Hebrews 5:4
And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
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(4) But he that is called.—The true reading requires, when he is called. “Not unto himself doth any man take the honour, but when . . .”

Hebrews 5:4-6. And no man — Who has any regard to duty or safety; taketh this honour — This awful office, attended with a high degree of responsibility; unto himself, but he only that is called of God to it; as was Aaron — And his posterity, who were all of them called at one and the same time. But it is observable Aaron did not preach at all, preaching being no part of the priestly office. So also Christ glorified not himself — See John 8:54; to be made a High-Priest — That is, did not take this honour to himself, but received it from his Father, who said unto him, Thou art my Son — This solemn acknowledging of him for his Son, shows that he undertook nothing but what his Father authorized him to undertake; to-day have I begotten thee — As if he had said, There is an eternal relation between us, which is the foundation of thy call to this work. See note on Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33. As he — God the Father; saith in another place — Because the former testimony was somewhat obscure, the apostle adds another more clear: Thou art a priest for ever, after — Or according to; the order of Melchisedec — That is, thou art a priest, not like Aaron, but Melchisedec. Inasmuch as Melchisedec had neither predecessor nor successor in his office, his priesthood could not, properly speaking, be called an order, if by that phrase be understood a succession of persons executing that priesthood. Therefore the expression, κατα ταξιν, here rendered after the order, must mean after the similitude of Melchisedec, as it is expressed Hebrews 7:15; and as the Syriac version renders the phrase in this verse. The words of God’s oath, recorded Psalm 110:4, are very properly advanced by the apostle as a proof of the Messiah’s priesthood, because the Jews in general acknowledged that David wrote that psalm by inspiration concerning Christ.

5:1-10 The High Priest must be a man, a partaker of our nature. This shows that man had sinned. For God would not suffer sinful man to come to him alone. But every one is welcome to God, that comes to him by this High Priest; and as we value acceptance with God, and pardon, we must apply by faith to this our great High Priest Christ Jesus, who can intercede for those that are out of the way of truth, duty, and happiness; one who has tenderness to lead them back from the by-paths of error, sin, and misery. Those only can expect assistance from God, and acceptance with him, and his presence and blessing on them and their services, that are called of God. This is applied to Christ. In the days of his flesh, Christ made himself subject to death: he hungered: he was a tempted, suffering, dying Jesus. Christ set an example, not only to pray, but to be fervent in prayer. How many dry prayers, how few wetted with tears, do we offer up to God! He was strengthened to support the immense weight of suffering laid upon him. There is no real deliverance from death but to be carried through it. He was raised and exalted, and to him was given the power of saving all sinners to the uttermost, who come unto God through him. Christ has left us an example that we should learn humble obedience to the will of God, by all our afflictions. We need affliction, to teach us submission. His obedience in our nature encourages our attempts to obey, and for us to expect support and comfort under all the temptations and sufferings to which we are exposed. Being made perfect for this great work, he is become the Author of eternal salvation to all that obey him. But are we of that number?And no man taketh this honor to himself - No one has a right to enter on this office unless he has the qualifications which God has prescribed. There were fixed and definite laws in regard to the succession in the office of the high priest, and to the qualifications of him who should hold the office.

But he that is called of God as was Aaron - Aaron was designated by name. It was necessary that his successors should have as clear evidence that they were called of God to the office, as though they had been mentioned by name. The manner in which the high priest was to succeed to the office was designated in the Law of Moses, but in the time of Paul these rules were little regarded. The office had become venal, and was conferred at pleasure by the Roman rulers. Still it was true that according to the Law, to which alone Paul here refers, no one might hold this office but he who had the qualifications which Moses prescribed, and which showed that he was called of God. We may remark here:

(1) that this does not refer so much to an internal, as to an "external" call. He was to have the qualifications prescribed in the Law - but it is not specified that he should be conscious of an internal call to the office, or be influenced by the Holy Spirit to it. Such a call was, doubtless, in the highest degree desirable, but it was not prescribed as an essential qualification.

(2) this has no reference to the call to the work of the Christian ministry, and should not be applied to it. It should not be urged as a proof-text to show that a minister of the gospel should have a "call" directly from God, or that he should be called according to a certain order of succession. The object of Paul is not to state this - whatever may be the truth on this point. His object is, to show that the Jewish high priest was called of God to "his" office in a certain way, showing that he held the appointment from God, and that "therefore" it was necessary that the Great High Priest of the Christian profession should be called in a similar manner. To this alone the comparison should be understood as applicable.

4. no man—of any other family but Aaron's, according to the Mosaic law, can take to himself the office of high priest. This verse is quoted by some to prove the need of an apostolic succession of ordination in the Christian ministry; but the reference here is to the priesthood, not the Christian ministry. The analogy in our Christian dispensation would warn ministers, seeing that God has separated them from the congregation of His people to bring them near Himself, and to do the service of His house, and to minister (as He separated the Levites, Korah with his company), that content with this, they should beware of assuming the sacrificial priesthood also, which belongs to Christ alone. The sin of Korah was, not content with the ministry as a Levite, he took the sacerdotal priesthood also. No Christian minister, as such, is ever called Hiereus, that is, sacrificing priest. All Christians, without distinction, whether ministers or people, have a metaphorical, not a literal, priesthood. The sacrifices which they offer are spiritual, not literal, their bodies and the fruit of their lips, praises continually (Heb 13:15). Christ alone had a proper and true sacrifice to offer. The law sacrifices were typical, not metaphorical, as the Christian's, nor proper and true, as Christ's. In Roman times the Mosaic restriction of the priesthood to Aaron's family was violated. This connecteth the last thing describing the typical Levitical priesthood, their call to it.

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

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

And no man taketh this honour to himself,.... That is, the honour of the priesthood: the office of the high priest was a very honourable one; it was a peculiar honour to Aaron, and his sons, to be separated unto it; their instalment into it was very grand and solemn; at that time they were anointed with oil, and clothed with glorious garments, and sacrifices were offered for them; they had an honourable maintenance assigned them, and a large retinue of priests and Levites to attend them; great respect and reverence were shown them: but their principal honour lay in the work they performed; in representing the whole body of the people; in offering gifts and sacrifices for them; in blessing them; and in the resolution of difficult cases brought unto them; in all which they were types of Christ, the high priest. Now no man might take this honourable office upon himself, or intrude himself into it, or obtain it by any unjust method, or in any other way than by a call from God; nor did any man dare to do it, until of late, when some got into it of themselves, and were put in by the Roman governors, and even purchased it of them (a): so Joshua ben Gamla became an high priest (b); and some have thought the apostle has some respect to these wicked practices, and tacitly reproves them, as what ought not to be: for no one ought to be in this office,

but he that is called of God, as was Aaron; whose call was immediately from the Lord, and was unquestionable: Moses was ordered to separate him, and his sons, from the children of Israel, and install them into this office; they were destroyed by fire, or swallowed up by the earth, that disputed his call; and this was confirmed by a miracle, by his dry rod budding, blooming, and bringing forth almonds: and the apostle instances in him, because his call was so remarkable and authentic; and because he was the first high priest of the Jews, and from whence the rest descended, who were lawful ones.

(a) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 8. 2. Bartenora in Misn. Yoma, c. 1. sect. 1. & Maimon. in ib. sect. 3.((b) Misn. Yebamot, c. 6. sect. 4. & Gloss. in T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 18. 1.

{3} And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

(3) The third comparison which is complete: The others are called by God and so was Christ, but in another order than Aaron. For Christ is called the Son, begotten by God and a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:4. The second necessary qualification: to be no usurper of the office, but one called of God to the same.

καί] Progress, not from Hebrews 5:3, nor yet from Hebrews 5:1, in such wise that λαμβάνει, Hebrews 5:4, should form a paronomasia with λαμβανόμενος, Hebrews 5:1 (Böhme, Bleek, Bisping, Alford, Maier), but from Hebrews 5:1-3.

And not to himself does any one take the honour (here under consideration), i.e. not any one appropriates or arrogates to himself the high-priestly dignity on his own authority. Comp. Xiphilinus, Galb. p. 187: νομίζων οὐκ εἰληφέναι τὴν ἀρχήν, ἀλλὰ δεδόσθαι αὐτῷ

ἀλλὰ καλούμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ] sc. λαμβάνει αὐτήν, he receives it. The λαμβάνει here to be supplied has consequently—what is wrongly denied by Delitzsch, Hofmann, and Woerner—another notion than the λαμβάνει before placed. This diversity of notion, nevertheless, comes out more strongly in German, where two different verbs must be chosen to indicate it, than in Greek, where one and the same verb combines both significations in itself.

καθώσπερ καὶ Ἀαρών] sc. κληθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ αὐτὴν εἴληφεν. These words still belong to that which precedes. They are unnaturally referred by Paulus to the sequel, as its protasis.

Aaron and his descendants were, according to Exodus 28:1; Exodus 29:4 ff., Leviticus 8:1 ff., Numbers 3:10; Numbers 3:16-18, called by God Himself to the high-priesthood. Comp. Bammidbar rabba, sec. 18, fol. 234. 4 (in Schöttgen and Wetstein): Moses ad Corachum ejusque socios dixit: si Aaron frater meus sibimet ipsi sacerdotium sumsit, recte egistis, quod contra ipsum insurrexistis; jam vero Deus id ipsi dedit, cujus est magnitudo et potentia et regnum. Quicumque igitur contra Aaronem surgit, contra ipsum Deum surgit. Not until the time of Herod and the Roman governors were high priests arbitrarily appointed and deposed, without respect to their descent from Aaron. Comp. Josephus, Antiq. xx. 10. 5; Winer, Bibl. Realwörterb. I. p. 591, 2 Aufl. That, however, as Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Abresch, and others conjecture, the author intended by the words of Hebrews 5:4 at the same time to indicate that the high priests of that period were no longer true high priests at all, since they had acquired their office at the hand of men, and in the way of venality, is not very probable, inasmuch as the author would otherwise have expressed himself more clearly with regard thereto.

4. this honour] i.e. this honourable office. We have here the second Qualification for Priesthood. A man’s own caprice must not be the Bishop which ordains him. He must be conscious of a divine call.

but he that is called of God] Rather, “but on being called by God,” or “when he is called by God.” Great stress is laid on this point in Scripture (Exodus 28:1). Any “stranger that cometh nigh”—i.e. that intruded unbidden into the Priesthood—was to be put to death (Numbers 3:10). The fate of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:40), and of Uzziah, king though he was (2 Chronicles 26:18-21), served as a terrible warning, and it was recorded as a special aggravation of Jeroboam’s impiety that “he made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi” (1 Kings 12:31). In one of the Jewish Midra-shim, Moses says to Korah “if Aaron, my brother, had taken upon himself the priesthood, ye would be excusable for murmuring against him; “but God gave it to him.” Some have supposed that the writer here reflects obliquely upon the High Priests of that day—alien Saddu-cees, not descended from Aaron (Jos. Antt. xx. 10) who had been introduced into the Priesthood from Babylonian families by Herod the Great, and who kept the highest office, with frequent changes, as a sort of apanage of their own families—the Boethusim, the Kantheras, the Kamhits, the Beni-Hanan. For the characteristics of these Priests, who completely degraded the dignity in the eyes of the people, see my Life of Christy ii. 330, 342. In the energetic maledictions pronounced upon them in more than one passage of the Talmud, they are taunted with not being true sons of Aaron. But it is unlikely that the writer should make this oblique allusion. He was an Alexandrian; he was not writing to the Hebrews of Jerusalem; and these High Priests had been in possession of the office for more than half a century.

as was Aaron] The original is more emphatic “exactly as even Aaron was” (Numbers 16-18). The true Priest must be a divinely-appointed Aaron, not a self-constituted Korah.

Hebrews 5:4. Καὶ, and) The apostle here commences a discussion on the actual (very) priesthood of Christ.—τὶς, any) Levitical priest.—τὴν τιμὴν, honour) The priesthood is an honour. Its synonym is δόξα, glory, Hebrews 5:5.—Αἀρὼν, Aaron) received it by being called.

Verse 4. - And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but being called of God (the 5 of Textus Receptus before καλούμενος ( "he that is called," as in A.V. - has very slight authority), even as was Aaron. This verse expresses the second essential of a high priest, Divine appointment, for assurance of the efficacy of his mediation. Of course Aaron's successors derived their Divine commission from his original one (cf. Numbers 21:26; Numbers 26:10-14). Hebrews 5:4The high priest must be divinely called. One thus compassed with infirmity would shrink from such an office unless called to it by God.

He that is called (καλούμενος)

The A.V. follows T.R., ὁ καλούμενος. The article should be omitted. Rend. but being called by God (he taketh it), as did Aaron.

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