Where the world comes to study the Bible

Hebrews 7



The Priestly Order of Melchizedek The King of Righteousness The Priesthood of Melchizedek and the Levitical Priesthood Compared The Priest Melchizedek Melchizedek
7:1-3 7:1-3 7:1-3 7:1-3 7:1-3
        Melchizedek Accepts Tithes from Abraham
7:4-10 7:4-10 7:4-10 7:4-10 7:4-10
  Need for a New Priesthood     From Levitical Priesthood to the Priesthood of Melchizedek
7:11-19 7:11-19 7:11-14 7:11-14 7:11-12
        The Abrogation of the Old Law
    7:15-19 7:15-19 7:15-19
  Greatness of the New Priest     Christ's Priesthood is Unchanging
7:20-25 7:20-28 7:20-25 7:20-22 7:20-25
      7:23-25 The Perfection of the Heavenly High Priest
7:26-28   7:26-28 7:26-28 7:26-28

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. 3Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

7:1 "Melchizedek" He was a Gentile king/priest of the old Canaanite city then called Salem, which later became Jebus and then later Jerusalem. His name means "my king of righteousness" (very similar to the name of the king of Jerusalem in Josh. 10:1, "my lord is righteous"). His lineage is never mentioned, but Abraham pays homage to him. This is why he is such an appropriate OT type for Jesus Christ. He is only mentioned in Gen. 14:18-20 and Ps. 110:4. There has been much discussion about his identity.

1. for Philo, he is a figure of the human soul

2. for Origen, he is an angel

3. for Ambrose, he is the angel of the Lord

4. for others, he is the national angel of Israel, Michael

5. for Epiphanius, he is the incarnation of Holy Spirit

6. for the Melchizedekites, he is greater than the Messiah and all prayer goes through him

7. for some Jews, Jerome and Luther, he is Shem, Noah's son

Melchizedek is used as a type of Jesus' priesthood for four reasons:

1. Abraham offered a tithe to him (inferiors always tithe to superiors) and by rabbinical hermeneutics thereby Levi also offered a tithe (cf. vv. 4-9)

2. his parents are not listed, so rabbinical theology said he was without parents and thereby eternal (cf. v. 3; Ps. 110:4b)

3. he was leader in the later holy city, Jerusalem (Salem, cf. Gen. 14:18)

4. he was a priest of God Most High (i.e., El Elyon, cf. Gen. 14:18)

5. he allows the author to establish a legitimate priesthood apart from the Levitical Priesthood.


"king. . .priest" He is the only person in the OT who combines royalty and priesthood (i.e., Psalm 110).

▣ "and blessed him" The greater blesses the lesser; therefore, Abraham (and by rabbinical implications his descendant, Levi), was blessed by Melchizedek (cf. Gen. 14:19), which shows his superiority over the Aaronic priesthood. It also shows that Jesus, who was from the line of Judah, could be a priest of a different order.

7:2 "a tenth" Notice that the tithe (cf. Gen. 14:20) is older than the Mosaic law. It was a way like the Sabbath and first fruits of showing God's ownership of all (cf. Gen. 14:19c).

▣ "by the translation of his name" The specific etymology of the phrase "king of righteousness" is uncertain but a similar title is used for the Messiah in Jer. 23:6 ("the Lord our righteousness") and 33:16 ("the Lord is our righteousness"). Also, the Messiah will be righteous and bring peace (cf. Isa. 9:6; 26:3,12; 32:17; and 54:10).

"King of righteousness" For "righteousness" see Special Topic at 1:9.

▣ "Salem" The city may have gotten its name from the Hebrew term shalom which means "peace." Some scholars think it refers to a Jebusite deity. The city is called Salem in Genesis 14, but Ps. 76:2 relates it to Jerusalem (i.e., Zion), which was called Jebus during the Canaanite period.

7:3 This is rabbinical hermeneutics (midrash, see Appendix Three) based on the fact that Melchizedek's lineage is not given in Gen. 14:18-20. Like all human beings Melchizedek had parents, but he serves as another type of the eternal Messiah (cf. v. 8). This is developed in vv. 8,12,16,17,21,24,25,28.

▣ "beginnings" See Special Topic: Archē at 3:14.

 4Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. 6But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

7:5 "although these are descended from Abraham" This is rabbinic logic based on Levi being present in the loins of Abraham (cf. v. 10). This is Jewish exegesis, not scientific fact.

7:7 "the greater" The heart of the book of Hebrews is the comparison between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant in Christ.

This contrast is often expressed by the term "greater" (kreittōu/kreissōu), which means "better," "superior," "more excellent," "more valuable," "higher rank." This is a recurrent theme in Hebrews. 

1. much better than the angels (cf. 1:4)

2. better things concerning you (cf. 6:9)

3. lesser is blessed by the greater (cf. 7:7)

4. a better hope (cf. 7:19)

5. a better covenant (cf. 7:22; 8:6)

6. with better sacrifice (cf. 9:23)

7. a better possession (cf.10:34)

8. a better resurrection (cf. 11:35)

9. a better country (cf. 11:16)

10. God has provided something better (cf.11:40)

11. he sprinkled blood speaks better (cf. 12:24)


7:8 "lives on" This refers to the eternality of Melchizedek because (1) his parents (genealogy) are not mentioned in Genesis 14 nor is his death recorded and also (2) Ps. 110:4b's specific comment ("forever").

7:9-10 This is rabbinical exegesis. Since Levi the tribe of Aaron is descendant from Abraham, then by analogy, the Jewish priesthood (i.e., even the High Priest) paid tithes to Melchizedek. Therefore, Melchizedek is superior and Jesus is superior to Jewish priests.

  11Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. 13For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. 15And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is attested of Him,
 "You are a priest forever
 According to the order of Melchizedek
 18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19(for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20Inasmuch as it was not without an oath 21(for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him,
 "The Lord has sworn
 And will not change His mind,

 'You are a priest forever'");
 22so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

7:11 "if" This is a second class conditional which is called contrary to fact. A false statement is made to make a point. The Levitical priesthood did not bring spiritual perfection or maturity.

▣ "perfection" The Greek family of terms based on telos basically means "to bring to the end," "to bring to completion," or "to bring to maturity." Here it refers to an adequate and effective representative or intercessor.


▣ "through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law)" This apparently refers to (1) Moses being from the tribe of Levi and being God's messenger in giving the sacrificial system of Israel or (2) the Levites and priests teaching the law to the people.

7:12 "a change of law also" The purpose of the Mosaic law was never to produce righteousness, but to show the continuing results of the fall and mankind's inability to please God (cf. Gal. 3:24-25). This is a major truth in trying to figure out God's purpose for the Mosaic Law.

This phrase in context must refer to the "new covenant."

7:13 "from which no one has officiated at the altar" This is a Perfect active indicative, which may imply that the sacrificial system was continuing. If so, Hebrews was written before Titus' destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70.

No one outside the tribe of Levi and family of Aaron served as a priest in the OT. This was not the case in the Roman period of the occupation of Palestine (i.e., Annas, Caiphas).

7:14 "our Lord was descended from Judah" This is another perfect active indicative. The verb "descend" means "sprang from" and is used for

1. the rising of the sun (cf. Matt. 5:45)

2. the movement of the planets

3. plant shoots

4. metaphorically, for human descent (cf. Zech. 6:12; Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5-6)

Here it refers to Jacob's prophecies about his sons in Genesis 49 (esp. 49:10).

▣ "Judah" Jesus was from the Davidic royal line of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:8-12; II Sam. 7:12-16; Isa. 9:6,7). Convincing Jews that Jesus was high priest was so difficult because He was not of the priestly tribe of Levi like Moses and Aaron.

7:15 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Another priest has come and is from the line of Melchizedek.


NASB"not on the basis of a law of physical requirement"
NKJV"not according to the laws of a fleshly commandment"
NRSV"not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent"
TEV"not by human rules and regulations"
NJB"not in virtue of a law of physical descent"

Jesus' priestly authority does not rest in what tribe/family He descended from, but from His possession of eternal, indestructible life (i.e., Melchizedek's parents are not named in Genesis 14 and the word "forever" is used in Ps. 104:4). Jesus has the endless life of God (as well as the oath and promise of God).

NJB"an indestructible life"
NKJV"an endless life"
TEV"a life that has no end"

This seems to be related to the rabbinical exegetical (Midrash) implication from Ps. 110:4b that Melchizedek had no parents and, therefore, was eternal (cf. vv. 6,8).

7:17 "For it is attested of Him" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Ps. 110:4 (as is v. 21).


NASB"there is a setting aside"
NKJV"there is an annulling"
NRSV"the abrogation"
TEV"is set aside"
NJB"is thus abolished"

This term has been found in the Egyptian papyri in the sense of (1)"to set aside"; (2) "to make null and void"; or (3) "to be paid in full."

This verse speaks of the setting aside of a commandment (probably the physical lineage of the high priest). It is rather shocking that an inspired OT passage (cf. Matt. 5:17-19) can be "set aside," yet this is exactly Paul's point in Galatians 3, in respect to the redemptive purpose of the law being set aside. Paul, however, asserts that it was the weakness of fallen man (cf. Romans 7), not the OT. The author of Hebrews is showing the superiority of Jesus over Moses and calls the "Law" weak and useless (cf. 8:13).

▣ "of a former commandment" This refers to the Levitical system or the Old Covenant characterized by the Mosaic legislation.

▣ "because of its weakness and uselessness" Romans 7 and Galatians 3 are helpful in interpreting this phrase. It was not the Law of God, but human fallen nature that was weak and the Law was unable to perform its restorative task!

7:19 "(for the Law made nothing perfect)" Read Galatians 3 and see Special Topic at 7:11.

▣ "better" See full note at 7:7.

▣ "through which we draw near to God" This is a key concept (cf. v. 25; 4:16; 10:1). The author asserts that the Mosaic Law, with its Levitical priesthood and sacrifices, failed to bring humanity to God, but Jesus, our high priest, did not fail and will not fail (cf. 10:22; James 4:7).

Notice that Jesus brings a better covenant, but it is still a covenant to which humans must respond as the priests did (believers are now new covenant priests in a corporate sense, cf. II Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6).

7:20 "it was not without an oath" God's promises can be trusted because His character and power stand behind them (cf. Isa. 46:10). This oath is a reference to Ps. 110:4, which is discussed in Heb. 6:13-17.

7:21 This is another quote from the Septuagint of Ps. 110:4 (as is v. 17).


TEV, NJB"the guarantee"
NKJV, ASV"the surety"

The Hebrew background is "a pledge put in the hand," which implies surety. It came to be used in Greek for collateral on a loan or a jail bond. Also, in Roman law it stood for that which was legally secured. Jesus is the Father's surety of the effectiveness of the new covenant.

▣ "a better covenant" Jer. 31:31-34 speaks of this "new covenant" (cf. Ezek. 36:22-36) where the focus is an internal law motivated and produced by the Spirit, not an external code which relies on human performance.

For "better" see full note at 7:7.

 23The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

7:23 This is another comparison between Jesus and OT priests. This one deals with their numbers and time in office.

7:24 This is a rabbinical conclusion based on Genesis 14, where Melchizedek's lineage is not given, and Psalm 110, which is an allusion to Melchizedek and uses the term "forever" (cf. Ps. 110:4b).


NASB"to save forever"
NKJV"to save to the uttermost"
NRSV"for all time to save"
TEV"now and always, to save"
NJB"power to save. . .is absolute"

As the above English translations show, this term has several connotations. He is able to save completely, all, forever (cf. 10:14) because He continues "forever" as a better priest. See special topic on assurance at 3:14.

▣ "those" This is a universal invitation! Whosoever will may come (cf. John 1:12; Rom. 10:9-13; I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9).

▣ "who draw near to God through Him" Jesus is God's plan of redemption (cf. John 10:9; 14:6). Whosoever will may come, but they must come through faith in Him and they must continue in faith (present participle).

▣ "He always lives to make intercession for them" Jesus' work did not end with the cross, but even today He still prays and pleads for believers (cf. 9:24; Isa. 53:12; Rom. 8:34; I John 2:1).

 26For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

7:26 This is possibly a quote from an early hymn or poem (like Phil. 2:6-11; I Tim. 3:16; II Tim. 2:11-13; and possibly I Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16). The term "holy" can mean "merciful" from LXX (cf. Ps. 16:10). The term "unstained" is a sacrificial term usually translated in the OT as "unblemished." This is a wonderful confessional summary.


▣ "separated from sinners" This is a perfect passive participle. It does not reflect on Jesus' humanity (cf. Phil. 2:6-7), but speaks of His sinlessness (cf. 4:15; 9:14; II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:22; I John 2:1; 3:5).

▣ "exalted above the heavens" This may be (1) a statement of preeminence; (2) a reference to the gnostic false teachers' view of salvation as passing through the angelic spheres (cf. 4:14); or (3) a way of referring to the resurrection/ascension.

7:27 This seems to relate to the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 16), but here it is used in the sense of the daily offerings (the OT continual). It is historically and rabbinically verifiable that the high priest was directly involved in daily sacrifices in later Judaism but possibly not during the days of the tabernacle. See Special Topic: Jesus As High Priest at 2:17.

▣ "He offered" This is the same term used in Isa. 53:11 in the Septuagint (LXX), "to bear." Some see this as an allusion to the smoke of the sacrifices that rose up to God.

▣ "this He did once for all" Hebrews emphasizes the ultimacy of Jesus' once-given sacrificial death. This once-done salvation and forgiveness are forever accomplished (cf. "once" [ephapax], 7:27; 9:12; 10:10 and "once for all" [hapax], 6:4; 9:7,26,27,28; 10:2; 12:26,27). This is the recurrent accomplished sacrificial affirmation.

▣ "offered up Himself" Jesus is the high priest (cf. Ps. 110:4) and victim (cf. Isa. 53:10) of the heavenly sanctuary (cf. 9:24). This is a pillar of the NT emphasis on substitutionary, vicarious atonement (cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 8:3; II Cor. 5:21).

7:28 "the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law" This is a contrast between the writings of Moses procedures and the "oath" of Ps. 110:4.

▣ "appoints a Son" Jesus is a superior priest because He is part of God's family (i.e., "a son,"cf. 1:2; 3:6; 5:8). This reference seems to combine Ps. 2 and Ps. 110 which were Royal and Priestly Psalms. He combines both OT anointed offices in Himself by the Father's oath.

▣ "made perfect forever" This is a perfect passive participle. He has been made perfect (humanly speaking) by suffering and this perfection continues (cf. 2:10; 5:8-9). See Special Topic at 7:11.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does the author take so long to develop the concept of Jesus as high priest?

2. How is Levi linked to Melchizedek?

3. How does Ps. 110 relate to Gen. 14:18-20?

4. Why is Melchizedek used as a type of the Messiah?

5. Who was Melchizedek?


Report Inappropriate Ad