Vincent's Word Studies
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Every high priest (πᾶς ἀρχιερεὺς)
Every Levitical high priest. Αρχιερεὺς oP.
Rend. being taken, or since he is taken: not who is taken. The point is that the high priest's efficiency for men depends on his being taken from among men.
Is ordained (καθίσταται)
Constituted priest. See on Titus 1:5.
For men (ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων)
On behalf of men.
In things pertaining to God (τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν)
As respects his relation to God. See on Hebrews 2:17.
That he may offer (ἵνα προσφέρῃ)
Προσφέρειν, lit. to bring to (the altar). Comp. Matthew 5:23. oP., who, however, has the kindred noun προσφορὰ offering. Very often in lxx; nineteen times in Hebrews, and always, with one exception (Hebrews 12:7), in the technical sense, as here.
Gifts - sacrifices (δῶρα - θυσίας)
Δῶρα offerings generally: θυσίας bloody sacrifices. The distinction, however, is not constantly observed. Thus, θυσὶαι, of unbloody offerings, Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:5; Leviticus 2:1; Numbers 5:15; δῶρα, of bloody offerings, Genesis 4:4; Leviticus 1:2, Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:10.
For sins (ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν)
In this the priest's efficiency is especially called out, and he who has not genuine compassion for the sinful cannot do this efficiently. Hence the words which follow.
Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
Have compassion (μετιοπαθεῖν)
N.T.o. olxx. oClass. Originally of the rational regulation of the natural passions, as opposed to the Stoic ἀπάθεια, which involved the crushing out of the passions. Often, in later Greek, of moderating anger. It is not identical with συνπαθῆσαι (Hebrews 4:5), but signifies to be moderate or tender in judgment toward another's errors. Here it denotes a state of feeling toward the ignorant and erring which is neither too severe nor too tolerant. The high priest must not be betrayed into irritation at sin and ignorance, neither must he be weakly indulgent.
The ignorant (τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσι)
Comp. ἀγνοημάτων ignorances, Hebrews 9:7, and Numbers 15:22-31, where the distinction is drawn between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption. Atonement for sins of ignorance was required by the Levitical law as a means of educating the moral perception, and of showing that sin and defilement might exist unsuspected: that God saw evil where men did not, and that his test of purity was stricter than theirs.
For that he himself also is compassed with infirmity (ἐπεὶ καὶ αὐτὸς περίκειται ἀσθένειαν)
Sympathy belongs to the high-priestly office, and grows out of the sense of personal infirmity. The verb is graphic: has infirmity lying round him. Comp. Hebrews 12:1, of the encompassing (περικείμενον) cloud of witnesses. Ἀσθένειαν the moral weakness which makes men capable of sin. This is denied in the case of Christ. See Hebrews 7:28.
And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
He ought (ὀφείλει)
It is his duty, growing out of the fact of his own infirmity.
And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
The high priest must be divinely called. One thus compassed with infirmity would shrink from such an office unless called to it by God.
He that is called (καλούμενος)
The A.V. follows T.R., ὁ καλούμενος. The article should be omitted. Rend. but being called by God (he taketh it), as did Aaron.
So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
Did not glorify himself to be made high priest
Ἐδόξασεν glorified is general, and is more specifically defined by γενηθῆναι ἀρχιερέα to be made high priest.
But he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, etc.
Supply glorified him. He did not glorify himself, but God who styled him "son" glorified him. Thou art my Son is introduced thus in close connection with the call to the priesthood, in recognition of the fact that the priesthood of Christ had its basis in his sonship. "Christ's priestly vocation ceases to be an accident in his history, and becomes an essential characteristic of his position as Son: sonship, christhood, priestliness, inseparably interwoven" (Bruce).
As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Thou art a priest forever, etc.
According to this verse Christ is prophetically pointed out in Psalm 110:1-7 as an eternal priest, independent of fleshly descent, a king, and superior in dignity to the Levitical priests.
According to the order (κατὰ τὴν τάξιν)
According to the rank which Melchisedec held. Almost equals like. For Melchisedec see ch. 7.
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
He is now to show that Christ was under training for the priesthood, and describes the process of training.
Nominative to ἔμαθεν learned, Hebrews 5:8, to which all the participles are preparatory.
In the days of his flesh (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ)
During his mortal life.
When he had offered up prayers and supplications (δεὴσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας προσενέγκας)
Δεήσεις special, definite requests: ἱκετηρίας, N.T.o , is properly an adjective, pertaining to or fit for suppliants, with ῥάβδους staves or ἐλαίας olive-branches understood. The olive-branch bound round with wool was held forth by a suppliant in token of his character as such. The phrase προσφέρειν δεήσεις N.T.o.
Unto him that was able to save him from death (πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σώζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου)
Const. with prayers and supplications, not with offered. To save him from death may mean to deliver him from the fear of death, from the anguish of death, or from remaining a prey to death. In either case, the statement connects itself with the thought of Christ's real humanity. He was under the pressure of a sore human need which required divine help, thus showing that he was like unto his brethren. He appealed to one who could answer his prayer. The purport of the prayer is not stated. It is at least suggested by Matthew 26:39.
And was heard in that he feared (καὶ εἰσακουσεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας)
Rend. was heard on account of his godly fear. Ἐυλάβεια only here and Hebrews 12:28. The verb εὐλαβεῖσθαι to act cautiously, beware, fear, only Hebrews 11:7. The image in the word is that of a cautious taking hold (λαμβάνειν) and careful and respectful handling: hence piety of a devout and circumspect character, as that of Christ, who in his prayer took account of all things, not only his own desire, but his Father's will. Ευλάβεια is ascribed to Christ as a human trait, see Hebrews 12:28. He was heard, for his prayer was answered, whatever it may have been. God was able to save him from death altogether. He did not do this. He was able to sustain him under the anguish of death, and to give him strength to suffer the Father's will: he was also able to deliver him from death by resurrection: both these he did. It is not impossible that both these may be combined in the statement he was heard.
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
Though he were a Son (καίπερ ὣν υἱὸς)
For were rend. was. His training for the priesthood involved suffering, even though he was a son. Connect with ἔμαθεν learned, not with the preceding clause, which would mean that his position as a son did not exempt him from the obligation to godly fear, which is true as a fact (see Hebrews 5:7), but is not the point of emphasis here.
Learned he obedience (ἔμαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν)
Omit he, since the subject of ἔμαθεν learned is ὃς who, Hebrews 5:7. Jesus did not have to learn to obey, see John 8:29; but he required the special discipline of a severe human experience as a training for his office as a high priest who could be touched with the feeling of human infirmities. He did not need to be disciplined out of any inclination to disobedience; but, as Alford puts it, "the special course of submission by which he became perfected as our high priest was gone through in time, and was a matter of acquirement and practice." This is no more strange than his growth in wisdom, Luke 2:52. Growth in experience was an essential part of his humanity.
By the things which he suffered (ἀφ' ὧν ἔπαθεν)
Or from the things, etc. Note the word-play, ἔμαθεν ἔπαθεν. So Croesus, addressing Cyrus, says, τὰ δέ μοι παθήματα, ἐόντα ἀχάριστα, μαθήματα γέγονεν, "my sufferings, though painful, have proved to be lessons" (Hdt. i.:207): so Soph. Trach. 142, μήτ' ἐκμάθοις παθοῦσα "mayst thou not learn by suffering."
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
And being made perfect (καὶ τελεωθεὶς)
Comp. Hebrews 2:10. The fundamental idea in τελειοῦν is the bringing of a person or thing to the goal fixed by God. Comp. Hebrews 7:11, Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23. Here of Christ's having reached the end which was contemplated in his divinely-appointed discipline for the priesthood. The consummation was attained in his death, Philippians 2:8; his obedience extended even unto death.
The author of eternal salvation (αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου)
Ἀίτιος, N.T.o , an adjective, causing. Comp. captain of salvation, Hebrews 2:10. The phrase σωτηρία αὀώνιος eternal salvation N.T.o , but see lxx, Isaiah 15:17. Not everlasting salvation, but a salvation of which all the conditions, attainments, privileges, and rewards transcend the conditions and limitations of time.
Unto all them that obey him (πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπκούουσιν αὐτῷ)
Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Called of God (προσαγορευθεὶς)
Rend. since he was addressed or saluted by God. God recognized and saluted him as that which he had become by passing through and completing his earthly discipline. Προσαγοεύειν to address N.T.o. A few times in lxx.
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
From this point the comparison of Christ with Melchisedec would naturally be developed; but the author digresses into a complaint of the imperfect spiritual attainment of his readers, and a remonstrance and admonition extending to the end of ch. 6.
Of whom (περὶ οὗ)
Rend. concerning which. Not Melchisedec, but the topic that Christ is a priest after the order of Melchisedec, a topic to which great importance is attached. Can it be imagined that the discussion of such a topic would appeal to a Gentile audience as a reason for not relapsing into paganism?
We have many things to say (πολὺς ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος)
Lit. the discourse is abundant unto us. We refers to the writer himself.
Hard to be uttered (δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν)
Lit. hard of interpretation to speak. The A.V. entirely misses the idea of interpretation. Rev. better, hard of interpretation. Δυσερμήνευτος N.T.o. olxx. oClass.
Ye are dull of hearing (νωθροὶ γεγόνατε ταῖς ἀκοαῖς)
Rend. ye have grown dull in your hearing. For ἀκοὴ hearing see on 2 Timothy 4:3. The verb implies a deterioration on the hearers' part. Νωθροὶ only here and Hebrews 6:12. From νη not and ὠθεῖν to push. Hence slow, sluggish. Mostly in later Greek, although Plato uses it much in the same sense as here. "When they have to face study they are stupid (νωθροί) and cannot remember." Theaet. 144 B. In lxx, Proverbs 22:29; Sir. 4:29; 11:12. Sometimes equals low, mean, obscure. So in Proverbs, but in Sirach slack, slow.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
When for the time ye ought to be teachers (ὀφείλοντες εἶναι διδάσκαλοι διὰ τὸν χρόνον)
Rend. for when ye ought to be teachers by reason of the time. A.V. entirely obscures the true meaning, which is that, because of the time during which the readers have been under instruction, they ought to be able to instruct others.
Not with teach you, as A.V., but with ye have need. The position of the word is emphatic. Again ye have need of being taught the very rudiments of divine truth which ye were taught long ago.
Which be (τινὰ)
A.V. takes the pronoun as interrogative (τίνα). Better indefinite as subject of διδάσκειν teach. Rend. "ye have need that some one teach you."
The first principles of the oracles (τα, στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων)
Lit. the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles. The phrase στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς N.T.o. It is equals primary elements. For στοιχεῖα see on Galatians 4:3. λόγιον is a diminutive, meaning strictly a brief utterance, and used both in classical and biblical Greek of divine utterances. In Class. of prose oracles. Philo uses it of the O.T. prophecies, and his treatise on the Ten Commandments is entitled περὶ τῶν δέκα λογίων. In lxx often generally - "the word or words of the Lord," see Numbers 24:16; Deuteronomy 33:9; Psalm 12:6; Psalm 18:30, etc. It was used of the sayings of Jesus, see Polycarp, Ad Philippians 7.From the time of Philo, of any sacred writing, whether discourse or narrative. Papias and Irenaeus have τὰ κυριακὰ λόγια dominical oracles. The meaning here is the O.T. sayings, especially those pointing to Christ.
And are become (καὶ γεγόνατε)
As in Hebrews 5:11, implying degeneracy. The time was when you needed the strong meat of the word.
Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:2. Answering to rudiments.
Strong meat (στερεὰς τροφῆς)
Lit. solid meat. See on steadfast, 1 Peter 5:9. More advanced doctrinal teaching. The explanation of the Melchisedec priesthood to which the writer was about to pass involved the exhibition for the first time of the opposition of the N.T. economy of salvation to that of the old, and of the imperfection and abrogation of the O.T. priesthood. To apprehend this consequence of N.T. revelation required alert and matured minds. This is why he pauses to dwell on the sluggish mental and spiritual condition of his readers.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
N.T.o. Rend. unskilled or inexperienced.
In the word of righteousness (λόγου δικαιοσύνης)
The phrase N.T.o. The genitive δικαιοσύνης of righteousness is combined in N.T. with way, God, gift, instruments, servants, law, ministration, fruit and fruits, ministers, hope, breastplate, crown, king, preacher. It is a mistake to attempt to give the phrase here a concrete meaning. It signifies simply a word of normally right character. It is not equals the Christian revelation, which would require the article. Probably, however, in the foreground of the writer's thought was the word spoken by the Son (Hebrews 1:2); the salvation which at first was spoken by the Lord (Hebrews 2:3).
A babe (νήπιος)
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age (τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή)
This rendering is clumsy. Rend. solid food is for full-grown men. For τελείων full-grown, see on 1 Corinthians 2:6. Often by Paul, as here, in contrast with νήπιοι immature Christians. See 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:4. Paul has the verb νηπιάζειν to be a child in 1 Corinthians 14:20.
By reason of use (διὰ τὴν ἕξιν)
For use rend. habitude. N.T.o. It is the condition produced by past exercise. Not the process as A.V., but the result.
Their senses (τὰ αἰσθητήρια)
N.T.o. Organs of perception; perceptive faculties of the mind. In lxx see Jeremiah 4:19; 4 Macc. 2:22.
Good and evil
Not moral good and evil, but wholesome and corrupt doctrine. The implication is that the readers' condition is such as to prevent them from making this distinction.