For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
Verses 1-3. - For this Melchizedek, King of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (this description belongs to the subject of the sentence, being merely a recapitulation of the facts recorded in Genesis, the language of the LXX. being used; what follows belongs properly to the predicate, being of the nature of a comment on the facts recorded); first, being by interpretation King of righteousness (which is the meaning of the name Melchizedek), and then also King of Salem, which is, King of peace (the very names of himself and his kingdom are significant (cf. Psalm 85:10; Psalm 72:3; Isaiah 32:17; Romans 5:1); where righteousness and peace are the characteristics of the Messiah's kingdom; this significance, however, is not afterwards made a point of, being merely noticed by the way); without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. It is this language especially that has been supposed to involve something more than human about the historical Melchizedek. But we have only to enter into the mind of the writer to see that it is not so. For it is the ideal of the psalm, conceived as suggested by the historical type, that gives its color to the language used. And, indeed, how strangely suggestive is that fragment about the priestly king (Genesis 14:18-21) so unexpectedly interposed in the life of Abraham! In the midst of a history in which such a point is made of the parentage and descent of the patriarchs of Israel, at a time of peculiar glory of the first and greatest of them, one suddenly appears on the scene, a priest and king, not of the peculiar race at all, his parentage and ancestry unrecorded and unknown, who blesses and receives tithes from Abraham, and then as suddenly disappears from view. We hear no more of him; as about his origin, so about his end, Scripture is silent. And so he "abides" before the mind's eye, apart from any before or after, the type of an unchanging priesthood. For the meaning of the word ἀγενεαλόγητος (in itself denoting the absence, not of ancestors, but of a traced genealogy), cf. ver. 6, 6 ὁ δὴ μὴ γενεαλογούμενος ἐξ αὐτῶν. That of ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, is illustrated by the Latin expression, "Nullis majoribus ortus." On "made like (ὁμοιούμενος) unto the Son of God," Chrysostom says, "We know of no beginning or end in either case; in the one, because none are recorded; in the other, because they do not exist." The idea seems to be that Melchizedek is thus assimilated to Christ in the sacred record, by what it leaves untold no less than by what it tells. It is not said that he is like him (ὁμοίος), but made like (ὁμοιούμενος); i.e. represented in such wise as to resemble him. It may be here remarked that, though the term "Son of God" is used in the Epistle generally to denote the Messiah as manifested in time, his essential eternal being is here, as elsewhere, distinctly intimated; also that "the Son of God" is regarded as the archetype of the comparison: "Non dicitur Filius DEI assimilatus Melchizedeko, sed contra; nam Filius DEI est antiquior et archetypus" (Bengel).
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
Verse 4. - Now consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, even gave a tenth of the spoils. The typical significance of Melchizedek is now further seen in what passed between him and Abraham, in respect to tithe and blessing. Alford's inference, that πηλίκος οὕτος, referring as it does, not to the antitype, but to the man himself, implies some mysterious greatness beyond what appears in the original record, does not follow. Of one who simply blessed and received tithes from the great patriarch, the expression is not too strong. Observe the emphatic position, at the end of the Greek sentence, of ὁ παριάρχης, equivalent to "he, the patriarch." Abraham's being this, the father and representative of the chosen race, is what is shown in what follows to give peculiar significance to the transaction. The word ἀκροθίνια (properly, "the chief spoils"), which is not in the LXX., seems introduced to enhance the picture: "Quae Abrahami proprie fuerant, ut victoris" (Bengel).
And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
Verses 5-7. - And they indeed of the song of Levi who receive the office of priesthood have commandment to receive tithes of the people according to the Law, that is, of their brethren, though these have come out of the loins of Abraham: but he whose genealogy is not counted from them hath received tithes of Abraham. As much as to say, "Let it not be said that the tithing of Abraham by Melchizedek implies no higher priestly prerogative than the tithing of Abraham's descendants by the sons of Aaron; for there is this difference: They, in virtue only of a special ordinance of the Law, not of original right, were allowed to tithe their brethren, though descended from the same great ancestor; he, though not of them or of the race at all, in virtue of his own inherent dignity, tithes the whole race as represented in its patriarch." (We observe how, in place of the aorist ἔδωκε, used when the mere historical incident was referred to, we have here the perfect δεδεκάτωκε (as also εὐλόγηκε in what follows, and δεδεκάτωται in ver. 9), denoting a completed act, of which the effects and significance remain; Melchizedek, who represents the priesthood after his order, being viewed in permanent relation to Abraham, who represents the chosen race.) And hath blessed him that hath (i.e. the holder of) the promises. But, without all controversy, the less is blessed of the better. The superiority evidenced by bestowal of blessing no less than by receiving of tithe having been thus noticed, the contrast with the Levitical priesthood is continued in the following verses.
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
Verse 8. - And here (in the case of the Levitical priesthood) men that die (literally, dying men) receive tithes; but there (in the case of Melchizedek) one of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. The difference here noted is between a succession of mortal priests and one perpetually living, who never loses his personal claim, which is inherent, in himself. But how so of Melchizedek? For it is to him, and not to Christ the Antitype, that the words evidently apply. Is it at length implied that he was more than mortal man? No, if only for this reason; that the witness appealed to (μαρτυρούμενος) must be that of Scripture, which nowhere bears such witness of the historical Melchizedek. The words, μαρτυρούμενος ὅτε ζῇ, are, in fact, only a resumption of what was said in ver. 3: "having neither beginning of days nor end of life;" and hear the same meaning; viz. (as above explained) that he passes before our view in Genesis with no mention of either death, birth, or ancestry, and thus presented the ideal of "a priest for ever" to the inspired psalmist. The witness referred to is that of the record in Genesis, viewed in the light of the idea of the psalm.
And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
Verses 9, 10. - And, so to say, through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him. Or, in other words, "Nay, further, Melchizedek may be said to have tithed Levi himself and his priestly tribe." For, inasmuch as the whole position of Levi and his tribe, in the old dispensation, came by inheritance from the great patriarch who received the promises, the subordination of the patriarch to one above himself involved that of all who so inherited, it is not simply the physical descent of Levi from Abraham, but the peculiar position of the latter as "the patriarch," that justifies the assertion that Levi paid tithes through him. And thus, while we remember how Abraham is elsewhere viewed in Scripture as the representative of the chosen people, and also how the lives of individual patriarchs (notably so in the case of Jacob and Esau) are so told and referred to as to prefigure the positions and fortunes of the races they represent, we may recognize in this assertion no mere rabbinical fancy, but an interpretation true to the spirit of the Old Testament. Be it further observed that the original significance of Abraham's action as bearing upon his descendants is enhanced by the fact that, while it was after the receiving of the promise, it was before the birth of Isaac. He, and consequently his descendant Levi, was yet (ἔτι) in the loins of Abraham; on which point, "Proles e parenlis poteslate egressa in suam venit tutelain: sod quoad in parentis potestate, imo in lumbis est, illius conditionem sequitur" (Bengel).
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
Verses 11, 12. - If then perfection τελείωσις: cf. οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐτελείωσεν ὁ νόμος) were through the Levitical priesthood for under it (rather, upon it, on the ground of it) the people hath received the Law), what need was there that another (rather, a different) priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron. For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the Law. Here a further thought is introduced. So far the superiority of the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek to the Aaronic has been shown. The new thought is that the very mention in the psalm of a different order of priesthood implies that the old order, and with it the whole legal dispensation which depended on it, was imperfect and to be superseded. This is the general drift of vers. 11, 12, though the sequence of thought in their several clauses is not easy to follow. Ideas in the writer's mind, not expressed, seem necessary to be understood. In the parenthetical clause of ver. 11, ἐπ αὐτὴς and νενομοθέτηται are decidedly to be preferred, on the ground of authority, to ἐπ αὐτῇ and νενομοθέτητο of the Textus Receptus. 'The meaning of the clause (whatever be the precise thought connecting it with the sentence in which it stands) is that the whole Law rested on the institution of the priesthood; not the priests only, but the whole people (ὁ λαὸς), received their Law as grounded on it. On the same idea depends ver. 12, where it is said that a change of the priesthood involves of necessity a change of the Law. The verses next following serve to remove all doubt that there is a complete change of the priesthood; the proofs being, not only the patent fact that the Messiah is of the tribe, not of Levi, but of Judah (vers. 13, 14), but also, for mere abundant evidence of the Divine purpose, that significant utterance, again adduced, about his being after the order, not of Aaron, but of Melchizedek (vers. 15, 16, 17).
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
Verses 13, 14. - For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to (μετέσχηκεν: literally, hath partaken of; cf. μετέσχε, Hebrews 2:14, with reference, as there, to Christ's assumption of humanity) another tribe, of which no man hath (ever) 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 priesthood (or priests; ἱερέων being a better-supported reading than the Textus Receptus ἱερωσύνης). This is spoken of as evident (i.e. plain to all, πρόδηλον), not only because of the well-known prophecies that the Messiah was to spring from David, but still more (as is shown by the perfect ἀνατέταλκεν, pointing to an accomplished fact, and by the expression, ὁ Κύριος ἡμῶν) because Jesus, recognized by all Christians as the Messiah, was known to have so sprung. For it is to Christian believers, with whatever Jewish prejudices, not to unbelieving Jews, that the Epistle is addressed. It is important to observe that the Davidic descent of our Lord is spoken of as an acknowledged fact, not merely as an inference from prophecy. "We have here a most significant proof that the descent of Jesus from the tribe of Judah was a well and universally known fact before the destruction of Jerusalem" (Ebrard). "Illo igitur tempore nulla difficultate laborabat genealogia Jesu Christi: et hoc ipsum difficultatibus postea exortis abunde medetur" (Bengel). The verb ἀνατέταλκεν may have been specially suggested by the prophetic figure of the Branch from the root of Jesse (see Isaiah 11:1; and Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12, where the LXX. has ἀνατολὴ for 'Branch:' Ἀνατολὴ ὄνομα αὐτῶ καὶ ὑποκάσωθεν αὐτοῦ ἀνατελεῖ); though the figure of the sunrise is more frequently meant by the word when applied to Christ's appearance (el. Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 9:1; Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78).
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,
Verses 15-17. - And it is yet more abundantly evident (i.e. the proposition of ver. 12), if after the likeness of Melchizedek there ariseth another Priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless (indissoluble) life. For it is testified (of him), Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. This is a resumption of what has been already seen, put so as to be effective for the present stage of the argument. The old priesthood, and consequently the Law, is changed and superseded, not only because the Priest of the new order of things is of the tribe of Judah, but still more evidently because his priesthood is witnessed to as being one of a different kind, and of a kind so much higher and diviner. It is evident that the Antitype of Melchizedek, the subject of the hundred and tenth psalm, rather than Melchizedek himself, suggests here the language used. (Observe the contrasts between νομόν and δύνμιν σαρκικῆς and ἀκαταλύτου, ἐντολῆς and ζωῆς. The idea of Hebrews 9:8-15 is in Chose few pregnant words briefly anticipated, after the manner of the Epistle.)
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
Verses 18, 19. - For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof (for the Law made nothing perfect); but [there is on the other hand] a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God. Such is certainly the construction of the sentence (not as in the A.V.); οὐδεν γὰρ, etc., in ver. 19 being parenthetical, and ἐπεισαγωγὴ depending on γίνεται in ver. 18. We have here the conclusion of the argument of the vers. 11-18, with a further expression of the inherent insufficiency of the Law, given as the reason of its supersession; reminding us of similar views of what the Law was worth frequent in St. Paul's Epistles (cf. Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:10, etc.). The final clause, δἱ ῆς ἐγγίζομεν τῷ Θεῷ, leads directly up to the main subject in the writer's view, viz. the exposition of Christ's eternal priesthood. But two proofs are first to be given of Christ's priesthood being, unlike the Aaronic, thus eternally availing to bring us near to God. These proofs are to be found in the Divine oath which established it, and the expression, "forever," in Psalm 90, once more adduced.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
Verses 20-22. - And inasmuch as not without an oath [properly, swearing of an oath, ὁρκωμοσίας] he was made priest: (for they indeed have been made priests without an oath; but he with an oath by him that saith unto him, Thou art a Priest for ever); by so much of a better covenant hath Jesus become surety. The significance of the Divine oath, in connection with the promise to Abraham, has been dwelt on above: the oath of Psalm 110. is here similarly referred to, as imitating a priesthood that rests on no mere temporary ordinance, but on the immutable Divine counsels. (Observe the first occurrence here of the word διαθήκη, introducing in the way of hint (as is usual in the Epistle) an idea to be afterwards expanded, as it is in Hebrews 8. and 9. The meaning of the word will be considered below.)
(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
Verses 23, 24. - And they indeed have been made priests many in number, because of being by death hindered from continuing. But he, because of his abiding forever, hath his priesthood unchangeable. This second point of contrast has already been twice touched on - ver. 8, with respect to the claim to tithe; and ver. 16, with respect to the order of priesthood: here it is with especial reference to the eternal personality, and hence the perpetual and complete efficiency, of our one Priest. The repetitions are not tautological, having each time different bearings. The contrast here, as before, is between mortal men who succeed each other in the office of priesthood, and One who has the office inherent in himself forever. The word ἀπαράβατον (translated "unchangeable") is taken by some in an intransitive sense, as in margin of the A.V., that doth not pass to another, equivalent to ἀδιάδοχον. This, however, is not the proper force of this late Greek word, nor does the sense of the passage of necessity require it.
But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Verse 25. - Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. We again observe how, at the end of successive stages of the argument, thoughts to be enlarged on afterwards are brought in. Here it is the perpetual intercession of Christ before the heavenly mercy-seat. In the view of his office thus arrived at there is, in fact, a transition to the main subject set forth in the three chapters that follow; viz. the fulfillment in Christ of the ceremonial of the Law, and especially of the high priest's intercession on the Day of Atonement. And thus from Melchizedek the train of thought passes to the high priest. The type of the former has been sufficiently shown to be fulfilled in the higher order of Christ's priesthood; it is now to be shown how, being of such higher order, it is the antitype of the Aaronic priesthood too, accomplishing what it signified. Hence in ver. 26 the word "high priest" (ἀρχιερεὺς) is for the first time introduced, as the key-note of what is coming. Summary of the foregoing argument.
I. (Hebrews 5:1-11.) What does the Melchizedek priesthood of Psalm 110. signify?
1. (vers. 1 - 4.) One not depending on human ancestry, and one forever abiding.
2. (vers. 4 -11.) One of a higher order than that of Aaron; for:
(1) Melchizedek, being of a race apart, received tithe from Abraham the patriarch.
(2) This denotes a higher position than that of the Aaronic priests, who tithed their brethren of the same race with themselves, in virtue only of a special ordinance.
(3) The blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek is similarly significant.
(4) The idea of an ever-living priest with a right to tithe transcends that of the temporary claims of a succession of dying men.
(5) Levi himself virtually paid tithe to Melchizedek.
II. (vers. 11-18.) The Aaronic priesthood, and with it the whole dispensation based upon it, is thus shown to have been imperfect and transitory; for:
1. Otherwise a priesthood of another order would not have been spoken of in Psalm 110.
2. Which priesthood is evidently distinct from the Aaronic, our Lord being of the tribe, not of Levi, but of Judah.
3. What has been seen (vers. 5 and 8) as to the Melchizedek priesthood being not "after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life," makes this "more abundantly evident." Conclusion (vers. 18-20). The Antonio priesthood (being in itself unprofitable) is therefore now superseded by an availing one, "through which we draw nigh unto God."
III. (vers. 20-26.) Christ's priesthood is thus availing; for:
1. The Divine oath (Psalm 110.) established it, marking it as resting on the eternal Divine counsels.
2. It is (as shown by the same psalm) "unchangeable." The one Priest abides forever. Conclusion (ver. 25). We have, therefore, in him at last, a perfectly availing and eternal interceding High Priest.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
Verse 26. - For such a High Priest became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. Such a High Priest, it is said, for us was fitting. The same word ἔπρεπε was used in Hebrews 2:10, where the humiliation of Christ was spoken cf. It was there said that to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through suffering "became" God - was befitting to what we conceive of the Divine nature. It is now said that our High Priest's being such as is here described "became" us - was befitting to our state and needs. That he should be both human and superhuman was in all respects fitting - the one that he might be our sympathizing brother; the other that his intercession might avail. The further description of him in this verse is suggested by the qualifications of the Aaronic high priest, what they typified being realized in Christ. The high priest was by his consecration a holy person, ἅγιος (Leviticus 21:6, 8, etc.); he bore on his miter "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 39:30); he must be without personal blemish (Leviticus 21:17, etc.); he must keep himself continually from all ceremonial pollution (Leviticus 21. and 22.); he must purify himself by a sacrifice for himself and by special ablutions before entering the holy of holies (Leviticus 16.); when there, he was conceived as in God's presence, apart from the world of sinners outside. Christ was not only ἅγιος, but ὅσιος, personally and inwardly holy (Christians in the New Testament are all called ἅγιος, but not all ὁσίοι: for the use of which word, el. Titus 1:8; Acts 2:27; Acts 13:34, where it is applied to Christ, τὸν ὅσιον σου: and Revelation 15:4-16:5, where it is applied to God as his special attribute, ὅτι μόνος ὅσιος); Christ was actually free from evil (ἄκακος) and undefiled (ἀμίαντος). by any contact of sin; and as such he has passed to God's actual presence (cf. διελελύθοτα τοὺς οὐρανοὺς, Hebrews 4:14), separated forever from the world of sinners.
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
Verse 27. - Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself. The expression "daily" (καθ ἡμέραν) is not in strictness applicable to the high priest, who did not offer the daily sacrifice. The reference throughout what follows being to the high priest's peculiar functions on the Day of Atonement, κατ ἐνιαυτόν might have been expected. There are two tenable solutions:
(1) that the daily offerings of the priests are regarded as made by the high priest, who represented the whole priesthood, on the principle, qui facit per altos tacit per se;
(2) that καθ ἡμέραν (as is suggested by its position in the sentence) belongs not to οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, but only to Christ: "who has no need daily, as the high priests have yearly:" for his intercession being perpetual, an offering on his part would be needed daily, if needed at all. This view is supported by the fact that the daily sacrifices are not spoken of in the Law as including a special one in the first place for the priest's own sin. "This he did." Did what? Offer for his own sins as well as for the people's? No; for, though it has been seen above (Hebrews 5:7) how the high priest's offering for himself might have its counterpart in the agony, the Sinless One cannot be said to have offered for sins of his own. And, besides, he having offered himself (ἑαυτὸν ἀνενέγκας), the offering could not be for himself. We must, therefore, take "this he did" as referring only to the latter part of the preceding clause, while ἐαυτὸν, προσενέγκας answers to the former part; or as implying generally, "did all that was needed for atonement."
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
Verse 28. - For the Law maketh men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the Law, maketh the Son, perfected for evermore. With men (i.e. a succession of men; cf. ver. 8) having infirmity is contrasted the one Son, for ever perfected. The absence of the article before υἱὸς does not imply the meaning "a son;" the title denotes here, as throughout the Epistle, the peculiar Son of prophecy (see under Hebrews 1:1). There is here no denial of his complete humanity, though he is plainly regarded as more than man. Nor is his participation In human ἀσθένεια, in the sense explained under Hebrews 5, denied. His implied freedom from it may mean either that he never had any inherent in himself, none due to personal imperfection, or that now, in his exalted state, he is altogether removed from it. In both these senses the implication is true; and both may be understood; but τετελειωμένον being here opposed to ἔχοντας ἀσθενείαν (as υἵον to ἀνθρώπους), the latter sense may be conceived to have been especially in the writer's mind. It is, in fact, our ever-living High Priest, interceding for us above, after passing through human experience, and after atonement completed, that is now being presented to our view. It is to be observed, lastly, that τετελειωμένον in this verse may be intended to bear, or at any rate to suggest, the special sense noted under Hebrews 5:9, and strenuously maintained by Jackson, and hence to be not incorrectly rendered by "consecrated" in the A.V.; and this notwithstanding Alford's protest against this rendering as "obliterating both sense and analogy with Hebrews 2:10 and Hebrews 5:1."