Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
every--that is, every legitimate high priest; for instance, the
Levitical, as he is addressing Hebrews, among whom the Levitical
priesthood was established as the legitimate one. Whatever, reasons
Paul, is excellent in the Levitical priests, is also in Christ, and
besides excellencies which are not in the Levitical priests.
taken from among men--not from among angels, who could not have
a fellow feeling with us men. This qualification Christ has, as being,
like the Levitical priest, a man
(Heb 2:14, 16).
Being "from men," He can be "for (that is, in behalf of,
for the good of) men."
ordained--Greek, "constituted," "appointed."
both gifts--to be joined with "for sins," as "sacrifices" is
(the "both . . . and" requires this); therefore not the
Hebrew, "mincha," "unbloody offerings," but animal whole
burnt offerings, spontaneously given. "Sacrifices" are the
animal sacrifices due according to the legal ordinance [ESTIUS].
2. Who can--Greek, "being able"; not pleasing
have compassion--Greek, "estimate mildly," "feel
leniently," or "moderately towards"; "to make allowance for"; not
showing stern rigor save to the obstinate
ignorant--sins not committed in resistance of light and
knowledge, but as Paul's past sin
No sacrifice was appointed for wilful sin committed with a high hand;
for such were to be punished with death; all other sins, namely,
ignorances and errors, were confessed and expiated with sacrifices by
the high priest.
out of the way--not deliberately and altogether wilfully erring,
but deluded through the fraud of Satan and their own carnal frailty and
infirmity--moral weakness which is sinful, and makes men capable
of sin, and so requires to be expiated by sacrifices. This kind of
"infirmity" Christ had not; He had the "infirmity" of body whereby He
was capable of suffering and death.
3. by reason hereof--"on account of this" infirmity.
he ought . . . also for himself, to offer for
sins--the Levitical priest ought; in this our High Priest is
superior to the Levitical. The second "for" is a different Greek
term from the first; "in behalf of the people . . .
on account of sins."
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
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.
5. glorified not himself--did not assume the glory of the
priestly office of Himself without the call of God
but he that said--that is, the Father glorified Him or appointed
Him to the priesthood. This appointment was involved in, and was the
result of, the Sonship of Christ, which qualified Him for it.
None but the divine Son could have fulfilled such an office
The connection of Sonship and priesthood is typified in
the Hebrew title for priests being given to David's sons
Christ did not constitute Himself the Son of God, but was from
everlasting the only-begotten of the Father. On His Sonship
depended His glorification, and His being called of God
6. He is here called simply "Priest"; in
"High Priest." He is a Priest absolutely, because He stands
alone in that character without an equal. He is "High Priest" in
respect of the Aaronic type, and also in respect to us, whom He has
made priests by throwing open to us access to God [BENGEL]. "The order of Melchisedec" is explained
"the similitude of Melchisedec." The priesthood is similarly
combined with His kingly office in
Melchisedec was at once man, priest, and king. Paul's selecting as the
type of Christ one not of the stock of Abraham, on which the Jews
prided themselves, is an intimation of Messianic universalism.
7. in the days of his flesh--
(Heb 2:14; 10:20).
state summarily the subject about to be handled more fully in the
seventh and eighth chapters.
when he had offered--rather, "in that He offered."
His crying and tears were part of the experimental lesson of obedience
which He submitted to learn from the Father (when God was qualifying
Him for the high priesthood). "Who" is to be construed with "learned
obedience" (or rather as Greek, "His obedience";
"the obedience" which we all know about). This all shows that
"Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest"
but was appointed thereto by the Father.
prayers and supplications--Greek, "both prayers
and supplications." In Gethsemane, where He prayed thrice, and
on the cross, where He cried, My God, my God . . . probably
repeating inwardly all the twenty-second Psalm. "Prayers" refer
to the mind: "supplications" also to the body (namely, the suppliant
with strong crying and tears--The "tears" are an additional fact
here communicated to us by the inspired apostle, not recorded in the
Gospels, though implied.
"sorrowful and very heavy."
"in an agony He prayed more earnestly . . . His sweat
. . . great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
("roaring . . . cry"),
Ps 22:2, 19, 21, 24; 69:3, 10,
able to save him from death--
"All things are possible unto Thee"
His cry showed His entire participation of man's infirmity: His
reference of His wish to the will of God, His sinless faith and
heard in that he feared--There is no intimation in the
twenty-second Psalm, or the Gospels that Christ prayed to be saved from
the mere act of dying. What He feared was the hiding of the Father's
countenance. His holy filial love must rightly have shrunk from this
strange and bitterest of trials without the imputation of impatience.
To have been passively content at the approach of such a cloud would
have been, not faith, but sin. The cup of death He prayed to be freed
from was, not corporal, but spiritual death, that is, the (temporary)
separation of His human soul from the light of God's countenance. His
prayer was "heard" in His Father's strengthening Him so as to hold fast
His unwavering faith under the trial (My God, my God, was
still His filial cry under it, still claiming God as His, though God
hid His face), and soon removing it in answer to His cry during the
darkness on the cross, "My God, my God," &c. But see below a further
explanation of how He was heard. The Greek literally, is, "Was
heard from His fear," that is, so as to be saved from His fear.
which well accords with this, "Save me from the lion's mouth
(His prayer): thou hast heard me from the horns of the
unicorns." Or what better accords with the strict meaning of the
Greek noun, "in consequence of His REVERENTIAL FEAR," that is, in that He shrank
from the horrors of separation from the bright presence of the
Father, yet was reverentially cautious by no thought or word of
impatience to give way to a shadow of distrust or want of perfect
filial love. In the same sense
uses the noun, and
the verb. ALFORD somewhat similarly translates,
"By reason of His reverent submission." I prefer "reverent
fear." The word in derivation means the cautious handling
of some precious, yet delicate vessel, which with ruder handling might
easily be broken [TRENCH]. This fully agrees with
Jesus' spirit, "If it be possible . . . nevertheless not
My will, but Thy will be done"; and with the context,
"Glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest," implying reverent
fear: wherein it appears He had the requisite for the office
"No man taketh this honor unto himself." ALFORD
well says, What is true in the Christian's life, that what we ask from
God, though He may not grant in the form we wish, yet He grants in His
own, and that a better form, does not hold good in Christ's case; for
Christ's real prayer, "not My will, but Thine be done," in consistency
with His reverent fear towards the Father, was granted in the very form
in which it was expressed, not in another.
8. Though He WAS (so it ought to be
translated: a positive admitted fact: not a mere supposition as
were would imply) God's divine Son (whence, even in His agony,
He so lovingly and often cried, Father,
yet He learned His (so the Greek) obedience, not from His
Sonship, but from His sufferings. As the Son, He was always obedient to
the Father's will; but the special obedience needed to qualify
Him as our High Priest, He learned experimentally in practical
"equal with God, but . . . took upon Him the form of a
servant, and became obedient unto death," &c. He was
obedient already before His passion, but He stooped to a still
more humiliating and trying form of obedience then. The
Greek adage is, "Pathemata mathemata," "sufferings,
disciplinings." Praying and obeying, as in Christ's case,
ought to go hand in hand.
9. made perfect--completed, brought to His goal of learning and
suffering through death
[ALFORD], namely, at His glorious resurrection and
eternal salvation--obtained for us in the short "days of
unto all . . . that obey him--As Christ obeyed
the Father, so must we obey Him by faith.
10. Greek, rather, "Addressed by God (by the
appellation) High Priest." Being formally recognized by God as High
Priest at the time of His being "made perfect"
He was High Priest already in the purpose of God before His
passion; but after it, when perfected, He was formally addressed
11. Here he digresses to complain of the low spiritual
attainments of the Palestinian Christians and to warn them of the
danger of falling from light once enjoyed; at the same time encouraging
them by God's faithfulness to persevere. At
he resumes the comparison of Christ to Melchisedec.
hard to be uttered--rather as Greek, "hard of
interpretation to speak." Hard for me to state intelligibly to you
owing to your dulness about spiritual things. Hence, instead of
saying many things, he writes in comparatively few words
In the "we," Paul, as usual, includes Timothy with himself in
ye are--Greek, "ye have become dull" (the
Greek, by derivation, means hard to move): this implies
that once, when first "enlightened," they were earnest and
zealous, but had become dull. That the Hebrew believers
AT JERUSALEM were dull in
spiritual things, and legal in spirit, appears from
where James and the elders expressly say of the "thousands of Jews
which believe," that "they are all zealous of the law"; this was
at Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, after which this Epistle seems to
have been written (see on
on "for the time").
12. for the time--considering the long time that you have been
Christians. Therefore this Epistle was not one of those written early.
which be the first principles--Greek, "the rudiments
of the beginning of." A Pauline phrase (see on
Ye need not only to be taught the first elements, but also
"which they be." They are therefore enumerated
Heb 6:1, 2
[BENGEL]. ALFORD translates,
"That someone teach you the rudiments"; but the position of the
Greek, "tina," inclines me to take it interrogatively,
"which," as English Version, Syriac, Vulgate, &c.
of the oracles of God--namely, of the Old Testament: instead of
seeing Christ as the end of the Old Testament Scripture, they were
relapsing towards Judaism, so as not only not to be capable of
understanding the typical reference to Christ of such an Old Testament
personage as Melchisedec, but even much more elementary references.
are become--through indolence.
milk . . . not . . . strong meat--"Milk"
refers to such fundamental first principles as he enumerates in
Heb 6:1, 2.
The solid meat, or food, is not absolutely necessary for
preserving life, but is so for acquiring greater strength. Especially
in the case of the Hebrews, who were much given to allegorical
interpretations of their law, which they so much venerated, the
application of the Old Testament types, to Christ and His High
Priesthood, was calculated much to strengthen them in the Christian
13. useth--Greek, "partaketh," that is, taketh as his
portion. Even strong men partake of milk, but do not make milk
their chief, much less their sole, diet.
the word of righteousness--the Gospel wherein "the righteousness
of God is revealed from faith to faith"
and which is called "the ministration of righteousness"
This includes the doctrine of justification and sanctification:
the first principles, as well as the perfection, of the
doctrine of Christ: the nature of the offices and person of Christ
as the true Melchisedec, that is, "King of righteousness"
14. strong meat--"solid food."
them . . . of full age--literally, "perfect": akin to
by reason of use--Greek, "habit."
senses--organs of sense.
exercised--similarly connected with "righteousness" in
to discern both good and evil--as a child no longer an infant
so able to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine. The mere
child puts into its mouth things hurtful and things nutritious, without
discrimination: but not so the adult. Paul again alludes to their
tendency not to discriminate, but to be carried about by strange