Hebrews 7 Commentary – Who Is Melchizedek?

The book of Hebrews shows us the supremacy of Jesus Christ and His eternal priesthood. In this commentary of Hebrews Chapter 7, we’ll take a look at how the priesthood of Christ, according to the order of Melchizedek, is superior to that of the Levitical priesthood. This chapter sheds light on Christ’s divine role as our perfect and eternal High Priest. 

At first glance, Hebrews 7 appears to be pretty boring. Who is this Melchizedek guy? Why in the world is he so important? 

As we continue through the verses of this book we see the beauty and wisdom of God’s unfolding plan. Although his appearance is brief, Melchizedek plays a major role in God’s story of salvation through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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What Is the Main Idea of Hebrews 7?

Back in Hebrews chapter 5, the author began to explain a different kind of priesthood – a priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek. He also mentioned that it was hard for him to explain it because his readers had become dull of hearing. 

Remember, he is writing to Jews who had converted to Christianity. The Levitical Priesthood had been part of their lives and culture for generations. They were struggling with the idea of a High Priest who was not according to the lineage set by the Old Covenant Law. 

So, for the remainder of chapters 5 through chapter 6, the author of Hebrews took a brief pause from explaining this new priesthood to encourage them to leave behind the traditions of the law and press on towards maturity in Christ. 

Now, in Hebrews Chapter 7 he picks up his thoughts on Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1-3 Commentary – Who Is this Melchizedek?

Hebrews Chapter 7 introduces Melchizedek, the King of Salem and a priest of the Most High God. The author explains how he remains a priest perpetually because his lineage is untraceable. 

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For 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, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth 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. 3 Without 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.

The name, Melchizedek, in Hebrew, means “King of Righteousness. Melchizedek is set apart from the Levitical priesthood because he was not of the tribe of Levi. 

According to the Old Covenant law, a priest had to be of the tribe of the Levites. The High Priests were of the lineage of Aaron (Moses’ brother). The lineage of Aaron was also part of the Levites.

So we see the author beginning to show how Christ is of a different priesthood. Christ is a descendant of the tribe of Judah. 

We also see that Melchizedek, because of his untraceable lineage, remains a priest perpetually! Yes, Melchizedek did die, but because his ancestry remains hidden, his priesthood continues. Keep this in mind as we continue walking through this chapter.

Hebrews 7:4-10 Summary – Abraham Meets Melchizedek

Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have a commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their countrymen, although they are descended from Abraham. 6 But 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 person is blessed by the greater. 8 In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, has paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his forefather when Melchizedek met him.

The author then discusses the encounter between Melchizedek and Abraham recorded in Genesis 14:18-20. After Abraham’s victorious return from battle, Melchizedek blesses him, and Abraham, in return, offers a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek.

This establishes Melchizedek as greater than Abraham, the patriarch of Israel. In doing so, the author shows us the supremacy of Melchizedek’s priesthood over the Levitical system.

Hebrews 7:17 commentary

Hebrews 7:11-22 Commentary – Superior Priesthood

So 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? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. 13 For the one about whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses said nothing concerning priests. 15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. 

As we looked at earlier, Melchizedek’s priesthood is perpetual and eternal. It had no recorded beginning or end. The Levitical priests served on a temporary basis, with a line of succession from generation to generation.

The author further explains that with the arrival of Christ, there was a necessity to change the law, as the Levitical priesthood could not bring about perfection. We learn in Galatians 3:24 that the law acted as a tutor, pointing God’s people to the ultimate revelation of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. The law itself was weak because it was not able to fully take away sin. 

By fulfilling the law, Jesus became the mediator of a better covenant, one that grants eternal salvation through faith. We will look more at how this new covenant is superior to the old when we get to chapter 8.

17 For it is attested of Him, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” 18 For, on the one hand, there is the nullification of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, there is the introduction of a better hope, through which we come near to God. 20 And to the extent that 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’”); 22 by the same extent Jesus also has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

The author quotes Psalm 110:4, where David prophetically speaks of a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Unlike the priests under the law, who were mortal and subject to frailties, Jesus Christ lives on eternally, interceding on behalf of believers before God.

Hebrews 7:23-25 Explained – A Better Priesthood

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

Hebrews chapter 7 now transitions from discussing Melchizedek’s priesthood to revealing Jesus Christ as the ultimate High Priest. By drawing these parallels between Christ and Melchizedek, the author demonstrates how Christ’s ministry is superior to the Levitical priesthood and how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecies.

Hebrews 7:26-28 Commentary – Our Perfect High Priest

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; who has no daily need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because He did this once for all time when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, who has been made perfect forever.

In the final verses of the chapter, the author highlights how Christ’s sacrifice is better than the sacrifices offered under the law. Unlike the Levitical priests who offered sacrifices repeatedly, Christ offered Himself once for all. This eternal act of redemption sets Christ apart as the true and final High Priest.

By presenting Jesus as the eternal High Priest, Hebrews chapter 7 beautifully shows the supremacy of the new covenant of grace in Jesus’ blood to the Law. As believers, we find hope, peace, and strength in the unchanging and eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who reigns forever in the heavens.

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