Hebrews 7:23-28


Hebrews 7:23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;

"And furthermore" in Greek begins this verse, not translated in NIV. More proof is given.  "Many" is not many at one and the same time but many in succession. Because of death they were prevented from remaining. Josephus reckons that there were 83 high priests from the time of Aaron to the year 70 A.D.

Rienecker: The infinitive is used epexegetically to explain that which was prevented.

Hebrews 7:24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

Verses 23-25 comprise one period in Greek. Kistemaker summarizes these verses with "problem (death), person (Christ), purpose (total salvation.)" 

Verse 24, taken by itself, is a complex sentence. The main clause reads:  "But He has the priesthood nontransferable." 

Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

This verse points back to verses 11-24. It begins, according to NASB: "Hence, also, He is able, etc." NKJV has: "Therefore He is also able, etc." A number of versions simply omit it in translation.

Rienecker: The phrase 'unto completeness,' can have a temporal sense 'for all time' or it can have a qualitative sense and emphasize full completeness, ie 'fully and completely,' or it may be that both ideas are contained and expressed in the phrase.

"Those who come" denotes the believers. "Through Him" is Christ. No one comes to the Father except through Christ. We are reminded of 1 Timothy 2:5; Romans 8:34, Hebrews 9:24. Note that "for them" brings out the vicarious nature of Christ's work for us: 2:9; 5:1; 6:20; 7:25,27; 9:7,24; 10:12; 13:17.

Hebrews 7:26 Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

Verses 26-28 have been called a "comprehensive summary." The Nestle Greek text sets off these verses as a major paragraph. In the Greek, verses 26-27 make up one period. Actually we have two complex sentences:

  1. 26 and 27a

  2. 27b

The main clause of the first complex sentence is the first line of verse 27. The word "one who" gathers up into itself the entire character and work of Christ in our behalf. He is the "one who" for our sake, not for Himself. Rienecker: "Such a high priest exactly befitted us." AAT: "Here is the High Priest we needed." "Without evil, untainted, ethically clean." 

Bengel, a Lutheran commentator, wrongly interprets "set apart" to mean: "He was separated when He left the world." It does not mean that He is far removed from us. He Himself said: "Lo I am with you always." 

Rienecker: He is in a class separate from sinners.

"Made higher than the heavens" means that His work as High Priest is accomplished.

Hebrews 7:27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

The verse does not say that the high priests offered sacrifices daily. It says that they had daily and constant need. Christ did not. He was and is sinless. The text reads literally: "who does not have need daily." On the high priest sacrificing for himself and then for the people look at Leviticus 16. Jesus is both priest and offering. According to verse 27 He is superior in three respects:

  1. Once for all;

  2. Only for the people;

  3. He offered Himself.

Hebrews 7:28 For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Two things are contrasted in this final verse.

  1. The Law and the Word of Oath; and

  2. Man fraught with weakness and the Perfect Son.

The agent behind both is God Himself. The verb which they have in common is "ordains." God gave the Law and administered the Oath. The first is abrogated, the second is irrevocable. The Law ordained sinful men. The Oath ordained the Perfect Son. NEB: "Which supersedes the Law." Not bad.

The final four words mean "made perfect forever." This expression involves and evokes many thoughts. He is eternally sinless, perfect, brought to His goal, far superior to the Levitical Priesthood which He brought to an end. The truths which the writer has written in chapter 7 are evidently the very items which the hearers had forgotten. And for that reason he spoke rather harshly to them in 5:11 to 6:8.


Adapted for Buls' Notes on the Web, from Exegetical Notes Epistle Texts, Series B, Sundays After Pentecost By Harold H. Buls, Pages 91-92

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