Hebrews Bible Study Week 8: Chapter 7

By | January 22, 2021
This entry is part 8 of 16 in the series Hebrews Bible Study

{Updated to add: This post and many of the following posts were part of an online Bible study over the book of Hebrews that I hosted in the past on my previous blog. I am reposting here to make the resource available to anyone interested.}

Panic and unrest {referring to the Covid pandemic of 2020} can be just about as contagious as the virus itself it seems. Aren’t you glad that God in his providence has us studying Hebrews right now? We will have more time than ever (if we can socially distance ourselves from our kids!! 😉 ) to spend in study and meditation on how wonderful our Savior is. Remember the end of chapter 6?

“We who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul” (Heb 6:18b-19a ESV).

The world is adrift right now during quite the storm. As believers, we have hope in Jesus’ saving, interceding work for us. This hope anchors our soul. May this stabilizing hope be as contagious as the panic and the virus that surrounds us.

As I began to write questions for chapter 7, I had a harder time writing lots of little questions. So, there are going to be fewer questions this time that cover more than 1 verse each for the most part. The nature of this chapter is just a little different. I think it would be helpful to make a list with 2 columns comparing/contrasting the Levitical priesthood with Christ’s Melchizedekian priesthood. Once you see things side-by-side it might help you figure out what you need to dig deeper to understand. As always, check out your cross references.

Here are the questions, and here is a pdf: Hebrews 7 Questions

1. Write down every descriptor of this Melchizedek acc. to vv 1-3. Look at Genesis 14 for more of the context.

2. How does Melchizedek resemble the Son of God?

3. Acc to vv 4-7, what is it that made Melchizedek so great and superior even to Abraham?

4. What do vv 8-10 mean? (Sorry that’s the best question I can come up with for now! 😉 )

5. Rephrase the question being asked in v11 in your own words.

6. Vv 12-14 make a point about a change in priesthood necessitating a change in law, then points out that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. What is the point of these statements? Why would Jesus’ descending from Judah be an issue?

7. Jesus’ “non-traditional” priesthood is further discussed in vv 15-17. Jesus’ priesthood was not based on what? What was it based on? What passage backs up his statement?

8. Acc. to vv 18-19, what was set aside and what was introduced?

9. Why was the law set aside?

10. What does the better hope allow for?

11. What oath was made concerning Jesus’ priesthood?

12. What does this oath make Jesus?

13. Why were there so many Levitical priests?

14. How does this contrast with Jesus? What is true because of Jesus’ eternal priesthood?

15. Describe our high priest acc. to v27.

16. Contrast the Levitical high priests with Jesus acc. to vv 27-28.

If you still feel a little lost after going through this chapter, keep reading just to help get context. 8:1 goes on to say, “Now the point in what we are saying is this. . .”

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Heb 7:26-27 ESV).

3.20.20 Updated to Add: Spoiler Alert! Please don’t read my notes on the passage until you’ve completed your own study. I’ve made a couple of charts that were helpful for me with so many comparisons in this chapter.

7:1-28: The Eternal High Priesthood of Jesus Christ

 At the beginning of chapter 5, the author had begun to explain Jesus’ eternal priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Then he took a short break off topic to explain to them that this was a difficult topic to understand and gave them warnings and encouragement about taking in “solid food” that leads to maturity. Here he comes back to what he had started to explain, offering them some solid food for their own spiritual growth and maturity.

7:1-3. Melchizedek described (cf. Gen 14:18-20; Psa 110:4)

  1. King of Salem
  2. Priest of the Most High God (this would have been before the Levitical priesthood was formed)
  3. Blessed Abraham
  4. Received a 10th tithe from Abraham
  5. His name means “King of righteousness”
  6. His title means “King of peace”
  7. There is no record of his genealogy, birth, or death, so he resembled the Son of God who is a high priest forever. (In contrast, there is much documentation, of the Levites’ birth, service, death, genealogies, etc.; cf. v23.)
  8. Melchizedek “appears from nowhere [in Scripture] and disappears without trace. He has no predecessors and no successors. Since the legitimacy of a man’s priesthood in the ancient world depended on such things, the silence of Scripture at this point is unusual. Melchizedek is like the Son of God in the sense that he foreshadows his unique and never-ending priesthood. In technical terms, he is a ‘type’ or pattern of Christ.”[1]

7:4-10. Evidence of Melchizedek’s greatness and superiority to Abraham (& Levi)

Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, while in the future Abraham’s non-Levite descendants  would pay tithes to Abraham’s descendants the Levites, as commanded by God in Num 18:21, 26 (cf. 2 Chron 31:4-5).Melchizedek, not descended from Abraham, received tithes from Abraham  and blessed Abraham, the special receiver of God’s promises. The superior—Melchizedek—blesses the inferior—Abraham.

There is continued comparison in vv 8-10. Tithes are received by mortal men, probably referring to the Levites. This is contrasted with tithes being received (even from Levi who in a sense tithed through his ancestor Abraham) by one of whom it is testified that he lives, probably referring to Melchizedek with no record of death, after whom Jesus’ eternal priesthood is patterned.

Proving Melchizedek as superior to Abraham, and thus the Levitical priesthood, paves the way to prove Jesus’ high priesthood—patterned after Melchizedek’s— as better than the Levitical priesthood.

7:11-14. Even though the Law was given through the Levitical priesthood, it was not perfect, thus requiring a new priest after a new line—Melchizedek, not Aaron. Since all priests according to OT law were to descend from the tribe of Levi and Jesus descended from Judah, this would require a change in the law. “Here it should be noted that the writer of Hebrews views the law essentially as a set of sacrificial and priestly regulations for the maintenance of Israel’s relationship with God. The limitations of the system as a whole are outlined in chs. 9–10.”[2]

7:15-17. Unlike the Levites, Jesus’ priesthood was not based on his lineage but on the basis of his indestructible life, a fact backed up by God’s promise that he is a priest forever (cf. v21; 5:6; 6:20; Psa 110:4). This indestructible life must be tied to his power over death in his resurrection and ascension (cf. v25).

7:18-19. Comparison between the former law and a better hope

The Levitical priests were made so under a former commandment (OT law), one that was weak and useless because it didn’t make anything perfect. By contrast, there is better hope, which allows people to draw near to God (expanded on below).

7:20-22. The basis for Jesus’ priesthood is expanded upon. The Levites were made priests without an oath. Jesus’ priesthood—established by an oath by God declaring him to be a priest forever (Psa 110:4; cf. 6:17)—was the guarantee of a better covenant and a better hope than the former. Jesus’ eternal priesthood allows people to draw near to God.

7:23-25. Jesus’ eternal priesthood is contrasted with the Levites who kept dying, necessitating a new priest to take over.

Because Jesus continues forever and is always living to make intercession for believers, he is able to save those who draw near to God through himself.

Intercession: “an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person” (dictionary.com)

“The word therefore [or consequently] at the beginning of v 25 introduces the logical consequence to all this. Here is the practical application of the writer’s teaching about Jesus as priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him. The idea of ‘approaching’, ‘drawing near’, or ‘coming’ to God is prominent in Hebrews (cf. 4:16; 7:19; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22). Fundamentally, it expresses the idea of a relationship with God. The OT priesthood and sacrificial system only imperfectly provided for such a relationship, but Jesus is able to save completely those who relate to God through him. The language of salvation here implies deliverance from the alternative, which is the judgment of God (cf. 2:1–4; 9:27–28; 10:26–31). In fact, Christians can look to Jesus for help at every stage in their earthly pilgrimage, because he always lives to intercede for them (cf. Rom. 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1–2). The image of the heavenly intercessor is used to emphasize Christ’s willingness and ability to go on applying to us the benefits of his once-for-all sacrifice (cf. 2:18; 4:14–16; 10:19–22).”[3]

7:26-28. Jesus’ superiority is also highlighted in terms of his holiness. The Levitical priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer their daily sacrifices for the sins of the people. They were appointed by the former law in their weakness. Jesus, however, is described as follows:

  1. Holy
  2. Innocent
  3. Unstained
  4. Separate from sinners
  5. Exalted above the heavens
  6. Has no need to make sacrifices for his own sin
  7. Appointed by God’s oath (after the Law) to be a Son, perfect forever
  8. All of which qualifies him to be offered as a once for all sacrifice for sin (cf. 1:3; 2:17)

“The perfection of his sacrifice is associated with the perfection of the victim. Jesus also meets our need as high priest because he is now set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. His heavenly exaltation means that he always lives to apply the benefits of his saving work to us (25). The law of Moses appointed men who are weak as high priests, but the oath of Ps. 110:4 appointed the Son to be high priest of a different order. He was qualified to fulfil this role or made perfect for ever (28; cf. notes on 2:10; 5:9) by means of his obedient life, his sacrificial death and his entrance into the heavenly presence of God (as vs 26–27 suggest).”[4]

 

Levites (Abraham) Melchizedek Jesus
Paid tithes to Melchizedek via Abraham  (received tithes from fellow Israelites) Received tithes from Abraham (& Levi)
Blessed by Melchizedek Blessed Abraham
Legal right to be priests based on tribal lineage No Scriptural record of birth/genealogy From the tribe of Judah (with no connection to the priesthood)
Priesthood ends at death No Scriptural record of death Is a priest forever because of his indestructible life
Priests under a former, imperfect, weak, and useless law High priest under a better covenant by the oath of God, giving a better hope
Multiple priests required due to their deaths Has a permanent priesthood because he lives forever
Priests were sinners required to make sacrifice for their own sins Holy and without sin, without need to make sacrifices for himself
Made daily sacrifices for the sins Offered himself once for all

 

Former Law Better Covenant
Set aside because of its weakness and uselessness Introduces a better hope
Made nothing perfect Allows people to draw near to God and be saved to the uttermost
Appointed men in their weakness Jesus is the guarantor of it—holy, innocent, unstained , separate from sinners
Required multiple, continuous sacrifices Jesus offered himself as the once for all sacrifice

 

 

 

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1337). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 1338.

[4] Ibid.

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