The Nature of Melchizedek’s Priesthood
1 Now this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him.#sn A series of quotations from Gen 14:17-19. 2 To him#tn Grk “to whom,” continuing the description of Melchizedek. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation. also Abraham apportioned a tithe#tn Or “a tenth part.” of everything.#sn A quotation from Gen 14:20. His name first means#tn Grk “first being interpreted,” describing Melchizedek. king of righteousness, then king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time. 4 But see how great he must be, if#tn Grk “to whom.” Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe#tn Or “a tenth part.” of his plunder. 5 And those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly office#tn Or “the priesthood.” have authorization according to the law to collect a tithe from the people, that is, from their fellow countrymen,#tn Grk “from their brothers.” See BDAG 18-19 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.b. although they too are descendants of Abraham.#tn Grk “have come from the loins of Abraham.” 6 But Melchizedek#tn Grk “the one”; in the translation the referent (Melchizedek) has been specified for clarity. who does not share their ancestry#tn Grk “is not descended from them.” collected a tithe#tn Or “a tenth part.” from Abraham and blessed#sn The verbs “collected…and blessed” emphasize the continuing effect of the past actions, i.e., Melchizedek’s importance. the one who possessed the promise. 7 Now without dispute the inferior is blessed by the superior, 8 and in one case tithes are received by mortal men, while in the other by him who is affirmed to be alive. 9 And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. 10 For he was still in his ancestor Abraham’s loins#tn Grk “in the loins of his father” (a reference to Abraham). The name “Abraham” has been repeated in the translation at this point (cf. v. 9) in order to clarify the referent (i.e., what ancestor was in view).sn The point of the phrase still in his ancestor’s loins is that Levi was as yet unborn, still in his ancestor Abraham’s body. Thus Levi participated in Abraham’s action when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. when Melchizedek met him.
Jesus and the Priesthood of Melchizedek
11 So if perfection had in fact been possible through the Levitical priesthood – for on that basis#tn Grk “based on it.” the people received the law – what further need would there have been for another priest to arise, said to be in the order of Melchizedek and not in Aaron’s order? 12 For when the priesthood changes, a change in the law must come#tn Grk “of necessity a change in the law comes to pass.” as well. 13 Yet the one these things are spoken about belongs to#tn Grk “shares in.” a different tribe, and no one from that tribe#tn Grk “from which no one.” has ever officiated at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord is descended from Judah, yet Moses said nothing about priests in connection with that tribe. 15 And this is even clearer if another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest not by a legal regulation about physical descent#tn Grk “a law of a fleshly command.” but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For here is the testimony about him:#tn Grk “for he/it is witnessed that.” “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”#sn A quotation from Ps 110:4 (see Heb 5:6 and 6:20). 18 On the one hand a former command is set aside#tn Grk “the setting aside of a former command comes to pass.” because it is weak and useless,#tn Grk “because of its weakness and uselessness.” 19 for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. 20 And since#sn The Greek text contains an elaborate comparison between v. 20a and v. 22, with a parenthesis (vv. 20b-21) in between; the comparison is literally, “by as much as…by so much” or “to the degree that…to that same degree.” this was not done without a sworn affirmation – for the others have become priests without a sworn affirmation, 21 but Jesus#tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. did so#tn The words “did so” are not in the Greek text, but are implied. with a sworn affirmation by the one who said to him, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”#sn A quotation from Ps 110:4 (see Heb 5:6, 6:20, and 7:17). – 22 accordingly Jesus has become the guarantee#tn Or “surety.” of a better covenant. 23 And the others#tn Grk “they on the one hand” in contrast with “he on the other hand” in v. 24. who became priests were numerous, because death prevented them#tn Grk “they were prevented by death.” from continuing in office,#tn Grk “from continuing” (the words “in office” are supplied for clarity). 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. 25 So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men subject to weakness,#sn See Heb 5:2 where this concept was introduced. but the word of solemn affirmation that came after the law appoints a son made perfect forever.