Through the Book of Hebrews—Exploration and Discussion 7:1-10
In our study of the Scriptures we want to remember the term Christocentric—our approach to understanding the Bible is always Christ centered. Practically as we study we seek to answer questions like:
What does this text say about Christ?
How does this text reveal Christ?
What does this revelation of Christ say about us?
The writer is writing to Jewish converts who were familiar with the OT and who were being tempted to revert to Judaism or to Judaize the gospel (cf. Gal 2:14)….
The ultimate purpose of the letter is to help the readers and us to persevere in Christ. They and we must recognize that the prophecies and promises of the OT are fulfilled in the New Testament of which Christ is the mediator. This section of Scripture emphasizes the superiority of Christ and if we truly abide in Christ, there can be no turning back to or continuation in the old Jewish system or any system/religion where Christ is not the only way, truth and life! Regarding the unique priesthood of Christ, Pett said,
For it is declared in Scripture that there is an older and more superior priesthood to that of Aaron, a priesthood like that of Melchizedek (Genesis 14), a priesthood of the house of David (Psalm 110), a priesthood contrasted with which the levitical priesthood fails by comparison, a priesthood that would take the ascendancy once Messiah had come, and that Jesus is the full representative of that priesthood. He is both priesthood and High Priest. And secondly that there is a heavenly equivalent of the Tabernacle in which ministers our great High Priest Who is of a superior status to the levitical High Priesthood. Thus, he will argue that with Jesus now acting on our behalf in Heaven we have no need of an earthly priesthood, nor of earthly ritual, which has thus become redundant (angelfire.com).
The first three verses (7:1-3) begin to establish the importance/significance of the type of priesthood that Melchizedek reveals and is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Melchizedek is important only as his role points to Christ. Pett, in referring to the writer of Hebrews, said,
He does not see Melchizedek as a figure now active, nor point to him as someone now to be taken into account. His only concern with Melchizedek is simply to do with the fact that he helps to reveal the glory and superiority of the priesthood of Jesus. He is seen as background material. Nor does he identify Jesus with Melchizedek except as to His priesthood being ‘after the order of (of a similar type to) Melchizedek’.
Let’s examine the Scripture:
v. 1 Melchizedek was _____________ of Salem and ______________ of God Most High. To hold both roles as King and Priest points to a type or prefigure of Christ. Jesus is our King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Jesus is also our High Priest who has accomplished the work of atonement and now intercedes on our behalf before God our Father.
v.1-2 After Abraham defeated the kings (Gen 14) Melchizedek met Abraham and_________ him, and Abraham gave him a ____________of everything. This signifies the greater to the lesser. Again, the royal priesthood of Melchizedek pointing to Jesus is greater than Abraham.
“king of righteousness” better translated “my king is righteous” “king of Salem” means “king of peace” these are Messianic titles (Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5-6; 33:15-16).
v. 3 Melchizedek had parents, but the absence of the record is significant. The importance here is the contrast to the levitical priesthood, priests had to establish their genealogy. In Nehemiah 7:64 we see that certain priests whose genealogy could not be established were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. However, human descent did not matter in Melchizedek’s priesthood. Moreover, without ________________of days or ___________of life, “like the Son of God” he remains a priest forever. Pett said,
But what was even more significant was that this same priesthood suddenly emerges in Scripture again, a second time, in Psalm 110. 4, as continuing to exist, and there Melchizedek is mentioned, not as himself living, but as the one whose priesthood was the pattern of that of the coming king who would establish God’s everlasting rule (Psalm 110.5). It is not said in the Psalm that Melchizedek was at that time himself living. What it reveals is that the priesthood connected with him was seen as long lasting. It had long preceded the time of Aaron and would go on beyond the end of time, with no known interruptions, and no regulations as to genealogy. It had no known beginning or ending (angelfire.com).
Hawthorne (1979) reminds us that “the writer of Hebrews does not identify Melchizedek with Christ, but says that he resembles the Son of God. [7:3b “like the son of God” NIV] Melchizedek thus was the facsimile of which Christ is the reality.” Christ is superior to Melchizedek.
v. 4 -10 The writer continues to magnify the priesthood of Melchizedek:
v. 4 The patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder (the very best right off the top).
v. 5-6 The point is that the law required tithes to paid to the Levites and they tithed to the priests. “The picture is therefore clear. The people gave tithes to the Levites, the Levites gave tithes to the priests, and the priests (in Abraham) gave tithes to the priesthood of Melchizedek, all in ascending order. The Melchizedekian priesthood was thus greater than all” (Pett, angelfire.com).
v. 7 Again, the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, hence the lesser is blessed by the greater.
v. 8 Mortal (levitical priest) men collect the tenth [“…collected by men who_________.” Whereas, Melchizedek lives […by him who is declared to be___________.”] The writer is using the silence of Scripture to emphasize his point in v. 3. (without beginning of days or ending of life) Morris (1981) said, “Scripture points out nothing about the death of Melchizedek. This must be borne in mind when estimating the significance of the incident and the way the priest-king prefigures Christ (p. 65).
v. 9-10 Pett summarizes these two verses nicely: “And to add to all this we must recognize that even Levi, himself the father of the Levites and of the levitical priesthood, paid tithes to Melchizedek. And this was because he was in the loins of Abraham when Abraham did so, as were his descendants. Therefore speaking in Jewish terms a mass of evidence has demonstrated the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood to that of Aaron.
Pett goes on to summarize what I would say is a nice summary of 7:1-10:
The priesthood of Melchizedek pointing to the superior and eternal Priesthood of Jesus Christ:
1) He pre-dated the levitical priesthood and is not depicted as having a beginning or ending.
2) He appears to have an unlimited, permanent, unceasing priesthood untainted by death. As priest he was not seen as caught up in a life-death scenario, or witnessed to as a stop-go priest; he was there without restriction at the time when ‘the promises’ were first given, long before the Law which resulted from them.
3) He received tithes from Abraham, and through him he therefore received tithes from the Levites and priests, and from Levi himself.
4) He gave an official blessing to Abraham.
5) He was the king of righteousness and the king of peace.
6) His priesthood was still around at the time of the writing of Psalm 110 as going forward into the future.
He was thus a true pattern of the Messiah (although not being the Messiah). Until the revealing of Christ’s unlimited priesthood, no priesthood was greater or more permanent than the priesthood of Melchizedek. It was superior in every way.” (angelfire.com)
Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1981). Frank E. Gaebelein (ed.)
Dr. Peter Pett (angelfire.com) Hebrews 7-10.
International Bible Commentary (1979) F.F. Bruce (ed).
NIV Study Bible (1985)