Hebrews 5:1-4… For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; 2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. 4 And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
In the previous context of Heb. 4:16 all Christians are exhorted to come boldly before God’s throne of grace. In Judaism, however, no one could approach God’s throne in the Holy of holies in the Jewish temple. That task was for the high priest alone, the descendant of Aaron.
According to Heb. 5:1 the Jewish high priest was appointed by God. He was a man whom God selected “to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” God didn’t choose angels for this work; He chose men. Angels cannot understand the problems humans face nor be tempted as humans are, so God appointed men to minister on behalf of men. This is important as it relates to Jesus Christ – God Almighty – who became a man. And He became a man so that He could experience pain, suffering, and temptations common to all people. If God would not have become man He would never have understood the weaknesses of mankind. Whereas God was unapproachable in the OT system (the old covenant) and was literally veiled in the temple in the Holy of holies, Jesus Christ the Son of God entered the world of humans and experienced humanity.
Now the high priest could not have just been any man. He had to be God’s man – appointed by God. No one aspired to be the high priest, not even Aaron the first high priest. God chose them to serve (Ex. 28:1). Those who sought fairness for this office and demanded democracy, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, paid with their lives (Num. 16). So it was with Christ. He was chosen by God because He was God. No Messiah chooses to be a Messiah.
According to Heb. 5:2 the Jewish high priest, because he was a man, could sympathize with others in their weaknesses. He could “deal gently” with others in that he could relate to their struggles with sin because he himself was a sinner too. Now Jesus, though a man, did not sin. He did, however, experience all the pains and struggles of being a human. So Jesus’ priesthood, like the Jewish high priest, is one of sympathy. But Jesus, unlike the Jewish high priest, was tempted in all things as men are yet he was without sin. No Jewish high priest could claim that!
According to Heb. 5:1, 3 the Jewish high priest made offerings on behalf of men – both gifts and sacrifices. The gifts were money and grain offerings (no blood) which were given for worship (Lev. 2). Sacrifices were slain animals where the blood was poured out on the altar. These were offered for unintentional sins, and they merely covered the offense of the offender – both on behalf of the high priest himself and the person who gave the sacrifice.
The priesthood in Israel was the gateway to God for the Jews. Now Hebrews reveals Jesus Christ as the great High Priest who offered himself as the sacrifice and who sat down, having completed His work, at the right hand of God the Father. This is the core message of Hebrews – Jesus, called by God, sympathetic, and offering himself as the perfect sacrifice.
Food for Thought
Aaron, the high priest in Israel, was but a man; Jesus Christ was God’s “Son.” Aaron was “beset with weakness”; Jesus is the Almighty God. Aaron was a sinner needing to make sacrifices on his own behalf; Jesus was perfect. Aaron offered a sacrifice external to himself, but Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice once and for all. Aaron offered temporary salvation; Christ offered eternal salvation. Aaron sacrificed for Israel; Jesus sacrificed for the entire world.
Hebrews 5:5-10… So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”; 6 just as He says also in another passage, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
This context reveals how Jesus Christ met all the qualifications set forth in the OT concerning the high priest. First, “Christ did not glorify himself so as to become a high priest.” Jesus himself said in John 8:54: “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’” Therefore, he was appointed by God (5:1).
The writer of Hebrews then quoted two Psalms. The first Psalm (2:7) was a well-known passage the Jews recognized as speaking of the Messiah: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” This speaks of Jesus Christ being God’s Son, the rightful God and King. Equally, the Jews expected a priestly Messiah, so the Hebrews writer quoted another Messianic Psalm: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (110:4). This one confirms the Messiah as a priest. So both passages together reveal the Messiah to be both a king and a priest.
Melchizedek will be examined later in Hebrews 7, but some light should be shed on this mysterious figure now. He lived during the time of Abraham circa 2000 BC (Gen. 14), and he was both the king and priest of Salem (modern Jerusalem). His priesthood not only preceded the Levitical priests which came 600 years later, but his priesthood was unending. Whereas the Levitical priesthood began with Aaron (1446 BC) and ended in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed, Melchizedek’s never ended. So, he was superior to Aaron’s priesthood not only in the duration of his position but also in the fact that he was also a king; Aaron was merely a priest.
The second way that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Jewish high priest was that he was sympathetic (Heb. 5:2). Hebrews 5:7 says that while Jesus was a man on the earth he prayed “with loud crying and tears.” This may be a reference to Jesus sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his death (Luke 22:44). His prayers were to be spared an eternity of death, not to forego death itself, for to die is why Jesus came in the first place. Now it’s Jesus’ emotions and pain which prove the point about his priesthood. He knew pain, suffering, and even death. Therefore he is qualified as a high priest because he sympathizes with human weaknesses, and He was heard by the Father because of his piety – his respectful fear.
The final way that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the priesthood is that he sacrificed on man’s behalf. Contrary to the priests, however, who offered animals to atone for sins, Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice. He “learned obedience” in that he obeyed God to the point of death and endured the cost of obedience through his sufferings. In this he became “perfect” (v. 9) because he completed his mission to become man, suffer as a man, and die on man’s behalf.
Food for Thought
Jesus is the source of eternal salvation – the only source! No other person or religion even approaches Christ’s superiority. He is King in that He rules, and He is Priest in that He intercedes. God wants us to obey Christ as He obeyed, not through works but by simply believing in Him, for the work of God is that we believe in Christ (John 6:29). That’s all!
Hebrews 5:11-14… Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
After introducing the mysterious figure named Melchizedek, who was a priest and a king during the days of Abraham (Gen. 14), the author of Hebrews chides his audience about not knowing who Melchizedek was. In v. 11 he said that there was much to say about Melchizedek, but they had become “dull of hearing.” And because of this he could not proceed. To do so would be like feeding an infant solid food when the infant could only take in milk.
The interesting part of this scolding is the verb tense: “You have become dull of hearing.” The perfect tense verb speaks of a process completed in past time having present results. In other words, they had at one time understood the gospel message of salvation and the superiority of Christ over and the Judaic system of sacrifices and works. They had been “enlightened” (6:4), but they had become slack and failed to move forward with their faith. Their present condition was a result of their past neglect, and as a result they had grown down, as it were, instead of growing up. They were drifting (2:1-3) and in need of exhortation to move forward (3:7-8). Their spiritual state had deteriorated, and their salvation was questionable. As Ken Wuest comments: “The use of the perfect tense here tells us that the process had gone on to the point of completion, with finished results. Their neglect had done its work, and they as a result were in a settled state of spiritual stupidity so far as their ability to apprehend New Testament truth was concerned.”
What they had become was “dull of hearing” which means slow and sluggish. Plato used the word for his students calling them “stupid.” It is a combination of two Greek words, one meaning “no,” the other “to push,” hence, “no push,” thus “slow, sluggish.” So the author was calling the audience sluggish and stupid in their understanding of Jesus Christ. And when an audience is in that state it is hard to instruct them with mature teaching. In fact, given the time that had elapsed from their initial hearing of the gospel they should have grown into mature Christians with the ability to teach doctrine (v. 12). But unfortunately they had slacked so badly that they needed a refresher course in the elementary teachings and oracles of God. Having become babes in Christ upon hearing the gospel, they had remained in the spiritual state of needing milk like a newborn infant. Though they should have been eating solid food (knowing Melchizedek and his relation to Christ), they were still drinking milk only (immature and stupid).
The author explains his quandary in v. 13 by telling the audience that he can’t even begin to expect them to understand the “word of righteousness” because they were mere infants in their understanding. They were infants accustomed to milk unable to eat solid food as mature believers are supposed to partake. Therefore he was restricted because of their stupidity.
Food for Thought
Hebrews 5:14 points out how true believers are characterized: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” They eat solid food in that they feed their spirit the Word of God. The passage says that they “practice” this – they habitually train themselves by feeding on the Scriptures so as to be characterized by the ability to discern good and evil. Sadly, most “Christians” today feed only on milk and know nothing about solid food. How? When given solid food they spit it out and cry like babies.
· 1 Cor. 3:1-3… And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
· 1 Corinthians 13:11… When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
· 1 Cor. 14:20… do not be children in your thinking; but in your thinking be mature.
· Eph. 4:14… we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
· Matthew 5:48… "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
· Ephesians 4:13… until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
· Philippians 3:15… Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
· Ephesians 1:18… I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
· 1 Kings 3:9… "So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"
· 1 Corinthians 2:14-15… But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
· Philippians 1:9-10… And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent…
· 1 Thessalonians 5:21… But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
1. Many people have come to HBC and marveled at the Bible teaching. And a good many of those, after doing nothing with it, get bored and move on.
2. Standing still is akin to moving backwards
3. Being slothful is the reverse of 2 Peter 1:5-10
4. Dull of hearing (Gal. 5:7)… “you were running well! Who hindered you?”
5. Becoming dull means that affections are set on things of the world instead of heavenly things
6. Hanging around with the wrong people: “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33)
7. There is no “reaching forward to what lies ahead…” (Phil. 3:13)
8. Few today strive for Proverbs 23:23… “Buy truth and do not sell it; Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”
9. Christians are told to “increase in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10)
10. When there is a longing and a hungering for the things of God there is fulfillment and assurance in salvation.
11. The word must be studied! (1 Tim. 2:15)
12. “The soul of the diligent is made fat” (Proverbs 13:4)
13. God’s Word should be meditated upon and prayed for earnestly
You ought to be teachers!
· How long have you been a Christian? How many has your life impacted?
· The home ought to be a Christian seminary (Deut. 6:4-9)
High priest — Aaron was the first who was solemnly set apart to this office (Ex. 29:7; 30:23; Lev. 8:12). He wore a peculiar dress, which on his death passed to his successor in office (Ex. 29:29, 30). Besides those garments which he wore in common with all priests, there were four that were peculiar to himself as high priest:
(1.) The “robe” of the ephod, all of blue, of “woven work,” worn immediately under the ephod. It was without seam or sleeves. The hem or skirt was ornamented with pomegranates and golden bells, seventy-two of each in alternate order. The sounding of the bells intimated to the people in the outer court the time when the high priest entered into the holy place to burn incense before the Lord (Ex. 28).
(2.) The “ephod” consisted of two parts, one of which covered the back and the other the breast, which were united by the “curious girdle.” It was made of fine twined linen, and ornamented with gold and purple. Each of the shoulder-straps was adorned with a precious stone, on which the names of the twelve tribes were engraved. This was the high priest’s distinctive vestment (1 Sam. 2:28; 14:3; 21:9; 23:6, 9; 30:7).
(3.) The “breastplate of judgment” (Ex. 28:6–12, 25–28; 39:2–7) of “cunning work.” It was a piece of cloth doubled, of one span square. It bore twelve precious stones, set in four rows of three in a row, which constituted the Urim and Thummim (q.v.). These stones had the names of the twelve tribes engraved on them. When the high priest, clothed with the ephod and the breastplate, inquired of the Lord, answers were given in some mysterious way by the Urim and Thummim (1 Sam. 14:3, 18, 19; 23:2, 4, 9, 11,12; 28:6; 2 Sam. 5:23).
(4.) The “mitre,” or upper turban, a twisted band of eight yards of fine linen coiled into a cap, with a gold plate in front, engraved with “Holiness to the Lord,” fastened to it by a ribbon of blue.
To the high priest alone it was permitted to enter the holy of holies, which he did only once a year, on the great Day of Atonement, for “the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest” (Heb. 9; 10). Wearing his gorgeous priestly vestments, he entered the temple before all the people, and then, laying them aside and assuming only his linen garments in secret, he entered the holy of holies alone, and made expiation, sprinkling the blood of the sin offering on the mercy seat, and offering up incense. Then resuming his splendid robes, he reappeared before the people (Lev. 16). Thus the wearing of these robes came to be identified with the Day of Atonement.
The office, dress, and ministration of the high priest were typical of the priesthood of our Lord (Heb. 4:14; 7:25; 9:12, etc.).
It is supposed that there were in all eighty-three high priests, beginning with Aaron (B.C. 1657) and ending with Phannias (A.D. 70). At its first institution the office of high priest was held for life (but comp. 1 Kings 2:27), and was hereditary in the family of Aaron (Num. 3:10). The office continued in the line of Eleazar, Aaron’s eldest son, for two hundred and ninety-six years, when it passed to Eli, the first of the line of Ithamar, who was the fourth son of Aaron. In this line it continued to Abiathar, whom Solomon deposed, and appointed Zadok, of the family of Eleazar, in his stead (1 Kings 2:35), in which it remained till the time of the Captivity. After the Return, Joshua, the son of Josedek, of the family of Eleazar, was appointed to this office. After him the succession was changed from time to time under priestly or political influences.
1 Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεὺς ἐξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων
all for high priest from men being taken (PPPtcp) for men
καθίσταται τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν, ἵνα προσφέρῃ δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας ὑπὲρ
is appointed (PPI) the to the God, so that he might offer (PAS) gifts both and sacrifices for
ἁμαρτιῶν, 2 μετριοπαθεῖν δυνάμενος τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσιν καὶ πλανωμένοις,
sins, in measure to suffer (PAIn) being able to the ones not knowing (PAPtcp) and being deceived (PPPtcp)
ἐπεὶ καὶ αὐτὸς περίκειται ἀσθένειαν 3 καὶ διʼ αὐτὴν ὀφείλει, καθὼς περὶ
since also he is set around (PMI) weakness and by it he owes (PAI) just as concerning
τοῦ λαοῦ, οὕτως καὶ περὶ αὐτοῦ προσφέρειν περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν. 4 καὶ οὐχ
of the people, thus and for of him to offer (PAIn) concerning sins. And not
ἑαυτῷ τις λαμβάνει τὴν τιμὴν ἀλλὰ καλούμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ
himself some he receives (PAI) the value but being called (PPPtcp) by of God
καθώσπερ καὶ Ἀαρών. 5 Οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐχ ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασεν
just as indeed also Aaron. Thus even Christ not himself gave glory (AAI)
γενηθῆναι ἀρχιερέα ἀλλʼ ὁ λαλήσας πρὸς αὐτόν· υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ
to become (APIn) a high priest but the one having said (AAPtcp) to him: son of me are (PAI) you, I
σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε· 6 καθὼς καὶ ἐν ἑτέρῳ λέγει· σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν
today have begotten (RAI) you. Just as even en another he says (PAI): you priest into the
αἰῶνα κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ, 7 ὃς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ
age according to the order of Melchizedek, who in the days of his flesh
δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου
requests both and petitions to the one being able (PPPtcp) to save (PAIn) him from death
μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ
with shout strong and tears having offered (AAPtcp) and having heard (AAPtcp) from
τῆς εὐλαβείας, 8 καίπερ ὢν υἱός, ἔμαθεν ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν,
the reverence, and indeed begin a Son, he learned (AAI) from what he suffered (AAI) the obedience
9 καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ αἴτιος σωτηρίας
and having been completed (APPtcp) he became (AMI) to all the one obeying (PAPtcp) him cause of salvation
αἰωνίου, 10 προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν
eternal, having been given title (APPtcp) by the God of high priest by the order of
Μελχισέδεκ. 11 Περὶ οὗ πολὺς ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος καὶ δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν,
Melchizedek. Concerning him much to us the word and difficult interpretation to say (PAIn),
ἐπεὶ νωθροὶ γεγόνατε ταῖς ἀκοαῖς. 12 καὶ γὰρ ὀφείλοντες εἶναι
since dull you have become (RAI) in the hearings. Also for owing (PAPtcp) to be (PAIn)
διδάσκαλοι διὰ τὸν χρόνον, πάλιν χρείαν ἔχετε τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς τινὰ
teachers through the time, again need you have (PAI) someone to teach (PAIn) you what
τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ γεγόνατε χρείαν
the elemental things of the beginnings of the sayings of God and have become (RAI) need
ἔχοντες γάλακτος [καὶ] οὐ στερεᾶς τροφῆς. 13 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ μετέχων
having (PAPtcp) milk and not solid food. For all who partake with (PAPtcp)
γάλακτος ἄπειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης, νήπιος γάρ ἐστιν· 14 τελείων δέ
milk inexperienced of word of rightness, infant for he is (PAI). Of complete ones but
ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή, τῶν διὰ τὴν ἕξιν τὰ αἰσθητήρια
is (PAI) but solid food, the through the practice the capacity to understand
γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ.
having been exercised (RPPtcp) having (PAPtcp) to differentiation of good and of evil.
M.G. Easton, Easton's Bible Dictionary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897).