Hebrews 7:12–28 argues that Jesus brings a new Priesthood, New Law, and New Covenant, fulfilling and abrogating the Old Priesthood, Law, and Covenant.
But the form of the argument and some of the Old Testament allusions do make the argument (if not the main points) hard to follow. To help with that, I’ve made a translation that sometimes paraphrases and explains the text (like a commentary) to help track the argument.
Do read the text for yourself, however, and use this as a commentary.
It’s all new and better
7:11–12: If then perfection was through the Levitical priesthood, then why would there need to be another priest who will arise according to the order of Melchizedek and not of Aaron? Note: the people were given the law along with the priesthood. For this reason, when there is a change of priestly office, then there must also be a change in law.
7:13–16: Look, Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Levi but Judah, and no one from Judah served as a priest at the altar. Now it is clear that our Lord came from Judah, and Moses did not say anything about priests coming from the tribe of Judah. So what happens when, as clearly did happen, another priest, one from the order of Melchizedek, arises who does not have a genealogical connection to Levi or approval in the law of Moses? Answer: he becomes a priest according to the power of an indestructible life—by the resurrection of the dead!
7:17–19: Psalm 110 testifies to our Lord’s resurrection and priesthood when it says: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” See: the annulment of prior law, that of Moses, happened because it was weak (ἀσθενὲς) and useless (ἀνωφελές). Again, the law does make anyone perfect. But a better Hope has been introduced through whom we can draw near to God
7:20–23: This new Hope came with an oath. In contrast, the priests under the law had no oath. Now, Jesus became a priest with an oath. In Psalm 110, the Lord said to him: “The Lord swears and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” Accordingly, Jesus became the guarantor (as a divinely sworn to priest) of a better covenant.
7:24–25: And because he remains forever as Psalm 110 says and the resurrection proves, he has a permanent priesthood. For this reason, he is able to save those who come to God through him wholly and perfectly since he always lives to intercede for them. (He still is our priest, saving us wholly and completely through his intercession, which the resurrection has proven!).
7:26–28: For it is fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, spotless, separated from sinners and exalted in the heavens. He has no daily need, as the high priests did under the law, to offer a sacrifice first for their own sins, then of the people. Now Jesus made a singular and one-for-all sacrifice—himself! For the law appoints men as high priests in their weakness, but the word of the Lord’s oath (which follows the law) concerning the Son has made him perfect forever.
Why Jesus’s Priesthood is better
The author only mentions the new and better covenant here once (7:22) because here he focuses on the new priesthood and new law which demand a new covenant. In the next chapter, he will transition from Jesus’s new priestly office to the new covenant, concluding: “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb 8:13).
In the argument of Hebrews, a new priestly office necessitates a new law and new covenant because all are tightly connected. What makes Jesus’s new priesthood better in every way includes the facts that:
(1) The Lord makes an oath Jesus our priest unlike the Levitical and Aaronic priests.
(2) Jesus rose from the dead and lives forever unlike priests who died and stayed dead
(3) The new covenant saves completely unlike the weak (ἀσθενὲς) and useless (ἀνωφελές) old covenant
(4) Jesus remains forever our high priest who still intercedes for us in the heavenly tabernacle (clarified in chs 8–10)
Mark Matthias says
Thanks, Wyatt — One of my favorites. Yes, they are tightly wound and therefore incumbent upon us to know what it like before…adding an appreciation for the New.
Yet, the flesh remained the same, doing its spiritual damage every step of the way. Fortunately, God is patient and merciful.
Once in the New, the Old seemed tedious. But either way, the devil still has power over us who do not do one thing — become embued with the Spirit, cf. Matthew 12:45:
“Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So will it also be with this wicked generation.”
He had no Spirit in his soul but may have believed he did, based on the things he did…only later realizing he didn’t believe as Jesus would have it…thus lowering the bar that God set in place to please Himself, which it turned out was all that mattered…cf, Luke 10:38-42.
That would be the fulfillment of the intent of Jesus; otherwise, it’s just as pointless as the Old without the New.
The Key — Romans 13:8-10: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another (that was a good opportunity to add going to church every Sunday — not that I am against that…), for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet, and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor.
Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law…because if we actually did the things set forth in the New, we wouldn’t sin. Of course, Jesus came along and showed us we can’t do it alone — New or Old…Therefore, going through so many officiations does not make anyone spiritual and of course, not holy. Many may say, Well at least we all believe in Jesus — however, if Jesus made anything clear is how to worship Him.
By loving God — heart, mind, and soul; following His commands — Loving one’s neighbor as oneself; that’s a command…John 13:34-35; Matthew 22:37-40, compare Deut. 6:5, etc. This is the only mindset I can find in Scripture that fulfills the Law and fulfills the requirements for salvation. Mark 12:30-31. If we love our neighbors as Jesus loved us, whom would we treat in an ungodly way? Which of the ten commandments would we break?
Hebrews 7:11–12: If then perfection was through the Levitical priesthood, then why would there need to be another priest who will arise according to the order of Melchizedek and not of Aaron? Note: the people were given the law along with the priesthood. For this reason, when there is a change of priestly office, then there must also be a change in the law.
Either way, there must be obedience to God — in the New… in believing in His Son; which is useless if the emergence of the Church is filled with the same hardness of heart.
“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete, not because there is anything wrong with the Law, since it has a good purpose. And what is becoming obsolete…”(of necessity but we need help either way due to the cursed flesh…)