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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 7 - Verse 3

Verse 3. Without father. The phrase without father apatwr —means, literally, one who has no father; one who has lost his father; one who is an orphan. Then it denotes one who is born after the death of his father; then one whose father is unknown—spurious. Passow. The word occurs often in these senses in the classic writers, for numerous examples of which the reader may consult Wetstein, in loc. It is morally certain, however, that the apostle did not use the word here in either of these senses, for there is no evidence that Melchizedek was fatherless in any of these respects. It was very important, in the estimation of the Jews, that the line of their priesthood should be carefully kept; that their genealogies should be accurately marked and preserved; and that their direct descent from Aaron should be susceptible of easy and certain proof. But the apostle says that there was no such genealogical table in regard to Melchizedek. There was no record made of the name either of his father, his mother, or any of his posterity. He stood alone. It is simply said that such a man came out to meet Abraham—and that is the first and the last which we hear of him and of his family. Now, says the apostle, it is distinctly said Ps 110:4 that the Messiah was to be a priest according to his order: and in this respect there is a remarkable resemblance, so far as the point of his being a priest—which was the point under discussion—was concerned. The Messiah thus, as a priest, STOOD ALONE. His name does not appear in the line of priests. He pertained to another tribe, Heb 7:14. No one of his ancestors is mentioned as a priest; and: as a priest he has no descendants and no followers. He has a lonely conspicuity similar to that of Melchisedek; a standing unlike that of any other priest. This should not, therefore, be construed as meaning that the genealogy of Christ could not be traced out—which is not true, for Mt 1 and Lu 3 have carefully preserved it; but that he had no genealogical record as a priest. As the reasoning of the apostle pertains to this point only, it would be unfair to construe it as implying that the Messiah was to stand unconnected with any ancestor, or that his genealogy would be unknown. The meaning of the word rendered "without father" here is, therefore, one the name of whose father is not recorded in the Hebrew genealogies.

Without mother. The name of whose mother is unknown, or is not recorded in the Hebrew genealogical tables. Philo calls Sarah— amhtorawithout mother, probably because her mother is not mentioned in the sacred records. The Syriac has given the correct view of the meaning of the apostle. In that version it is, "Of whom neither the father nor mother are recorded in the genealogies." The meaning here is not that Melchisedek was of low and obscure origin, as the terms "without father and without mother" often signify in the classic writers, and in Arabic, (comp. Wetstein;) for there is no reason to doubt that Melchisedek had an ancestry as honourable as other kings and priests of his time. The simple thought is, that the name of his ancestry does not appear in any record of those in the priestly office.

Without descent, Marg, pedigree. The Greek word agenealoghtov — means, without genealogy; whose descent is unknown. He is merely mentioned himself, and nothing is said of his family or of his posterity.

Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. This is a much more difficult expression than any of the others respecting Melchizedek. The obvious meaning of the phrase is, that, in the records of Moses, neither the beginning nor the close of his life is mentioned. It is not said when he was born, or when he died; nor is it said that he was born, or that he died. The apostle adverts to this particularly, because it was so unusual in the records of Moses, who is in general so careful to mention the birth and death of the individuals whose lives he mentions. Under the Mosaic dispensation everything respecting the duration of the sacerdotal office was determined accurately by the law. In the time of Moses, and by his arrangement, the Levites were required to serve from the age of thirty to fifty, Nu 4:3,23,36,43,47; Nu 8:24,26. After the age of fifty, they were released from the more arduous and severe duties of their office. In later periods of the Jewish history they commenced their duties at the age of twenty, 1 Ch 23:24,27. The priests also, and the high priest, entered on their office at thirty years of age, though it is not supposed that they retired from it at any particular period of life. The idea of the apostle here is, that nothing of this kind occurs in regard to Melchizedek. No period is mentioned when he entered on his office; none when he retired from it. From anything that appears in the sacred record it might be perpetual—though Paul evidently did not mean to be understood as saying that it was so. It cannot be that he meant to say that Melehizedek had no beginning of days literally, that is, that he was from eternity; or that he had no end of life literally, that is, that he would exist for ever—for this would be to make him equal with God. The expression used must be interpreted according to the matter under discussion, and that was the office of Melchizedek as a priest. Of that no beginning is mentioned, and no end. That this is the meaning of Paul there can be no doubt; but there is a much more difficult question about the force and pertinency of this reasoning—about the use which he means to make of this fact, and the strength of the argument which he here designs to employ. This inquiry cannot easily be settled. It may be admitted, undoubtedly, that it would strike a Jew with much more force than it would any other person; and to see its pertinency we ought to be able to place ourselves in their condition, and to transfer to ourselves, as far as possible, their state of feeling. It was mentioned in Ps 110:4, that the Messiah was to be a "priest after the order of Melchizedek." It was natural, then, to turn to the only record which existed of him—the very brief narrative in Ge 14. There the account is simple and plain—that he was a pious Canaanitish king, who officiated as a priest. In what point then, it would be asked, was the Messiah to resemble him? In his personal character; his office; his rank; or in what he did? It would be natural, then, to run out the parallel, and seize upon the points in which Melchizedek differed from the Jewish priests which would be suggested on reading that account for it was undoubtedly in those points that the resemblance between Christ and Melchizedek was to consist. Here the record was to be the only guide, and the points in which he differed from the Jewish priesthood, according to the record, were such as these.

(1.) That there is no account of his ancestry as a priest—neither father nor mother being mentioned—as was indispensable in the records of the Levitical priesthood.

(2.) There was no account of any descendants in his office, and no reason to believe that he had any, and he thus stood alone.

(3.) There was no account of the commencement or close of his office as a priest, but, so far as the record goes, it is just as it would have been if his priesthood had neither beginning nor end. It was inevitable, therefore, that those who read the Psalm, and compared it with the account in Ge 14, should come to the conclusion that the Messiah was to resemble Melchizedek in some such points as these—for these are the points in which he differed from the Levitical priesthood; and to run out these points of comparison is all that the apostle has done here. It is just what would be done by any Jew, or indeed by any other man; and the reasoning grew directly out of the two accounts in the Old Testament. It is not, then, quibble or quirk —it is sound reasoning, based on these two points:

(1) that it was said in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek; and

(2) that the only points, according to the record, in which there was anything peculiar about the priesthood of Melchizedek, or in which he differed from the Levitical priesthood, were such as those which Paul specifies, he reasons from the record; and though there is, as was natural, something of a Jewish cast about it, yet it was the only kind of reasoning that was possible in the case.

But made like. The word here used means, to be made like, to be made to resemble; and then to be like, to be compared with. Our translation seems to imply that there was a Divine agency or intention by which Melchizedek was made to resemble the Son of God; but this does not seem to be the idea of the apostle. In the Psalm it is said that the Messiah would resemble Melchizedek in his priestly office, and this is doubtless the idea here. Paul is seeking to illustrate the nature and perpetuity of the office of the Messiah by comparing it with that of Melchizedek. Hence he pursues the idea of this resemblance; and the true sense of the word used here is, "he was like, or he resembled the Son of God." So Tindal and Coverdale render it, "is likened unto the Son of God." The points of resemblance are those which have been already suggested:

(1) in the name—king of righteousness, and king of peace;

(2) in the fact that he had no ancestors or successors in the priestly office;

(3) that he was, according to the record, a perpetual priest—there being no account of his death; and perhaps

(4) that he united in himself the office of king and priest. It may be added, that the expression here, "was made like unto the Son of God," proves that he was not himself the Son of God, as many have supposed. How could he be "made like" himself? How could a comparison be formally made between Christ and himself?

Abideth a priest continually. That is, as far as the record in Genesis goes—for it was according to this record that Paul was reasoning. This clause is connected with Heb 7:1; and, the intermediate statements are of the nature of a parenthesis, containing important suggestions respecting the character of Melchizedek, which would be useful in preparing the readers for the argument which the apostle proposed to draw from his rank and character. The meaning is, that there is no account of his death, or of his ceasing to exercise the priestly office; and in this respect he may be compared with the Lord Jesus. All other priests cease to exercise their office by death, Heb 7:23; but of the death of Melchizedek there is no mention. It must have been true that the priesthood of Melchizedek terminated at his death; and it will be also true that that of Christ will cease when his Church shall have been redeemed, and when he shall have given up the mediatorial kingdom to the rather, 1 Co 15:25-28. The expression, "abideth a priest continually," therefore, is equivalent to saying that he had a perpetual priesthood, in contradistinction from those whose office terminated at a definite period, or whose office passed over into the hands of others. See Barnes "Heb 7:24".

 

{1} "descent" "pedigree"

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