Friday, November 9, 2012

Hebrews 7

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The Priestly Order of Melchizedek (v. 1-10)

Melchizedek greeted Abraham after he returned from his 'slaughter of the kings' and Abraham gave him 10% of the spoils. The descendants of Levi who priests have a commandment to take 10%, but Melchizedek is an outsider. Yet he takes his tithe from Abraham and blesses him. Since the superior bless the inferior, it is clear that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham. This is particularly noteworthy as Melchizedek has no genealogy, although his name translates to 'king of righteousness'. It could be said that Levi paid tithes through Abraham as he was born after all of this went down between Melchizedek and Abraham.

The whole idea that Melchizedek has no genealogy is interesting for sure, and the fact that his name translates to 'king of righteousness' makes me very suspicious. I have 2 ideas to explain this, first, this is all made up and it is bad writing. You are just being lazy if your library cop is named bookman. The second is that this guy was embarrassed about his background or hated his parents or something and invented a new persona. As long as you are going to give yourself a new name, why not pick something that sounds good, like Max Power? The real answer is surely something else, but these are the things that occurred to me while I was reading. (pop quiz, who can identify the two TV references in this paragraph?)

Jesus Compared to Melchizedek (v. 11-28)

Perfection was impossible to attain under the Levitical priesthood, otherwise there would have been no reason to have Jesus be a new high priest and start a new priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. For new high priest necessarily bring along a change of rules, so Jesus only came along because such a change was necessary.

This would probably make a lot more sense if I had already read the old testament and had any clue what was up with Melchizedek. Apparently he set things in motion way back when and had a hand in the rules of the old testament. And Jesus came along and allowed those rules to be changed. Also, apparently Melchizedek was immortal in some fashion or another, I don't quite get that part. In all honesty, I'm finding it hard to care about this stuff. My motivation to read the bible has always been centered around what lessons (good or bad) could be learned from reading it, I really don't care about how they organize their leadership. There was one verse that did catch my attention though.

v.18 "a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness"

Why would a perfect God make a weak and useless commandment?

Guzik argues that the law is God's perfect standard, but it gives no one the power to keep that standard. So it is valuable as a demonstration of what God wants, but it is not the basis of a walk with God. This is interesting, I was going to argue that this is hardly useless then, and therefore his interpretation is a bit off base. However, his translation says unprofitable instead of useless. According to the lexicon (if I'm using it correctly) it seems that unprofitable is a better fit than uselessness.


  1. Don't get too hung up on the name, Hausdorff. Although Christianity tries to make a special, prophetic significance to the name Melchizedek, Hebrew names were often laced with godly and divine sounding accolades. In a recent debate I had, we discussed the name "Emanuel." It means "God with us," and so Christianity latched on to this as being a prophesy of Jesus. I countered with other possible Messiah names from others in the Bible:

    Jemuel "Day of God"
    Jahzeel "Allotted by God"
    Eleazar "God has helped"
    Eliab "My God is father"
    Othniel "Lion of God"
    Samuel "Name of God; God has heard"
    Zedekiah "Righteous of the LORD"
    Josiah "Supported of the LORD."
    Jonathan "Whom the LORD gave"
    Jehu "The LORD is he"
    Joab "The LORD is father"
    Elijah "One whose God is the LORD"
    Elisha "My God is salvation"
    Eliakim "He whom the LORD will raise up"
    Jehoiakim "He whom the LORD has set up"
    Elishaphat "My God is judge"
    Uriel "My light is God"
    Isaiah "Salvation of the LORD is salvation"
    Immanuel "God with us"
    Jeremiah "Appointed of the LORD"
    Obadiah "Servant of the LORD"
    Ariel "Lion of God"
    Gabriel "My strength is God"
    Uriah "Light of the LORD"
    Ezekiel "God will strengthen"
    Daniel "My judge is God"
    Malachi "My messenger"
    Zechariah "Renowned of the LORD"

    And if you want to understand just how utterly wrong the author of Hebrews is here in a relatively quick fashion, check out my study on God's Law.

    1. That's interesting.. What do you make of the no genealogy thing? It would almost sound like he was created out of thin air. I'm sure I am missing something here. It also seems to say that he was never born nor did he ever die. That seems a little strange to me.

      Max Power = Simpsons
      I want to say that the bookman thing is from Seinfeld, but I'm not a hundred percent.

    2. He's not making up the "no genealogy" thing, but he is making it into something more significant than it should be. For example, there is no lineage for Job either, yet Job was a hero of the faith and someone God bragged about.

      The author of Hebrews is warping the truth to bolster his claim. At least that's my opinion.

    3. Interesting.. so when you say that the author is making it out to be something more than it is, do you mean like he doesn't have a known genealogy, but the author for whatever reason decided to explicitly say that he "has no mother or father" as well as saying that he has "neither beginning of days nor end of life"?

  2. Sorry about being incomplete there, JKerber. I guess I was sleepy. :-)

    All we know about the life of Melchizedek is in four verses; Genesis 14:17-20:

    "After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

    “Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
    And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

    Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything." NIV

    Plus one reference in Psalm 110:4

    "The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”" NIV

    The Psalms reference is intriguing, but I've discussed that somewhere with Hausdorff why there are other pieces of contextual evidence within the psalm and elsewhere that suggest the verse means essentially "I, God, am making you a priest, even though you are not a member of the Aaronic or Levitic family lineage, and you will be a priest as long as you live. That title will never be taken from you."

    From this, the author of Hebrews claims:

    Hebrews 7:3
    "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever." NIV

    The text neither implies nor states anywhere that Melchizedek had no father or mother, so that is a big stretch which, at best, is supported by an argument from silence. Given that Melchizedek never reappears in scripture, it also seems unlikely that he lived forever.

    1. The genealogy part makes sense to me now as well as the father and mother. If I understand what you are saying, it's still part of the same claim? I still don't understand the part of "without beginning of days or end of life" and how that ties in.

    2. No problem, JKerber, I think I can help. I think what the author is doing is combining the "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" with the lack of genealogy, lack of birth info, and lack of an obituary, to suggest that Melchizedek had not been born, had not died, and in fact was living forever, pretty much like Jesus (given Jesus allegedly existed before He was born).

      The author of Hebrews is essentially saying that ol' Melch was a prototype for Jesus, only without all of that Salvation/cross hanging business.

  3. Great conversation guys, JKerber pretty much asked the questions I would have asked and TWF answered them well :) I think it is pretty interesting that the author of Hebrews made those conclusions about Melchizedek off of basically nothing, it is a feeling I get while reading the bible now and then "wait, that's it? that little tiny passage is all this is based upon?"

    and JKerber, you are right, it was simpsons and seinfeld :)


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