POST OVERVIEW. This fourth post in our series on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 explores why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical priesthood established by the first covenant at Sinai. (See post #574, #575, and #576 for previous posts in this series.) (Updated October 5, 2022)
The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. Our fourth post will begin to unpack the author’s argument about how our High Priest, Jesus, is far superior to any old covenant priest and how the priesthood of Melchizedek is far better than the weak Levitical priesthood created by the Law.
We ended the last post by listing the weaknesses of the Levitical priesthood and then showing the ways that Christ’s priesthood, the priesthood of Melchizedek, was superior. (see post #576) Now we are going to go through Hebrews 7:12-17 verse-by-verse to follow the author’s theological argument.
As I had mentioned before, I will not generally be quoting the verses from the biblical text, so I am assuming that the reader has an open Bible as they go through this post. I use the NAS as my study Bible, but an ESV Bible should also work well.
Hebrews 7:12. This verse, is to be understood as parenthetical, since it does not address the subject of priest or of priesthood but speaks about the changing of the law. Also, note that, in this context, “law” and “covenant” can be used interchangeably.
The point that the author makes is that, when the Levitical priesthood, established by the old covenant (the Law), changes and is replaced by the priesthood of Melchizedek, then the old covenant must also be replaced by a new covenant. Simply put, old priesthood, old covenant, but now new priesthood, new covenant. This point is established here but comes into focus in Hebrews 8:6-10:18, when the author will demonstrate the superiority of the new covenant over the old.
Hebrews 7:13-14. Jesus was never associated with the imperfect, temporary priesthood of the first covenant, for Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and the Law (first covenant) mentions nothing about priests from Judah.
Hebrews 7:15. Not only was Jesus definitely not part of the weak Levitical priesthood, but He definitely was “according to the likeness of Melchizedek” (7:15), and thus is a Priest of his order.
Remember in post #575, we had carefully collected the characteristics of Melchizedek given in Hebrews 7:1-10 (from Genesis 14:18-20) to arrive at his “likeness.” We saw that Melchizedek was king of righteousness, king of peace, priest of God Most High, without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days nor end of life (7:2, 3). It is apparent that Jesus conforms exactly to this “likeness” and, therefore, is the priest according to the permanent order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).
NOTE. Having established that Jesus is the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, we will see that it becomes difficult to distinguish High Priest from priesthood, since the two are essentially one. The order of Melchizedek has only one Priest, and Jesus is our High Priest from the order of Melchizedek. Because this is the case, I may use priest and priesthood interchangeably in the rest of the passage.
Hebrews 7:16-17. The author now shows the superiority of Christ’s priesthood by comparing the appointment of the Levitical priests with Christ’s appointment to His priesthood. Every priest under the first covenant was subject to death and was appointed to fulfill a commandment in the Law, but Christ was uniquely appointed “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” by an oath from the LORD (Psalm 110:4). Clearly Christ’s appointment is far superior.
In this short passage, then, the author has shown how Christ is far greater than any of the Levitical priests, for Jesus was not of the dying, sin-stained Levitical priests appointed to fulfill a commandment of the Law. Rather, He was a sinless Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek who was appointed by an oath from the LORD.
Our next post will continue our verse-by-verse exegesis of this passage.
SDG rmb 9/28/2022 (updated 10/5/2022) #577