Expositor's Greek Testament
The subject of Christ’s priesthood is resumed; the interpolated admonition (Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20) having been skilfully brought round to a second mention of Melchizedek. The chief reason for introducing the priesthood of Melchizedek as the type of Christ’s priesthood was that it was “for ever”. The Aaronic priesthood was successional, this single; and in this sense “for ever”. There were, however, other reasons. The first question with a Jew who was enjoined to trust to Christ’s priestly mediation, would be, What are His orders? He belonged to a tribe “of which Moses had spoken nothing concerning priesthood”. He might or might not be the true heir to David’s throne; but if He was, did not this very circumstance exclude him from the priestly office? Was it credible that the nation had been encouraged rigorously to exclude from the priesthood every interloper, only in order that at last this rigidly preserved order should be entirely disregarded? This writer seizes upon the fact that there was a greater priest than Aaron mentioned in Scripture—a priest more worthy to be the type of the Messianic priesthood, because he was himself a king, and especially because he belonged to no successional priestly order but was himself the entire order. This idea of a priesthood superseding that of Levi’s sons found its way into Scripture through the hymn (Psalms 110) which celebrated the dignity (as priest-king) of Simon the Maccabee. Bickell has shown that the first four verses of the Psalm are an acrostic on the name Simon, שׁמען. When the Maccabees displaced the Aaronic priesthood, they found their Justification in the priestly dignity of Melchizedek, and assumed his style, calling themselves “priests of the Most High God”. Cf. Charles, Book of Jubilees, pp. lix. and 191. The chapter may be divided thus:—
I. Characteristics of Melchizedek, 1–10.
1. In himself as depicted in Scripture, 1–3.
2. In his relation to Levi and his line, 4–10.
II. Inadequacy of Levitical priesthood in comparison with the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ, 11–25.
1. Levi being provisional, Melchizedek being permanent, 11–14.
2. Official and hereditary: personal and eternal, 15–19.
3. Without oath: with oath, therefore final, 20–22.
4. Plural and successional: singular and enduring, 23–25.
III. Summary of the merits of the new Melchizedek Priest, Jesus.
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;Hebrews 7:1-3. Description of Melchizedek as he appears on the page of Scripture, in five particulars with their interpretation.
Hebrews 7:1. Οὗτος γὰρ ὁ Μελχισεδέκ … μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές. γὰρ closely connects this passage with the immediately preceding words ἀρχ … αἰῶνα and introduces the explanation of them. “For this Melchizedek [mentioned in Psalms 110 and who has just been named as that priest according to whose order Christ is called to be Priest] remains a priest continually.” This is the statement on which he wishes to fix attention. It is the “for-everness” of the priesthood which he means especially to insist upon. The whole order is occupied by himself. This one man constitutes the order. He succeeds no one in office and no one succeeds him. In this sense he abides a priest for ever. Between the subject Melchizedek and the verb μένει, there are inserted five historical facts taken from Genesis 14, with their interpretation. [On the historicity of Genesis 14, see Buchanan Gray in Expositor, May, 1898, and Driver, Authority and Archaeology, pp. 45 and 73. See also Beazley’s Dawn of Modern Geography, ii. 189; and esp., Boscawen’s First of Empires, c. vi.] βασιλεὺς Σαλήμ, the description given in this verse is taken verbatim [with the needed grammatical alterations] from Genesis 14:17-19. Whether Salem stands for Jerusalem or for Salim in the vale of Shechem, John 3:23, has been disputed from Epiphanius downwards. See Bleek, who contends that Jerusalem cannot be meant because Jebus was its old name. This, however, is now denied, see Moore, Judges, p. 413, who says that the common opinion that Jebus was the native name of the city, has no real ground in O.T. In the Amarna tablets Urusalim is used and no trace is found of any name corresponding to Jebus. But it is not the locality that is important, but the meaning of Salem. ἱερεὺς … “priest of the Most High God”. According to Aristotle (Pol., iii. 14), the king in heroic times was general, judge and priest. Cf. Virgil (Æn., iii. 80) “Rex Anius, rex idem hominum, Phoebique sacerdos,” and see Gardner and Jevon’s Greek Antiq., 200, 201. The ideal priesthood is also that of a king. τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου. In N.T. “the Most High God” is found in the mouth of Demoniacs, Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28; cf. also Acts 16:17; Acts 7:58, also Luke 1:32; Luke 1:35; Luke 1:70; Luke 6:35. It was a name known alike to the Canaanites, Phoenicians and Hebrews. See Fairbairn, Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, p. 317. ὕψιστος was also a title of Ζεύς, Pind., Hebrews 11:2. Cf. also Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 198; and especially Charles’ edition of Book of Jubilees, pp. 191, 213, who shows that it was the specific title chosen by the Maccabean priest-kings. ἀπὸ τῆς κοπῆς “from the slaughter,” rather “overthrow”; “Niederwerfung” (Weizsäcker); “clades rather than caedes” (Vaughan) translating in Genesis 14:17, מֵהַכּוֹת, τῶν βασιλέων “the kings”; well-known from Genesis 14, viz.: Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer and Tidal, i.e., Khammurabi, Eriaku, Kudurlachgumal and Tudchula. But Boscawen (First of Empires, p. 179) disputes the identification of Amraphel with Khammurabi. The monuments show us that these kings were contemporaries two thousand three hundred years B.C., and furnish many interesting particulars regarding them; see Driver in Authority and Archaeology, pp. 39–45. καὶ εὐλογήσας αὐτόν, asserting thus at once his superiority (Hebrews 7:7) and his priestly authority.
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;Hebrews 7:2. ᾧ καὶ δεκάτην … “to whom also Abraham divided a tenth of all” [the spoil]. The startling conclusion which this act carried with it is specified in Hebrews 7:4-10. The offering of a tithe of the spoils to the gods was a custom of antiquity. See Wetstein for examples and especially Arnold’s note on Thucydides, 3:50. “Frequently the ἀναθήματα were of the nature of ἀπάρχαι, or the divine share of what was won in peace or war.… The colossal statue of Athena Promachos on the Athenian Acropolis hill was a votive offering from a tithe of the booty taken at Marathon” (Gardner and Jevon’s Greek Ant., 181.) For the O.T. law of tithe see Numbers 18:21-24; Leviticus 27:30-32. In offering to Melchizedek a tithe Abraham acknowledged him as priest.
The following clauses ought not to be in brackets, because they are inserted as indicating the ground of the main affirmation, μένει εἰς τὸ διηνεκές. The name and description of Melchizedek already given are now interpreted, and are so interpreted as to illustrate the clause ἀφωμοιωμένος τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ and thus prepare for the closing statement. πρῶτον μὲν ἑρμηνευόμενος … “being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness and then also King of Salem, which is King of peace”. The form of the sentence is significant. [Cf. Plutarch, Timoleon, iv. 4, τοῦ δὲ Τιμοφάνους πρῶτον μὲν αὐτῶν καταγελῶντος, ἔπειτα δὲ πρὸς ὀργὴν ἐκφερομένου] “first” by his very name, “then” by his actual position; probably the peace of his kingdom is considered as a consequence of its righteousness. Righteousness and peace are characteristic properties of the Messianic Kingdom. “In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth,” Psalm 72:7; similarly Isaiah 9:6-7; Zechariah 9:9; cf. Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 2:17. In Genesis 14:18 the name and title occur together מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם. The chief point in this is that the priest is also a king. ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος “without father, without mother, without genealogy,” that is, he stands in Scripture alone, no mention is made of an illustrious father or mother from whom he could have inherited power and dignity, still less can his priestly office and service be ascribed to his belonging to a priestly family. It is by virtue of his own personality he is what he is; his office derives no sanction from priestly lineage or hereditary rights; and in this respect he is made like to the Son of God. Of course it is not meant that in point of fact he had neither father nor mother, but that as he appears in Scripture he is without father. [τὸ δὲ ἀπάτωρ κ.τ.λ. οὐ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν αὐτὸν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐν τῇ θείᾳ γραφῇ κατὰ τὸ φανερώτατον ἐπωνομάσθαι. Epiphanius in Wetstein.] On Philo’s use of the silence of Scrip see Siegfried’s Philo., p. 179. Philo is quite aware that this kind of interpretation will be said γλισχρολογίαν μᾶλλον ἢ ὠφέλειάν τινα ἐμφαίνειν (De Somn., ii. 45). ἀπάτωρ, Wetstein quotes from Pollux.: ὁ μὴ ἔχων μητέρα, ἀμήτωρ, ὥσπερ ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ· καὶ ἀπάτωρ, ὁ μὴ πατέρα ἔχων, ὡς ὁ Ἥφαιστος. So Appollo was αὐτοφυὴς, ἀμήτωρ. Other examples in Wetstein. In a slightly different sense the word occurs in Iph, in Taur., 863; in Soph, Elec., 1154 we have μήτηρ ἀμήτωρ; and Ion (Eur. Ion, 109) says of himself ὡς γὰρ ἀμήτωρ ἀπάτωρ τε γεγώς.
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.Hebrews 7:3. ἀγενεαλόγητος, resolved in Hebrews 7:6 into μὴ γενεαλογούμενος, does not occur in classical nor elsewhere in Biblical Greek. The dependence of Levitical priests on genealogies and their registers is illustrated by Nehemiah 7:64. μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν … “having neither beginning of days nor end of life,” i.e., again, as he is represented in Scripture. No mention is made of his birth or death, of his inauguration to his office or of his retirement from it. The idea is conveyed that so long as priestly services of that particular type were needed, this man performed them. He is thus the type of a priest who shall in his single person discharge for ever all priestly functions. ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τ. Θεοῦ “but made like to the Son of God”. δὲ attaches this clause to the immediately preceding, “having neither etc.,” but in this respect made like to the Son of God, see Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 9:14 and Hebrews 1:10; Hebrews 1:12. “Such a comparison is decisive against attributing these characteristics to Melchisedek in a real sense. They belong to the portrait of him, which was so drawn that he was “made like” the Son of God,—that by the features absent as well as by the positive traits a figure should appear corresponding to the Son of God and suited to suggest Him” (Davidson). μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές “abideth a priest continually”. This statement, directly resting upon the preceding clause, is that towards which the whole sentence (Hebrews 7:1; Hebrews 7:3) has been tending. It is the permanence of the Melchisedek priesthood on which stress is laid. See below. εἰς τὸ διηνεκές is not precisely “for ever,” but “for a continuance,” or permanence. Appian (De Bell. civ., i. 4) says of Julius Cæsar that he was created Dictator εἰς τὸ διηνεκές, permanent Dictator. “The permanent character of the priesthood is here described, not its actual duration” (Rendall). It was not destined to be superseded by another. Bruce is not correct in saying: “The variation in expression (εἰς τὸ διηνεκές instead of εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, Hebrews 6:20) is probably made out of regard to style, rather than to convey a different shade of meaning”. But he gives the sense well: “If he had had in history, as doubtless he had in fact, a successor in office, we should have said of him, that he was the priest of Salem in the days of Abraham. As the case stands, he is the priest of Salem.”
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.Hebrews 7:4-10. Superiority of Melchizedek to Levitical priests. The argument is: he was greater than Abraham, the great fountain of the people and of blessing. How much more is he greater than the descendants of Abraham, the Levitical priests?
Hebrews 7:4. Θεωρεῖτε δὲ πηλίκος οὗτος. “But observe how great this man was.” His greatness is recognisable in his receiving tithes of Abraham, and in giving him his blessing, cf. Hebrews 7:1-2. These points are emphasised by several details. The first evidence of greatness is that it was no less a man than Abraham who gave him a tithe of the spoils ᾦ δεκάτην, κ.τ.λ. Ἀβραὰμ is in emphatic place, but the emphasis is multiplied by the position of ὁ πατριάρχης. It is as if he heard some of his readers saying, “He must be mistaken, or must refer to some other Abraham and not the fountain of all our families and of Levi and Aaron”. He adds ὁ πατρ. to indicate that it is precisely this greatest of men to whom the people owe even their being, of whom he says that Melchizedek was greater. ἀκροθινίων is perhaps chosen also for the purpose of magnifying the gift. The Greeks after a victory gathered the spoils in a heap, θῖνι, and the top or best part of the heap, ἄκρον, was presented to the gods. Cf. Frazer’s Pausanias, ver. 281.
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:Hebrews 7:5. The significance of this tithing is perceived when it is considered that, although the sons of Levi take tithes of their brethren, this is the result of a mere legal appointment. Those who pay tithes are, as well as those who receive them, sons of Abraham. Paying tithes is in their case no acknowledgment of personal inferiority, but mere compliance with law. But Abraham was under no such law to Melchizedek, and the payment of tithes to him was a tribute to his personal greatness. καὶ adds a fresh aspect of the matter. οἱ μὲν ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευῒ … “those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly service have an ordinance to tithe the people in accordance with the law, that is, their brethren, although these have come out of the loins of Abraham”. Not all the tribe of Levi, but only the family of Aaron received (cf. Hebrews 5:4) the ἱερατεία (also in Luke 1:9), which Bleek shows to have been used by classical writers of priestly service, while ἱερωσύνη was used of the priestly office. See Hebrews 7:11-12; Hebrews 7:24. ἀποδεκατοῖν, “The best MSS. make the infinitive of verbs in -όω to end in -οῖν” (Westcott and Hort, G., T. ii., sec. 410, and cf. Jannaris, Greek Gram., 851). The verb occurs only in Biblical Greek, the classical form being δεκατεύω. κατὰ τὸν νόμον follows ἀποδεκ. τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτῶν, κ.τ.λ. Not their fellow-Levites, although it is true that the Levites tithed the people, and the priests tithed the Levites (Numbers 18:21-24; Numbers 18:26-28), but the words are added in explanation of λαόν in order to emphasise the fact that the priests exacted tithes not in recognition of any personal superiority. Those who paid tithes were Abraham’s descendants equally with the priests; it was merely the law which conveyed the right to tithe their brethren καίπερ ἐξεληλυθότας ἐκ τῆς ὀσφύος Ἀβρααμ.
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.Hebrews 7:6. In striking contrast, ὁ δὲ μὴ γενεαλογούμενος … “but he whose genealogy is not counted from them hath taken tithes of Abraham, and blessed [see below] him that hath the promises”. γενεαλογέω is classical Greek, meaning, to trace ancestry, see Herod. ii. 146. ἐξ αὐτῶν, not “from the sons of Israel” (Epiphanius in Bleek), but “from the sons of Levi,” Hebrews 7:5; and who therefore had no claim to tithe appointed by law, and yet tithed Abraham. καὶ τὸν ἔχοντα, in Vulgate “qui habebat”; in Weizsäcker “der die Verheissungen hatte,” not “hat”; so Vaughan correctly, “The possessor of”. “Him who owned the promises.” Cf. Burton, 124 and 126. εὐλόγηκε, on the perfects of this verse and of this Epistle (Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 11:5, etc.), Mr. J. H. Moulton asks, “Has anyone noticed the beautiful parallel in Plato, Apol., 28 c., for the characteristic perfect in Hebrews, describing what stands written in Scripture? ὅσοι ἐν Τροίᾳ τετελευτήκασι (as is written in the Athenian’s ‘Bible’) is exactly like Hebrews 7:6; Hebrews 11:17; Hebrews 11:28” (Expositor, April, 1901, p. 280). Vaughan also says: “The γέγραπται (so to say) quickens the dead, and gives to the praeterite of the history the permanence of a perfect”. Yes; but to translate by the perfect sacrifices English idiom to Greek idiom. See Burton, 82, “When the Perfect Indicative is used of a past event which is by reason of the context necessarily thought of as separated from the moment of speaking by an interval, it is impossible to render it into English adequately”. The point which the writer here brings out is that, although Abraham had the promises, and was therefore himself a fountain of blessing to mankind and the person on whom all succeeding generations depended for blessing, yet Melchizedek blessed him; and as the writer adds:—
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.Hebrews 7:7. χωρὶς δὲ πάσης ἀντιλογίας … εὐλογεῖται. “And without any dispute the less is blessed of the greater.” Therefore, Abraham is the less, and Melchizedek the greater. The principle [expressed in its widest form by the neuter] applies where the blessing carries with it not only the verbal expression of goodwill, but goodwill achieving actual results. But man blesses God in the sense of praising Him, or desiring that all praise may be His. So God is ὁ εὐλογητός, Mark 14:61. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:31, etc.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.Hebrews 7:8. Another note of the superiority of Melchizedek. καὶ ὧδε μὲν δεκάτας … “And here men that die receive tithes, but there one of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” ὧδε “here,” i.e., in this Levitical system with which we who are Hebrews are familiar, ἐκεῖ, “there” in that system identified with that ancient priest. ἀποθνήσκοντες ἄνθρωποι, “dying men,” who therefore as individuals passed away and gave place to successors, and were in this respect inferior to Melchizedek, who, so far as is recorded in Scripture, had no successor. Giving to the silence of Scripture the force of an assertion, the writer speaks of Melchizedek as μαρτυρούμενος ὅτι ζῇ, a person of whom it is witnessed; note absence of article. So Theoph., ὡς μὴ μνημονευομένης τῆς τελευτῆς αὐτοῦ παρὰ τῇ γραφῇ. Westcott distinguishes between the plural of this verse, δεκάτας, appropriate to the manifold tithings under the Mosaic system and the singular, δεκάτην, of Hebrews 7:4, one special act.
And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.Hebrews 7:9. καὶ ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, “And, I might almost say,” adding a new idea with a phrase intended to indicate that it is not to be taken in strictness. It is frequent in Philo, see examples in Carpzov and add Quis rer. div. her., 3. Adam’s note on Plato, Apol. Soc., 17A, is worth quoting “ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν i. q. paene dixerim: in good authors hardly ever, if at all = ut ita dicam. The phrase is regularly used to limit the extent or comprehension of a phrase or word. It is generally, but by no means exclusively, found with f1οὐδείς and πάντες, οὐδεὶς ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ‘hardly anyone’; πάντες ὡς ἔ. εἰπ. = nearly everyone.” A significant use occurs in the Republic, p. 34IB, where Socrates asks Thrasymachus whether in speaking of a “Ruler” he means τὸν ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ἢ τὸν ἀκριβεῖ λόγῳ. The phrase is discussed at great length by Raphel. The further idea is, that “through Abraham even Levi, he who receives tithes, has paid tithes,” the explanation being ἔτι γὰρ ἐν τῇ ὀσφύϊ … “for he [Levi] was yet in the loins of his father [Abraham] when Melchizedek met him,” Isaac not yet having been begotten. There was a tendency in Jewish theology to view heredity in this realistic manner. Thus Schoettgen quotes Ramban on Genesis 5:2 “God calls the first human pair Adam [man] because all men were in them potentially or virtually [virtualiter]”. And so some of the Rabbis argued “Eodem peccato, quo peccavit primus homo, peccavit totus mundus, quoniam hic erat totus mundus.” Hence Augustine’s formula “peccare in lumbis Adam,” and his explanation “omnes fuimus in illo uno quando omnes fuimus ille unus” (De Civ. Dei, xiii. 14). On Traducianism see Loofs’ Leitfaden, p. 194.
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?Hebrews 7:11-14. The imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, and by implication of the whole Mosaic system, proved by the necessity of having a priest of another order.
Hebrews 7:11. εἰ μὲν οὖν τελείωσις.… “If then there was [or had been] perfecting by means of the Levitical priesthood—for upon it [as a basis] the people have received the law—what further need was there [or would have been] that another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedek and be styled not after the order of Aaron?” εἰ μὲν οὖν introduces a statement of some of the consequences resulting from the introduction of a priest of another order. It argues the failure of the Levitical priesthood to achieve τελείωσις. “Perfection is always a relative word. An institution brings perfection when it effects the purpose for which it was instituted, and produces a result that corresponds to the idea of it. The design of a priesthood is to bring men near to God (Hebrews 7:19), and this it effects by removing the obstacle in the way, viz. men’s sin, which lying on their conscience impedes their free access to God; compare Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 10:14” (Davidson). On the rendering of ἦν see Sonnenschein’s Greek Gram., 355, Obs. 3. ὁλαὸς γὰρ ἐπʼ αὐτῆς νενομοθέτηται, the omitted clause is “and we are justified in demanding perfectness from the priesthood,” because it is the soul of the entire legislation. All the arrangements of the law, the entire administration of the people, involves the priesthood. If there is failure in the priestly service, the whole system breaks down. It was idle to give a law without providing at the same time for the expiation of its breaches. The covenant was at the first entered into by sacrifice, and could only be maintained by a renewal of sacrifice. The priesthood stood out as the essential part of the Jewish economy. νομοθετεῖν to be a νομοθέτης used in classics sometimes with dative of person, as in LXX, Exodus 24:12, τὰς ἐντολὰς ἅς ἒγραψα νομοθετῆσαι αὐτοῖς. Sometimes it is followed by accusative of that which is ordained by law. The use of the passive here is peculiar, cf. also Hebrews 8:6. The νόμος contained in the word, and expressed separately in Hebrews 7:12, is not the bare law contained in commandments, but the whole Mosaic dispensation. τίς ἔτι χρεία, this use of ἔτι is justified by an instance from Sextus Empiricus quoted by Wetstein: τίς ἔτι χρεία ἀποδεικνύναι αὐτά; ἓτερον, not ἄλλον but another of a different kind. ἀνίστασθαι so Acts 7:18, ἀνέστη βασιλεὺς ἕτερος and cf. the transitive use in Acts 2:24; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:22; Acts 3:26; Acts 7:37. καὶ οὐ … λέγεσθαι. The negative belongs rather to the description κ. τ. τάξιν Ἀ. than to the verb and Burton’s rule (481) applies. “When a limitation of an infinitive or of its subject is to be negatived rather than the infinitive itself, the negative οὐ is sometimes used instead of μή.” λέγεσθαι “be spoken of” or “designated”.
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.Hebrews 7:12. μετατιθεμένης γὰρ.… “For if the priesthood is changed, there is of necessity a change also of the law”. Or, This change of priesthood being made, as it is now being made, a change of the law is also being made. The connection is: What need was there for a new priesthood? It must have been a crying need, for to change the priesthood is to change all. It means nothing short of revolution. Chrysostom rightly τοῦτο δὲ πρὸς τοὺς λέγοντας, τί ἔδει καινῆς διαθήκης;
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.Hebrews 7:13. This enormous change is in fact being made. ἐφʼ ὃν γὰρ λέγεται ταῦτα.… “For He with reference to whom this [110th Psalms 4] is said hath partaken of another tribe from which no man hath given attendance at the altar”. Here for the first time definitely in this chapter the writer introduces the fulfilment of the Psalm. It was spoken of the Messiah, and He did not belong to the tribe of Levi, but φυλῆς ἑτέρας μετέσχηκεν, has thrown in his lot with, or become a member of (cf. Hebrews 2:14) a tribe of a different kind from the Levitical (ver. Hebrews 11:11-12) being characterised by this, that from it ἀφʼ ἧς issuing from which, not ἐξ, [as in Hebrews 7:14] no one has given attendance at the altar. [Cf. 1 Timothy 4:13; Acts 20:28; Hdt., ix. 33, γυμνασίοισι; Thuc., i. 15, τοῖς ναυτικοῖς; and the equivalent in 1 Corinthians 9:13, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ προσεδρεύοντες.] It is doubtful whether the perfect μετέσχηκεν can bear the meaning put upon it by Vaughan: “a striking suggestion of the identity of Christ in heaven with Christ upon earth”. So too Weiss. It might seem preferable to refer it with Burton (88) to the class of perfects which in the N.T. have an aorist sense, γέγονα, εἴληφα, ἔσχηκα. So Weizsäcker “gehörte”; the Vulgate, however, has “de alia tribu est,” and cf. ἀνατέταλκεν of Hebrews 7:14. But the perfects are best accounted for as referring to the statement of the previous verse. This great change is being made, for he of whom the 110th Psalm was spoken has actually become a member of another tribe. The result reaches to the change of priesthood.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.Hebrews 7:14. He now proceeds to name the tribe πρόδηλον γὰρ ὅτι … “For it is evident that out of Judah our Lord has sprung, concerning which tribe Moses said nothing about priests”. With πρόδηλον may be compared δήπου of Hebrews 2:16. The facts of our Lord’s birth were so far known that everyone connected Him with Judah. The accounts of Matthew and Luke were accepted (cf. Revelation 5:5). This fact of his origin would naturally militate against His claims to be Priest; but this writer here skilfully reconciles them with Scripture. Weizsäcker translates by “längst bekannt” giving to πρό the temporal meaning. On Clem., ad Cor., xii, Lightfoot says: “It may be a question in many passages whether the preposition denotes priority in time or distinctness.” Wetstein quotes from Artemidorus καὶ ἐφάνη πρόδηλον τὸ ὄναρ μετὰ τὴν ἀπόφασιν and from Polyaenus τί καὶ χρὴ γράφειν; πρόδηλον γάρ. ἀνατέταλκεν is possibly a reminiscence of Zechariah 6:12, Ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ Ἀνατολὴ ὄνομα αὐτῷ · καὶ ὑποκάτωθεν αὐτοῦ ἀνατελεῖ, a passage referred to by Philo, see Carpzov in loc. εἰς ἣν φυλὴν, “εἰς is applied to the direction of the thought, as Acts 2:25. Δαυῒδ λέγει εἰς αὐτόν, aiming at Him, E. i. 10, ver. 32.” Winer, 49, and so in Dion. Hal., πολλοὶ ἐλέχθησαν εἰς τοῦτο λόγοι, and cf. our own expression, “He spoke to such and such points”. Vulg. translates “in qua tribu”. Whatever Moses spoke regarding priests was spoken with reference to another tribe and not with reference to Judah.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,Hebrews 7:15-19. Imperfection of the Levitical priesthood more abundantly proved by contrast with the nature of the Melchizedek priest.
Hebrews 7:15. καὶ περισσότερον ἔτι κατάδηλόν ἐστιν. “And more abundantly still is it evident” [Weizsäcker excellently “Und noch zum Ueberfluss weiter liegt die Sache klar”. What is it that is more abundantly evident? Weiss says, It is, that an alteration of the priesthood has been made. Similarly Vaughan, “And this insufficiency and consequent supersession of the Levitical priesthood is still more conclusively proved by the particular designation of the predicted priest (in Psalm 110:4) as a priest, etc.”. So too Westcott. But from the twelfth verse the argument has been directed to show that there has been a change of law, and this argument is continued in Hebrews 7:15. This change of law is evident from the fact that Jesus belongs to the non-Levitical tribe of Judah, and yet more superabundantly evident from the nature of the new priest who is seen to be no longer “after the law of a carnal commandment”. So Bleek after Œcumenius, Davidson, Farrar and others. κατάδηλον, quite evident, as in Xen., Mem., i. 4, 14, οὐ γὰρ πάνυ σοι κατάδηλον; Wetstein quotes from Hippocrates, ἔτι δὲ μᾶλλον κατάδηλον γίνεται. In πρόδηλον the preposition has the force of “ob” in “obvious”; in κατάδηλον the preposition strengthens. εἰ κατὰ, κ.τ.λ. “if as is the case” or “since” (cf. Hebrews 7:11) “after the likeness of Melchizedek” the κατὰ τ. ταξιν of previous verses changed now into κατὰ τ. ὁμοιότητα, because attention is directed to the similarity of nature between Melchizedek and this new priest.
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.Hebrews 7:16. ὃς οὐ κατὰ νόμον … ἀκαταλύτου, “who has become such not after the law of a fleshen ordinance but after the power of an indissoluble life”. This relative clause defines the “likeness to Melchizedek,” and brings out a double contrast between the new priest and the Levitical—the Levitical priesthood is κατὰ νόμον, the other κατὰ δύναμιν, the one is dependent on what is σαρκίνη, the other on what belongs to ζωὴ ἀκατάλυτος. These contrasts are significant. The Levitical priesthood rested on law, on a regulation that those should be priests who were born of certain parents. This was an outward νόμος, a thing outside of the men themselves, and moreover it was a νόμος σαρκίνης ἐντολῆς, regulating the priesthood not in relation to spiritual fitness but in accordance with fleshly descent. No matter what the man’s nature is nor how ill-suited and reluctant he is to the office, he becomes a priest because his fleshly pedigree is right. The new priest on the contrary did what He did, not because any official necessity was laid upon Him, but because there was a power in His own nature compelling and enabling Him, the power of a life which death did not dissolve. The contrast is between the official and the personal or real. All that is merely professional must be dispossessed by what is real. Hereditary kings gave way to Cromwell. The Marshals of France put their batons in their pockets when Joan of Arc appeared. For the difference between σάρκινος and σαρκικός see Trench, Synonyms, 257, who quotes the reason assigned by Erasmus for the use of the former in 2 Corinthians 3:3, “ut materiam intelligas, non qualitatem”. The enactment was σαρκίνη inasmuch as it took to do only with the flesh. It caused the priesthood to be implicated with and dependent on fleshly descent. Opposed to this was the inherent energy and potentiality of an indissoluble or indestructible life. The life of the new priest is indissoluble, not as eternally existing in the Son, but as existing in Him Incarnate and fulfilling priestly functions. The term itself “indestructible” used in place of “eternal,” directs the thought to the death of Jesus which might naturally seem to have threatened it with destruction. His survival of death was needful to the fulfilment of His functions as priest (see Hebrews 7:25). The meaning and reference of the term is brought out by the contrast of Hebrews 7:28 between “men who have weakness” and υἰὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωμένον. “Unquestionably that which enables the Son to be Messianic King and High Priest of men is His rank as Son. But it is true on the other hand that it is as Son come in the flesh that He is King and Priest. And the expression ‘hath become priest’ (Hebrews 7:16) points to a historical event. It is, therefore, probable that indissoluble life is attributed to Him not in general as the eternal Son, but as the Son made man.”
For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.Hebrews 7:17. That Jesus carries on His work perennially is proved by Scripture. “For it is witnessed Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek,” not merely as in Hebrews 7:11, κατὰ τ. τάξιν Μ., although this itself involves the perpetuity of the priesthood, but expressly and emphatically εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. Hebrews 7:18-19 taking up the idea of Hebrews 7:16 affirm the negative and positive result of the superseding of the fleshly ordinance by the power of an indestructible life. On the one hand there is an ἀθέτησις προαγούσης ἐντολῆς, “a setting aside of a foregoing enactment,” that namely which is referred to in Hebrews 7:17, and on the other hand, there is “a further bringing in of a better hope”. ἐπεισαγωγὴ κρείττονος ἐλπίδος, the ἐπί in ἐπεισαγωγή balances προαγούσης, and indicates that the better hope was introduced over and above all that had already been done in the same behalf of bringing men to God. The μὲν … δὲ indicate that the sentence must thus be construed, and not as rendered in A.V. The reason of this replacement of the old legal enactment is given in the clause, διὰ τὸ αὐτῆς ἀσθενὲς καὶ ἀνωφελές “on account of its weakness and uselessness”. This arrangement depending on the flesh was helpless to achieve the most spiritual of achievements, the union of man with God, the bringing together in true spiritual fellowship of sinful and earthly man with the holy God. So Paul found that arrangements of a mechanical and external nature were ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα, Galatians 4:9. “The uselessness (unhelplessness) of the priesthood was proved by its inability to aid men in that ἐγγίζειν τῷ Θεῷ, which is their one want” (Vaughan). The ordinance regulating the priesthood failed to accomplish its object; and indeed this characterised the entire system of which it was a characteristic part. οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐτελείωσεν ὁ νόμος, “for nothing was brought to perfection by the law”. The law made beginnings, taught rudiments, gave initial impulses, hinted, foreshadowed, but brought nothing to perfection, did not in itself provide for man’s perfect entrance into God’s fellowship. Therefore there was introduced that which did achieve in perfect form this reconcilement with God, viz.: a better hope, which is therefore defined as διʼ ἧς ἐγγίζομεν τῷ Θεῷ, “by which we draw near to God”. The law said (Exodus 19:21) διαμάρτυραι τῷ λαῷ μήποτε ἐγγίσωσι πρὸς τὸν Θεόν. The “better” hope is that which springs from belief in the indestructible life of Christ and the assurance that that life is still active in the priestly function of intercession. It is the hope that is anchored within the veil fixed in Christ’s person and therefore bringing us into God’s presence and fellowship.
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
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:Hebrews 7:20-22. Another element in the superiority of the covenant established upon the priesthood of Jesus is that in the very manner of the institution of His priesthood it was declared to be permanent. The long parenthesis of Hebrews 7:21 being held aside the statement of 20–22 reads thus: “And [introducing a fresh consideration] in proportion as not without an oath [was He made priest] … in that proportion better is the covenant of which Jesus has become the surety”. The parenthesis of Hebrews 7:21 is inserted to confirm by an appeal to Scripture [Psalm 110:4] the fact that by the swearing of an oath the Melchizedek priest was appointed, and to indicate the significance of this mode of appointment, viz.: that repentance or change of plan is excluded. That is to say, this priesthood is final, eternal. And the superiority of the priesthood involves the superiority of the covenant based upon it. The oath signifies therefore the transition from a provisional and temporary covenant to that which is eternal. καθʼ ὅσον. This form of argument is frequent in Philo, see Quis. Rev. Div. H., 17, etc. οὐ χωρὶς ὁρκωμοσίας, “not without oath-swearing”; the clause may be completed from that which follows, “has he been made priest,” as in A.V., although Weiss maintains that this is “sprachwidrig” and that the broken clause “kann natürlich nur aus dem Vorigen ergänzt werden”. But it is most natural and grammatical to complete it from the sentence in which it stands: “As not without an oath, so of a better covenant has Jesus become surety”. The parenthesis thus furnishes the needed ground of this statement. He became surety by becoming priest, and as priest he was constituted with an oath. οἱ μὲν γὰρ “For the one [that is, the Levitical priests] εἰσὶν ἱερεῖς γεγονότες “have been made priests” Vaughan renders “are having become priests—are priests having become so”. So Delitzsch, Weiss and von Soden. Westcott says: “The periphrasis marks the possession as well as the impartment of the office;” and on the “periphrastic conjugation” see Blass, sec. 62; Stephanus Thesaurus s.v. εἰμί, and cf. Acts 21:29, ἦσαν γὰρ προεωρακότες.]. ὁ δὲ μετὰ ὁρκ. “but the other [the new priest] with an oath,” μετὰ of course not being instrumental, but “interposito jurejurando”; where and how this oath is to be found is next explained, it is διὰ f1τοῦ λέγοντος … “through Him that saith to him. The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art,” etc. There is no call to translate πρὸς αὐτόν “in reference to Him”; neither is there any difficulty in referring the words ὤμοσε … μεταμελ. to God. “Though the words are not directly spoken by the Lord, they are His by implication. The oath is His” (Westcott). On the distinction between μετανοέω and μεταμέλομαι see Trench, Synonyms, 241. “He who has changed his mind about the past is in the way to change everything; he who has an after care may have little or nothing more than a selfish dread of the consequences of what he has done.” This, however, does not apply to the LXX (from which the quotation of this verse is taken) where both words are used to translate נָחַם. Cf. 1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 15:34. κατὰ τοσοῦτο “by so much,” that is, the superiority of the new covenant to the old is in the ratio of eternity to time, of what is permanent and adequate to what is transitory and provisional. κρείττονος διαθήκης “of a better covenant” [“id est, non infirmae et inutilis. Frequens in hac epistola epitheton, κρείττων, item αἰώνιος, ἀληθινὸς, δεύτερος, διαφορώτερος, ἔτερος, ζῶν, καινὸς, μέλλων, νέος, πρόσφατος, τέλειος” (Bengel)], here first mentioned in the Epistle, but whose character and contents and relation to the “foregoing” covenant are fully explained in the following chapter. Here already its “betterness” is recognisable in this, that it supersedes the older, and is itself permanent because perfectly accomplishing the purposes of a covenant.
(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.Hebrews 7:22. διαθήκη in classical Greek means a disposition (διατίθημι) of one’s goods by will; frequent in the orators and sometimes as in Aristoph., Birds, 439, a covenant. In the LXX it occurs nearly 280 times and in all but four passages it is the translation of בְּרִיח “covenant”. (See Hatch, Essays in Bibl. Greek, 47.) It is used indifferently of agreements between men and of contracts or engagements between God and man. See Introduction and on Hebrews 9:16 and Thayer s.v. Of this “better covenant” Jesus “has become and is” [γέγονεν] ἔγγυος “surety”. ἔγγυος is explained in the Greek commentators by ἐγγυητής, which is the commoner of the two forms, at least in later Greek. ἔγγυος occurs several times in the fragments from the second century B.C. given in Grenfell and Hunt’s Greek Papyri, series ii.; also in the fragments from first century A.D. given in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. It is not the exact equivalent of μεσίτης (found in a similar connection Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 12:24) which is a more comprehensive term. It has been questioned why in this place ἔγγυος is used, and Peirce answers: “I am apt to think he was led to this by his having just before used the word ἐγγίζομεν, and that he did it for the sake of the paronomasia”. And Bruce says: “There is literary felicity in the use of the word as playfully alluding to the foregoing word ἐγγίζομεν. There is more than literary felicity, for the two words probably have the same root, so that we might render ἔγγυος., the one who insures permanently near relations with God.” More likely he chose the word because his purpose was not to exhibit Jesus as negotiating the covenant, but especially as securing that it should achieve its end. It has been debated whether it is meant that Jesus was surety for men to God, as was held by both Lutheran and Reformed writers, or with others (Grotius, Peirce, etc.), that He was surety for God to men [“His being a surety relates to His acting in the behalf of God towards us and to His assuring us of the divine favour, and to His bestowing the benefits promised by God” (Peirce)] or, with Limborch, Baumgarten and Schmid (see Bleek) that he was surety for both parties. There is no reason to suppose that the writer particularised in any of these directions. He merely wished to express the thought that by the appointment of Jesus to the priestoood, the covenant based upon this priesthood was secured against all failure of any of the ends for which it was established.
And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:Hebrews 7:23-25. Another ground of the perfectness of the new priesthood is found in the continued life of the priest, who ever lives to make intercession and can therefore save completely, whereas the Levitical priests were compelled by death to give place to others.
Hebrews 7:23. καὶ, as above, Hebrews 7:20, introducing a new element in the argument. οἱ μὲν, as in Hebrews 7:21, the Levitical priests, πλείονες … “have been made priests many in number,” not many at one and the same time [Delitzsch], although that also is true, but many in succession, as is shown by the reason assigned διὰ τὸ θανάτῳ κωλύεσθαι παραμένειν “because of their being prevented by death from abiding” “in their office,” Peirce, as Œcumenius, ἐν τῇ ἱερωσύνῃ δηλονότι. Others think that remaining in life is meant. Possibly πλείονες is used instead of πολλοί, because there is a latent comparison with the one continuing priest, or with those already priests; always more and more. He, on the contrary, ὁ δὲ, by reason of his abiding for ever ἀπαράβατον ἔχει τὴν ἱερωσύνην “has his priesthood inviolable,” that is, no other person can step into it. The form of expression is similar to that used by Epiphanius of the Trinity, ἡ δὲ ἀπαράβατον ἔχει τὴν φύσιν. The meaning of ἀπαράβ. is contested, some interpreters (Weiss, etc.) supposing that it signifies “indefeasible,” or “untransmitted” or “nontransferable”. Indeed, Œcumenius and Theophylact translate it by ἀδιάδοχον. But in every instance of its occurrence given by Stephanus and Wetstein it has a passive sense, as νόμος, ὅρκος, etc., ἀπαράβ., and means unalterable or inviolable. This suits the present passage perfectly, and returns upon the thought of Hebrews 7:3, that the new priest is sole and perpetual occupant of the office, giving place to no successor. ὅθεν, “whence,” i.e., because of His having this absolute priesthood; His saving power depends upon His priesthood. He is able καὶ σώζειν εἰς τὸ παντελές, “even to save to the uttermost,” not to be referred merely to time as in Vulgate “in perpetuum,” and Chrysostom, οὐ πρὸς τὸ παρὸν μόνον φησὶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκεῖ ἐν τῇ μελλούσῃ ζωῄ. If referred to time, it might mean either ability to save the individual eternally, or to save future generations. Peirce joins it with δύναται, and renders “whence also he is perpetually able to save”. But the phrase uniformly means “completely,” “thoroughly,” as in Luke 13:11 of the woman, μὴ δυναμένη ἀνακύψαι εἰς τὸ παντελές and in the examples cited by Wetstein. This, as Riehm shows (p. 613, note), includes the idea of perpetuity. The Levitical priests could not so save: no τελείωσις was achieved by them; but everything for which the priesthood existed, everything which is comprised in the great [Hebrews 2:3] and eternal [Hebrews 5:9] salvation, the deliverance [Hebrews 2:15] and glory [Hebrews 2:10] which belong to it, are achieved by Christ. The objects of this saving power are τοὺς προσερχομένους διʼ αὐτοῦ τῷ Θεῷ, “those who through Him approach God”; “through Him” no longer relying on the mediation of Levitical priests, but recognising Jesus as the “new and living way,” Hebrews 10:19-22. This complete salvation Jesus can accomplish because πάντοτε ζῶν … αὐτῶν, “ever living to intercede on their behalf”. The particular mode in which His eternal priesthood applies itself to those who through Him approach God is that He intercedes for them, thus effecting their real introduction to God’s presence and their acceptance by Him, and also the supply of all their need out of the Divine fulness. ἐντυγχάνειν, “to meet by chance,” “to light upon,” takes as its second meaning, “to converse with” (followed by dative), hence “to entreat one to do something” (Plut., Pomp., 55; Ages., 25), and when followed by περί (Polyb., 4:76, 9) or by ὑπέρ (Plut., Cato Maj., 9) “to intercede”. (See Liddell and Scott.) It is not the word itself, but the preposition following, that gives the idea of intercession. The word with a different preposition can be used in the sense of appealing against, as in Romans 11:2, ὡς ἐντυγ. τ. Θεῷ κατὰ τ. Ἰσραήλ, see also 1Ma 11:25. With ὑπέρ it occurs in Romans 8:27; Romans 8:34, and with περί in Acts 25:24. Christ, then, treats with God in our behalf; and He lives for this. As His life on earth was spent in the interests of men, so He continues to spend Himself in this same cause. He ever lives, and being “the same yesterday, to-day and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8) His present fulness of life is devoted to those ends which evoked His energies while on earth. He secures that the fulness of Divine resource shall be available for men. “All things are ours.” This intercession is not the same as the Atoning sacrifice and its presentation before God, which was accomplished once for all (Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:18); but it is based upon the sacrifice which is also to men the guarantee that His intercession is real, and comprehensive of all their needs. [Cf. Sir Walter Raleigh’s Pilgrimage.]
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.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;Hebrews 7:26-28. A summary description of the Melchizedek ideal priest, drawn in contrast to the Levitical High Priest, and realised in the Son who has been perfected as Priest for ever. Melchizedek is here dropped, and the priesthood of the Son is now directly contrasted with that of the Aaronic High Priest.
Hebrews 7:26. Τοιοῦτος γὰρ … ἀρχιερεύς. “Such seems to refer to the Melchizedek character delineated in the preceding part of the chapter, or to all that was said of the nature and character of the Son from Hebrews 4:14 onward. The sense will not differ if it be supposed to refer to the epithets and statements that follow, for these but summarise what went before” (Davidson and others). But it must not be overlooked that ὃς (Hebrews 7:27) is one of the usual relatives after τοιοῦτος (cf. Hebrews 8:1, and Soph., Antig., 691, λόγοις τοιούτοις οἷς; cf. also Longinus, De Sublim., ix. 2. So that Farrar’s statement on chap. Hebrews 8:1, “τοιόσδε is prospective, τοιοῦτος is retrospective,” is incorrect), and that the adjectives ὅσιος, κ.τ.λ. prepare for and give the ground of the statement made in the relative clause. The sentence therefore reads: “So great a high priest as need not daily, etc., … became us,” ἡμῖν ἔπρεπεν, not, as in Hebrews 8:1, τοιοῦτον ἔχομεν ἀρχιερέα (cf. Hebrews 4:14-15), because the writer wishes to draw attention to the needs of those for whom the priest was appointed [ἡμῖν emphatic] and his suitableness to those needs. We, being what we are, sinful and dependent on the mediation of others, need a priest in whom we can wholly trust, because He Himself is holy, separate from sinners, without human weakness. Westcott’s distribution of the terms is neat, although of doubtful validity. “Christ is personally in Himself holy, in relation to men guileless, in spite of contact with a sinful world, undefiled. By the issue of His life He has been separated from sinners in regard to the visible order, and, in regard to the invisible world, He has risen above the heavens”. ὅσιος frequently in the Psalms, where it translates חֶסֶד] denotes personal holiness, while ἅγιος and ἱερός express the idea of consecration. [See Trench, Synon.] Weiss, however, says: “ὅσιος, ein Synonym von ἅγιος” (Vulg., Psalm 4:4; Psalm 16:10) “bezeichnet die religiöse Weihe des Gottangehörigen” (Titus 1:8, 1 Timothy 2:8). Peirce understands that here the word means “merciful”. But this is scarcely consistent with N.T. usage. ἄκακος, “innocent,” and frequently with the idea of inexperience which attaches to the English word [cf. the definition which Trench, Synon., p. 197, quotes from Basil; and see also the use of ἀκακία in Ps. 36:37, and of ἄκακοι in Ps. 24:21. Its use in Jeremiah 11:19 is significant, ἐγὼ δὲ ὡς ἀρνίον ἄκακον ἀγόμενον τοῦ θύεσθαι.] Here the word seems to point to that entire absence of evil thought and slightest taint of malice which might prompt disregard of human need. ὅσιος denotes His oneness with God, ἄκακος His oneness with His fellow-men. He is not separated from them, or rendered indifferent by any selfishness. Neither has His contact with the world left any soil; He is ἀμίαντος, “stainless,” and so fit to appear before God. Cf. the stringent laws regarding uncleanness and blemish laid down for the Levitical priests in Leviticus 21:1; Leviticus 22:9. And as the high priest in Israel was not permitted to go out of the sanctuary nor come near a dead body, though of his father or mother (Leviticus 21:11-12), and as the later law enjoined a seven-days’ separation of the high priest before the day of Atonement (Schoettgen in loc.), so our Lord fulfilled this symbolic isolation by being in heart and life κεχωρισμένος ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν. If there is anything in the symbol, then this separation occurred before the sacrifice was made, and as a preparation for it, but almost all modern interpreters (Grotius, Bengel, “separatus est, relicto mundo,” Peirce, Tholuck, Bleek, Alford, Davidson, Rendall, von Soden, but not Milligan) refer the separation to His exaltation. “In virtue of His exaltation He is now for evermore withdrawn from all perturbing contact with evil men” (Delitzsch). Being co-ordinate with the previous adjectives, while the ὑψηλότερος γεν. is added by καὶ, it would seem that κεχωρ. refers to the result achieved by His earthly life with all its temptations. By the seclusion of the high priest it was hinted that before entering God’s presence the priest must be isolated from the contamination of human intercourse: there must be a period of quarantine; but our High Priest has carried through all the confusion and turmoil and defilement and exasperation of life an absolute immunity from contagion or stain. He was with God throughout, and throughout was separated by an atmosphere of His own from sinners. καὶ ὑψηλότερος τῶν οὐρανῶν γενόμενος, “and made higher than the heavens,” which apparently has a meaning similar to Hebrews 4:14, “We have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens,” cf. also Ephesians 4:10. It is not “and has been set,” but γενόμενος, has by His own career and character attained that dignity. It is by right, as the necessary result of His life, that He is above the heavens. “He is now become, strictly speaking, as to His mode of being, supra-mundane” (Delitzsch). [For the word, cf. Lucian, Nigr., 25, ἑαυτὸν ὑψηλότερον λημμάτων παρέχειν, to show himself superior to gains.] ὃς οὐκ ἔχει καθʼ ἡμέραν ἀνάγκην … “who does not need daily, like the high priests, to offer sacrifices first for His own sins, then for the people’s; for this He did once for all by offering Himself”. As shown by the relative, this is the main affirmation to which the preceding clauses lead up. The one offering of Christ is contrasted with the continually repeated offerings of the Levitical high priests; and His Sonship priesthood to which He was instituted by an oath is set over against the service of men who had first to be cleansed from their own defilements before they could sacrifice for the sins of the people. In the words καθʼ ἡμέραν, when κατʼ ἐνιαυτόν (Hebrews 10:1) might have been expected, a difficulty has been found. It was on the Day of Atonement, once a year, that the high priest offered first for himself and then for the people, see Hebrews 9:7. Accordingly, several interpreters, such as Bleek, Lünemann, Davidson, adopt the idea that the writer blends in one view the ordinary daily sacrifice and the sacrifice of the day of Atonement. Others again, as Hofmann, Delitzsch, Alford, maintain that the position of καθʼ ἡμέραν shows that it belongs only to ὃς [Christ], not to οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, so that the sentence really means: “Who has not need day by day, as the high priests had year by year”. Weiss renders this interpretation more probable by pointing out that the words have a reference to πάντοτε ζῶν εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν of Hebrews 7:25. His intercession is continuous, from day to day, but in order to accomplish it He does not need day by day to purify Himself and renew His sacrifice. Cf. also the seven days’ purification of the high priest on entering his office, Exodus 29:13-18. θυσίας ἀναφέρειν, a phrase resulting from the carrying up of the sacrifice to the raised altar, and only found in Hellenistic, frequently in LXX. The more usual word in this Epistle (twenty times and frequently in LXX) is προσφέρειν. “ἀναφέρειν properly describes the ministerial action of the priest, and προσφέρειν the action of the offerer (Lev. 2:14, 16; 6:33, 35), but the distinction is not observed universally; thus ἀναφέρειν is used of the people (Leviticus 17:5), and προσφέρειν of the priests (Leviticus 21:21)” (Westcott). πρότερον … ἔπειτα, as in Hebrews 5:3, “they must first offer for themselves, because they may not approach God sin-stained; they must also offer for the people, because they may not introduce a sin-stained people to God” (Weiss). τοῦτο γὰρ ἐποίησεν … This, i.e., offering for the sins of the people. But it must be borne in mind that this writer keeps in view that Christ also had a preparation for His priestly ministry in the sinless temptations and sufferings He endured, Hebrews 7:7-10. The emphasis is on ἐφάπαξ, in contrast to the καθʼ ἡμέραν, and the ground of the ἐφάπαξ is given in ἑαυτὸν ἀνενέγκας, an offering which by the nature of the case could not be repeated, Hebrews 9:27-28, and which by its worth rendered repetition superfluous. This difference between the new priest and the old is based upon their essential difference of nature, “For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness,” which especially gives the reason, as in Hebrews 5:3, why they must sacrifice for themselves. In Hebrews 5:3 the weakness is ascribed to the same source as here; the high priest is ἐξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος. In c. 5, however, the fact that the high priest is taken from among men is introduced chiefly for the sake of illustrating his sympathy: here it is introduced in contrast to υἱόν of the next clause, which is thus raised to a higher than human dignity. For had this contrast not been intended, τούς would have been used, and not ἀνθρώπους. The law only made provision for the appointment of priests who had human weakness: the word of the oath (already explained in Hebrews 7:20-22), τῆς μετὰ τὸν νόμον, “which [oath-swearing] came after the law,” and therefore showed that the law needed revisal and supplementing [“Debent posteriora in legibus esse perfectiora” (Grotius)]. It might have been argued that the Law coming after Melchizedek introduced an improved priesthood. It is therefore worth while to point out that the adoption of the Melchizedek priesthood as the type of the Messianic was subsequent to the Law, and consequently superseded it. υἱὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωμένον [appoints], “a son who has been made perfect for ever”. υἱὸν, without the article, because attention is called to the nature of the new priest, as in Hebrews 1:1. “Son,” in the fullest sense, as described in Hebrews 1:1-4, and in contrast to ἀνθρώπους. He also, though a Son, became man, and was exposed to human temptations, but by this experience was “perfected” as our Priest. Cf. Hebrews 7:7-10. “For ever perfected” is directly contrasted with the sinful yielding to infirmity exhibited by the Levitical priests, and must therefore be referred to moral perfecting, as explained in chap. 5. This perfectness of the Son is confirmed and sealed by His exaltation; He is for ever perfected in the sense, as Grotius says, “ut nec morti nec ullis adversis subjaceat”. Cf. Hebrews 9:27-28. The A.V. translates “consecrated,” which Davidson denounces, with Alford, as “altogether false”. But this translation at any rate suggests that it is perfectness as our priest the writer has in view; and the use of τελειόω in Leviticus 21:10 and other passages cannot be thus lightly set aside.
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.
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.
The Expositor's Greek Testament - Nicoll
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