10 Hebrews 7v1-28 The Priesthood Of Melchizedek

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For the Jews at this time it would have been axiomatic that there was no
priesthood other than the Aaronic. We are now shown that the Law itself proves
that there is a higher priesthood than that.
Beginning in Ch.7 we find the longest single
expository passage in the epistle. Clearly its
length suggests its importance. Its theme is
the core theme of Hebrews. In Heb.7, the
writer argued that Christ's priesthood, like
Melchizedek's, is superior in its order. In
Heb. 8, the emphasis is on Christ's better
covenant; in Heb.9, it is his better sanctuary;
and Heb.10 concludes the section by
arguing for Christ's better sacrifice.
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The great resource of Christians, when
tempted to apostatize, is our high priest,
Jesus Christ. The writer therefore spends
considerable time and space expounding
and unpacking Jesus’ high priestly office.
He wants to enable his readers to benefit
from their most valuable and significant
And so this section of the epistle continues
to glorify Jesus Christ. As the readers truly
come to appreciate him in his high priestly
role and grasp the sufficiently of his work
they would be less likely to turn from him.
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Establishing Melchizedek's Significance
The priesthood of Melchizedek provides an
analogy, of Jesus' priesthood and this is how the
high priestly office of Jesus is introduced. A great
deal of speculation surrounds the identity of
Melchizedek. One of the most commonly mistaken
views is that Melchizedek was a theophany, a preincarnational appearance of Jesus. However, from
scripture it is clear that Melchizedek and the Son of
God are two different persons; for Jesus is said to
have been made ‘after the order of’ or, ‘like’
Melchizedek. Melchizedek is said to be ‘like’ or
‘resemble’ the Son of God in certain respects v3. If
someone is like someone else then you have two
different people in view.
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Establishing Melchizedek's Significance
Melchizedek is identified as king of Salem. It would
appear that in Abraham’s day Salem was the name
used for Jerusalem. [Ps. 76v2] Melchizedek, like
Abraham, was a worshipper of the one true God.
The inference of v4 ff in which Abraham received
Melchizedek’s benediction and in turn gave a tithe
to Melchizedek is that Melchizedek was Abraham’s
superior. According to Moffatt, the Jews under the
Mosaic Covenant did not pay tithes from the spoils
of war. This was a pagan custom.
These verses point out four important facts about
Melchizedek: (1) he was a king-priest, (2) he was a
blesser, (3) he received tithes, and (4) he had a
significant name.
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Establishing Melchizedek's Significance
Melchizedek is given typological significance.
The writer draws attention to the Messianic
significance of the Hebrew names, Melchizedek
and Salem. The former means ‘king of
righteousness’ and the latter ‘peace.’ And so as
king of righteousness and king of peace
Melchizedek is presented as a type of the
Messianic priest-king. cf. Isa. 9.6-7 [12:10-11; Ps.
85:10; Isa. 32:17; Rom. 5:1; James 3:17-18]
The typological significance of Melchizedek as
a type of Christ also comes from what is not
said about him.
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Establishing Melchizedek's Significance
The Genesis [14v7-20] account tells us nothing of
Melchizedek’s parental origins, when he was born
or when he died. This does not imply that
Melchizedek was superhuman - i.e. that he had no
parents and possessed eternal life - rather he is the
only person among the worshippers of the one true
God in the O.T. whose ancestors and descendants
receive no mention.
In order to serve as a priest in the temple a man had
to be able to prove that he had descended from Levi
[Ezra 2v61-63; Neh. 7v63-65]. It is the silence of
scripture concerning Melchizedek’ s life and family
history which equips him to serve as a type of Christ.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
In v4-7 the argument is developed and is
fairly straightforward. Its aim is to show that
Melchizedek is superior to Abraham. In
matters of blessing it is the superior who
blesses the inferior.
The readers would also be aware that the
custom of tithing was one which God
commanded through Moses. Every Jew with
the exception of the Levites were required to
tithe the crops which they grew and the
livestock which they bred. These tithes were
assigned to the Levites Num. 18v21ff.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
You will remember that the Levites had no territorial
inheritance in the land of promise because of their
special religious function in the Israelite community. The
Levites in turn set apart a tenth of what they received
from the nation’s tithing and gave this to the
descendants of Aaron who held priestly office in the
tabernacle/temple. cf Num. 18v25-28.
But the writer presses his argument still further. He
draws attention now to the Hebrew and indeed Middle
Eastern concept of family solidarity. And argues that
since Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek even though
Levi was at that time unborn because Levi was still in the
body of his ancestor.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
So that Levi, the tribe whom God set apart in
Israel to be involved in the ceremonial and
sacrificial worship and to receive tithes in
recognition of that service, had in turn
actually paid tithes via Abraham to
What is the significance of this action? It
acknowledged Melchizedek’s priestly office to
be greater than Levi’s. Melchizedek is
superior to Levi and therefore Christ who is a
High Priest after the order of Melchizedek has
surpassed and superseded the Levitical
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
Melchizedek, the priest who has no connection
at all with the tribe of Levi received a tithe from
Abraham! He accepts it as his due as the priest
of the most high God. And under the Levitical
system those who collect tithes are described as
‘dying men’.
In contrast Melchizedek collects his tithes as one
who lives. Gen. 14 says nothing about his death
and so the author indicates that in this respect
he serves as a figure or type of Christ whose
priesthood is permanent because he continues
forever cf v24. The inference of Ps. 110v4 is that
he who is a priest after the order of Melchizedek
is a priest forever.
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The Superiority of Jesus Priesthood
In v11ff the argument is advanced one stage further.
Nothing is said in Gen. 14 about an order of
Melchizedekian priests. This appears first in Ps. 110
roughly halfway through the Israel’s O.T. historical
record. This Psalm which speaks of the priestly role of
the coming Messiah was written hundreds of years
after the establishment of the Levitical order.
If the Levitical order was a permanent and perfect
system there would have been no need to mention a
different order of priesthood.
The keywords "perfection" v11 and "perfect" v19, 28,
begin and end the argument of this section.
Perfection did not come through the Old Covenant
priests but through the Son the New Covenant Priest.
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The Superiority of Jesus Priesthood
Only one conclusion can be drawn. The Psalmist,
under the inspiration of the Spirit, was saying that
the Levitical order was inadequate and imperfect,
and therefore was waiting to be replaced by
something superior. Why would God replace the
Levitical priesthood? Four reasons follow.
1. The imperfection of the Levitical priesthood
and the Mosaic Law 7v11-14
2. The need for a better replacement 7v15-19
3. The inviolability of God's oath 7v20-22
4. The mortality of the Levitical priests 7v23-25
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
Read v12... Now the Mosaic law was inseparable from
the priestly system. And so introducing a different order
of priesthood meant setting aside the prescriptions of the
ceremonial law which regulated the priesthood and its
ministry. The problem with the old system was twofold:
First, the Levitical priests were themselves lawbreakers
hence incapable of offering a perfect sacrifice- they had
to make sacrifice for their own sins.
Secondly, no unwilling dumb animal was competent to
serve as a satisfactory substitute for a human sinner.
Hence under the Levitical system there was an endless
repetition of sacrifices- the system was imperfect.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
So by his own independent line of argument our
author reaches the same conclusion as Paul: the law
was a temporary provision, “our tutor to bring us to
Christ . . . but now that faith has come, we are no
longer under a tutor‘’. Gal. 3v24ff.
The writer alludes to the fact that further confirmation
of this change is the prophecy that Messiah would
come from the tribe of Judah, not from the priestly
tribe of Levi [Gen.49v10; Mic. 5v2; Isa. 11v1]. The
implication drawn from the Messianic Ps. 110 is that
the promised priestly Messiah would not belong to
the tribe of Levi. But does it provide any clue about
the tribe the Messiah would come from?
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
The very fact that Ps.110 begins with the kingly
character of the Messiah presupposes his
connection with the tribe of Judah and with the
family of David in particular cf. 2 Sam. 7v12 ff.
Up until the time of Christ no one from the tribe
of Judah had ever served at the altar. Mosaic
legislation forbade them from doing so.
Now however, on the basis of Ps. 110 Jesus can
indeed hold the office of priest, not the
Levitical priesthood but one superior to it, after
the order of Melchizedek. The whole issue of
priestly succession does not arise since his is an
everlasting priesthood on the basis of his
indestructible life.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
The legislation mentioned in v18 is Mosaic
ceremonial law which regulated the succession of
priests. This is to be laid aside. This law was weak
and inadequate in the absolute sense that it could
not alter the standing of sinful man before God.
It could not offer up a perfect sacrifice for sin, it
could not reconcile him forever with God.
What man needed was a perfect sacrifice for sin,
a secure standing in God’s sight, a knowledge that
he was now reconciled with God and this is the
better hope which Jesus our high priest extends
to us.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
Little wonder the author describes this as a
‘better hope’ v19 by which we draw near to
God. Our author is pleading with his
readers not to go back to an inferior and
inadequate system of worship in the light
of the better hope which has been
introduced by the Lord Jesus Christ.
What advantage is there is exchanging
what is better for what is worse? Why live
in the shadow when you can live in the
brilliant light of the gospel.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
The superiority of the priesthood of Christ after the order
of Melchizedek is further contrasted with the Levitical
priesthood in v20 where we are told that God established
Christ’s priesthood with an oath. This is an issue on which
God will not change his mind. We have already been
introduced to the idea of an oath in relation to God in
6v17. The ceremonial law was something that God was
happy to lay aside, there was never any intention on his
part to associate any degree of permanence with it. But
the priesthood of Christ is a wholly different matter. God
says with respect to it, ‘It shall never change’. You do not
change what is complete and perfect! Hence God’s new
covenant made with Christ and his people is a better
covenant - an everlasting covenant.
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Exposition Of Melchizedek's Significance
In Ch.7 the writer has shown that the Melchizadekian priesthood is superior to the
Levitical or Aaronic priesthood in the following ways:
• Jesus did not need to make sacrifice for himself- he was sinless v26ff
• Jesus made a perfect sacrifice for sin- theirs were repetitive because imperfect v27
• Jesus ministers in God’s presence perpetually- not just one day in the year.
• Jesus’ priesthood is eternal - in contrast with a priestly succession.
• Jesus covenant is an eternal unchangeable covenant – in contrast with failure of
the Old Covenant.
• Jesus’ covenant is superior because it is sealed by God’s oath - God won’t change
his mind
• Jesus’ priesthood is founded on personal greatness and not on legal appointment
• Jesus ministers a complete salvation: death cannot terminate his priesthood v25
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