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Hebrews 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:

For - Substantiating Hebrews 4:15.

Every - i:e., every legitimate high priest; the Levitical; as he is addressing Hebrews, among whom the Levitical priesthood was the legitimate one. Whatever, reasons Paul, is excellent in Levitical priests, is also in Christ, besides excellencies not in them.

Taken from among men - not from among angels, who could not have a fellow-feeling with us men. This qualification Christ has, being, like the Levitical priests, a man (Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 2:16). Being "from ... men," He can be "for [ huper (G5228): in behalf of] men."

Ordained, [ kathistatai (G2525)] - 'constituted.' Ordained, [ kathistatai (G2525)] - 'constituted.'

Both gifts - to be joined with "for sins," as "sacrifices" is (the "both ... and," in 'Aleph (') A C, requires this); therefore not the Hebrew minchah (H4503), unbloody offerings, but animal whole burnt offerings, spontaneously given. But B Delta f, Vulgate, omit "both;" in which reading "gifts" may be the minchah (H4503), unbloody offerings. "Sacrifices" are animal sacrifices due according to the law.

Verse 2

Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.

Who can - `Being one able:' not pleasing himself (Romans 15:3).

Have compassion, [ metriopathein (G3356)] - 'feel leniently (moderately) toward:' 'to make allowance for:' not showing stern rigour save to the obstinate (Hebrews 10:28).

Ignorant - sins not committed in resistance of light and knowledge, but as Paul's past sin (1 Timothy 1:13). No sacrifice was appointed for willful sin committed with a high hand; such were to be put to death: all other sins-namely, ignorances and errors-were confessed and expiated with sacrifices by the high priest.

Out of the way - not deliberately and determinately erring, but deluded through the fraud of Satan and their own carnal frailty.

Infirmity - moral weakness, which, being sinful, and making men capable of sin, requires to be expiated by sacrifices. This "infirmity" Christ had not: He had the "infirmity" of body whereby He was capable of suffering and death.

Verse 3

And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

By reason hereof - `on account of this' infirmity.

He ought ... also for himself, to offer for sins. In this our High Priest is superior to the Levitical priest. [The third "for" is huper (G5228), 'on account of sins:' not peri (G4012), as the first two, 'in behalf of.' But 'Aleph (') A B C Delta read peri (G4012).]

Verse 4

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

No man - of any family but Aaron's, according to the Mosaic law, can take the high priesthood.

But he that is called. So Delta. [But A B C 'Aleph (') omit ho (G3588): 'but when called.'] This verse is quoted by some to prove the need of an apostolic succession of ordination in the Christian ministry; but the reference here is to the sacerdotal priesthood, not the Christian ministry. The analogy in our Christian dispensation would warn ministers, seeing that God has separated them from the congregation of His people, to bring them near Himself, and to do the service of His house, and to minister (as He separated the Levites, Korah with his company), that, content with this, they should beware of assuming the sacrificial priesthood also, which belongs to Christ alone. The sin of Korah was, not content with the ministry as a Levite, he took the sacerdotal priesthood also. No Christian minister, as such, is ever called Hiereus - i:e., sacrificing priest. All Christians, without distinction, whether ministers or people, have a spiritual, not literal, priesthood (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Philippians 3:3; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6). The sacrifices which they offer are spiritual, their bodies and the fruit of their lips, praises continually (Hebrews 13:15). Christ alone had a proper and true sacrifice to offer. The law sacrifices were typical, not metaphorical, as the Christian's, nor proper and true, as Christ's. In Roman times the Mosaic restriction of the priesthood to Aaron's family was violated.

Verse 5

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.

Glorified not himself - did not assume the glory of the priestly office without the call of God (John 8:54).

But he that said - i:e., the Father appointed Him to His glorified priesthood (Hebrews 5:10). This appointment was involved in, and resulted from, His Sonship, which qualified Him for it. None else could have fulfilled such an office (Hebrews 10:5-9). The connection of Sonship and priesthood is typified in the title [kohaniym] priests being given to David's sons (2 Samuel 8:18). Christ did not constitute Himself the Son of God, but was from everlasting the only-begotten of the Father.

Verse 6

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

He is here called "Priest;" in Hebrews 5:5, "High Priest:" a Priest absolutely, because He stands alone in that He is here called "Priest;" in Hebrews 5:5, "High Priest:" a Priest absolutely, because He stands alone in that character: "High Priest," in respect of the Aaronic type; also in respect to us, whom by His own access to God He has made priests (Bengel). "The order of Melchisedec" is explained, Hebrews 7:15, "the similitude of Melchisedec." Priesthood is similarly combined with His kingly office in Zechariah 6:13. Melchisedek was at once man, priest, and king. Paul's selecting as the type one not of the stock of Abraham, on which the Jews prided themselves, intimates Messianic universality.

Verse 7

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

In the days of his flesh (Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 10:20). Hebrews 5:7-10 state summarily the subject, to be handled more fully in Hebrews 7:1-28; Hebrews 8:1-13.

When he had offered - rather, 'in that He offered.' His crying and tears were part of the experimental lesson of obedience which He submitted to learn from the Father (when God was qualifying Him for the high priesthood). "Who" is to be construed with "learned (His) obedience;" [ teen (G3588)] the obedience which He rendered as the needful qualification for His priesthood. This shows that "Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest" (Hebrews 5:5), but was appointed thereto by the Father.

Prayers and supplications - `both prayers and supplications.' In Gethsemane, where He prayed thrice, and on the cross, "My God my God." etc.: probably repeating inwardly all the 22nd Psalm. "Prayers" refer to the mind; "supplications" also to the body (namely, the suppliant attitude) (Bengel). [ Deeeseis (G1162), "prayers," imply need ( dei (G1163)); hiketeerias (G2428), "supplications;" literally, an olive branch wrapt in white wool and bands, which suppliants held in their hands to imply they implored help.]

With strong crying and tears. The "tears" are an additional fact communicated by the inspired apostle, not in the gospels (Matthew 26:37; Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:33; Luke 22:44, "in an agony He prayed more earnestly ... His sweat

... great drops of blood falling down to the ground"). In this, as in other Gospel facts, Paul approximates most to Luke, his companion in travel. Psalms 22:1 ("roaring ... cry"), Psalms 22:2; Psalms 22:19; Psalms 22:21; Psalms 22:24; Psalms 69:3; Psalms 69:10, "I wept."

Able to save him from death - Mark 14:36, "All things are possible unto thee" (John 12:27). His cry showed entire participation of man's infirmity: His reference of His wish to God's will, His sinless faith and obedience.

Heard in that he feared. There is no intimation in Psalms 22:1-31, or the gospels, that Christ prayed to be saved from mere dying. What He feared was the hiding of the Father's countenance. His holy filial love must rightly have shrunk from this strange and bitterest of trials without impatience. To have been passively content at the approach of such a cloud would have been, not faith, but sin. The cup of death He prayed to be freed from was, not corporal, but spiritual - i:e., the (temporary) separation of His human soul from the light of God's countenance. His prayer was "heard" in His Father's strengthening Him to hold fast His unwavering faith under the trial (My God, my God, was still His filial cry, claiming God as His, though God hid His face), and soon removing it in answer to His cry during the darkness, "My God, my God," etc. But see below a further explanation. [ Eisakoustheis (G1522) apo (G575) tees (G3588) eulabeias (G2124)] 'Was heard from explanation. [ Eisakoustheis (G1522) apo (G575) tees (G3588) eulabeias (G2124)] 'Was heard from His fear' - i:e., so as to be saved from His fear.

Compare Psalms 22:21, "Save me from the lion's mouth (His prayer): thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." Or what better accords with the strict Greek, 'in consequence of His REVERENTIAL FEAR' - i:e., in that He shrank from separation from the Father's bright presence, yet was reverentially cautious not to harbour a shadow of distrust or want of perfect filial love. In the same sense Hebrews 12:28, and Hebrews 11:7 the verb. The derivation means the cautious handling of some precious, yet delicate vessel, which with ruder handling might easily be broken (Trench). Compare Jesus' spirit, "If it be possible ... nevertheless not my will, but thy will be done;" and with Hebrews 5:5, implying reverent fear: wherein He showed He had the requisite for the office specified (Hebrews 5:4). Alford, 'What is true in the Christian's life, that what we ask from God, though He may not grant in the form we wish, yet He grants in His own, and that a better form, does not hold, good in Christ's case; for Christ's real prayer, "Not my will, but thine be done," in consistency with His reverent fear toward the Father, was granted in the very form in which it was expressed, not in another.

Verse 8

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

Though He WAS (a positive fact: not a supposition, as were would imply) God's Divine Son (whence, in His agony, He so lovingly and often cried, Father, Matthew 26:39), yet He learned His obedience, not from His Sonship, but from His sufferings. As the Son, He always obeyed the Father's will; but the special obedience needed to qualify Him as our High Priest, He learned experimentally. Compare Philippians 2:6-8, "equal with God, but ... took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death," etc. He was obedient before His passion; but He stooped to a more humiliating and trying form of obedience then [The Greek adage is, Patheemata, matheemata, 'sufferings, disciplinings.'] Praying and obeying, as in Christ's case, ought to go hand in hand.

Verse 9

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Made perfect - perfectly qualified as Captain of salvation to us: brought to His goal of learning and suffering through death (Hebrews 2:10). Alford, 'at His resurrection and ascension.'

Author, [ aitios (G159)] - 'cause.'

Eternal salvation - obtained for us in the short 'days of Jesus' flesh' (Hebrews 5:7: cf. Hebrews 5:6, "forever;" Isaiah 45:17).

Unto all ... that obey him As Christ obeyed the Father, so must we obey, Him by faith. Unto all ... that obey him As Christ obeyed the Father, so must we obey, Him by faith.

Verse 10

Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

[ Prosagoreutheis (G4316)] 'Addressed' (saluted by the appellation). Formally recognized by God as High Priest. He was High Priest already in God's purpose; but after His passion, when perfected (Hebrews 5:9), He was formally addressed so.

Verse 11

Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

Here he digresses to complain of the low attainments of the Palestinian Christians, and to warn them of the danger of falling from light once enjoyed; at the same time encouraging them by God's faithfulness to persevere. At Hebrews 6:20 he resumes the comparison of Christ to Melchisedek.

Hard to be uttered, [ dusermeeneutos (G1421)] - 'hard of interpretation to speak.' Hard for me to state intelligibly to you, owing to your dulness about spiritual things. Hence, instead of saying many things, he writes in comparatively few words (Hebrews 13:22). In the "we," Paul, as usual, includes Timothy in addressing them.

Ye are, [ gegonate (G1096)] - 'ye have become dull' [ noothroi (G3576), sluggish]: once, when first "enlightened," they were zealous, but had become dull. That the Hebrew believers AT JERUSALEM were spiritually dull, and legal in tone, appears from Acts 21:20-24, where James and the elders say of the 'thousands of Jews which believe, they are all zealous of the law:' that was at Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, after which this letter was written (Hebrews 5:12, note).

Verse 12

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

For the time - considering the long time you have been Christians. Therefore this letter was not one early written. Which be the first principles, [ ta (G3588) stoicheia (G4747) tees (G3588) archees (G746)] - 'the rudiments of the beginning of,' etc. A Pauline phrase (Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9). Ye need not only to be taught the first elements, but also 'which they be.' They are therefore enumerated, Hebrews 6:1-2. Alford, 'That some one teach you the rudiments,' [but the position of tina (G5101) favours "which" interrogatively, as the English version, Syriac, Vulgate, etc.]

Of the oracles of God - namely, of the Old Testament. Instead of seeing Christ as the end of the Old Testament, they were relapsing toward Judaism, so as not only not to understand the typical reference to Christ of such an Old Testament personage as Melchisedek, but even more elementary references.

Are become - through indolence.

Milk - such first principles as Hebrews 6:1-2.

Strong meat. Solid food is not indispensable for preserving life, but is so for acquiring strength. Especially as the Hebrews so venerated the minute details of the law, the unfolding of the Old Testament types of Christ and His High Priesthood was calculated much to strengthen them in the Christian faith.

Verse 13

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

Useth, [ metechoon (G3348)] - 'partaketh of.' Even strong men partake of milk, but do not make milk their chief, much less their sole, diet.

The word of righteousness - the Gospel, wherein "is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith" (Romans 1:17); "the ministration of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 3:9). This includes justification and sanctification; the first principles, as well as the perfection, of the doctrine of Christ: the nature of the offices and person of Christ as the true Melchisedek - i:e., "King of righteousness" (cf. Matthew 3:15).

Verse 14

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Them that are of full age, [ teleion (G5046)] - 'perfect:' akin to "perfection" (Hebrews 6:1).

By reason of use, [ hexin (G1838)] - 'habit.' Senses - organs of sense.

Exercised - similarly connected with "righteousness" in Hebrews 12:11.

To discern both good and evil - as a child no longer an infant (Isaiah 7:16): able to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine. The mere child puts into its mouth things hurtful and things nutritious, without discrimination; not so the adult. Paul warns them against being carried about by strange doctrines through not discriminating (Hebrews 13:9).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/hebrews-5.html. 1871-8.
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