Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Priestly Order of Melchizedek - Ch. 7:1 - 8:13 (Unit 5/6)

I. Lesson Overview

A. Chapters 7 and 8 part of larger, meaty section of Hebrews decribed by Long as "The High Priesthood of Jesus: Advanced Course" (Long p. 80)

1. Divided into 5 sections. First 4 composed of claims about old priesthood followed by matching set of claims about new priesthood of Jesus.
2. Fifth section devoted to living and worshiping under the new covenant.

B. Chapters 7 and 8 devoted to comparing shortcomings of old levitical priesthood to Jesus new eternal priesthood which is likened to priesthood of Melchizedek.

II. Who Was Melchizedek

A. Two Old Testament References

1. Genesis 14:17-20
2. Psalm 110:4

B. Non-scriptural References

1. Dead Sea Scrolls - eschatological writing called 11 Q Melchizedek
2. Text found at Nag Hammadi (Egypt)
3. 2 Enoch 72 - rabbinic text of uncertain date
4. Writings of Flavius Josephus - first century Jewish historian
5. Writings of Philo Judaeus - Jewish theologian and philospher from Alexandria

C. Hebrews not written in a vacuum - Jewish readers would have been very familiar with Melchizedek

1. Long compares Melchizedek to ' We Three Kings' - "This 'homiletical Melchizedek' was something like the 'three kings' of countless Christmas pagaents, an amalgam of biblical material and popular piety." (Long p. 84)
2. Hard to tell how much Preacher's description of Melchizedek is from this lore or from his own thoughts.

III. Melchizedek, Who Resembles the Son of God (Ch. 7:1-3)

A. Melchizedek - is a forecast of things to come by virtue of his lack of lineage

1. Ancient jewish rabbis had a strict interpretation of the scriptures - all truth is in the scriptures. If it isn't in the scriptures, it didn't happen.
2. No mention of Melchizedek's lineage in OT - therefore by Jewish way of thinking he didn't have any, he was eternal.
3. Main point of all this is not about Melchizedek - but that the qualities in him (righeousness, peace, and timelessness) point to nature of Jesus. Further evidence that He is the one true eternal high priest.

IV. See How Great Melchizedek Is (Ch. 7:4-10)

A. Uses two pieces of Genesis story to prove point

1. The Blessings
2. The Tithes

B. The Blessings

1. Inferior is always blesssed by superior. Since Abram is blessed by Melchizedek it is clear that he is superior to the lofty father of the Jews.
2. "The Preacher" conveniently forgets several other accounts where the inferior blesses the superior (ex. David blessed by his servant Joab)

C. The Tithes

1. "The Preacher" makes the point that Jewish law commands Levitical priests to collect tithes
2. Therefore only possible explanation for Melchizedek's authority to collect tithes from Abram must be because he is "a priest forever."

V. The Imperfect Old Priesthood; the Need for a New (Ch. 7:11)

A. "The Preacher" switches from use of Genesis text to that of Psalms

1. Basically says no reason for author of Psalms to mention Melchizedek if there wasn't something inherently wrong about levitical priesthood.
2. Main argument is that you can not achieve perfection through it. Same points we've discussed previously...must continually offer sacrifices because of sinful nature

VI. The Son of God who Resembles Melchizedek (Ch. 7:13-25)

A. Jesus far different from levitical priests

1. Old priests by law (Numbers 1:47-54) must come from the tribe of Levi (Aaron was a Levite and the first priest of the Covenant after the exodus)
2. Jesus was from Judah
3. Old priests assumed office but did not take an oath.
4. God took an oath and appointed Jesus as priest forever
5. Old priests were many because they died and had to be replaced
6. Jesus lives forever.

VII. See How Great He Is (Ch. 7:26 - 8:6)

A. Great because of who he is...human lived perfect life without sin yet suffered and endured every temptation.

B. Great because of the source of his priestly commission. God ordained Jesus.

C. Great because of where he is.

D. Great because of the benefits of his ministry. His sacrifice fully mends the human spirit.

E. Great most of all because of the offering he brought as high priest...himself. "In other words, he brought as an offering to God nothing less than the fullness of the human condition perfected by his own obedience." (Long p.89)

VIII. Fault With the First Covenant, Need for a New (Ch. 8:7-12)

A. First Covenant not Effective

1. Based on obeying the law
2. Because of our sinful nature we are unable to obey the law. Are always falling short, being disobedient. Old convenant led to cycle of defeat and despair.

B. New Covenant

1. Language comes from Jeremiah 31:31-34
2. Laws of new covenant not written down but are in the hearts of the people.
3. New covenant based on bond...God's promise of mercy and forgiveness

IX. A New Covenant (Ch. 8:13) - doesn't go with old covenant. It replaces it.


Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible – The Letter to the Hebrews. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002

Harrison, Everett F. Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2008

Long, Thomas G. Hebrews, Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997

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