Hebrews 7:11
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?
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(11) The connection of thought may be given thus:—It has been shown that the position of Melchizedek towards Abraham involves of necessity his superiority to Abraham, to Levi also and his descendants, so that “the order of Melchizedek” is altogether different from, and higher than, “the order of Aaron.” This being so, how could this other priesthood take the place of the Levitical if this latter had answered its full purpose?

Perfection.—Literally, the making perfect—the full accomplishment of the essential aim of priesthood, in bringing men “near to God.”

Received.—The better reading is hath received.—The object of this parenthesis is to point out the intimate relation between the Law and the priesthood: “I speak of the Levitical priesthood, for it is on the basis of this that the Law given to the people rests.”

Another priest.—That is (as the Greek implies), a priest of a different kind (Hebrews 7:13; Hebrews 7:15). The question is equivalent to a strong denial: there could be no such need.

Hebrews 7:11. The apostle, having cleared his way from objections, now enters on his principal argument concerning the priesthood of Christ, and all the consequences of it with respect to righteousness, salvation, and the worship of God which depend thereon. If, therefore, or, now if perfection were by the Levitical priesthood — If it perfectly answered all God’s designs and man’s wants; what further need was there that another priest — A priest of a new order; should rise — Or be set up; and not one after the order of Aaron? — As if he had said, Since by what has been advanced it appears from Scripture that another priesthood was to arise after Aaron’s, of another order, it follows hence that perfection could not be attained by that of Aaron; for if it could, that certainly would not have been removed, and another substituted in its place. In other words, the prediction of the rising up of a priest of a different order from that of Aaron, is a declaration of the inefficacy of the Levitical priesthood, and of God’s intention to change it. Instead of the clause, for under it, (namely, the Levitical priesthood,) Macknight reads, on account of it, the people received the law — Observing that the law “was prior to the priesthood, being given for the purpose of forming and establishing the priesthood; and that the Jewish people themselves were separated from the rest of mankind, and made a people by the law, merely that they might, as a nation, worship the only true God according to the Levitical ritual, in settling which most of the precepts of the law were employed. This being the case, is it any wonder that such of the Jews as looked no farther than the outside of the priesthood and law, imagined that perfection, in respect of pardon and acceptance with God, was to be obtained by the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices, and in that persuasion believed they never would be abolished? Nevertheless, if they had understood the true meaning of the law, they would have known that it was a typical oracle, in which, by its services, the priesthood and sacrifice of the Son of God were prefigured, and that by calling his Son a priest, not after the order of Aaron, but after that of Melchisedec, God declared that his services as a High-Priest, and the sacrifice of himself which he was to offer, were entirely different, both in their nature and effects, from the Levitical services and sacrifices, and that they were to be substituted in the room of these services, for which there was no occasion after the priest and sacrifices which they prefigured, were come.”

7:11-25 The priesthood and law by which perfection could not come, are done away; a Priest is risen, and a dispensation now set up, by which true believers may be made perfect. That there is such a change is plain. The law which made the Levitical priesthood, showed that the priests were frail, dying creatures, not able to save their own lives, much less could they save the souls of those who came to them. But the High Priest of our profession holds his office by the power of endless life in himself; not only to keep himself alive, but to give spiritual and eternal life to all who rely upon his sacrifice and intercession. The better covenant, of which Jesus was the Surety, is not here contrasted with the covenant of works, by which every transgressor is shut up under the curse. It is distinguished from the Sinai covenant with Israel, and the legal dispensation under which the church so long remained. The better covenant brought the church and every believer into clearer light, more perfect liberty, and more abundant privileges. In the order of Aaron there was a multitude of priests, of high priests one after another; but in the priesthood of Christ there is only one and the same. This is the believer's safety and happiness, that this everlasting High Priest is able to save to the uttermost, in all times, in all cases. Surely then it becomes us to desire a spirituality and holiness, as much beyond those of the Old Testament believers, as our advantages exceed theirs.If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood - As the Jews supposed. They were accustomed to regard the system as perfect. It was an appointment of God, and they were tenacious of the opinion that it was to be permanent, and that it needed no change. But Paul says that this could not be. Even from their own Scriptures it was apparent that a priest was to arise of another order, and of a more permanent character, and this he says was full proof: that there was defect of some kind in the previous order. What this defect was, he does not here specify, but the subsequent reasoning shows that it was in such points as these - that it was not permanent; that it could not make the worshippers perfect; that the blood which they offered in sacrifice could not take away sin, and could not render those who offered it holy; compare Hebrews 7:19, Hebrews 7:23-24; Hebrews 10:1-4.

For under it the people received the law - This assertion seems necessary in order to establish the point maintained in Hebrews 7:12, that if the priesthood is changed there must be also a change of the Law. In order to this, it was necessary to admit that the Law was received under that economy, and that "it was a part of it," so that the change of one involved also the change of the other. It was not strictly true that the whole Law was given after the various orders of Levitical priest were established - for the Law on Sinai, and several other laws, were given before that distinct arrangement was made; but it was true:

(1) that a considerable part of the laws of Moses were given under that arrangement; and,

(2) that the whole of the ceremonial observances was connected with that. They were parts of one system, and mutually dependent on each other. This is all that the argument demands.

What further need was there ... - "If that system would lead to perfection; if it was sufficient to make the conscience pure, and to remove sin, then there was no necessity of any other. Yet the Scriptures have declared that there "would be" another of a different order, implying that there was some defect in the former." This reasoning is founded on the fact that there was an express prediction of the coming of a priest of a different "order" Psalm 110:4, and that this fact implied that there was some deficiency in the former arrangement. To this reasoning it is impossible to conceive that there can be any objection.

11. perfection—absolute: "the bringing of man to his highest state, namely, that of salvation and sanctification."

under it—The reading in the oldest manuscripts is, "Upon it (that is, on the ground of it as the basis, the priest having to administer the law, Mal 2:7: it being presupposed) the people (Heb 9:19, 'all the people') have received the law (the Greek is perfect, not aorist tense; implying the people were still observing the law)."

what further need—(Heb 8:7). For God does nothing needless.

another—rather as Greek, "that a different priest (one of a different order) should arise (anew, Heb 7:15).

not be called—Greek, "not be said (to be) after the order of Aaron," that is, that, when spoken of in the Ps 110:4, "He is not said to be (as we should expect, if the Aaronic priesthood was perfect) after the order of Aaron."

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood: now the Spirit infers from the doctrine of Melchisedec’s priesthood, the dignity and perpetuity of Christ’s, typified by it: so that it is not Aaron’s priesthood, but Christ’s, which the Hebrews were to use for their salvation after Aaron’s was expired. For perfection was not to be had by Aaron’s priesthood or law, but by a better, of another order, even Christ and his law. The form of these words are interrogative, implying a vehement denial of what is queried in them. A perfecting of persons to life eternal by expiation, justification, renovation, &c.; see Hebrews 9:9 10:1; freeing sinners from the guilt, stain, filth, and consequents of their sins by an expiatory, satisfactory sacrifice to God, and fitting of them for an eternal enjoying him; a self-efficiency to these things without Christ, is, as to the Aaronical priesthood, vehemently denied; as to this, that is defective.

For under it the people received the law; for with the priesthood, about the time of its institution by God, the Iraelitish church, God’s covenanted people, received the law; by which, as well as by its priesthood, there is no expiation, remission, nor eternal life to be obtained, Galatians 3:17-19; compare Malachi 2:4-8. This law and priesthood being types of far better to succeed them, they were but leading to them, which in the fulness of time were to be revealed, and which should perfect what they could not, Galatians 3:23,24 4:3-5.

What further need was there, &c.? It was needful, since the Levitical priesthood and law could not perfect sinners, that another should take place which could perfect them. David therefore, who lived above four hundred years after their institution, and feeling their imperfection, did by the Spirit foresee and tell of a royal priesthood and law to take place after this, that should perfect sinners, which could not be done by any called after Aaron’s imperfect order. This was the Lord Christ the Messiah, who must be after the order of Melchisedec, Psalm 110:4, and who by his priesthood and law should abundantly effect it; which was far more excellent for both, than any of the Levitical family can pretend to.

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood,.... The priesthood which was established in the tribe of Levi; so called, to distinguish it from that which was before this institution, from the times of Adam, as well as from the priesthood of Melchizedek, and from the priesthood of Christ, and from that of his people under the Gospel, who are all priests; as well as to restrain it to the subject of the apostle's discourse: the design of which is to show, that there is no perfection by it; as is clear from the priests themselves, who were but men, mortal men, sinful men, and so imperfect, and consequently their priesthood; and from their offerings, between which, and sin, there is no proportion; and at best were but typical of the sacrifice of Christ; and could neither make the priests nor the worshippers perfect, neither in their own consciences, nor in the sight of God: moral actions are preferred before them, and yet by these there is no perfection, justification, and salvation; to which may be added, that the sacrifices the priests offered did not extend to all kind of sins, only to sins of ignorance, not to presumptuous ones; and there were many under that dispensation punished with death; and at most they only delivered from temporal, not eternal punishment, and only entitled to a temporal life, not an eternal one.

For under it the people received the law: not the moral law, which was given to Adam in innocence, and as it came by Moses, it was before the Levitical priesthood took place; but the ceremonial law, and which was carnal, mutable, and made nothing perfect: the Syriac version renders it, "by which a law was imposed upon the people"; to regard the office of priesthood, and the priests in it, and bring their sacrifices to them; and the Arabic version reads, "the law of a the priest's office"; which office was after the law of a carnal commandment, and so imperfect, as is manifest from what follows: for had perfection been by it,

what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? that there was another priest promised and expected, and that he should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and who was to make his soul an offering for sin, is certain, Ezra 2:63 and such an one is risen, even Jesus of Nazareth; and yet there would have been no need of him, and especially that he should be of a different order from Aaron's, had there been perfection by the Levitical priesthood.

{5} If therefore {d} 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?

(5) The third treatise of this Epistle, in which after he has proved Christ to be a King, Prophet and a Priest, he now handles distinctly the condition and excellency of all these offices, showing that all these were shadows, but in Christ they are true and perfect. He begins with the priesthood that the former treatise ended with, that by this means all the parts of the debate may better hold together. First of all he proves that the Levitical priesthood was imperfect because another priest is promised later according to an other order, that is, of another rule and fashion.

(d) If the priesthood of Levi could have made any man perfect.

Hebrews 7:11. From the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood to the priesthood of Melchisedec, just proved, it followed that the former was imperfect and incapable of leading to perfection. This fact is now presupposed by the author as a self-evident consequence, and he proceeds at once to demonstrate the truth thereof.

οὖν] deduces the conclusion from Hebrews 7:5-10, not from Hebrews 6:20 (de Wette, Bisping), whereby an interruption ensues in the continuity of the development begun by the author.

εἰ] with the indicative preterite (Hebrews 4:8, Hebrews 8:4), supposition of an impossible case: if there were, if there existed; in combination with διά: if it were effected.

τελείωσις] perfection, i.e. attainment of the highest goal of mankind in a moral and religious respect. There is included in it the obtaining of the expiation of sins and the glory to come. Comp. Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 11:40.

ὁ λαὸς γὰρ ἐπʼ αὐτῆς νενομοθέτηται] for the people on the ground thereof hath received the law. These words can be taken only as a parenthesis (against Stein). νομοθετεῖν τινί signifies to give laws to one, to provide one with a law (here the Mosaic law). The mode of transposing this active construction into the passive ὁ λαὸς νενομοθέτηται is quite the usual one; comp. Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 244 f.

ἐπʼ αὐτῆς] relates not to τελείωσις (so, upon the supposition of the reading ἐπʼ αὐτῇ, Vatablus, but undecided; Seb. Schmidt, Starck, Rambach), but to τῆς Λευϊτικῆς ἱερωσύνς. ἐπί, however, denotes: upon the ground or condition of the existence of the Levitical priesthood, i.e. the Levitical priesthood is indissolubly conjoined with the Mosaic law which the people has received; it forms a foundation pillar upon which the latter rests, so that with the fall of the one the other also must fall (Hebrews 7:12). Erroneously,—because the statement thus arising would be too insignificant, and because ἐπί in this sense is used only with verba dicendi (comp. Galatians 3:16; Heindorf, ad Plat. Charm. p. 62; Bernhardy, Syntax, p. 248),

Schlichting and Grotius [as also Whitby]: de sacerdotio Levitico legem accepit [an interpretation already rejected by Junius and Piscator]; as likewise Bleek I.: the people had received legal instruction concerning the Levitical priesthood.

But to what end the parenthesis? Its design is to indicate the ground on which one might expect to attain to the τελείωσις,—if the Mosaic law were at all capable of leading thereto,—by the intervention of the Levitical priesthood, since the Mosaic law is erected upon this very Levitical priesthood as its basis.

τίς ἔτι χρεία] sc. ἧν, or ἂν ἦν. The words following χρεία are not to be blended together into one thought (Faber Stapulensis, Luther, Baumgarten, Chr. Fr. Schmid), in such wise that λέγεσθαι is governed immediately by χρεία, and again all the rest (κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδὲκ ἕτερον ἀνίστασθαι ἱερέα καὶ οὐ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Ἀαρών) by λέγεσθαι. The position of the words would then be contorted, and one explicable on no justifying grounds. On the contrary, the infinitive clause κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδὲκ ἕτερον ἀνίστασθαι ἱερέα depends at once upon the immediately preceding τίς ἔτι χρεία; and to this first infinitive clause the second καὶ οὐ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Ἀαρὼν λέγεσθαι forms an epexegetic parallel clause: What need was there still then (or: would there then still have been) that another priest should arise “after the order of Melchisedec,” and not be called (priest) after the order of Aaron?

ἔτι] sc. after the Levitical priesthood had long been instituted, and in general the Mosaic law promulgated.

ἕτερον] in distinction from ἄλλον, brings prominently forward the dissimilarity of his nature and constitution as compared with that of the Levitical priests.

To καί we have not to supplement the whole idea ἔτερον ἱερέα, but only ἱερέα.

οὐ, however, is placed, not μή as the infinitive λέγεσθαι might seem to require, because the negation extends to only a part of the clause. οὐ, namely, is closely associated with κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Ἀαρών, and forms with the same merely a more precise definition to the ἱερέα which is to be supplied, so that the total expression καὶ (ἱερέα) οὐ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Ἀαρών presents an opposition to the foregoing total expression κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδὲκ ἕτερον ἱερέα.

λέγεσθαι] namely, Psalm 110:4. That λέγεσθαι is not to be taken in the sense of eligi (Kuinoel, Stein, al.) is already shown by the λέγεται, Hebrews 7:13.

Hebrews 7:11-17. The Levitical priesthood in general has, together with the Mosaic law, lost its validity.

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.

11. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood] At this point begins the argument which occupies the next nine verses. “Perfection” (compare the verb in Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 11:40) means power of perfectionment, capacity to achieve the end in view; but this was not to be attained through the Levitic priesthood. The fifth point of superiority is that the Melchisedek Priesthood implies the abrogation of the Levitic, and of the whole law which was based upon it.

for under it] Rather, “for on the basis of it.” The writer regards the Priesthood rather than the Law as constituting the basis of the whole Mosaic system; so that into this slight parenthesis he really infuses the essence of his argument. The Priesthood is obviously changed. For otherwise the Theocratic King of Psalms 110 would not have been called “a Priest after the order of Melchisedec” but “after the order of Aaron” Clearly then “the order of Aaron” admitted of no attainment of perfection through its means. But if the Priesthood was thus condemned as imperfect and inefficient, the Law was equally disparaged as a transitory institution. Righteousness did not “come by the Law;” if it could so have come Christ would have died in vain (Galatians 2:21. Comp. Hebrews 10:1-14).

what further need was there] There could be no need, since none of God’s actions or dispensations are superfluous.

another priest] Rather, “a different priest”

and not be called after the order of Aaron] Lit., “and that he should not be said (viz. in Psalm 110:4) to be after the order of Aaron.”

Hebrews 7:11. Εἰ μὲν οὖν, if then) Now, the apostle, by referring to the 110th Psalm, shows that the Levitical priesthood yields to the priesthood of Jesus Christ: because Melchisedec, according to whose order and likeness Jesus Christ is a priest, (1.) is opposed to Aaron, Hebrews 7:11-14; (2.) has no end of life, Hebrews 7:15-19.—τελείωσις, perfection) The LXX. put this word for the Hebrew מִלֻּאִים, Exodus 29:22, etc.; Leviticus 7:37; Leviticus 8:22; Leviticus 8:28-29; Leviticus 8:31; Leviticus 8:33, where the writer is treating of Levitical perfection; but here τελείωσις τελεία, absolute perfection, is intended: comp. Hebrews 7:19. The article is not added, and therefore Paul increases the force of the negative expression.—ἦν) if—were. So ἦν, ch. Hebrews 8:7.—ὁ λαὸς γὰρ, for the people) The conjunction γὰρ put after the noun, as in Hebrews 7:28, intimates that the noun people is here emphatic the whole people of GOD. It at the same time shows why any one might perhaps ascribe perfection to the Levitical priesthood, and why it is necessary that that opinion should be confuted: comp. γὰρ, for, which is likewise subjoined to the word εἰ, if, ch. Hebrews 8:7-8.—ἐπʼ αὐτῇ, under, or in connection with it) Under the Levitical priesthood. Ἐπὶ with the dative, on, upon, concerning, in the case of, etc., often denotes the object, and that too having the force either of cause or effect, ch. Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:10; Hebrews 9:17, Hebrews 11:4.—νενομοθέτητο, had received the law) The Pluperfect, because a time intervened before the 110th Psalm was given. As הורה is νόμος, the law, Hebrews 7:12, so the LXX. translate the verb הורה νομοθετεῖν τινα, to instruct any one: Psalm 25:8; Psalm 27:11; Psalm 119:33; Psalm 119:102. The people were only instructed about the Levitical priesthood, with which the whole law is occupied, and speaks of no other priesthood, Hebrews 7:5; but the 110th Psalm introduces a different system of instruction, namely, because God has changed the priesthood.—τίς ἔτι, what any longer now) This now any longer is very urgent.—χρεία, necessity) for GOD does nothing in vain.—ἕτερον, another) Comp. the epithets, new, second, ch. Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 10:9.—ἀνίστασθαι) should arise anew, Hebrews 7:15. The antithesis is λέγεσθαι, should be called, according to the old form of instruction.—λέγεσθαι, should not be called) in the psalm, at the time of which Aaron, i.e. the order of Aaron, flourished.

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). Hebrews 7:11In Christ, as the Melchisedec-priest, the ideal of the priesthood is realized.

Perfection (τελείωσις)

Only here and Luke 1:45. The act or process of consummating. By this word is signified the establishment of a perfect fellowship between God and the worshipper. See Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1.

Priesthood (ἱερωσύνης)

Only in Hebrews. See Hebrews 7:12, Hebrews 7:14. It expresses the abstract notion of the priest's office; while ἱερατία Hebrews 7:5, expresses the priestly service.

For under it the people received the law (γὰρ ἐπ' αὐτῆς νενομοθέτηται)

Under, rather on the basis of. The verb lit. the law has been laid down. Only here and Hebrews 8:6.

What further need (τίς ἔτι χρεία)

Ἔτι after that, assuming that there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood.

Another priest (ἕτερον ἱερέα)

Not merely another, but a different kind of priest. See on Matthew 6:24.

Should rise (ἀνίστασθαι)

In Hebrews only here and Hebrews 7:15, both times in connection with priest.

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