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Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 7: The Order of Melchizedek
On several occasions in this epistle to the Hebrews, Paul of Tarsus has mentioned a priesthood of the “Order of Melchizedek” in reference to both Yahshua Christ and quoting the 110th Psalm, where David had written in reference to his Lord, or Messiah, and said “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” So we began to speculate as to what this Melchizedek priesthood may have been, and therefore we may understand why Christ is entitled to it for Himself.
Of course, all things do belong to God, but we have to consider this: the other things which Yahshua Christ had inherited, He inherited according to the law as it may be perceived by men, and this is one of the marvels of prophecy and Scripture. With His being the “lamb of God”, the ceremonial Levitical laws were fulfilled according to tradition, which made Him eligible to be so. This can be demonstrated from the laws concerning the passover lamb, the prophecy of Malachi, and the accounts of the Gospels. With His being the King of Kings, the laws were fulfilled in the circumstances of His birth which made Him eligible to be so, being the heir to the throne and promises of David, which is evident in the genealogies provided by the Gospels. With His having died for the sins of Israel, Paul explained in Romans chapter 7 just how that happened and how those sins were thereby forgiven, in accordance with the same Old Testament laws. So why should it be different with this Melchizedek priesthood?
But we shall admit, that making this inquiry as to the identification of Melchizedek, we are going beyond what Paul of Tarsus himself has offered us. Paul did not make any inquiry, as that was not his purpose. Rather, Paul received the plain account of the Scripture at face value, accepted that there were things which the Scripture did not reveal, and then he used that account to make an analogy and to demonstrate that the account of Melchizedek in Genesis is also a type, a model, of the coming Messiah, just as events in the lives of Joshua, David and Solomon were models in that same respect. As we had said in Part 4 of this presentation of the epistle to the Hebrews:
So here in his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul draws on facets of the accounts of the lives of David, Solomon and Joshua and applies them in a prophetic manner to Yahshua Christ. The writers of the Gospels did that very same thing, so the types and allegories in the historical events and in the lives of the figures of the Old Testament must have been understood by them as well. Along with them, Paul believed that things which happened to these historical individuals were described as they were in Scripture for the very reason that these men, who were all chosen by Yahweh to be leaders of the children of Israel, were living examples of the Messiah which was to come. These examples are commonly called types, and many Christian students have long understood that at least some of the events in the lives of these men were indeed prophecies of Christ. But there are other such types in Scripture which are not related to specific events or the lives of specific individuals.
As it was for Joshua, David and Solomon, so it is here for this Melchizedek. And it is not that Joshua, David and Solomon were Christ themselves, and they were far from being perfect according to the law, as the accounts also detail many of their shortcomings as men. All men sin and fall short of the glory of God. But as we explained, the accounts of certain events in their lives were written in a manner whereby they stand as types and represent prophecies of the coming Messiah. So in that manner, among other things, the coming Messiah bore the same name as Joshua, and that same Messiah was even referred to as David, in Ezekiel chapters 34 and 37 and in Hosea chapter 3, but that does not mean that David was Christ or that Christ is David. It only means that one was a type for the other, and also later had the privilege of his name being used as a title for Christ. Events and circumstances in the life of Joshua were also recorded to serve as types for Christ in some aspects, and the life of Solomon in others, and the writers of the Gospels and epistles of the New Testament noted many of them.
So it is of Melchizedek in Genesis chapter 14. Melchizedek cannot be some prior incarnation of Christ, as there is no mention in Scripture of God on earth as a man until the birth of Christ, which Paul had explained in Hebrews chapter 2 where he wrote: “16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
With this understanding, we shall commence with Hebrews chapter 7:
7 1 For this Melchisedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the beating of the kings, and he blessed him, 2 to whom Abraham also divided a tenth of all; while first, being interpreted, king of righteousness, but then also king of Salem, which is king of peace;
Firstly, the language here helps us to realize that this epistle was originally written in Greek. For example, if this were a translation of some Hebrew text, we would not see the words “while first, being interpreted, king of righteousness, but then”, since the name Melchizedek clearly has such a meaning in Hebrew and it would not need to be interpreted at all. Furthermore, the words “which is, king of peace” would not appear in a Hebrew manuscript, as salem clearly means peace, so if this were a translation of some Hebrew manuscript, the words “king of Salem, which is” would not appear in the Greek. In other words, why would Paul have to interpret Hebrew words for Hebrews, when the words clearly bear the meanings which are interpreted into Greek? And why would a translator add Hebrews forms and interpretations, where he would instead merely translate the text provided? If this were from a Hebrew original, the entire clause would only have been written in Hebrew to say something like “while first being king of righteousness, but then also king of peace”, and that would be translated into Greek. Of course, there are other ways to establish the fact that this epistle was written in Greek, but this verse provides a signal proof. We feel this is important, as there is much contention by subversive Judeophiles that the New Testament was to a great extent first written in Hebrew, or Aramaic, and that is a lie. The entire New Testament is originally written in Greek.
Here in these opening verses Paul is citing Genesis 14:18, but to better understand that passage we must examine the wider context. In Genesis chapter 13 we read that “Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron….” Then in Genesis chapter 14, upon hearing the news that the family of Lot had been abducted by a federation of the kings of certain cities, we read “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre….” [We should also note that Abraham was never, ever called a Jew.] So Abraham embarked from his home on the plain of Mamre in Hebron, and went with his men far to the north, to Dan, Damascus and Hobah, and defeated the federation of kings. [The presence of the word Dan in this account leads us to understand that it is from a later pen, where a scribe took liberties with names when he evidently copied an earlier manuscript. Leshem, or Laish, was conquered by the tribe of Dan and renamed, as it is described in Joshua chapter 19.] Then it says in Genesis 14:16 “And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.” So the victorious Abraham must have returned to the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and the “valley of Shaveh” mentioned in the verse which follows must be nearby. As shaveh simply means a plain, it most likely referred to a valley in the plain of Mamre where Abraham dwelt. This was not far from where we may reckon ancient Sodom to have been located.
Then we read the following from verse 18 of that same chapter: “18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” Hebron being nearly twenty miles south of Jerusalem, it is highly plausible that there is a connection between the title “king of Salem” and the city known later as Jerusalem. The city itself is not mentioned in Scripture by that name until Joshua chapter 10. Salem means peace, and Jerusalem means either founded in peace or, according to some sources, teaching of peace in Hebrew. It cannot be told as to when the city came to be inhabited by the accursed Jebusites. There is archaeological evidence of massive construction in the 17th century BC, which laid the fortifications for the water system that David was later able to exploit. The 17th century was about midway between the time of Abraham and Joshua. However the names Rusalimum, from an Egyptian text circa 2000 BC, and Urusalim from the Amarna letters written around the time of the Hebrew invasion of Canaan when the city was subject to Egypt, show that similar forms of the name did indeed exist before the Israelites took the city, although the meanings of those other forms are debated.
Paul then speaks of this Melchizedek and says:
3 without father, without mother: of unrecorded descent, having neither a beginning of days, nor an end of life, but being compared to the Son of Yahweh, he abides a priest in perpetuity.
Where Paul says that this Melchizedek was “without father, without mother”, it is not that he was God, or even an angel from heaven, but that he was, as Paul also says, “of unrecorded descent”, and his next clause helps to explain why. First, the word for which the King James Version has “without descent” is ἀγενεαλόγητος and does not mean without parents. Rather, it means without genealogy, which is to be without a record of one’s parents or descent. Liddell & Scott define the word to mean of unrecorded descent. So while ἀγενεαλόγητος does not mean that one does not have parents, Paul is merely emphasizing the fact that his origins were not recorded, and noticing the fact that his parents were never mentioned. The context of the next clause, which follows, strengthens our argument.
In that next clause, there is a Greek word which, in the appropriate tense and number, we have translated as being compared to, but for which the King James Version has made like unto. This word, ἀφομοιόω (Strong’s # 871) is given three definitions by Liddell & Scott. Primarily, it was used to mean make like, or in the Passive voice to become like or be made like. Then it was used to mean compare, or also portray, of painters, or to make a copy of something, as artisans do. So Melchizedek was made like, or compared to, the Son of God, but he himself was not the Son of God, as many contenders may claim. Certainly, he was a son of God, but he was neither God nor Christ.
Rather, where Paul says that Melchizedek was made like, or compared to the Son of God, and where Paul is telling us that he was of unrecorded descent, he is telling us that the account of Melchizedek was purposely made, or written, in such a way that it stands as a type for Christ, just as we have seen that certain events in the lives of other Old Testament men were recorded in such a manner that they could also be used in that same fashion. But the accounts of the birth of Yahshua Christ in the Gospels do tell us who His parents are. Except that once we realize that Yahshua Christ is also Yahweh God incarnate, we see what Paul is relating here: that God has no recorded descent, and that Yahshua Christ is therefore that same God, and the record of Melchizedek stands as a type for Him.
Paul continues to describe this Melchizedek:
4 Now consider how great he was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham had given a tenth of the choice spoils,
A “tenth”, or, as it is called, a “tithe” (δεκάτη, 1181), of the “choice spoils” (ἀκροθίνιον, 205), while it is not grammatically precise it is tempting to write “the choicest tenth of the spoils”, since ἀκροθίνιον, a noun which appears only here in the New Testament, by itself means “the topmost part of a heap, the choice part, first fruits”, according to Liddell & Scott. The implication is that the tenth which Abraham gave to Melchizedek was from the best part of what he had recovered from the defeated federation of kings.
Paul is making an analogy, that if the patriarch Abraham, who possessed so many promises and blessings from Yahweh God, had given tithes to Melchizedek, then Melchizedek must have been of some station greater than Abraham, or perhaps had some function which was important to Abraham. In our opinion, this also seems to help us understand that while Abraham was chosen out by God for His purposes, Abraham was chosen to serve a greater purpose which was related to the entire Adamic race. We would assert that Melchizedek represented the old order, the old Adamic patriarchy, and Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek represents his service to the wider race which was represented originally by that patriarchy. Abraham’s selection represents a new order in the history of that race. Later, under the Israelite kingdom, the Levitical tithes were instituted because the Levites had a function which was important to the maintenance of the Kingdom of God, and Paul next speaks of them:
5 and indeed they from the sons of Levi receiving the priesthood have a command to take tenths from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren although having come out of the loins of Abraham; 6 but he who himself reckons no genealogy from them has received a tenth from Abraham, and he [Melchizedek] blessed him having the promises [Abraham].
So the Levites, having a function important to the maintenance of the Kingdom, received tithes of their brethren even though their brethren were equal in status. Yet the Levites, being in the loins of Abraham, also tithed Melchizedek, as the children are affected by the actions of their fathers. Paul is asserting that the function of Melchizedek must have been of greater importance than that of the Levites, since Melchizedek, who had not been a Levite and neither was he from of Abraham, received tithes from them through Abraham, in spite of the fact that it was Abraham who had the promises of God.
7 Now apart from all disputing, the inferior is blessed by the superior.
And Melchizedek, the superior, taking tithes from Abraham, in turn had blessed Abraham, the inferior, as we read in Genesis 14:19: “And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God”. So again Paul asserts that Abraham was inferior to Melchizedek.
8 Yet here [in the present world] men who die receive tithes but there he is bearing evidence that he lives.
And Paul is still using this Melchizedek as a model, or type, for Christ. This Melchizedek’s origins were not recorded, and neither was his end. So Paul calls him “a priest in perpetuity” indicating that the Melchizedek priesthood had always existed, and that it was meant to always exist, while also illustrating that since the death of this Melchizedek, as a model for Christ, was never recorded, that he must live, so that greater purpose to which Abraham had given a tithe, and by extension the Levites, also must still exist. The implication is that the greater purpose now belongs to Christ, who does still live, since Melchizedek’s death was not recorded that he may represent a type of Christ.
9 And, so to speak, through Abraham Levi also, who receives tithes, has given a tenth: 10 for he was yet in the loins of the father when Melchisedek met with him.
Paul makes this analogy to demonstrate to the Hebrews that while the Levitical priesthood had an important function, there is a priesthood which is of greater importance and of greater scope, and that is the Melchizedek priesthood which according to Scripture has been appointed to Yahshua Christ.
11 So if indeed perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, since the people behind it had been ordained by law, what further need, “in accordance with the order of Melchisedek,” that another priest is to arise? And not to be named according to the order of Aaron?
The Greek preposition ἐπί (Strong’s # 1909) is usually on or upon, but here it is metaphorically behind, a usage which is explained by Liddell & Scott in their definition for ἐπί (B. I. 6. and B. I. 7.) The tribe of Levi were the people behind the priesthood. The Levitical priesthood was already long established when David was king, and it was David who had written those words in the 110th Psalm. So if the Levitical priesthood was intended to be made permanent, why would David call his Lord “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”, ostensibly referring to a different priesthood which was meant to be eternal?
The promises to Abraham are without condition, and even though he was promised innumerable descendants, those promises did not establish a kingdom by themselves. The establishment of a kingdom is more than the mere production of descendants. It is a political organization of those descendants in accordance with particular laws and customs aimed at maintaining order within the body politic, in order to better preserve the descendants and enable them to attain a higher objective.
While we will not make a full proof of it this evening, the truth is that the Levitical priesthood was meant to last forever only if through that priesthood the children of Israel had maintained obedience to Yahweh their God forever. The same law that created it also informs us that it was bound to failure, for example in Deuteronomy chapter 28. This condition we may read in Exodus chapter 19: “5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” The Levitical priesthood was then established as a means of maintaining the promises which the people made to God. Later in that same chapter it is recorded that they said: “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.” So the establishment of the Levitical priesthood is evident in Exodus chapter 28 where the Word of Yahweh says to Moses: “1 And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.”
Then much later, when the children of Israel were put off in punishment for their disobedience, Yahweh said to them, as it is recorded in Hosea chapter 3: “4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim….” Being without these things which were among the symbols of the kingdom, the Levitical priesthood was no longer necessary as there were no longer any sacrifices nor was there any longer a kingdom for them to maintain.
Likewise in Zechariah chapter 11 we see that the Old Covenant was broken, where we read: “10 And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. 11 And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.” The earlier prophets had explained on many occasions that the people had transgressed the Old Covenant, and therefore Yahweh had to relinquish His part of it as well.
But the remnant 70-weeks kingdom maintained a Levitical priesthood, which was also necessary in God’s plan of redemption for Israel. Although most of Israel and Judah were deported never to return, the remnant was maintained for reason of the redemption of all, as Paul explained in Romans chapter 11, and in Daniel’s prophecy it is evident that it would be the Messiah Himself who made an end of the necessity for such a priesthood. And according to that same prophet, only then would Jerusalem and the temple be destroyed. This we read in Daniel chapter 9, where it says that Messiah the Prince was to “confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”, things which had been among the priestly duties. The Covenant that the Messiah was to confirm must be the original covenant with Abraham, which, as Luke informs us, was the purpose of Yahshua Christ in the New Covenant, and which itself was already promised in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
The New Covenant was not made to replace the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was already dead according to Hosea, Daniel, Zechariah, and others of the prophets. Rather, the New Covenant was made so that Yahweh God could keep the promises made to the fathers, as it says in the words of Zechariah recorded in Luke chapter 1, in part: “72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham...” Therefore Paul continues and says:
12 For the priesthood being changed, from necessity a change of law happens also.
According to the word of God in the 110th Psalm, David’s Lord is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”, and not after the Levitical order. So Paul says that the priesthood of God is changed, and therefore the Levitical priesthood is dissolved with the Old Covenant, as he also states here in different words. If the Hebrews did not understand this when Paul wrote it, they certainly should have understood it twelve years later, when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. However most of the Judaeans who survived after that time were not Hebrews, they were Edomites, which Paul had explained in Romans chapter 9. Ever since then, the Edomite-jews have claimed to maintain the Levitical priesthood, but they have never demonstrated the functions of that priesthood in practice, which also proves that they are frauds.
Now asserting the change of priesthood, Paul speaks of Christ, who holds this Melchizedek priesthood, and he says:
13 For he whom these things are spoken has part in a different tribe, from which no one has made an offering at the altar.
So here we see which law has changed, as Christ had also commanded that His people keep His commandments, referring to the commandments which were written in the books of Moses. Therefore only the laws requiring a priest to maintain have changed, which are the rituals and ceremonial ordinances instituted for the Levitical priesthood. This is Paul’s meaning where he used the term “works of the law” throughout Scripture, as the phrase “works of the law” was also used to refer to the priestly rituals and ceremonies and other functions conducted by priests in the Septuagint and in the ecumenical literature of the contemporary Qumran sect which is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Generally speaking, if anything in the law was commanded of men, it very likely remains a valid commandment, which even Christ had commanded men to keep. But if a priest performed the function, it is now relegated to Christ, who only commands men to love one another and keep His commandments. Therefore things such as circumcision, sacrifices, oblations and other rituals are abolished in Christ, since the priesthood has changed. Paul continues:
14 Indeed it is evident that our Prince has risen out of Judah, to which tribe Moses had spoken nothing concerning priests.
The Majority Text, and therefore the King James Version, have “nothing concerning a priesthood”; our text follows the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Claromontanus (D), and the third century papyrus P46 and the Codex Sinaiticus (א) which vary slightly only in word order.
As the Gospels attest, Christ had come from of the seed of David, who was of the tribe of Judah, and He had not come from the tribe of Levi. There are contenders who insist that Christ was also of Levi, because Mary must have been a Levite, but neither is that true. They assert that Mary was a Levite because her cousin Elizabeth was a Levite, which is true according to Luke. It is said that Elisabeth herself was of the daughters of Aaron. But that does not make Mary a Levite. Mary is Elizabeth’s cousin, or συγγενής (Strong’s # 4773), a word which only means that they were somehow related, but which does not insist that they were of the same paternal tribe. As an example, Elizabeth’s mother may have been of Judah and married to a Levite, which would make Elizabeth “of the daughters of Aaron” while still being related to Mary. Paul’s words here also help to prove the argument that Mary was of Levi to be fallacious.
The scepter was awarded to Judah, but not a priesthood. As we have already exhibited from Scripture in our last segment of this presentation, before Jacob it must have been customary that the eldest son of a family be both ruler and priest of the family. As it stands in the Old Testament records, when Reuben transgressed against his father, his entitled shares of the offices of priest and ruler, and the customary double portion of the estate, were divided among selected of Jacob’s other sons. So Judah obtained the scepter, Levi the priesthood, and Joseph the double portion of the inheritance. This also helps to indicate what the Melchizedek priesthood was originally.
Christ was the rightful surviving heir of David’s scepter, and because Christ was resurrected, being firstborn from among the dead, He never relinquishes that scepter. However because He is Yahweh God in the flesh, it is His scepter in the first place. But as we have already discussed, He nevertheless inherited it according to the laws as they are perceived by men. So it is with the Melchizedek priesthood.
As we had also explained previously, it is evident that the Melchizedek priesthood was originally the Adamic patriarchy, a priesthood for which Cain and Abel contended, and which was passed down from Seth unto Noah [we errantly had Moses in the original], who was the eighth preacher of righteousness. While we cannot, and perhaps we should not, insist on identifying the Melchizedek of Genesis chapter 14 with any of the men of the time of Abraham, we would assert that this is the priesthood which Melchizedek must represent. In the sin of our wider race, this priesthood faded into oblivion and Abraham was selected out of that race for a new appointment. Christ, being Yahweh Himself and firstborn among many brethren, is therefore the rightful holder of that priesthood, and therefore He is proclaimed in the Psalms as “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Ostensibly, He did not do anything to earn such a position, as it was His in the first place, and being the ultimate Patriarch, He already held it. Although he was in reality only a man, Melchizedek, a type for Christ, typifies the eternal priesthood of Christ, as having no beginning and no end. It is that same Christ to whom these words are attributed in Revelation chapter 1: “8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
Once again, in that same manner, Paul continues:
15 And yet more abundantly evident it is, if according to the similitude [or “likeness”] of Melchisedek there arises another priest, 16 who has not arisen in accordance with a law of fleshly commandment, but in accordance with the power of indissoluble life.
Now this is the prescience God, that Moses depicted Melchizedek in a way that neglected the details of his person, and also neglected the details of the priesthood which he represented, so that he could be used as a type, or model, for the coming Christ. So over fifteen centuries later, after the coming of the Christ, Paul employed Melchizedek as a type, this seemingly mystical Old Testament priest to whom even Abraham had paid a tithe, so that he could teach the Hebrews, as well as the rest of us who have seen these things, that from the beginning there is a greater purpose and plan than the Levitical priesthood and the rituals and ceremonies of the law to which the Hebrews were clinging.
Therefore with the coming of the Messiah, the only legitimate priesthood is with God in Christ. With Christ all earthly priesthoods are dissolved, except that every Christian man is a priest in his own right. That was also the original plan of God as it is expressed in Exodus 19:6, that “ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation”, and in 1 Peter chapter 2: “But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, so that you should proclaim the virtues for which from out of darkness you have been called into the wonder of His light...” Proclaiming the virtues of God was the task of the original patriarchal priesthood, as Noah was called the “eighth preacher of righteousness”. Yahshua Christ, the firstborn among many brethren, is the legitimate holder of that original priesthood. So Paul continues:
17 For it is testified of Him [C and the MT have “For He testifies”; the text follows P46, א, A, B and D] that “You are a priest for the ages in accordance with the order of Melchisedek.”
Paul emphasizes this scripture so as to leave no doubt in his readers’ minds, that it is the Word of God which informs us that the priesthood of David’s Lord, as it is stated in the 110th Psalm, should supplant the Levitical priesthood. Now he explains the failure of the Levitical priesthood:
18 For indeed there is an abolition of the foregoing commandment, because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 (for the law has perfected nothing) and an introduction of a better expectation through which we approach Yahweh.
The history of Israel should have been plain in the Scriptures before them, that ancient Israel and Judah could never stave off sin by the rituals and ceremonies of the law, and therefore both kingdoms were eventually put off in punishment by Yahweh God. It should also be a lesson of history that in seeking justification through rituals and ceremonies, men become self-righteous, they elevate themselves above their brethren, and they do not cease from sin. As it is recorded throughout the Gospels, Christ had admonished the Pharisees for that very thing. That is a historic lesson which our race should have learned from the Old Testament kingdom experience, and that is how – as Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians – the law was their schoolmaster to bring them to Christ.
Today’s denominational Christians, and those from the time of the Roman empire, have never learned that lesson. They still seek their justification in some ritual or ceremony conducted at the hand of some fleshly so-called priest. There is no scripture which supports a professional Christian priesthood, and no such thing existed until the fourth century after the birth of Christ. Paul did not even mention the term priest or priests in any of his letters, except in this epistle to the Hebrews. Now, according to Paul himself, Christ is the only priest, after the order of Melchizedek, and therefore all of the children of God should be obedient to Him.
The better expectation of which Paul speaks here was explained by the apostle John in his first epistle. From 1 John chapter 2: “1 My children, I write these things to you in order that you do not do wrong. And if one should do wrong, we have an Advocate with the Father: the righteous Yahshua Christ. 2 And He is a propitiation on behalf of our errors; yet not for ours only but for the whole Society. 3 And by this we may know that we know Him, if we would keep His commandments. 4 He saying that he knows Him and not keeping His commandments, he is a liar and the truth is not in him. 5 But he whom would keep His word, truly the love of Yahweh is perfected in him: by this we know that we are in Him.”
And then from 1 John chapter 4 where the apostle had written: “6 We are from of Yahweh: he knowing Yahweh hears us. He who is not from of Yahweh does not hear us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception. 7 Beloved, we should love one another, because love is from of Yahweh, and each who loves has been born from of Yahweh and knows Yahweh. 8 He not loving does not know Yahweh, because Yahweh is love. 9 By this the love of Yahweh is manifest in us, because Yahweh sent His best-loved Son [we will explain the idiom when we present Hebrews chapter 11] into Society in order that we may live through Him. 10 In this is love: not that we loved Yahweh but that He has loved us and has sent His Son, a propitiation for our errors. 11 Beloved, if Yahweh has loved us thusly, we also are obliged to love one another. 12 No one has at any time seen Yahweh. If we should love one another, Yahweh abides in us and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He gave to us from of His Spirit. 14 And we witnessed and we testify that the Father sent the Son, Savior of Society. 15 He who shall profess that Yahshua is the Son of Yahweh, Yahweh abides in him and he in Yahweh. 16 And we know and we believe the love which Yahweh has for us. Yahweh is love, and he abiding in love abides in Yahweh and Yahweh abides in him. 17 By this the love is perfected among us, that we would have freespokenness in the day of judgment, because just as He is, we also are in this Society.”
Likewise Paul had spoken of Christ in this regard in Romans chapter 3: “25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” So in this very capacity, Christ is the “preacher of righteousness” who continues from the days of the patriarchs, by which Yahweh God declared His righteousness in the past. Paul continues describing this eternal priesthood:
20 And inasmuch as it is not without an oath (indeed they without an oath are come to be priests, 21 but He with an oath, by He who speaks concerning Him): “Yahweh has sworn and will not change His purpose, You are a priest for the ages [here A, D, and the MT interpolate the words “in accordance with the order of Melchisedek” (see v. 17); the text follows P46, א, B, and C].”
The Levites became priests simply because that was in the law as an appointment reserved for their tribe, but God did not swear by that priesthood with an oath. However, in that 110th Psalm, speaking of David’s Lord – which can only be a reference to the expected Messiah – Yahweh did swear by an oath, and swore that His priesthood would be eternal. So Paul uses this predicament to once again prove the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over that of the Levites. Now he will begin to compare the covenants:
22 Of so far better a covenant has Yahshua come to be a surety!
As we have explained, the Old Covenant is dissolved, and Yahshua Christ is the Mediator of a New Covenant. We will not go into all of the details here, as Paul himself will do that in Hebrews chapter 8, where he repeats the promise of a New Covenant from the words of the prophet Jeremiah, but there are other witnesses to that promise, which we shall discuss at that point in Paul’s epistle. So returning to the priesthood, he says:
23 And that greater number are come to be priests because in death they are prevented from enduring.
Since men die, the Levitical priesthood was perpetuated by inheritance, whereby over the course of history there were a great number of men who were Levitical priests. The same may be said on a smaller scale of the high priests which were inside the Levitical order, descending from Aaron alone. So Paul uses this circumstance to explain why such a priesthood was necessary. Then he compares this to Christ, the priest of the order of Melchizedek:
24 But He, because He is to abide for the ages, has the untransferable priesthood.
A man who does not die can retain his office forever, and Yahshua Christ, being Yahweh incarnate, is eternal. So His priesthood never needs to be passed on to another. Paul had earlier asserted that the very account of Melchizedek testifies that He lives.
25 Whence also He is able to preserve completely those approaching Yahweh through Him, always being alive to intercede for them.
The role of the high priest was to offer the propitiations for sins to God on behalf of men. But the high priests, being temporal, could not keep men from death. So Paul makes an analogy, that Yahshua, being eternal, can likewise keep men from death as well. Paul had described Christ in chapter 8 of his epistle to the Romans, saying that “he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”, and that “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” So Paul had taught the same thing to the Romans in a different context, where he went on to explain that not even death could separate the people of God from the love of Christ.
26 Such as He is also a distinguished high priest for us: devout, innocent, undefiled, separating Himself from wrongdoers, and having become higher than the heavens;
As Paul is about to say, every high priest of men has sinned, since no man is without sin. But Yahshua Christ, God in the flesh, was without sin and therefore His sacrifice on behalf of men was perfect. Here Paul has explained that Christ separated Himself from sinners, but that does not mean that He did not keep company with anyone who had sinned. Rather, He separated Himself from sinners by illustrating their sins and exhorting them to repent.
27 who has no requirement each day, like the high priests [D has “like a high priest”], to offer up sacrifices [P46 wants “sacrifices”; D has “a sacrifice”] first for His own errors, then for those of the people, for this He has done once for all, having offered Himself up.
For this another type is found in the Old Testament, where Abraham set out to sacrifice Isaac, as Yahweh had demanded of him, and it says in Genesis chapter 22 “7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” From the beginning of the Gospel Christ was considered that lamb, as it says in John chapter 1 that “John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Of course, this does not detract from the reason why Yahweh incarnate, in the person of Yahshua Christ, died for the sins of the children of Israel, as Paul had explained in Romans chapter 7 that Israel had to be released from the judgments of the law in order to escape the punishment of death, so that Yahweh could keep the promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs. In the Old Kingdom, it was the priests who executed the judgments of the law, and now that responsibility is relegated to Christ.
In that manner Paul also taught the Romans precisely what he had taught here in a different context, where he wrote in Romans chapter 5, speaking of the descendants of Adam and the greater purpose of God: “15 But should not, as was the transgression, in that manner also be the favor? Indeed if in the transgression of one many die [the transgression of Adam], much greater is the favor of Yahweh, and the gift in favor, which is of the one man Yahshua Christ, in which many have great advantage. 16 And not then by one having committed error is the gift? Indeed the fact is that judgment of a single one is for condemnation [represented by the death of Christ], but the favor is from many transgressions into a judgment of acquittal. [As he said in 1 Corinthians, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”] 17 For if in the transgression of one, death has taken reign through that one, much more is the advantage of the favor, and the gift of justice they are receiving, in life they will reign through the one, Yahshua Christ.) 18 So then, as that one transgression is for all men for a sentence of condemnation, in this manner then through one decision of judgment for all men is for a judgment of life.” So Paul says here, that Christ had offered Himself up once for the benefit of all.
We repeat these things, because part of our endeavor here is to show that Paul of Tarsus was consistent in all of his expositions of Scripture, whether talking to Hebrews, Romans, Greeks or Galatians, who were all descended from the children of Israel.
Now Paul concludes this chapter and says:
28 The law appoints men who have weakness high priests [P46, D, and I want “high”], but the word of the oath which is after the law, a Son perfected for the ages.
And once again Paul illustrates the advantage of the Melchizedek priesthood over the Levitical priesthood. Christ, apart from all other men, was able to overcome the weakness of the flesh. For that reason Paul had said in Hebrews chapter 2: “14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” And for that reason Paul also wrote in Hebrews chapter 5: “8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.”