Vincent's Word Studies
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
First being by interpretation King of righteousness (πρῶτον μὲν ἑρμηνευόμενος βασιλεὺς δικαιοσύνης)
The first designation is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew name. Being interpreted belongs only to this designation. So Joseph Ant. 1:10, 2: σημαίνει δε τοῦτο βασιλεὺς δίκαιος "and this (the name Melchisedec) signifies righteous king."
And after that also (ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ)
Then follows a designation derived from his character, king of peace. Supply being; not being interpreted.
Commonly regarded as the site of Jerusalem. It has also been supposed to represent Σαλείμ Salim, mentioned in John 3:23. Jerome says that the place retained that name in his day, and that the ruins of Melchisedec's palace were shown there. The ancient name of Jerusalem was Jebus. Others, again, suppose that Salem is not the name of a place, but is merely the appellation of Melchisedec. The passage in Genesis, however, points to a place, and the writer might naturally have desired to indicate the typical meaning of the city over which Melchisedec reigned.
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Without father, without mother, without descent (ἀπάτωρ, ἀμὴτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος)
The three adjectives N.T.o, olxx. The meaning is that there is no record concerning his parentage. This is significant as indicating a different type of priesthood from the Levitical, in which genealogy was of prime importance. No man might exercise priestly functions who was not of the lineage of Aaron.
Having neither beginning of days nor end of life
That is to say, history is silent concerning his birth and death.
But made like unto the Son of God (ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ)
The verb N.T.o. Made like or likened, not like. "The resemblance lies in the Biblical representation, and not primarily in Melchisedec himself" (Westcott). Son of God, not Son of man, for the likeness to Jesus as Son of man would not hold; Jesus, as man, having had both birth and death. The words likened unto the Son of God stand independently. Not to be connected with the following sentence, so as to read abideth a priest continually like the Son of God; for, as a priest, Melchisedec, chronologically, was prior to Christ; and, therefore, it is not likeness with respect to priesthood that is asserted. The likeness is in respect to the things just predicated of Melchisedec. Christ as Son of God was without father, mother, beginning or end of days; and, in these points, Melchisedec is likened in Scripture to him.
Abideth a priest continually (μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές)
Διηνεκής from διαφέρειν to bear through; born on through ages, continuous. Only in Hebrews. There is no historical account of the termination of Melchisedec's priesthood. The tenure of his office is uninterrupted. The emphasis is on the eternal duration of the ideal priesthood, and the writer explains the Psalm as asserting eternal duration as the mark of the Melchisedec order. Accordingly, he presents the following characteristics of the ideal priesthood: royal, righteous, peace-promoting, personal and not inherited, eternal. Comp. Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 53:7. It is, of course, evident to the most superficial reader that such exposition of O.T. scripture is entirely artificial, and that it amounts to nothing as proof of the writer's position. Melchisedec is not shown to be an eternal high priest because his death-record is lost; nor to be properly likened unto the Son of God because there is no notice of his birth and parentage.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
The superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood to the Levitical.
How great (πηλίκος)
Only here and Galatians 6:11.
The patriarch (ὁ πατριάρχης)
Only here and in Acts.
The tenth (δεκάτην)
Properly an adjective, but used as a noun for tithe. Only in Hebrews, as is the kindred verb δεκατοῦν to impose or take tithes. Ἀποδεκατοῖν to exact tithes, Hebrews 7:5. Comp. Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42.
Of the spoils (ἐκ τῶν ἀκροθινίων)
The noun N.T.o , from ἅρκον topmost point, and θίς a heap. The top of the pile: the "pick" of the spoil.
And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
If Melchisedec was greater than Abraham, he was greater than Abraham's descendants, including the tribe of Levi.
They that are of the sons of Levi who receive, etc. (οἱ ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευεὶ λαμβάνοντες)
Those out of the sons of Levi who become priests. Not those who receive the priesthood from the sons of Levi. Not all Levites were priests, but only those of the house of Aaron.
The office of the priesthood (τὴν ἱερατίαν)
Only here and Luke 1:9.
A commandment (ἐντολὴν)
To take tithes (ἀποδεκατοῖν)
See on Hebrews 7:4.
That is of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham
The people, the brethren of the Levites, are descended from their common ancestor, Abraham, yet the Levites exact tithes from them.
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
But he whose descent is not counted from them (ὁ δὲ μὴ γενεαλογούμενος ἐξ αὐτῶν)
Lit. he who is not genealogically derived from them: Melchisedec. The verb N.T.o.
Received tithes of Abraham
Melchisedec, who has no part in the Levitical genealogy, and therefore no legal right to exact tithes, took tithes from the patriarch himself. Hence he was greater than Abraham. The right of the Levitical priest to receive tithes was only a legal right, conferred by special statute, and therefore implied no intrinsic superiority to his brethren; but Melchisedec, though having no legal right, received tithes from Abraham as a voluntary gift, which implied Abraham's recognition of his personal greatness.
And hath blessed him that had the promises
Melchisedec accepted the position accorded to him by Abraham's gift of tithes by bestowing on Abraham his blessing, and Abraham recognized his superiority by accepting his blessing. He who had received the divine promises might have been supposed to be above being blessed by any man. The significance of this acceptance is brought out in the next verse.
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
Without all contradiction (χωρὶς πάσης ἀντιλογίας)
Asserting a principle which no one thinks of questioning: it is the less who is blessed, and the greater who blesses.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
In the Levitical economy.
Men that die receive tithes
The emphasis is on ἀποθνήσκοντες dying. The Levites are dying men, who pass away in due course, and are succeeded by others.
But there (ἐκεῖ δὲ)
In the case of Melchisedec.
(He receiveth them of whom) it is witnessed that he liveth (μαρτυρούμενος ὅτι ζῇ)
The Greek is very condensed: being attested that he liveth. The A.V. fills it out correctly. Melchisedec does not appear in Scripture as one who dies, and whose office passes to another. See on abideth continually, Hebrews 7:3.
And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
Levi himself, in the person of Abraham, was tithed by Melchisedec.
As I may say (ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν)
equals so to speak. N.T.o. olxx. Introducing an unusual statement, or one which may appear paradoxical or startling to the reader, as this statement certainly is, to a modern reader at least.
In Abraham (δι' Ἀβραὰμ)
Lit. through Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
In the loins of his father (ἐν τῇ ὀσφύΐ τοῦ πατρὸς)
His own father; not of Abraham.
When Melchisedec met him
In the person of Abraham. The whole Jewish law, its ordinances and priesthood, are regarded as potentially in Abraham. When Abraham paid tithes, Levi paid tithes. When Abraham was blessed, Israel was blessed. It is a kind of reasoning which would appeal to Hebrews, who so strongly emphasized the solidarity of their race. Comp. Romans 9:4, Romans 9:5.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
In Christ, as the Melchisedec-priest, the ideal of the priesthood is realized.
For under it the people received the law (γὰρ ἐπ' αὐτῆς νενομοθέτηται)
Under, rather on the basis of. The verb lit. the law has been laid down. Only here and Hebrews 8:6.
What further need (τίς ἔτι χρεία)
Ἔτι after that, assuming that there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood.
Another priest (ἕτερον ἱερέα)
Not merely another, but a different kind of priest. See on Matthew 6:24.
Should rise (ἀνίστασθαι)
In Hebrews only here and Hebrews 7:15, both times in connection with priest.
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Being changed (μετατιθεμένης)
Or transferred to another order. See on Galatians 1:6.
A change (μετάθεσις)
A transfer to a new basis. Only in Hebrews. See Hebrews 11:5; Hebrews 12:27. The inferiority of the Levitical priesthood is inferred from the fact that another priesthood was promised. If perfection was possible at all under the Mosaic economy, it must come through the Levitical priesthood, since that priesthood was, in a sense, the basis of the law. The whole legal system centered in it. The fundamental idea of the law was that of a people united with God. Sin, the obstacle to this ideal union, was dealt with through the priesthood. If the law failed to effect complete fellowship with God, the priesthood was shown to be a failure, and must be abolished; and the change of the priesthood involved the abolition of the entire legal system.
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
As the law prescribed that the priesthood should be of the order of Aaron, a new priesthood, not of that order, must set aside the law.
Pertaineth to another tribe (φυλῆς ἑτέρας μετέσχηκεν)
Lit. hath partaken of another tribe. Not only another, but a different tribe; one not specially set apart to sacerdotal service.
Of which no man gave attendance at the altar (ἀφ' ἧς οὐδεὶς προσέσχηκεν τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ)
Προσέχειν originally to bring to; bring the mind to; attend to. See on Hebrews 2:1. θυσιαστήριον altar, oClass. Strictly an altar for the sacrifice of victims; but used of the altar of incense, Luke 1:11; Revelation 8:3; comp. Exodus 30:1. See on Acts 17:23. It was also used of the enclosure in which the altar stood. See Ignat. Eph. v; Trall. vii. See Lightfoot's interesting note, Ignatius and Polycarp, Vol. II., p. 43.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
Obvious. See on 1 Timothy 5:24.
Rend. hath sprung. In N.T. always of the rising of a heavenly body, sun or star, except Luke 12:54, of a cloud, and here. See lxx, Genesis 32:31; Exodus 22:3; Numbers 24:17; Judges 9:33; Isaiah 14:12; Isaiah 40:1; Malachi 4:2. Also of the springing up of plants, Genesis 2:5; Genesis 3:18; Deuteronomy 29:23; of the growing of the beard, 2 Samuel 10:5.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,
N.T.o. Thoroughly evident. Not referring to that which is declared to be πρόδηλον evident in Hebrews 7:14, viz., that Christ sprang out of Judah, but to the general proposition - the unsatisfactory character of the Levitical priesthood.
Better, likeness: answering to made like, Hebrews 7:3, and emphasizing the personal resemblance to Melchisedec.
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
The law of a carnal commandment (νόμον ἐντολῆς σαρκίνης)
The phrase N.T.o. Νόμον the norm or standard, as Romans 7:21, Romans 7:23. Εντολῆς, the specific precept of the Mosaic law regarding Levitical priests. Comp. Ephesians 2:15. Σαρκίνης fleshly, indicates that the conditions of the Levitical priesthood had reference to the body. Fitness for office was determined largely by physical considerations. The priest must be of proper descent, without bodily blemish, ceremonially pure. See Hebrews 9:1-5, Hebrews 9:10, and comp. Romans 8:3. Such a priesthood cannot be eternal.
After the power of an endless life (κατὰ δύαναμιν ἀκαταλύτου)
Δύναμιν inherent virtue. Rend. for endless, indissoluble. Comp. καταλύθῃ loosened down, of a tent, 2 Corinthians 5:1; of the stones of the temple, Matthew 24:2. Jesus was high priest in virtue of the energy of indissoluble life which dwelt in him, unlike the priests who die, Hebrews 7:8. This truth the writer finds in the Psalm.
For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
There is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before (ἀθέτησις μὲν γὰρ γίνεται προαγούσης ἐντολῆς)
Verily is superfluous. Ἀθέτησις only here and Hebrews 9:26; a very few times in lxx: The fundamental idea is the doing away of something established (θετόν). The verb ἀθετεῖν to make void, do away with, is common in N.T. and in lxx, where it represents fifteen different Hebrew words, meaning to deal falsely, to make merchandise of, to abhor, to transgress, to rebel, to break an oath, etc. The noun, in a technical, legal sense, is found in a number of papyri from 98 to 271 a.d., meaning the making void of a document. It appears in the formula εἰς ἀθίτησιν καὶ ἀκύρωσιν for annulling and canceling. Προαγούσης ἐντολῆς rend. of a foregoing commandment. The expression is indefinite, applying to any commandment which might be superseded, although the commandment in Hebrews 7:16 is probably in the writer's mind. Foregoing, not emphasizing mere precedence in time, but rather the preliminary character of the commandment as destined to be done away by a later ordinance. With foregoing comp. 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 5:24.
For the weakness and unprofitableness thereof (διὰ τὸ αὐτῆς ἀσθενὲς καὶ ἀνωφελές)
Rend. "because of its weakness and unprofitableness." It could not bring men into close fellowship with God. See Romans 5:20; Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:21. Ἀνωφελής unprofitable, only here and Titus 3:9.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
For the law made nothing perfect (οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐτελείωσεν ὁ νόμος)
Parenthetical. The A.V. overlooks the parenthesis, ignores the connection of bringing in with disannulling, translates δὲ but instead of and, and supplies did; thus making an opposition between the law which made nothing perfect and the bringing in of a better hope, which did make something perfect. What the writer means to say is that, according to the Psalm, there takes place, on the one hand, a disannulling of the preliminary commandment because it was weak and unprofitable, unable to perfect anything, and on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope.
The bringing in of a better hope (ἐπεισαγωγὴ κρείττονος ἐλπίδος)
ΕπεισαγωγὴN.T.o, olxx, is "a bringing in upon" (ἐπὶ), upon the ground formerly occupied by the commandment. So Rev., correctly, "a bringing in thereupon." For κπείττων better, see on Hebrews 1:4. The comparison is not between the hope conveyed by the commandment, and the better hope introduced by the gospel, but between the commandment which was characteristic of the law (Ephesians 2:15) and the hope which characterized the gospel (Romans 5:2-5; Romans 8:24).
By the which we draw nigh to God (δι' ἧς ἐγγίζομεν τῷ θεῷ)
Giving the reason why the hope is better. Christianity is the religion of good hope because by it men first enter into intimate fellowship with God. The old priesthood could not effect this.
And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
Not without an oath (οὐ χωρὶς ὁρκωμοσίας)
The A.V. is, on the whole, better than Rev. by inserting he was made priest. Ὁρκωμοσία only in Hebrews. In lxx see Ezekiel 17:18; 1 Esdr. 9:93. For an oath rend. the taking of an oath.
(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
For those priests were made (οἱ μὲν γὰρ - εἰσὶν ἱερεῖς γεγονότες)
Rend. for they have been made priests. Lit. are priests, having become such.
Without an oath
Without the taking of an oath by God. Scripture says nothing of an oath of God when he appointed Aaron and his posterity to the priesthood.
But this with an oath (ὁ δὲ μετὰ ὁρκωμοσίας)
Rend. but he with the taking of an oath. The taking of the oath accompanied (μετὰ) the inauguration into the priesthood.
That said (λέγοντος)
Better, saith. Still says, since the promise is realized in Christ's priesthood.
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
Was Jesus made a surety of a better testament (κρείττονος διαθήκης γέγονεν ἔγγυος Ἰησοῦς)
Ἔγγυος surety, N.T.o. Comp. Sir. 29:15, 16; 2 Macc. 10:28. Occasionally in Class., where also occur ἐγγυᾶν to give as a pledge, ἐγγύη surety, ἐγγύησις giving in surety, ἐγγυητής one who gives security, and ἐγγητός plighted, always of a wife. The idea underlying all these words is that of putting something into one's hand (ἐν in γύαλον hollow of the hand) as a pledge. For testament rend. covenant and see on Hebrews 9:16. The thought of a covenant is introduced for the first time, and foreshadows Hebrews 8:6-13. It adds to the thought of the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood that of the inferiority of the dispensation which it represented.
And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
Were many priests (πλείονές εἰσιν γεγονότες ἱερεῖς)
Comp. Hebrews 7:21 for the construction. Rend. have been made priests many in number.
Because they were not suffered to continue (διὰ τὸ κωλύεσθαι παραμένειν)
Rend. because they are hindered from continuing. Παραμένειν "to abide by their ministration."
But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
Hath an unchangeable priesthood (ἀπαράβατον ἔχει τὴν ἱερωσύνην)
Rend. hath his priesthood unchangeable. The A.V. misses the possessive force of the article, his priesthood, and the emphasis is on unchangeable ἀπαράβατος, N.T.o. olxx. This may be explained either as inviolable, or which does not pass over to another. Comp. Exodus 32:8; Sir. 23:18. Usage is in favor of the former meaning, but the other falls in better with the course of thought.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
To the uttermost (εἰς τὸ παντελὲς)
Παντελής all complete, only here and Luke 13:11. Not perpetually, but perfectly.
Come unto God (προσερχομένους τῷ θεῷ)
To make intercession for them (εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν)
The verb only here in Hebrews. Comp. ὑπερεντυγχάνειν, Romans 8:26, see note. See also on ἐντεύξεις supplications, 1 Timothy 2:1. The idea is not intercession, but intervention. It includes every form of Christ's identifying himself with human interests. The attempt has been made to trace this idea to Philo, who alludes to the λόγος ἱκέτης the supplicant Logos, and the λόγος παράκλητος the advocate-Logos. But the Logos is not treated by Philo as a divine-human personality intervening for men, but as a poetical personification allegorically considered. In one instance the suppliant Logos is the cry of the oppressed Israelites; in another, Moses, as the allegorical representative of the universal reason of mankind. It represents certain functions of human reason and speech. Again, the suppliant is the visible Cosmos striving to realize its ideal.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
Became us (ἡμῖν ἔπρεπεν)
Rend. separated: denoting a condition realized in Christ's exaltation. Comp. Romans 6:10.
Higher than the heavens (ὑψηλότερος τῶν οὐρανῶν)
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
Who needeth not daily (καθ' ἡμέραν)
Apparently inconsistent with Hebrews 9:7 : but the sense is, "who hath no need day by day as the high priest had (year by year) to offer sacrifices," etc. The great point is repetition, whether daily or yearly.
Rend. once for all. Contrasted with daily.
When he offered up himself (ἑαυτὸν ανενέγκας)
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
Summarizing the contents of Hebrews 7:26, Hebrews 7:27. - The law constitutes weak men high priests. God's sworn declaration constitutes a son, perfected forevermore. Ἀνθρώπους men, many in number as contrasted with one Son. Ἔχοντας ἀσθένειαν having infirmity, stronger than ἀσθενεῖς weak, which might imply only special exhibitions of weakness, while having infirmity indicates a general characteristic. See on John 16:22.