Lecture 14: Hebrews 7
Lecture: Hebrews 7
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.”
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.