Hebrews Chapter 7
This next section explains why Messiah's priesthood is superior to Aaron's.
●Heb 7:1-3 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. His name, Melchizedek, means: King Of Righteousness. His title, king of Salem, means: King Of Peace. Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. (WHV)
The reference is to Gen 14:1-20 where Abraham fielded an army to rescue his nephew Lot from a foreign invader named Chedorlaomer. You would think that the author's Jewish audience would already know all about this particular Bible event in Jewish history; but you have to remember that his audience was shamefully lax in regards to study of the Scriptures (Heb 5:10-14).
In reality, King Mel had a mom and dad, a genealogy, and a beginning and ending. Everybody does. Jesus too has a genealogy, a beginning and an end, and a mom (though no dad). However, on the page of Scripture; Mel didn't die, nor did his priest job come to an official end, nor was it passed on to another. So for allegorical purposes, this mystery man is reckoned to still be an active priest. Whether he really is still a priest or not makes no difference for now because Melchizedek is merely an allegory to illuminate the nature of Messiah's priesthood.
[An allegory isn't a model, so don't expect a perfect parallel between Melchizedek and Jesus.]
What really matters is that Mel's priesthood is reckoned still in effect— it never ended on the page of Scripture. In that respect, Melchizedek's kind of priesthood is an eternal priesthood; at least from a certain point of view. So his kind of priesthood, allegorically, is permanent; and any man elected to it keeps the job forever.
●Heb 7:4-7 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people that is, their brothers even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. (NIV)
Not only did Melchizedek not descend from Levi, but neither was he a Jew; yet collected a tithe from the father of the Jews. A tithe is a religious tax. It's not the kind of taxes we all pay in our home states and to the federal government. Taxes that the people of Israel are supposed to pay to Aaron's family are primarily for their support because the Levites aren't allowed to own any agricultural land and grow their own food. They were in fact given no portion of Palestine whatsoever when Joshua parceled out the land to the twelve tribes after conquering Canaan.
So, this Gentile man Melchizedek, because of the manner of his priesthood, was higher in rank, and closer to God, than Abraham. And he outranked Levi too, the man who engendered Aaron's family; the family selected by God himself to officiate as high priests in the tabernacle. In Jewish liturgy, the high priest is the most important person in regards to worship and atonement.
●Heb 7:8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. (NIV)
Within the allegory, Melchizedek outlived both Levi and Aaron, and continues to outlive all of Aaron's sons too because Melchizedek is reckoned to be still alive and they aren't. According to Moses' Law, Aaron and his sons lose their jobs the instant they die. Their office then passes on to another of Aaron's male descendants. But death can't bump a Melchizedekian priest from office because the position isn't transferable upon death as is Aaron's.
●Heb 7:9-10 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. (NIV)
Actually, every genetic Jew who descends from Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek. So Melchizedek, if the rule holds true— the less is blessed of the better —outranks the entire people of Israel, with but one notable exception.
Melchizedek would outrank Jesus too if himself had not been appointed a priest after the manner of Melchizedek because Jesus was in Abraham's loins right along with Levi and the other eleven tribes when Abraham paid the tithe and was blessed by Melchizedek.
The language and grammar of Heb 7:11-28 are tricky, and if one isn't careful; they can be led to conclude Moses' law has been revised to accommodate a high priest from the tribe of Judah; but where the author of the letter to Hebrews says that a change in the priesthood required a change in Moses' law; he assumes his Jewish audience has enough yeshiva under their belts to be well aware that changes to Moses' law will never happen; hence the necessity of legislating an entirely new law: viz: the new covenant.
The Levitical priesthood might be obsolete; but it is far from being over and done with.
● Jer 33:17-18 . . For thus speaks Yhvh: David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.
Bible students are oftentimes perplexed as to why there's going to be a fully functioning Temple in the millennium since they've been instructed that Christ's priesthood made the Levitical priesthood obsolete. Well; one reason is: Christ's priesthood is restricted to the Temple in heaven.
● Heb 8:4 . . For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.
God isn't done with the Levitical priesthood just yet; no, not yet.
● Mal 3:2-4 . . But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then Yhvh will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to Yhvh, as in days gone by, as in former years.
If you have access to an electronic KJV Strong's Concordance, do a search of the words "everlasting" and "ever" in the Old Testament and I think you'll be amazed at the number of times those words pull up in reference to Moses' law and the Levitical priesthood.
The letter to Hebrews isn't for everybody; and it's author says so at Heb 5:11-14. The problem isn't the letter; it's the reader. For one thing; it is essential to be grounded in Old Testament Judaism first before attempting to navigate the letter because it's meant for a people whose religion is Judaism rather than Christianity, or Islam, or Hinduism; et al. Unless one can "see" this letter from the Jewish perspective; they will never get it right; and I highly recommend that they leave it alone till they're better prepared to take it on or they risk finding themselves victims of some rather strange theories.
●Heb 7:11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? (NIV)
NOTE: Aaron's priesthood is a high-priest priesthood.
● Heb 9:6-8 . .When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.
The once-a-year ministry inside the inner room was Aaron's job (Ex 30:10). Ergo: Aaron was a high priest.
● Heb 13:10-11 . .We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
It wasn't Moses job to bring the blood of beasts into the sanctuary; it was Aaron's. Ergo: Aaron was a high priest.
High priests were consecrated by dousing them with a special oil and clothing them with special garments (Lev 8:12, Lev 21:10). Ergo: Aaron was a high priest.
The Levitical priesthood is absolutely essential for sinners under the jurisdiction of Moses' Law. When Moses came down from the mount with the first set of stone tables, the priesthood wasn't in the law then. No, God later revised the law to include a priesthood after the people broke it. In fact, when Moses saw what the people had been up to while he was away, he smashed the first tables and didn't bring them into camp because he caught the people, en masse, in the very act of violating its first rule; and there were no provisions in the law at that time for someone to stand between violators and God to protect them from retribution.
So Moses destroyed the original law and threw it away; and I hardly blame him. He couldn't possibly obligate his people to a law like that. Those first tables, if permitted to enter the camp, would have endangered his people beyond measure. Moses destroyed the first law, not out of anger and indignation for his people's sins, but out of concern for their safety.
However, Aaron's priesthood, although a vital necessity for sinners under the jurisdiction of Moses' Law, does have its limits. For one thing; Aaron's priesthood can't protect offenders who know full well that what they are doing is wrong. For those kinds of sins (a.k.a. deliberate sins), the Aaronic priesthood provides no atonement. So perfection— viz: complete absolution— can't be obtained through the Levitical priesthood for people who commit deliberate sins. They have to bear their guilt; and under the terms and conditions of Moses' Law, those kinds of offenders are condemned beyond hope. So, for those kinds of sinners, the scope of a priesthood has to be expanded in order to provide them with suitable protection from every kind of sin, not just from some kinds of sins.
●Heb 7:12-14 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. (NIV)
There's no way that Moses' Law can be changed now. That is just out of the question. Therefore, no one from the tribe of Judah, nor any other tribe for that matter, can serve in the Temple as a high priest. So Messiah's priesthood has to be one that is outside Moses' Law. It is in fact a whole different arrangement altogether, separate from Moses' Law; just as Melchizedek's was.
●Heb 7:15-17 …And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (NIV)
Aaron's descendents became priests much too easily. The position falls into their laps by heritage, and other than a physical examination (Lev 21:17-23) they don't even have to take a test and qualify for it. But still, any man serving in the Aaronic priesthood has to be one of Aaron's male descendants. That is an inflexible rule. However, the primary qualification for Melchizedek's particular kind of priesthood is not a man's biological ancestry, but that the man chosen for it, regardless of his nationality, has to be immortal because the wording of Psalm 110:4 stipulates that the benefactor of that promise is to be a priest forever. So any man subject to old age and death is automatically disqualified.
●Heb 7:18 …The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (NIV)
The law's weakness is its inability to transform sinners from innately law-breaking to innately law-abiding. All that law can do is post a set of rules and establish a system of enforcement. The big problem with law is free will.
When commuters drive their vehicles over the speed limit, and then jay-walk in to work from their parking spots, and a cop writes them up; the State overrules their free will to speed and/or to cross the street illegally. However, it's beyond the power of the State to prevent speeders from speeding, and/or prevent them from crossing the street improperly; because the State is unable to repair the human will— all it can do is penalize the way in which offenders choose to exercise their will.
And that's why enacting more and more restrictive gun laws won't stop people from using guns in the commission of crimes. All that law can do is penalize people's use of guns, but laws can't control how people decide to use them. Murder and armed robbery have been illegal for a good many years here in America, but Americans still go on killing and robbing anyway because law can't remove their will to do so. It's only when an individual voluntarily, of his own free will, complies with law that the law works to prevent murder and armed robbery.
That principle really hit home for me when Muslims flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. I felt so helpless and vulnerable because it was then that I fully realized terrorism can't be stopped because there's no way to stop terrorists from wanting to do that. In order for terrorism to stop, the terrorists themselves have to want to stop. No matter how many laws are enacted making it illegal to commit terrorists acts, terrorists will still commit them because the law can't stop Muslims from wanting to fly airplanes into buildings. Compliance with law requires the exercise of free will: and exercising people's will is beyond the scope of law because law is inert— it is neither sentient nor cognizant. Laws are merely rules, and as everybody knows; rules are made to be broken.
●Heb 7:19a ...for the law made nothing perfect, (NIV)
Perfection is, after all, God's ideal for Man. Unfortunately, Moses' covenant has no dynamic for that. All it does is specify codes of religious and civil conduct; and criminal justice; while lacking a dynamic to transform the human mind. People will be people no matter what. So Moses' Law is an okay law; but human nature itself is in desperate need of repair.
●Heb 7:19b ...and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. (NIV)
So a new kind of covenant is necessary in order to obtain real perfection— not another covenant based on codes of conduct and criminal justice, but rather, upon Divine energies for the express purpose of miraculously transforming human nature.
●Heb 7:20-22 ...And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.'" Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. (NIV)
Aaron wasn't made a priest forever. He was in fact fully expected to lose his job simply because of his own mortality. So to install Aaron in a perpetual priesthood on Divine oath would have been unworkable. And the ones who came after him? They all died too; ergo: none were promised permanent positions. Since Aaronic high priests are subject to mortality, it's essential that they reproduce— especially to engender a son —because only Aaron's males can take his place. But Jesus need not be concerned about reproducing because he's now immortal; thus he will never die and pass his job on to a descendant even if there were one to pass it on to.
●Heb 7:23-25 ...Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (NIV)
There are those who say Jesus didn't come back from the dead, and there are others who say he came back from the dead as a spirit being but not as a human being. However, here in the Hebrews' letter, we've been talking about a Jewish male up in Heaven from the tribe of Judah named Jesus. That is the name of a man, a human being, not a spirit being. Jesus was resurrected; not reincarnated. By no stretch of the imagination can a spirit being be reckoned a descendant of a human being. Those are two distinctly different kinds of beings. And the writer says two things about the Jewish male Jesus: he *lives forever*, and he *always lives*.
Now, suppose you practiced Judaism under the old economy and spent years building up a rapport with the current high priest, and maybe he even made some special promises you. Then all of a sudden he gets killed when his donkey skids off the side of a hill. Your priest's special promises are no good now because the new priest isn't obligated to honor them. Now you have to start all over again with a totally new high priest and maybe you and the new one have a personality clash. And maybe he even has some unresolved gender conflicts and doesn't get along with women because his mom slapped him around when he was a kid. If you were a woman, that would create a tension in your relationship with God because of the high priest's personality.
But since Jesus will never lose his job— because he's now immortal, and therefore will never be replaced —once you get to know him, and build a rapport, and once he has made special promises to you, the hardest part is over and you can settle down and look forward to an eternal relationship built on trust and friendship that only gets better and better as time goes by. Isn't that great?!? And by the way, Jesus got along very well with his mom; and many other women too.
●Heb 7:26-28 Such a high priest meets our need one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (NIV)
Aaron's kind of priesthood just isn't good enough for a satisfactory uplink to the Almighty God because Aaron was a sinner himself; ergo: he was never actually allowed into the real-life presence of God. He wasn't even allowed to remain in the most holy place behind the curtain— only long enough to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat once a year during Yom Kippur and then he had to get out. Nor could he actually speak with God on a case by case basis for each individual Israelite under his care in an intimate, detailed way. Nor did Aaron have at his disposal a satisfactory atonement for all kinds of sins, both the unwitting kinds of sins, and the deliberate kinds. So his effectiveness— and his access to God —was very limited.
Since Jesus doesn't sin, there's no need to worry that he'll mess up and short-circuit your own diplomatic relations with God. He won't do that. He didn't do it down here, and he is sure not going to do it up there; so he gets to stay in the Heavenly holy place; which is far and away a superior footing to Aaron's portable tabernacle.
The good news in that passage— in the best interests of sinners —is that Jesus offered himself just the one time for his constituents' sins; ergo: those who are under his care have an eternal atonement. They don't need to keep coming back over and over again, offering the same sacrifices time and again like they do with the Aaronic corbanot system. Aaron's atonements have very limited effect— at the very most, just one year's worth of sins. And even then, his atonements are only good for unintentional sins. Aaron's priesthood has nothing in its atonement arsenal for deliberate sins.