1For 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,
2to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part 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.
3Without 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.
Melchizedek is referenced in Genesis 14:18-20. He appears sort of out of nowhere and then is not mentioned again. Some believe that he was Jesus preincarnate, but that is not clear from the passage. If anything, verse 15 of this Hebrews chapter shows that the comparison of Christ to Melchizedek are to show that there is a similarity and likeness between the two, not an overlap. The comparison to Melchizedek is made to differentiate Jesus from the priestly order descended from Aaron. Melchizedek, for example, came before Aaron and during the time of Abraham. There was no tabernacle at the time, no priestly offerings, and no Levitical system. The Law had not even been given yet, for Moses had yet to be born. Even so, Abraham gave this king of Salem (his name meant king of righteousness and his title meant king of peace) a tenth of his possessions as an offering unto God. Nothing is given as to Melchizedek’s genealogy, but he is there and then not heard from again in the Scripture. It is as if he had no beginning and no end, which is why he makes for a good comparison to Christ, Who is eternal. Christ’s priesthood is perpetual.
4Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.
5And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.
6But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.
7But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater.
8In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.
9And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes,
10for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Levi was a descendant of Abraham, and, in a sense, through Abraham, he paid tithes to Melchizedek. This showed that Melchizedek was greater than the Levitical priesthood. It seems as though Melchizedek lived on because we know nothing more about him. The lesser, Abraham and, by implication, the Levitical priesthood, was blessed by the greater, Melchizedek. Melchizedek didn’t have any authority to receive tithes under any law because the Law had yet to be given. But even those who, under the Law, would have had authority to receive tithes, (namely Levi indirectly through His forefather Abraham) gave a tithe to Melchizedek. Thus, Melchizedek, is, in that sense, greater. His differentiation and even superiority to the Levitical priesthood is the thrust of the author’s message to the Hebrews because of its relevance and foreshadowing to the superiority of Christ’s priesthood.
11Now 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?
If the Law was sufficient to save and make a man perfect, there would be no need for another priestly line to exist, namely that of Melchizedek, which ultimately points to that of Christ. If salvation could have come through Aaron and Moses, there would be no need for Jesus. But Jesus did come, so there must have been reason for Him to do so.
12For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.
The priests were in charge of enforcing the law, so if the priesthood changed, then the rules would also change. In other words, how we are saved cannot be bound up in keeping the Law or else there wouldn’t have been a need for another priesthood.
13For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar.
Melchizedek is not of the tribe of Aaron or of the Levitical priesthood, nor did he officiate at any altar that we know of.
14For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.
Similarly, our Lord Jesus Christ was not of the tribe of Levi but of Judah. Judah had nothing to do with the priesthood according to the Law of Moses. That was Levi’s responsibility.
15And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek,
16who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.
17For it is attested of Him,
"YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER
ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK."
So as Psalm 110:4 states, Jesus is a priest of the tribe of Judah, separate from the Law of Moses and according to the likeness and priestly order of Melchizedek. This is due to the fact that He came to earth and conquered death, proving that He possessed an indestructible life. Just as it appears that Melchizedek had no beginning or end, our Lord proves that He is God by living forever, even rising from the dead. He is not a high priest by lineage or genealogy but by virtue of His power and deity.
18For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness
19(for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
The Law was powerless to save, being unable to make anyone perfect. Its purpose was to reveal sin, not to save us from it (Galatians ). Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. The hope Jesus offers is a better hope in that it is able to make us draw near to God, something the Law could never do in and of itself. In that sense, it was weak and useless, being unable to save.
20And inasmuch as 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'");
22so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
Jesus became a priest, establishing a new covenant according to a new priestly order by virtue of an oath made by God decreeing His priesthood. The Levitical priests became priests without an oath because it was by genealogy. But Jesus’ authority is based upon God’s will and design as Psalm 110:4 again illustrates.
23The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing,
24but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.
25Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
There were many Levitical priests because, as one would die off, another would take his place. Death prevented them from continuing. Jesus, however, because He lives forever, is a high priest forever. Therefore, He is able to save those who draw near to God through Him. His purpose is to make intercession for those who wish to know God. He is the means of access to a relationship to God, and it is through Him that we have a right to enter God’s presence and bring our requests before Him.
26For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;
27who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
28For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.
Our high priest as believers, Jesus Christ, is innocent, undefiled, separate from sin and sinners, and exalted in the heavens. He does not need to offer sacrifices for His own sin as the priests of old did because He is free from sin. He died once for all on the cross, taking upon Himself all of our sin for the final time. The Law of Moses appointed weak, human high priests, but God’s plan which came after the Law appointed His Son as a perfect high priest forever. Jesus Christ established a new covenant.