Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PRIESTHOOD AFTER THE
1. this Melchisedec--
The verb does not come till
king . . . priest--Christ unites these offices in
their highest sense, and so restores the patriarchal union of these
Salem--Jerusalem, that is, seeing peace; others make
Salem distinct, and to be that mentioned
the most high God--called also "Possessor of heaven and earth"
(Ge 14:19, 22).
This title of God, "the Most High," handed down by tradition from the
primitive revelation, appears in the Phœnician god "Elion," that
is, Most High. It is used to imply that the God whom Melchisedec
served is THE TRUE GOD, and not one of the gods of
the nations around. So it is used in the only other cases in which it
is found in the New Testament, namely in the address of the demoniac,
and the divining damsel constrained to confess that her own gods were
false, and God the only true God.
who met Abraham--in company with the king of Sodom
(Ge 14:17, 18).
slaughter--perhaps defeat, as ALFORD
may be translated. Arioch, king of Ellasar, lived and reigned after the
disaster [BENGEL]. However, if Chedorlaomer and
Amraphel and Tidal were slain, though Arioch survived,
"slaughter of the kings" would be correct.
blessed him--As priest he first blessed Abraham on God's part;
next he blessed God on Abraham's part: a reciprocal blessing. Not a
mere wish, but an authoritative and efficacious intercession as a
priest. The Most High God's prerogative as "Possessor of heaven and
earth," is made over to Abraham; and Abraham's glory, from his victory
over the foe, is made over to God. A blessed exchange for Abraham
(Ge 14:19, 20).
2. gave--Greek, "apportioned"; assigned as his portion.
tenth . . . of all--namely, the booty taken. The
tithes given are closely associated with the priesthood: the mediating
priest received them as a pledge of the giver's whole property being
God's; and as he conveyed God's gifts to man
"blessed him"), so also man's gifts to God. Melchisedec is a sample of
how God preserves, amidst general apostasy, an elect remnant. The
meeting of Melchisedec and Abraham is the connecting link between to
two dispensations, the patriarchal, represented by Melchisedec, who
seems to have been specially consecrated by God as a KING-PRIEST, the highest form of that primitive system
in which each father of a household was priest in it, and the
Levitical, represented by Abraham, in which the priesthood was to be
limited to one family of one tribe and one nation. The Levitical was
parenthetical, and severed the kingdom and priesthood; the patriarchal
was the true forerunner of Christ's, which, like Melchisedec's,
unites the kingship and priesthood, and is not derived from
other man, or transmitted to other man; but derived from God, and is
transmitted in God to a never-ending perpetuity. Melchisedec's
priesthood continueth in Christ for ever. For other points of
Melchisedec must have had some special consecration above the other
patriarchs, as Abraham, who also exercised the priesthood; else Abraham
would not have paid tithe to him as to a superior. His peculiar
function seems to have been, by God's special call, KING-priest whereas no other "patriarch-priest"
was also a God-consecrated king.
first being--Paul begins the mystical explanation of the
historical fact (allegorical explanations being familiar to JEWS), by
mentioning the significancy of the name.
righteousness--not merely righteous: so Christ. Hebrew
"Malchi" means king: "Tzedek,"
King of Salem--not only his own name, but that of the city which
he ruled, had a typical significance, namely, peace. Christ is
the true Prince of peace. The peace which He brings is
the fruit of righteousness.
3. Without father, &c.--explained by "without genealogy" (so the
Greek is for "without descent); compare
that is, his genealogy is not known, whereas a Levitical priest
could not dispense with the proof of his descent.
having neither beginning of days nor end of life--namely,
history not having recorded his beginning nor end, as it has the
beginning and end of Aaron. The Greek idiom expressed by
"without father," &c., one whose parentage was humble or unknown.
"Days" mean his time of discharging his function. So the
eternity spoken of in
is that of the priestly office chiefly.
made like--It is not said that he was asbsolutely "like."
Made like, namely, in the particulars here specified. Nothing is
said in Genesis of the end of his priesthood, or of his having had in
his priesthood either predecessor or successor, which, in a typical
point of view, represents Christ's eternal priesthood, without
beginning or end. Aaron's end is recorded; Melchisedec's not:
typically significant. "The Son of God" is not said to be made like
unto Melchisedec, but Melchisedec to be "made like the Son of God."
When ALFORD denies that Melchisedec was made like
the Son of God in respect of his priesthood, on the ground that
Melchisedec was prior in time to our Lord, he forgets that
Christ's eternal priesthood was an archetypal reality in God's
purpose from everlasting, to which Melchisedec's priesthood was
"made like" in due time. The Son of God is the more ancient, and is the
where the heavenly things are represented as the primary archetype
of the Levitical ordinances. The epithets, "without father," &c.
"beginning of days, "nor end," "abideth continually," belong to
Melchisedec only in respect to his priesthood, and in so far
as he is the type of the Son of God, and are strictly true of Him
alone. Melchisedec was, in his priesthood, "made like" Christ, as far
as the imperfect type could represent the lineaments of the perfect
archetype. "The portrait of a living man can be seen on the canvas, yet
the man is very different from his picture." There is nothing in the
to mark Melchisedec as a superhuman being: he is classed with the other
kings in the chapter as a living historic personage: not as
ORIGEN thought, an angel; nor as the Jews thought,
Shem, son of Noah; nor as CALMET, Enoch; nor as
the Melchisedekites, that he was the Holy Ghost; nor as others, the
Divine Word. He was probably of Shemitic, not Canaanite origin: the
last independent representative of the original Shemitic population,
which had been vanquished by the Canaanites, Ham's descendants. The
greatness of Abraham then lay in hopes; of Melchisedec, in present
possession. Melchisedec was the highest and last representative of the
Noahic covenant, as Christ was the highest and ever enduring
representative of the Abrahamic. Melchisedec, like Christ, unites in
himself the kingly and priestly offices, which Abraham does not.
ALFORD thinks the epithets are, in some sense,
strictly true of Melchisedec himself; not merely in the typical
sense given above; but that he had not, as mortal men have, a beginning
or end of life (?). A very improbable theory, and only to be resorted
to in the last extremity, which has no place here. With Melchisedec,
whose priesthood probably lasted a long period, the priesthood and
worship of the true God in Canaan ceased. He was first and last
king-priest there, till Christ, the antitype; and therefore his
priesthood is said to last for ever, because it both lasts a long time,
and lasts as long as the nature of the thing itself (namely, his life,
and the continuance of God's worship in Canaan) admits. If Melchisedec
were high priest for ever in a literal sense, then Christ and he would
now still be high priests, and we should have two instead of one (!).
THOLUCK remarks, "Melchisedec remains in so
far as the type remains in the antitype, in so far as his priesthood
remains in Christ." The father and mother of Melchisedec,
as also his children, are not descended from Levi, as the Levitical
were required to be, and are not even mentioned by Moses. The wife of
Aaron, Elisheba, the mother from whom the Levitical priests
spring, is mentioned: as also Sarah, the original mother of the Jewish
nation itself. As man, Christ had no father; as God, no
4. consider--not merely see, but weigh with attentive
contemplation, the fact.
even--"to whom (as his superior) Abraham even paid tithe
(went so far as to pay tithe) of (consisting of, literally, 'from')
the best of the spoils (literally, 'the top of the heap";
whether of corn, the first-fruits of which, taken from the top, used to
be consecrated to God; or of spoils, from the top of which the general
used to take some portion for consecration to God, or for his own
use)." He paid "tithes of ALL," and those tithes
were taken out of the topmost and best portion of the whole spoils.
the patriarch--in the Greek emphatically standing at the
end of the whole sentence: And this payer of tithe being no less a
personage than "the patriarch," the first forefather and head of our
Jewish race and nation See on
on Melchisedec's superiority as specially consecrated
king-priest, above the other patriarch-priests.
5. sons of Levi--namely, those alone who belonged to the family
of Aaron, to whom the priesthood was restricted. Tithes originally paid
to the whole tribe of Levi, became at length attached to the
according to the law--sanctioned by Jehovah
of their brethren--with whom, in point of natural descent, they
are on a level.
though, &c.--Though thus on a level by common descent from
Abraham, they yet pay tithe to the Levites, whose brethren they are.
Now the Levites are subordinate to the priests; and these again to
Abraham, their common progenitor; and Abraham to Melchisedec. "How
then, must this Melchisedec be in respect to his priesthood, as
compared with the Levitical, though the latter received tithes! and now
unspeakably great must "the Son of God" be, to whom, as the sacerdotal
archetype (in God's purpose), Melchisedec was made like! Thus compare
in the case of Melchisedec, the type, with the "consider"
(Greek, "contemplate attentively," see on
a stronger word than here) in the case of Christ, the archetype.
6. he whose descent is not counted from them--not from "the sons
of Levi," as those "who receive the priesthood." This verse explains
"without descent" (Greek, "genealogy" in both verses,
He who needs not, as the Levitical priests, to be able to trace his
genealogy back to Levi.
received--Greek, "hath received tithes."
blessed--Greek, "hath blessed." The perfect tense
implies that the significance of the fact endures to the present time.
him that had--"the possessor of the promises," Abraham's
peculiar distinction and designation. Paul exalts Abraham in order
still more to exalt Melchisedec. When Christ is the subject, the
singular "promise" is used. "The promises" in the plural, refer to
God's promise of greatness to himself and his seed, and of the
possession of Canaan, twice repeated before the blessing of
Melchisedec. As the priests, though above the people
whom it was their duty to "bless," were yet subordinate to Abraham; and
as Abraham was subordinate to Melchisedec, who blessed him, Melchisedec
must be much above the Levitical priests.
7. The principle that the blesser is superior to him whom he
blesses, holds good only in a blessing given with divine authority; not
merely a prayerful wish, but one that is divinely efficient in working
its purport, as that of the patriarchs on their children: so Christ's
8. Second point of superiority: Melchisedec's is an
enduring, the Levitical a transitory, priesthood. As the
law was a parenthesis between Abraham's dispensation of promise
of grace, and its enduring fulfilment at Christ's coming
Greek, "The law entered as something adscititious and by the
way"): so the Levitical priesthood was parenthetical and temporary,
between Melchisedec's typically enduring priesthood, and its
antitypical realization in our ever continuing High Priest, Christ.
here--in the Levitical priesthood.
there--in the priesthood after the order of Melchisedec.
In order to bring out the typical parallel more strongly, Paul
substitutes, "He of whom it is witnessed that he liveth," for the more
untypical, "He who is made like to Him that liveth." Melchisedec
"liveth" merely in his official capacity, his priesthood being
continued in Christ. Christ, on the other hand, is, in His own
person, "ever living after the power of an endless life"
(Heb 7:16, 25).
Melchisedec's death not being recorded, is expressed by the positive
term "liveth," for the sake of bringing into prominence the antitype,
Christ, of whom alone it is strictly and perfectly true, "that He
9. as I may so say--to preclude what he is about to say being
taken in the mere literal sense; I may say that,
virtually, Levi, in the person of his father Abraham,
acknowledged Melchisedec's superiority, and paid tithes to him.
who receiveth tithes--(Compare
in Abraham--Greek, "by means of (by the hand of)
Abraham"; through Abraham. "Paid tithes," literally, "hath been
tithed," that is, been taken tithes of.
10. in the loins of his father--that is, forefather
Abraham. Christ did not, in this sense, pay tithes in Abraham,
for He never was in the loins of an earthly father [ALFORD]. Though, in respect to His mother, He was "of the
fruit of (David's, and so of) Abraham's loins," yet, being
supernaturally, without human father, conceived, as He is above the
natural law of birth, so is he above the law of tithes. Only those
born in the natural way, and so in sin, being under the curse, needed
to pay tithe to the priest, that he might make propitiation for their
sin. Not so Christ, who derived only His flesh, not also the taint of
the flesh, from Abraham. BENGEL remarks, The
blessings which Abraham had before meeting Melchisedec were the
general promises, and the special one of a natural seed,
and so of Levi; but the promises under which Christ was
comprehended, and the faith for which Abraham was so commended,
followed after Abraham's meeting Melchisedec, and being
blessed by him: to which fact.
"After these things," calls our attention. This explains why
Christ, the supernatural seed, is not included as paying tithes through
Abraham to Melchisedec.
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,
it being presupposed) the people
'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--
For God does nothing needless.
another--rather as Greek, "that a different priest
(one of a different order) should arise (anew,
not be called--Greek, "not be said (to be) after
the order of Aaron," that is, that, when spoken of in the
"He is not said to be (as we should expect, if the Aaronic priesthood
was perfect) after the order of Aaron."
12. For--the reason why Paul presses the words "after the order
of Melchisedec" in
namely, because these presuppose a change or transference of the
priesthood, and this carries with it a change also of the law (which is
inseparably bound up with the priesthood, both stand and fall together,
This is his answer to those who might object, What need was there of a
13. Confirming the truth that a change is made of the law
by another fact showing the distinctness of the new priesthood from the
pertaineth--Greek, "hath partaken of" (the perfect tense
implies the continuance still of His manhood).
another--"a different tribe" from that of Levi.
14. evident--literally, "manifest before the eyes" as a thing
indisputable; a proof that whatever difficulties may now appear,
then Jesus Christ's genealogy labored under none.
our Lord--the only place where this now common title occurs
without "Jesus," or "Christ," except
sprang--as a plant, and a branch.
Lu 1:27, 39
(Hebron of Judah, where LIGHTFOOT thinks Jesus was
Lu 2:4, 5;
of which tribe . . . priesthood--"in respect to
which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests" (so the oldest
manuscripts read, nothing to imply that priests were to be taken from
15. Another proof that the law, or economy, is changed, namely,
forasmuch as Christ is appointed Priest, "not according to the law of a
carnal (that is, a mere outward) commandment," but "according to
the power of an indissoluble (so the Greek) life." The
hundred tenth Psalm appoints Him "for ever"
The Levitical law required a definite carnal descent. In
contrast stands "the power"; Christ's spiritual, inward, living power
of overcoming death. Not agreeably to a statute is Christ
appointed, but according to an inward living power.
it--the change of the law or economy, the statement
(Heb 7:12, 18).
far more--Greek, "more abundantly."
for that--"seeing that," literally, "if"; so
after the similitude of Melchisedec--answering to "after the
order of Melchisedec"
The "order" cannot mean a series of priests, for Melchisedec
neither received his priesthood from, nor transmitted it to, any other
mere man; it must mean "answering to the office of Melchisedec."
Christ's priesthood is similar to Melchisedec's in that it is "for
(Heb 7:16, 17).
another--rather as Greek, "a different."
16. carnal . . . endless--mutually contrasted. As
"form" and "power" are opposed,
so here "the law" and "power," compare
"The law was weak through the flesh"; and
"weakness." "The law" is here not the law in general, but the
statute as to the priesthood. "Carnal," as being only outward
and temporary, is contrasted with "endless," or, as Greek,
"indissoluble." Commandments is contrasted with "life." The law
can give a commandment, but it cannot give life
But our High Priest's inherent "power," now in heaven, has in Him "life
"through the eternal Spirit";
"able . . . ever liveth"
It is in the power of His resurrection life, not of His earthly life,
that Christ officiates as a Priest.
17. For--proving His life to be "endless" or indissoluble
The emphasis is on "for ever." The oldest manuscripts read, "He is
testified of, that Thou art," &c.
18. there is--Greek, "there takes place," according to
of the commandment--ordaining the Levitical priesthood. And, as
the Levitical priesthood and the law are inseparably joined, since the
former is repealed, the latter is so also (see on
going before--the legal ordinance introducing and giving place
to the Christian, the antitypical and permanent end of the former.
weakness and unprofitableness--The opposite of "power"
19. For, &c.--justifying his calling the law weak and
The law could not bring men to: true justification or sanctification
before God, which is the "perfection" that we all need in order to be
accepted of Him, and which we have in Christ.
nothing--not merely "no one," but "nothing." The law brought
nothing to its perfected end; everything in it was introductory to its
antitype in the Christian economy, which realizes the perfection
contemplated; compare "unprofitableness,"
did--rather connect with
thus, "There takes place (by virtue of
a repealing of the commandment (on the one hand), but (on the other) a
bringing in afterwards (the Greek expresses that there is
a bringing in of something over and above the law; a
superinducing, or accession of something new, namely,
something better than the good things which the pre-existing law
promised [WAHL]) of a better hope," not one weak
and unprofitable, but, as elsewhere the Christian dispensation is
called, "everlasting," "true," "the second," "more excellent,"
"different," "living," "new," "to come," "perfect." Compare
bringing us near to God, now in spirit, hereafter both in spirit
and in body.
we draw nigh unto God--the sure token of "perfection."
Weakness is the opposite of this filial confidence of access.
The access through the legal sacrifices was only symbolical and through
the medium of a priest; that through Christ is immediate, perfect, and
20. Another proof of the superiority of Christ's
Melchisedec-like priesthood; the oath of God gave a solemn weight to it
which was not in the law-priesthood, which was not so confirmed.
he was made priest--rather supply from
which completes the sentence begun in this verse,
being a parenthesis, "inasmuch as not without an oath He was made
surety of the testament (for, &c.), of so much better a testament
hath Jesus been made the surety."
21. Translate in the Greek order, "For they indeed (the
existing legal priests) without the (solemn) promise on oath (so
the Greek [TITTMANN]) are made priests."
unto him--the Lord, the Son of God
not repent--never change His purpose.
after the order of Melchisedec--omitted in some oldest
manuscripts, contained in others.
22. surety--ensuring in His own person the certainty of the
covenant to us. This He did by becoming responsible for our guilt, by
sealing the covenant with His blood, and by being openly acknowledged
as our triumphant Saviour by the Father, who raised Him from the dead.
Thus He is at once God's surety for man, and man's surety for God, and
so Mediator between God and man
Heb 8:6; 13:20,
testament--sometimes translated, "covenant." The Greek
term implies that it is appointed by God, and comprises the
relations and bearings partly of a covenant, partly of a
testament: (1) the appointment made without the concurrence of a
second party, of somewhat concerning that second party; a last will or
testament, so in
Heb 9:16, 17;
(2) a mutual agreement in which both parties consent.
23. Another proof of superiority; the Levitical priests were
many, as death caused the need of continually new ones being appointed
in succession. Christ dies not, and so hath a priesthood which passes
not from one to another.
were--Greek, "are made."
many--one after another; opposed to His "unchangeable
(that does not pass from one to another) priesthood"
not suffered to continue--Greek, "hindered from
permanently continuing," namely, in the priesthood.
24. he--emphatic; Greek, "Himself." So in
"THOU art a priest"; singular, not
continueth--Greek, simple verb, not the compound as in
"Remaineth," namely, in life.
unchangeable--Greek, "hath His priesthood unchangeable";
not passing from one to another, intransmissible. Therefore no
earthly so-called apostolic succession of priests are His vicegerents.
The Jewish priests had successors in office, because "they could
not continue by reason of death." But this Man, because He liveth ever,
hath no successor in office, not even Peter
25. Wherefore--Greek, "Whence"; inasmuch as "He remaineth
also--as a natural consequence flowing from the last, at the
same time a new and higher thing [ALFORD].
save--His very name JESUS
to the uttermost--altogether, perfectly, so that nothing should
be wanting afterwards for ever [TITTMANN]. It
means "in any wise," "utterly," in
come unto God--by faith.
by him--through Him as their mediating Priest, instead of
through the Levitical priests.
seeing he ever liveth--resuming "He continueth ever,"
therefore "He is able to the uttermost"; He is not, like the Levitical
priest, prevented by death, for "He ever liveth"
to make intercession--There was but the one offering on
earth once for all. But the intercession for us in the heavens
is ever continuing, whence the result follows, that we can never be
separated from the love of God in Christ. He intercedes only for
those who come unto God through Him, not for the unbelieving world
As samples of His intercession, compare the prophetical
descriptions in the Old Testament. "By an humble omnipotency (for it
was by His humiliation that He obtained all power), or
omnipotent humility, appearing in the presence, and presenting His
postulations at the throne of God" [BISHOP PEARSON]. He was not only the offering, but the priest
who offered it. Therefore, He has become not only a sacrifice, but an
intercessor; His intercession being founded on His voluntary offering
of Himself without spot to God. We are not only then in virtue of His
sacrifice forgiven, but in virtue of the intercession admitted to favor
and grace [ARCHBISHOP MAGEE].
26. such--as is above described. The oldest manuscripts read,
"also." "For to US (as sinners; emphatical)
there was also becoming (besides the other excellencies of our High
Priest) such an High Priest."
holy--"pious" (a distinct Greek word from that for
holy, which latter implies consecration) towards
God; perfectly answering God's will in reverent piety
harmless--literally, "free from evil" and guile, in relation to
undefiled--not defiled by stain contracted from others, in
relation to men. Temptation, to which He was exposed, left no
trace of evil in Him.
separate--rather, "separated from sinners," namely, in
His heavenly state as our High Priest above, after He had been
parted from the earth, as the Levitical high priest was
separated from the people in the sanctuary (whence he was not to go
Though justifying through faith the ungodly, He hath no contact with
them as such. He is lifted above our sinful community, being
"made higher than the heavens," at the same time that He makes
believers as such (not as sinners), "to sit together (with Him)
in heavenly places"
Just as Moses on the mount was separated from and above the
people, and alone with God. This proves Jesus is
GOD. "Though innumerable lies have been forged
against the venerable Jesus, none dared to charge Him with any
made--Jesus was higher before
and as the God-MAN was made so by
the Father after His humiliation (compare
higher than the heavens--for "He passed through [so the
Greek] the heavens"
27. daily--"day by day." The priests daily offered
(Heb 9:6; 10:11;
The high priests took part in these daily-offered sacrifices only on
festival days; but as they represented the whole priesthood, the daily
offerings are here attributed to them; their exclusive function was to
offer the atonement "once every year"
and "year by year continually"
The "daily" strictly belongs to Christ, not to the high priests,
"who needeth not daily, as those high priests (year by year, and
their subordinate priests daily), to offer," &c.
offer up--The Greek term is peculiarly used of
sacrifices for sin. The high priest's double offering on the day
of atonement, the bullock for himself, and the goat for the people's
sins, had its counterpart in the TWO lambs offered
daily by the ordinary priests.
this he did--not "died first for His own sins and then the
people's," but for the people's only. The negation is twofold:
He needeth not to offer (1) daily; nor (2) to offer for His own sins
also; for He offered Himself a spotless sacrifice
The sinless alone could offer for the sinful.
once--rather as Greek, "once for all." The sufficiency of
the one sacrifice to atone for all sins for ever,
resulted from its absolute spotlessness.
28. For--reason for the difference stated in
between His one sacrifice and their oft repeated sacrifices, namely,
because of His entire freedom from the sinful infirmity to which
they are subject. He needed not, as they, to offer FOR HIS OWN SIN; and being now
exempt from death and "perfected for evermore," He needs not to
REPEAT His sacrifice.
the word--"the word" confirmed by "the oath."
which--which oath was after the law, namely, in
abrogating the preceding law-priesthood.
the Son--contrasted with "men."
consecrated--Greek, "made perfect" once for all, as in
Heb 2:10; 5:9;
Opposed to "having infirmity." Consecrated as a perfected priest
by His perfected sacrifice, and consequent anointing and exaltation to
the right hand of the Father.