Hebrews - Lesson 14

Hebrews 7

Jesus is a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews continues where he left off in 5:10 by first arguing for the superiority of Melchizedek by reflecting on Old Testament passages that mention him.

Lesson 14
Watching Now
Hebrews 7

I. Introduction

II. Hebrews 7:1-17

            A. Purpose and process

            B. Melchizedek

III. Hebrews 7:18-28

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • Hebrews was written to give strong encouragement for those who were struggling in the Christian life, not primarily for the purpose of being a theological treatise for future generations. The main message of the author of Hebrews is, "God speaks effectively to us through Jesus."

  • The purpose of Hebrews is to encourage those who are faltering spiritually to endure in the faith. The author does this by exhorting people to put into practice his Christological teaching. Your endurance in the Christian life is going to be in direct proportion to the clarity with which you see Jesus and what he has accomplished on your behalf. The image you have of who Jesus was and why he came have radical implications for how you live and preach.

  • The Son is superior to the angels by virtue of his unique relationship to the father, by virtue of the inferior status of the angels, and by his exalted position as the Lord and creator of the universe.

  • The writer includes a section on exhortation in Hebrews 2:1-4 in the middle of a section in which he is emphasizing the position of the Son in relation to the angels. Jesus is superior to angels, those who rejected the law given through the angels were punished under the old covenant, those who reject the word of salvation given through the son deserve greater punishment. 

  • The purpose of Hebrews 2:5-9 is a transition between the superiority of Jesus and the incarnation. The process the author uses is the quotation of Psalm 8.

  • The author of Hebrews focuses on the incarnation because he plans to show that Jesus is a high priest. When it says that Jesus was “perfected through suffering,” it was a path that Jesus had to travel all the way through to get to the point where he was all that the Father designed for him to be in terms of the author of our salvation. We have hope because Jesus has liberated us from the fear of death.

  • The first extended block of exhortation in Hebrews. The purpose is to focus on the faithfulness of Jesus. The process is comparing Jesus to Moses.

  • Having a hard heart means to set your will against the Lord’s will. An unbelieving heart means that you are refusing to think that God’s ways are the right ways. The result is that you turn away from the living God. It comes from a pattern of life that turns a deaf ear to God’s word.

  • The author of Hebrews emphasizes the promise of rest for the people of God. He cites the example of God resting in Genesis 2:2 in contrast to Psalm 95.

  • The concept of the word of God in the first century is a force or dynamic power, not just a word printed on a page. The word convicts of sin which means it moves us in life to different perspectives and ways of living. It reaches inside of us and sorts us out. Hebrews 4:14-16 is a warning passage.

  • The center point of the exhortation. In chapter 5, the author identifies the hearers’ problem as a lack of spiritual maturity. They are spiritually sluggish and have lost perspective on basic Christian teaching. 

  • The Hebrews 6:4-8 is a warning about the consequences of rejecting Jesus.

  • The middle section of Hebrews focuses on Jesus as high priest. Hebrews 6:13-20 is both exhortation to persevere in the faith looking to Abraham as an example, and a transition back to a discussion of Christology focusing on Melchizedek.

  • Jesus is a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews continues where he left off in 5:10 by first arguing for the superiority of Melchizedek by reflecting on Old Testament passages that mention him.

  • This is a transitional passage linking the ideas of appointment of Jesus as high priest and the superior offering of Jesus.

  • The new covenant is superior to the old covenant.

  • The structure of the tabernacle shows that we could not get into God's presence on our own.

  • Christ’s offering superior to the offerings of the old covenant. It is the day of atonement offering made once for all time so all our sins are dealt with and we may enter the presence of God.

  • It is encouraging to realize how decisively your sins have been dealt with by the sacrifice of Christ. When you sin, you need to agree with God that it is sin and it has already been dealt with by Christ. If I am in covenant with Christ, I am not guilty before God. Jesus’ work as high priest is what allows me to come into God’s presence.

  • “Let us draw near,” “Let us hold fast,” “Let us consider.” We should live in community in such a way that we are stirring up so that the end result is that we are doing good works in the context of love. We should not forsake assembling. We should stir each other up to love and good works. These should both happen “in light of” the return of Jesus. It is important to learn theology in community.

  • If we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer a sacrifice for sin. It’s referring someone who continues to reject the gospel. Contrasts the righteous who live by faith and the wicked who reject God by quoting Isaiah 26:20-21 and Habbakkuk 2:3-4.

  • Two literary devices used in Hebrews chapter 11 are the author’s use of “by faith” repeatedly for emphasis and the “example list” used for exhortation, not exposition. It encourages people to action by using overwhelming evidence. They were successful in spite of the difficulties they faced as marginalized people. Faith is not leaping out against the evidence. It is standing confidently based on what God has revealed to be true.

  • We look at Jesus in his exaltation to see his position as the superior high priest and thereby gives us stability, and in his incarnation because we follow his example of endurance. In a normal father-son relationship, the father disciplines the son. As children, we respected our earthly fathers. The goal of discipline is to produce holiness.

  • The author draws theological strands together to give a theological exhortation in a unique form to emphasize the power and blessings of the new covenant. A new covenant community is characterized by the active presence of God, joy and grace. The chapter finishes with a warning passage.

  • The essence of the community won’t change over time because Christ doesn’t change. As we are building bridges of communication to people in the culture, we are called to be distinct from the culture. The distinctness should not come from cultural trappings, but from identifying with Jesus and the gospel over and against the world system.

As Dr. Guthrie interacts with each verse, he explores not only the meaning of the text, but how we apply the theology of the text in our daily lives and ministries.

Course: Hebrews

Lecture: Hebrews 7


I. Introduction

This is made up of two primary movements. The second one has a climatic point in verses 26-28. Notice under the appointment of the Son as high priest, you have a step by step development. In 5:1-10, we have an introduction to Jesus as our high priest under the order of Melchizedek; Jesus, the one who has been appointed as a high priest. In point B, you have the superiority of Melchizedek himself in 7:1-10. Then in 7:11-28, there is the superiority of Jesus as our eternal Melchizedek high priest. So, there is an introduction on the high priesthood of Jesus by introducing this quote from Psalm 110:4. He then builds on this by first talking about Melchizedek himself and his superiority and he builds on this in talking about the superiority of Jesus according to the order of Melchizedek. This is the same kind of logic that we will see in the development of the offering in point B. There is an introduction in 8:3-6 and then a superiority of an Old Testament institution to the New Covenant in 8:7-13. Then you will have the superiority of the offering of Christ in 9:1-10:18. The appointment and the offering have the same kind of logical development. So, you have this step by step logical argument mirrored in this center section. He uses these passages for re-enforcement of the ideas that he has already presented.

II. Hebrews 7:1-17

Here, he is picking up on the argument that he left off with in chapter 5:10. When you have exposition followed by exhortation followed by exposition, the author uses some distance hook words to move from exposition to the next exposition. If you read the argument in 5:1-10, you see in verse 10 that Jesus has been designated by God as high priest according to the order of Melchizedek and then in 7:1, again we have a discussion of Melchizedek, described as the king of Salem.

A. Purpose and Process:

He is laying a foundation concerning the superiority of Jesus by first arguing for the superiority of Melchizedek. This is because Psalm 110:4 says that you are a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. In terms of process, he does this in 7:1-10 by dealing with the only other Old Testament passage that deals with Melchizedek which is Genesis 14:17-20. We see the Greek word ‘gar’ used here frequently. There are a lot of places in Hebrews where ‘gar’ is simply conjunctive. It is just like ‘and’ which simply means the next point. This isn’t used to show a logical relationship between what has just gone before and what is coming now. It is simply conjunctive which in essence means the next point. So, the author focuses on Genesis 14:17-20:

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

B. Melchizedek:

The author of Hebrews is going to do a running commentary on this passage using different rabbinic techniques. In the first three verses of chapter 7, he uses an argument from silence. So, he is doing a Midrash kind of commentary where he is dealing with different aspects of the text. Hebrews has features common with Jewish Midrash from this era. The figure of Melchizedek in extra Jewish Biblical literature shows a larger interest. Philo mentions him and uses him as a symbol for the Logos. The Qumran community also had an interest in Melchizedek as a heavenly figure. This is seen in the document 11Q Melchizedek found in cave 11 which dates from about the time of Christ’s birth. In the Qumran fragment, the last Jubilee is called the year of Melchizedek in which he was to bring deliverance of salvation to the people of God by defeating Billy-o and his evil spirits. It says that Melchizedek is to exact a vengeance of judgments and will protect all of the sons of light from the power of Billy-o and from the power of all the spirits of his lot. So, in terms of Qumran literature, Melchizedek is some type of heavenly figure; he is perhaps some exalted angel. Melchizedek also shows up in 2 Enoch which perhaps is 1st century as well. Here, Melchizedek is saved from the flood so he can continue the line of priest that started with Seth. The author of Hebrews may have been aware on some of the reflections of Melchizedek in broader Judaism. But what he is interested in is what the Old Testament says about this
person. He looks at the Old Testament text specifically in order to reflect on Melchizedek.

3 απάτωρ (fatherless,) αμήτωρ (motherless,) αγενεαλόγητος (of unknown genealogy,) μήτε (neither) αρχήν (beginning) ημερών (of days,) μήτε (nor) ζωής (3 of life) τέλος (2 an end) έχων (1 having,) αφωμοιωμένος δε (and taking an exact image) τω (to the) υιώ (son) του θεού (of God,) μένει (abides) ιερεύς (a priest) εις (for) το διηνεκές (perpetuity)

He goes on to describes the different parts of the story, specifically to when Melchizedek returns from the slaughter of the kings where he blessed Abraham and apportioned him a tithe. He first comments on Melchizedek’s name. Melchizedek was said to be king of righteousness; zedek being a reference to king. You have this situation that he mentions in verse 1 where you have the four kings coming in to attack certain cities in the Valley of Sittim. Abraham’s nephew Lot was taken captive from Sodom. In hearing about this, Abraham takes off and pursues these attackers. On his way back home, he meets this priest/king Melchizedek. When he says that his name is the king of righteousness; he is alluding to the Hebrew terms ‘melek’ which means king and ‘saydek’ which may be rendered righteousness. He is taking parts of his name and saying that this is what the name relates to. The city name of Salem is interpreted to mean peace. He is drawing from the association with the Hebrew word Shalom. He is doing a take on aspects of what we see in the story here about Melchizedek. Verse 3 is very important; this is where we get into the argument of silence. He says that he is without father and without mother and even without genealogy. He is without beginning of days and of life, but being made like the son of God, he remains a priest forever. So, he is saying that as we look at the text, we see that we don’t have anything about the beginning of his days or the end of his life and he finds that significant. So, we need to remember that he is interpreting Genesis 14 in light of the only other passage in the New Testament that deals with Melchizedek which is Psalm 110:4. This psalm says that you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. The author interprets the Genesis passage in part in light of the Psalm passage saying that they fit together. Even more importantly, this is significant in the argument that he is about to make concerning Melchizedek visa vie the Levitical priest. The basis for Levitical priesthood was who your parents were, your birth. You had to be from the right tribe to be a priest.

III. Hebrews 7:18-28

18 αθέτησις (3 an annulment) μεν (2 indeed) γαρ (1 For) γίνεται (6 takes place) προαγούσης (5 before) εντολής (4 of the commandment) διά (because of) το αυτής (its) ασθενές (weak) και (and) ανωφελές (unprofitable state;)

In verse 18, it is important to recognize that there is a setting aside of the former commandments because of its weakness and uselessness. The Law made nothing perfect. There is a bringing in of a better hope in which we draw near to God. There is something inherent in the Levitical priesthood that wasn’t there for people to put their hope in. It was lacking somehow, an inherent weakness. The Law was not able to bring about the type of perfection that God ultimately had in mind and therefore wasn’t able to bring in a better hope. There was an aspect of Levitical Law that was limited; there was a limited nature to it. The author is going to argue that this weakness was tied to the weaknesses of the Levites themselves. It was not able to accomplish everything that God had in mind and therefore was not an adequate basis for hope. I think we explain it in terms of progressive revelation. God works with humanity in a step by step fashion and I think this is an aspect of his sovereignty. It isn’t that God made a mistake; God is building on what was before and developing things as we go along. This is very different than process theology which says that God himself is developing and therefore learning as he goes which is not a biblical concept. There is a process where God did certain things with the Law to accomplish things at that time which would lead to what he would ultimately do in Christ. Think about how limited our understanding would be in terms of the significance of what Christ has done in his sacrifice if we didn’t have the backdrop of the Law. We need to understand that what a sinner is, in order to understand what grace is. I think in some ways that Old Testament prepares us; it isn’t just about God’s wrath but also about God’s love. We understand the holiness of God and the requirements of God by understanding the foundation that was laid in the Old Testament. So, there is a progressive nature to God’s revelation.