Studies In Hebrews #7
by Alex D. Ogden

The Greatness Of Melchizedek (7:4-10)

In considering Melchizedek the writer says, "Now consider how great this man was" (7:4). Our author puts forth three arguments to show the supremacy of Melchizedek.

  1. Abraham, the father of the Israelite people, gave tithes to Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of the chief spoils from the battle with the kings (v.4; cf.Gen.14:13-24). The sons of Levi, who were later commanded to receive tithes of the people of Israel (v.5), were yet in the loins of Abraham. Therefore, "through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes" (v.9). Abraham recognized the greatness of Melchizedek when he gave him tithes.
  2. Melchizedek, who received tithes of Abraham, "blessed him that hath the promises. But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better" (v.6,7). Since Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham and blessed him, and the lesser is blessed of the greater, then it follows that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. It also follows that the priesthood of Melchizedek was more excellent than that of the sons of Levi who though yet unborn, were in the loins of Abraham. Since Abraham was blessed of Melchizedek we understand that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, the father of the Israelite Nation.
  3. The writer next shows the greatness of Melchizedek's priesthood to that of the Levites by showing the mortality of the Levites and the apparent immortality of Melchizedek. "And here men [Levites] that die receive tithes; but there one [Melchizedek], of whom it is witnessed that he liveth" (v.8). Since immortality is better than mortality, the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than that of the Levites.

By these three arguments Melchizedek is shown to be greater than both Abraham and Levi, who was already in the loins of his father Abraham (v.10). The priesthood of Melchizedek is, therefore, greater than the Levitical priesthood. Furthermore, since Christ's priesthood is "after the order of Melchizedek" (cf.6:20), His priesthood is also greater than the Levitical priesthood. The author proceeds to develop this contrast even further.

The Superiority Of Jesus' Priesthood (7:11-28)

This discussion of Melchizedek being greater than both Abraham and the sons of Levi raises the question, "Now if there was perfection [complete redemption, remission of sins] through the Levitical priesthood (for under it hath the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be reckoned after the order of Aaron?" (v.11). Jehovah had indicated long before that the one who would sit on His right hand as king (Ps.110:1), by an oath of Jehovah would be made priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Ps.110:4; see also Zech.6:12,13). The writer of Hebrews has shown clearly that Jesus is both seated at the right hand of God and a priest after the order of Melchizedek (1:3,13; 5:5,6,10; 6:20; 7:17; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).

Since the priesthood has been changed, "there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (v.12). Our writer explains: "For he of whom these things are said belongeth to another tribe, from which no man hath given attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests" (v.13,14). Aaron could not serve as priest under any other law than the law of Moses, and no non-Levitical priest could serve under the law of Moses (cf.Num.18:7). Therefore, if the priesthood has changed there has obviously been a change of law as well.

To further verify the removal of the old order (priesthood, law, and imperfection) and the introduction and permanence of another the Hebrew writer presents the following three facts:

  1. The endless life of the new priest and His priesthood. "And what we say [verses 11-14] is yet more abundantly evident, if after the likeness of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, who hath been made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life: for it is witnessed of him, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (v.15-17). By the law of Moses each new priest had to be a descendant of Aaron and they assumed the priesthood because of the law of succession made necessary by death; that is, regardless of how personally holy or desirous his predecessor was in remaining on and on as priest, they could not continue in the office beyond death. In contrast, the priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchizedek rests on the power of His endless and sinless life. God made Him a "priest for ever" (cf.5:5,6; 6:20; 7:20,21). Since He would never die in this office, His eternal priesthood would make unnecessary the appointment of another priest after Him.
  2. Our priest is able to "save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him" (v.25). Since the Levitical priesthood could not provide perfection [complete redemption, remission of sins], there was a need for another priest to arise (v.11). Jesus is that priest and through Him we are able to have full and complete forgiveness of our sins. Furthermore, He "ever liveth to make intercession for them" who draw near to God. The priest after the order of Aaron could intercede for the people for a while but their intercession was always cut short because of death. With our High Priest their is constant intercession available for us since He "ever liveth".
  3. The superiority of Christ's priesthood to the Levitical priesthood is further established by the moral perfection of our High Priest. The writer puts it thus, "For the law appointeth men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the law, appointeth a Son, perfected for evermore" (v.28). No priest after the order of Aaron was morally perfect or perfect in the office of high priest. On the other hand, the moral perfection of our High Priest was always complete, but His perfection as High Priest and as author of eternal salvation had to be accomplished through suffering. "For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (2:10). In being made like His brethren, sharing their flesh which is subject to temptation, He qualified Himself to become a merciful and faithful high priest (2:17). "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted" (2:18). This was furthered affirmed when he said, "though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; name of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (5:8-10).

Clearly our High Priest, Jesus Christ, and His priesthood are far superior to the Levitical priest and their priesthood. With such a great High Priest why would any Christian want to turn back unto anything else?

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This page was last updated on Thursday, May 28, 1998.