Hebrews 7

A Priest of a Different Order


For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High… (Hebrews 7:1)

Salem is identified with Jerusalem in Psalm 76:2, and this identification is implied in Joshua 10:1, which records a name similar to “Melchizedek” for the king of Jerusalem. Melchizedek reigned over a city on the location that later became known as the City of David. This photochrom image was taken in the 1890s. The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are visible in the upper left corner of the image. The slope that descends from them toward the center of the photo is the location of the ancient city of Salem.

Fatherless Priest

Without father, without mother, without genealogy (Hebrews 7:3).

In Hebrew, it was common to refer to a man as the son of his father, using the formula, NAME + “son of” + NAME OF FATHER. The name of Melchizedek’s father, however, is unknown, a fact that is significant to the author of Hebrews because it demonstrates that Melchizedek’s priesthood was not dependent on lineage (in contrast to the Aaronic priesthood). The inscription on this ossuary identifies the deceased as “Joseph son of Caiaphas.” This ossuary is generally considered to have belonged to the high priest in the days of Jesus.

Aaronic Order

Who has not become a priest on the basis of a law of a physical requirement (Hebrews 7:19).

The physical requirement for a priest of the law referred to in Hebrews 7:16 is belonging to the tribe of Levi and descended from Aaron. In Numbers 17, God affirmed Aaron as the legitimate priest when others challenged him by causing his rod to bud and produce almonds. Aaron’s rod that testified that only he and his sons would be legitimate priests was kept in the Ark of the Covenant. The reconstruction of these tablets of the covenant and Aaron’s rod were photographed at the tabernacle reconstruction at Timna Park in southern Israel.

Mortal Priesthood

Those priests indeed were numerous, since they were prevented by death from continuing (Hebrews 7:23).

The small shrine at the top of Jebel Haurun near Petra marks a traditional place of Aaron’s death (Num 20:25-29). Aaron was the very first high priest, but he succumbed to death and his priestly function ceased. It was therefore necessary that he be replaced by his son Eleazar, who also eventually died and was replaced. The author of Hebrews explains how this continuous cycle reveals a deficiency in the Aaronic priesthood.

Everlasting Priest

But Jesus, because He lives forever, has His priesthood permanently (Hebrews 7:24).

This fragmentary fourth-century Christian sarcophagus shows Jesus with a phoenix (in the palm tree, above his left hand), a symbol of resurrection and life that Christianity of later centuries adopted from pagan systems. This sarcophagus was photographed at the Vatican Museums.

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