in heaven, where he actually in the flesh doth officiate and minister in it.

Verse 7

Here Christ is paralleled in his nature, work, and compassions, to his types, and is set above them.

Who in the days of his flesh: he was taken out of men, as his type was, Hebrews 5:1. He was made flesh, and dwelt among us in the human nature, John 1:14. He had his days numbered, and his time set for his being and ministry beneath, doing and suffering the will of God here in a state of humiliation, frailty, and mortality; which infirmities attending his flesh, are now put off for ever, Hebrews 2:14.

When he had offered up prayers and supplications: he performed his service and offering to God, as his types, for the men for whom he was ordained, such as he delighted in; his prayers represented his inward desires to God for what he needed, and was necessary in our behalf to be obtained, a sacrifice fit to be offered by him, Hebrews 13:15; compare 1 Peter 2:5. Ικετηριας, a word but this once used in the New Testament; its root signifieth an olive branch, which petitioners carried in their hands; an emblem of the vehement desire of such supplicants of a peaceful answer or return to their prayers. These of Christ were the most fervent supplications, flowing from a deeply afflicted soul in a prostrate body, when he was preparing for the offering up his soul a sacrifice for sin, when he was in the garden, Luke 22:40,Luke 22:46, in his agony, and when actually offering it on the cross, Matthew 27:46. These were the prayers of God-man, the gospel High Priest.

With strong crying and tears, put up by him unto God the Father, who is essentially good and powerful, willing and able to hear and answer his supplications, the fountain of all mercy, blessing, and help, who could deliver him from, and save him in, the greatest dangers, so as none of those which encompassed him should hurt him, no, not death; for he was delivered from the evils which were far more dreadful to him than death itself, and which were to exercise him both before and at the hour of death. Those deadly temptations which he underwent in his agony and on the cross, and from which he chargeth the disciples to pray, that both he and they might be kept, Matthew 26:37,Matthew 26:38. Those deadly stings in his soul, Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40,Luke 22:46; such conflicts as his Father supported him under, carried him through, and gave him the victory over all that curse and power that might do him or his mystical body hurt. It was this death of deaths that did terrify him. As for the other, he cheerfully underwent it, resigned his spirit to his Father, trusted his body in his treasury, and was so far from being swallowed up by it, that he was gloriously risen from it.

Unto him, that was able to save him from death; evident in his agony, in the mighty groans that his soul poured out then when he prayed more earnestly, Luke 22:44; that which made him sweat through his flesh congealed clots of blood, squeezed by his agony out of his body, which made him weep and cry loudly; his voice as well as his soul was stretched out in prayer: the like was exercised by him in his conflict on the cross, Matthew 27:46. How bitter was his passion to him! How fervent, importunate, and loud his prayers! How did it break through the cloud wherewith God covered his face then! Psalms 22:1-31, represents in prophecy what was now fulfilled, Mark 15:34,Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; It was in making satisfaction to the justice of God for us that these were exercised, to show his inward compassions to us, and to secure sustentation for us in our sufferings by temptations, Hebrews 2:17,Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15,Hebrews 4:16.

And was heard in that he feared; the efficacy of these mighty prayers and supplications is evident by their reaching God’s ear, and procuring his help for him. He was helped, delivered, saved; so the Septuagint use this word in the Old Testament, putting hearing for helping and saving, as in Psalms 55:16-18; 2 Chronicles 18:31; απο της ευλαβειας, this is the right acceptation strictly read; for as a thing is truly apprehended, it stirreth up fear. This word hath in Scripture use two senses:

1. From the thing feared, by a metonymy, fear being put for that which works it, which was not here death simply, for that he suffered, but what he was more afraid of than death, viz. from the fear of being by his temptations hurried into diffidence of his Father, impatience in his agony, or despair at the eclipse in his death, which the devil designed. As to this his Father did hear, answer, and help him; in his agony sent his angel to strengthen him, Luke 22:43; and which he derfected for him at the end of his passion, when he breathed out his soul triumphantly into his Father’s hands, Matthew 27:46,Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37,Mark 15:39; John 19:28-30. Or,

2. From the fear, that godly fear and care in him not to displease God in any thing he did or suffered; this was a proper cause of his acceptance, and his prayer being heard, and his deliverance, which is becoming the Mediator. This is a truth, and may be admitted; but it seemeth especially to refer to the former by his prevalency, against which by prayer he defeated the devil, was made feelingly sensible of his temptations, showed himself compassed with infirmities, though not with sinful ones, and as our High Priest was rendered pitiful and compassionate to us under our temptations, so as to intercede for us above, as he did pray for himself on earth, and to procure for us succour under and deliverance from them.

Verse 8

He fulfilled his type in the end; for though he were God the Son incarnate, in a nearer and more excellent relation to the Father than any angel, or any high priest among men his types, being all servants to his Father and him; God’s Son by eternal generation as to his Deity, by conception from the Holy Ghost by the virgin as to his humanity, who for his worth might have been exempted from such burdens; yet did God teach him (not as if he wanted it at any time) by what he imposed and commanded him, and he learnt by what he did agree and covenant to perform, active obedience to God’s will, fulfilling all righteousness, being for his person, and doing for his work to a tittle what God required from him; but especially passive obedience, by his experience knowing what it meant, freely subjecting himself to his state of humiliation, Philippians 2:6-8, enduring all the indignities and sufferings for sinners from his birth to his death, even the most vile and cursed. This the Father enjoined and commanded him, and he did obey it: read Isaiah 53:1-12. He who offered prayers for himself, as a high priest offered himself a sacrifice for us, as ours. By this did he finish his Father’s will entirely, experimentally, feelingly, knowing how difficult patience under the cross is, and how to pity us under all our sufferings.

Verse 9

And being made perfect: as to the powerful execution of his office, this God-man exceeds his types; for having consummated all the work to which he was designed, by his doing, suffering, dying, rising, and ascending into heaven in the human nature, he perfected the work of redemption, and consecrated himself to his office.

He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him: by this was he constituted, made, and declared by his Father to be, not an instrument, as all his types were, but the cause efficient, meritorious, and exemplar of salvation; by his sacrifice satisfying God’s justice, meriting and effecting reconciliation and justification for sinners; and on his ascension sends forth the Holy Ghost, to qualify them for the reception of his benefits, by working in them what he requires; and on their application to him, he, as their High Priest, pleads the merit of his blood, and intercedes for their justification and salvation, which is the freeing them from all evil, criminal and penal, sin, and whatever it subjecteth them to in this world, or that which is to come; and insisting them into all the heavenly privileges promised in the covenant of grace, righteousness, holiness, heirship to, and life and glory with, God, and to be safe in the possession of them all, not for time only, but for eternity. This efficient cause produceth this only to the duty qualified subject: mankind is rendered salvable by the obedience and sacrifice of this High Priest; but it is only to penitent believing sinners that he doth communicate this, and for whom he effects it; those who will entirely submit themselves to Christ as a Lord and King, and be loyal to him and obey him, as well as to a Priest or a Saviour, continuing his faithful subjects to the end, John 3:16,John 3:18,John 3:36; compare Matthew 10:22.

Verse 10

His constitution by God the Father in his office, maketh it so effectual; he was solemnly proclaimed and declared to be what God had constituted him. God nameth or calleth things as they are, and as he hath made them; and this was done openly, and with the most illustrious solemnity, at his ascension into heaven, when God set him down on his right hand in the presence of all the surrounding angels, who did all submit to him as their Head and King, and acknowledge him as the great royal High Priest of God, as was foretold, Psalms 110:1,Psalms 110:2; which words of the psalmist the Spirit further explaineth in Hebrews 7:1-28, where he proves this gospel High Priest to be of a more excellent order than Aaron’s, even like that of Melchisedec, which it exceedeth, and which must last for ever.

Verse 11

The Spirit here digresseth from discoursing further of the priesthood of Christ, that he may fit these Hebrews to apprehend and improve it when he shall return to it, Hebrews 5:7. He beginneth with a reproof, which takes up the remainder of the chapter, and enters on it artificially from the doctrine delivered of Christ’s priesthood, insinuating the difficulty of its reception by them.

Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered: ου, of whom, some would make to refer to Melchisedec, but by what followeth in this and Hebrews 5:7, it can be spoken of none but of Christ the truth of that type, who was made a High Priest after that order. And of him the apostle was filled by the Spirit with the matter, as Elihu speaks, Job 32:18. Much he had to say of this mystery, which was most excellent and weighty, and which a few words could not express; for it was δυσερμηνευτος, not unutterable in itself, or difficult for him to open and interpret, but for them to understand.

Seeing ye are dull of hearing; because the ears of their mind were not created nor proportioned to it: they were babes and children in understanding; the difficulty was in themselves, not in the word or mystery; their intellective faculty was slow to discern, perceive, and judge of this doctrine, and their hearts were averse to it, being so conceited concerning the Levitical priesthood: such were the apostles at the first, John 16:12.

Verse 12

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers: the conviction of this fault in their understanding and will, is by the Spirit demonstrated; for their dulness proceeded from their neglect of God’s means of knowledge, and so was inexcusable; they had time and means enough of improving in the knowledge of this gospel doctrine of Christ’s priesthood, and to have gained in them the abilities of teachers of their families, fellow Christians, and neighbours, both from the law of Moses, and the other Scriptures, and by the teaching of Christ and his apostles.

Ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles; yet such was their negligence and idleness, that their knowledge was diminished and lost, and they fallen off to the old Mosaical economy of priesthood, ceremonies and services, so as they had need again to be taught and instructed by others which are the στοιχεια of God’s oracles in the Scriptures, such things as are the first in order, and first to be taught and learnt, the very fundamental principles of Christianity, without the knowledge of which none can be saved, and on which all others do depend. They are so styled by a metaphor, signifying such a state of this in the Scripture, as the elements have in natural bodies which they compound; or, like elements of speech, which must be first attained before there can be either an understanding, speaking, or writing of a language; they are the foundation upon which a system of the Christian religion is raised; see Hebrews 6:1; which principles lie dispersed in the New Testatment, and are summed up in those ancient creeds which are agreeable to our Saviour’s words.

Of the oracles of God: λογιων του θεου, such oracles or revelations of God’s mind about the way of our salvation, which he hath made to us by his Son our High Priest, and which he brought from heaven with him, and taught himself, as Hebrews 1:1,Hebrews 1:2; and hath by the inspiration of his Spirit of persons chosen on purpose by him, penned them eminently in the Scriptures of the New Testament, not excluding those of the Old Testament, which are unveiled, opened, and made glorious in them, Romans 3:2.

And are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat: these Hebrews had so greatly forgotten these first principles, that they were become mere babes and infants in knowledge, they needed the first and weakest spiritual food, metaphorically styled milk; the most plain and easy truths of the gospel, such as they may understand, and give light to others; not the beggarly elements of Judaism, as they are styled, Galatians 4:3,Galatians 4:9, and Colossians 2:8,Colossians 2:20, which would keep them ignorant babes in the word of righteousness, and unfit them for the understanding and digesting the stronger food of the higher and more excellent doctrines of the gospel concerning Christ’s priesthood. Such a babe was Nicodemus, though a master in Israel, John 3:10,John 3:12.

Verse 13

The Spirit proves these Hebrews such infants by describing the state of them, and of their contrary, and tacitly applying it to them under a metaphor or allegory started by him before.

For every one that useth milk; for, saith he, every one of you who take in nothing but the elements and weakest kind of doctrines, and can bear no other, have not digested the first principles of the oracles of God.

Is unskilful in the word of righteousness; are απειρος, not truly knowing, not proving nor experiencing, never exercised or practised in, the word of righteousness, the gospel doctrine, which is in itself an eternal certain truth, the revelation of the righteousness of God to faith, Romans 1:16,Romans 1:17, and the instrumental conveyer of it to faith; a perfect rule of righteousness, making Christians conform exactly to the mind and will of God, and so reaching the state of strong and perfect ones, Colossians 1:25-29.

For he is a babe; he is but a new-born Christian, a child in Christ’s school, one that cannot be experienced in the perfections of God’s word, because he is weak in knowledge, ignorant and unconstant like an infant, 1 Corinthians 14:20; compare Ephesians 4:14.

Verse 14

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age; but those great, deep, and high mysteries of the gospel concerning Christ’s natures, their hypostatical union, his offices, his actual fulfilling all his types in the Old Testament both personal and mystical, with the prophecies of his gospel church state, and his mediatory kingdom, &c., these are the strong meat and food of grown Christians, who have reached some maturity in the knowledge of these gospel mysteries, and are of a full age in understanding, 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Philippians 3:15; reaching on to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ in knowledge and grace, Ephesians 4:13.

Even those who by reason of use; even those who δια την εζιν, by a gracious habit of wisdom and knowledge infused and perfected by long study, practice, and exercise of themselves in the word of righteousness, by which they are able to apprehend and improve the highest doctrines of the mystery of Christ.

Have their senses: τα αισθητηρια are, strictly, organs or instruments of sense, as the eye, the tongue, and the hand, by a metonymy, express seeing, tasting, and feeling; and so is by analogy applied to the inward senses and faculties of the soul, whereby they discern and relish gospel doctrines.

Exercised: γεγυμνασμενα strictly notes such an exercise as wrestlers use for a victory with all their might and strength, being trained up to it by long exercise. The spiritual organs or faculties of Christians are well instructed, practised, made apt and ready, as the external ones are, for their proper work.

To discern both good and evil: προς διακρισιν, for the discerning and differencing things, so as the mind discerns what doctrine is true and what is false by the word of righteousness, and the will chooseth what is good and refuseth what is evil, the affections love good and hate evil. As the senses external can by exercise discern what food is gustful, pleasing, and wholesome for the person, and what is nauseous and unwholesome; so the grown Christian is improved by the exercise of his spiritual senses, that can by his enlightened mind discern higher gospel doctrines, and by his renewed will relish the sublimer mysteries of Christ as they are revealed to him. Such the Christian Hebrews ought to have been, so able proficients in the school of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hebrews 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.