To the Hebrews 7:1-28

7  For this Mel·chizʹe·dek, king of Saʹlem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,+  and Abraham gave* him a tenth of everything. First, his name is translated “King of Righteousness,” and then also king of Saʹlem, that is, “King of Peace.”  In being fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, but being made like the Son of God, he remains a priest for all time.+  See how great this man was to whom Abraham, the family head, gave a tenth out of the best spoils.+  True, according to the Law, those of the sons of Leʹvi+ who receive their priestly office have a commandment to collect tithes from the people,+ that is, from their brothers, even though these are descendants of Abraham.  But this man who did not trace his genealogy from them took tithes from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.+  Now it is undeniable that the lesser one is blessed by the greater.  And in the one case, it is men who are dying who receive tithes, but in the other case, it is someone of whom witness is given that he lives.+  And it could be said that even Leʹvi, who receives tithes, has paid tithes through Abraham, 10  for he was still a future descendant of his forefather when Mel·chizʹe·dek met him.+ 11  If, then, perfection was attainable through the Levitical priesthood+ (for it was a feature of the Law that was given to the people), what further need would there be for another priest to arise who is said to be in the manner of Mel·chizʹe·dek+ and not in the manner of Aaron? 12  For since the priesthood is being changed, it becomes necessary to change the Law as well.+ 13  For the man about whom these things are said came from another tribe,+ from which no one has officiated at the altar.+ 14  For it is clear that our Lord has descended from Judah,+ yet Moses said nothing about priests coming from that tribe. 15  And this becomes even clearer when another priest+ arises who is like Mel·chizʹe·dek,+ 16  who has become such, not by the legal requirement that depends on fleshly descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.+ 17  For it is said in witness of him: “You are a priest forever in the manner of Mel·chizʹe·dek.”+ 18  So, then, the former commandment is set aside because it is weak and ineffective.+ 19  For the Law made nothing perfect,+ but the introduction of a better hope+ did, through which we are drawing near to God.+ 20  Also, inasmuch as this was not done without an oath being sworn 21  (for, indeed, there are men who have become priests without a sworn oath, but this one has become so through an oath sworn respecting him by the One who said: “Jehovah has sworn, and he will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”),+ 22  Jesus has accordingly become the guarantee of a better covenant.+ 23  Furthermore, many had to become priests in succession+ because death prevented them from continuing as such, 24  but because he continues alive forever,+ his priesthood has no successors. 25  So he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them.+ 26  For it is fitting for us to have such a high priest who is loyal, innocent, undefiled,+ separated from the sinners, and exalted above the heavens.+ 27  Unlike those high priests, he does not need to offer up sacrifices daily,+ first for his own sins and then for those of the people,+ because he did this once for all time when he offered himself up.+ 28  For the Law appoints as high priests men who have weaknesses,+ but the word of the oath+ sworn after the Law appoints a Son, who has been made perfect+ forever.


Lit., “apportioned.”

Study Notes

Melchizedek: In the Hebrew Scriptures, Melchizedek is first mentioned at Ge 14:17, 18, which describes his meeting with Abraham (Abram). About 900 years after that event, David foretold that the Messiah would be “a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.” (Ps 110:1-4) Jesus quoted from that psalm on Nisan 11, 33 C.E. (Mt 22:42-45; Mr 12:35-37; Lu 20:41-44) A few weeks later, at Pentecost 33 C.E., Peter confirmed that David’s prophecy had been fulfilled. (Ac 2:33-36) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, only in the book of Hebrews is Melchizedek mentioned by name. (Heb 5:6 and study note) In Hebrew, the name Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness.”​—Heb 7:2.

king of Salem: According to Ge 14:18, “Salem” is the city where Melchizedek served as king and priest. Ancient Jewish tradition identifies Salem with Jerusalem, and the Hebrew spelling of “Salem” is incorporated in the name Jerusalem. The Hebrew Scriptures too suggest that Salem refers to Jerusalem. For example, Abraham met Melchizedek at “the Valley of the King,” which apparently lay close to Jerusalem. (Ge 14:16, 17; 2Sa 18:18) At Ps 76:2, the psalmist used “Salem” in parallel with “Zion.” So it appears that Melchizedek served as king and priest in the very place where the kings of the Davidic line and the Levitical priests served much later. That is also where Jesus Christ, the one chosen to be a king and a priest “in the manner of Melchizedek,” offered his life in sacrifice.​—Heb 3:1; 7:1-3, 15-17; 10:12.

priest of the Most High God: In the Scriptures, Melchizedek is the first person to whom the term “priest” is applied. (Ge 14:18) He worshipped, not a pagan god, but the God whom Abraham worshipped. Both men referred to Jehovah as “the Most High God” and as “Maker of heaven and earth.” (Ge 14:18-20, 22) Jehovah himself was the one who appointed Melchizedek to serve as a priest.​—Ps 110:4; Heb 7:17.

king of Salem, that is, “King of Peace”: Although the Hebrew Scriptures do not indicate the meaning of the name Salem (Ge 14:18), Paul here under inspiration explains that it means “Peace,” apparently connecting it with the Hebrew word for “peace” (sha·lohmʹ). “King of Peace” is a fitting title for Melchizedek, whom Paul links to Jesus. (Heb 6:20; 7:3) And in the Bible, peace is often associated with Jesus’ rule as the promised Messiah. For example, at Isa 9:6, 7, he is called “Prince of Peace,” that is, a prince promoting peace.​—See also Ps 72:1, 3, 7; Zec 9:9, 10; for a discussion of the original-language words for “peace,” see study note on Mr 5:34.

without genealogy: Like other humans, Melchizedek must have had parents, and he may have had offspring. Therefore, Melchizedek would have had a genealogy, or family tree. But because the Bible does not record any details of Melchizedek’s ancestors or descendants, Paul could say that Melchizedek was “without genealogy.” The Syriac Peshitta (a translation in use from the fifth century C.E. onward) renders Heb 7:3 as follows: “It is not written in the genealogies who his father and mother were, when he was born, or when he died. Instead, his priesthood stands eternally in the same way as it does for God’s Son.” Jesus’ priesthood does not depend on human genealogy. He was not born in the priestly tribe of Levi. Rather, like Melchizedek, he became “a high priest” through a direct appointment by God. (Heb 5:10; 7:15, 16) In contrast, the laws regulating the Levitical priesthood were based on “fleshly descent,” so it was crucial that those priests keep accurate genealogical records.​—Heb 7:16; Nu 3:10, 15, 16; Ne 7:63, 64.

having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life: Paul does not imply that either Melchizedek or Jesus was literally without any beginning. Melchizedek was born in the natural way. Jesus was created as a spirit creature, “the firstborn of all creation” and “the beginning of the creation by God.” (Col 1:15 and study note; Re 3:14) The point is simply that Melchizedek​—like Jesus​—did not owe his priesthood to any inheritance conferred on him by his birth. Also, because Melchizedek’s “end of life” went unrecorded, Paul could use that fact to illustrate that Jesus’ priesthood would be an eternal one.

being made like the Son of God: Paul does not say that God made his Son like Melchizedek but that, in a sense, he made Melchizedek like his Son. Jehovah did so by seeing to it that the Genesis account about king-priest Melchizedek contained no details about his background, birth, family, or death. (Ge 14:18-20) That carefully worded account made it possible for Melchizedek to serve as a prophetic pattern​—a priest who was appointed directly by God.

he remains a priest for all time: The Bible contains no indication that Melchizedek had either a predecessor or a successor in his priesthood. That is why he can be called a priest “for all time,” or “perpetually.” “In the manner of Melchizedek,” Jesus had no predecessor. (Heb 5:5, 6, 10; 6:20; 7:15-17) Also, the Bible shows that Jesus’ “priesthood has no successors.”​—Heb 7:24 and study note.

to whom Abraham . . . gave a tenth out of the best spoils: The Mosaic Law required that the Israelites pay a tenth, or tithe, of the produce of the land to support the tribe of Levi, but that began some five centuries after Abraham’s day. (Nu 18:21, 24) When Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoil, he did so, not because a law required it, but because he recognized that Jehovah had given Melchizedek the authority to serve as a “priest of the Most High God.” (Heb 7:1) The Genesis record says that Abraham gave Melchizedek “a tenth of everything,” referring to the spoils of Abraham’s victory over a coalition of four kings. (Ge 14:9, 18-20) Paul here adds the detail “a tenth out of the best spoils.” Clearly, Abraham viewed Melchizedek as worthy of the highest honor.

Abraham, the family head: Many translations here use the word “patriarch,” (from the Greek word pa·tri·arʹkhes, which Paul uses here), meaning “father of a tribe or nation.” (See study note on Ac 7:8.) During his life, Abraham was both the ruler and the religious leader of his large family group. The whole nation of Israel, including its priestly and royal lines, came from him. Thus, Abraham was greater than the Levitical priests who descended from him. Yet, as Paul shows here, the patriarch Abraham humbly honored Melchizedek, recognizing that king-priest as being greater. (Heb 7:1, 2) Paul reasons that the King and High Priest whom Melchizedek pictured, Jesus Christ, must be even greater.​—See study note on Heb 4:14.

the sons of Levi: Nonpriestly members of the tribe of Levi had no land inheritance, so they received tithes from the rest of the nation. (Nu 18:21) These nonpriestly Levites, in turn, gave one tenth of what they received​—“the very best” of it​—to those of their tribe who had the honor of serving as priests. (Nu 18:25-29) The nonpriestly Levites also assisted the priests in their work.​—See Glossary, “Levi; Levite.”

a commandment to collect tithes: See Glossary, “Tenth (tithe).”

are descendants: Lit., “have come out of the loins.” A similar expression, “fruitage of his loins,” is rendered “offspring” at Ac 2:30.​—See study note.

the lesser one is blessed by the greater: Paul uses this principle in his argument that Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to that of Levi. Since Melchizedek blessed Abraham, that king-priest must have been greater than Abraham and any of his descendants, including Levi and the Levitical priests.​—Heb 7:1, 6.

blessed: In the Bible, a human might bless another human by acknowledging his fine qualities or good work. (Ex 39:43) Or he might express the desire that God show favor to the other person, in effect, appealing to God to bless him or her. (Ru 3:10) More was involved, however, when Melchizedek blessed Abraham. As a priest with authority to speak for God, his words were prophetic. He confirmed to Abraham that Jehovah intended to bless him and his unborn offspring.​—Ge 14:18-20.

witness is given that he lives: As an imperfect man, Melchizedek did die. (Ro 5:12) However, here Paul stresses that the Scriptures say nothing about his death. In that sense, the Scriptures give witness, or testify, that “he lives.”​—Heb 7:3 and study note.

Levi . . . has paid tithes through Abraham: Paul here reasons that when Abraham recognized Melchizedek as a priest of Jehovah and honored him by paying him tithes, in a way all of Abraham’s unborn descendants honored Melchizedek. Abraham, in effect, acted as the representative for all his descendants. They would include Levi, Abraham’s great-grandson; they would also include Aaron, who descended from Levi. Paul thus adds to his claim that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. With the exception of Jesus, that king-priest must also have been greater than any of Abraham’s descendants, including all the priests serving at the temple in Jerusalem in Paul’s day. Therefore, such priests could never be equal to the long-foretold “high priest in the manner of Melchizedek.”​—Heb 5:10; Ps 110:4.

a future descendant: Lit., “in the loins.”​—See study note on Heb 7:5.

If, then, perfection was attainable: A perfect person has a completely clean conscience; he knows that he is sinless before Jehovah God. (Compare Heb 10:1, 2.) But no sinful human could attain to such perfection by means of the Mosaic Law and its Levitical priesthood. (Heb 7:19) Those priests offered sacrifices that served to remind God’s people of the reality and the seriousness of sin. (Heb 10:3) The sacrifices also pointed ahead to the greater sacrifice that Christ Jesus would offer “once for all time.” (Heb 9:12; 10:10) Only that perfect sacrifice, corresponding exactly to the life that Adam lost, could lead to full forgiveness of sins. (1Ti 2:6 and study note; Heb 10:4) By means of the ransom, Christ became “the end of the Law,” and as High Priest, he opened the way for humans to attain to perfection at last.​—Ro 10:4; Heb 10:14 and study note.

it was a feature of the Law: This statement could also be rendered “it was the basis of the Law.” The priesthood of Israel was a key feature of the Law that Jehovah gave to the people. By offering up sacrifices, the priests helped to fulfill a fundamental purpose of the Law, namely, to remind God’s people of the seriousness of sin and the need for atonement. (See study note on Heb 5:1.) In fact, an entire book of the Pentateuch​—Leviticus​—is devoted to the subject of the priesthood, the tabernacle, and the sacrifices.

the priesthood is being changed: Jehovah had sworn an oath to appoint the Messiah as a king-priest in the manner of Melchizedek. (Ps 110:2, 4; Heb 7:11) This oath indicated that the Levitical priesthood would be changed; in fact, it would be replaced. Jesus, who was a descendant of Judah, could not qualify to serve as high priest under the Mosaic Law, for it stipulated that priests come from the tribe of Levi. (Mt 2:6; Re 5:5; see study note on Heb 7:14.) However, because Jesus​—like Melchizedek​—was appointed directly by God, he could serve as both king and priest.​—Heb 7:15, 21 and study note.

our Lord has descended from Judah: In order to establish his legal right to rule as the foretold Messianic King, Jesus had to come from the line of Judah. (Ge 49:10) In the first century C.E., accurate genealogies were likely available in public archives. Such records proved that Jesus was a descendant of Judah through David’s royal line. Those documents were apparently destroyed during the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-70 C.E. However, Jesus’ genealogy has been preserved in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. (Mt 1:1, 3, 16; Lu 3:23, 33) In contrast, no genealogy was needed to establish Jesus’ qualifications as High Priest. He did not need to descend from the line of Levi. Rather, he would be a king and a priest like Melchizedek, on the basis of God’s appointment and oath.​—Ps 110:1-4; Mr 12:35, 36; Heb 7:15-17; see study note on Heb 7:12.

the legal requirement that depends on fleshly descent: Lit., “the law of a fleshly commandment.” Paul here refers to the regulations in the Mosaic Law regarding the priesthood​—for example, the one requiring that all priests be born in the family line of Levi.

the power of an indestructible life: Jesus could become “a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek” because Jehovah gave him “the power of an indestructible life.” (Heb 7:3, 17) Jesus received that glorious reward when his Father resurrected him from the dead. (Ac 13:33-37; 1Ti 6:16 and study note) Jehovah thus fulfilled his oath and enabled his Son to serve as “a priest forever.” (Ps 110:4) Jesus is now immortal, meaning that he enjoys life that is beyond destruction or deterioration. Therefore, he can serve as a life-giving High Priest with no need of successors; “he is always alive to plead for” faithful believers.​—Heb 7:24, 25.

“You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek”: See study notes on Heb 5:6; 7:1.

the former commandment is set aside: The context suggests that “the former commandment” refers in particular to the regulations about the Levitical priesthood. (Heb 7:15, 16) The Greek word for “set aside” was at times used as a legal term meaning “annulling,” “annulment,” so Paul shows that this key feature of the Law was annulled. (Heb 7:11 and study note, 12) Ultimately, that priesthood proved to be weak and ineffective because no imperfect priest who offered animal sacrifices could bring humans to perfection. (See study notes on Ro 8:3; Heb 5:2.) But now God had appointed his Son to serve as a priest like Melchizedek. So “the former commandment” was replaced with “a better hope,” one based on the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.​—Heb 7:19 and study note, 22-27.

the Law made nothing perfect: Under the Mosaic Law, the animal sacrifices offered by the priests gave sinful humans a basis to approach God in the hope of receiving forgiveness of sins. (Le 1:3, 4; Ps 65:2-4) However, the priesthood and the sacrifices arranged by that Law could never remove sin completely. (Ro 8:3 and study note; Heb 10:4) Thus, the Law could not fully restore an imperfect human’s relationship with Jehovah.

but the introduction of a better hope did: Jehovah introduced “a better hope” when he sent Jesus Christ to the earth to provide a better sacrifice and a priesthood that was superior to that outlined in the Mosaic Law. This hope includes the prospect of being saved by means of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, which gives imperfect humans the opportunity of “drawing near to God” and of enjoying a perfectly restored relationship with Him.​—Heb 6:18, 19; 7:25.

this was not done without an oath being sworn: God not only appointed Jesus as High Priest, but He did so with a solemn oath. (Ps 110:1, 4; Heb 7:21 and study note) Based on that oath, Jehovah established “a better covenant”​—one superior even to the Mosaic Law covenant.​—Heb 7:22.

priests without a sworn oath: Jehovah instructed Moses to install Aaron as the first high priest of Israel, and He designated the sons of Aaron as underpriests. (Ex 28:1; 29:35) Thereafter, the descendants of Aaron served as the priests of Israel, and the rest of the males of the tribe of Levi assisted them. (Ex 29:9; Nu 3:6-10) So the priests of Israel received their honored position “without a sworn oath”; rather, they received it by means of “fleshly descent.” (Heb 7:16) Paul forcefully argues that a priesthood based on God’s own sworn oath is far superior to one based on human ancestry.

Jehovah: The original Hebrew text at Ps 110:4, from which this quotation is taken, contains the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH). Therefore, the divine name is used here in the main text.​—See App. C1 and C2.

Jehovah has sworn: Paul again quotes from Ps 110:4, but this time he includes a part that he has not quoted earlier: “Jehovah has sworn [an oath], and he will not change his mind.” (See study notes on Heb 5:6.) Paul had already established that Jehovah’s sworn oath is unchangeable; it is the most trustworthy guarantee possible. (See study notes on Heb 6:17, 18.) So Jehovah’s oath regarding Jesus, “You are a priest forever” in the manner of king-priest Melchizedek, constitutes a personal covenant between Jehovah and his Son. (Heb 7:17) Jesus apparently referred to that covenant when he made his own covenant “for a kingdom” with his followers.​—Lu 22:29 and study note.

the guarantee of a better covenant: Jesus is not only “the mediator” of the new and better covenant (Heb 8:6 and study note) but also “the guarantee” (or, “the one given in pledge”) of that covenant. The Greek word for “guarantee” was a legal term referring to one who provided security ensuring “that a legal obligation would be carried out.” Jesus became a legal guarantee that “a better hope” was sure to be fulfilled.​—Heb 7:19 and study note, 20 and study note; compare Ro 8:32.

covenant: See Glossary.

many had to become priests in succession: Paul is referring to the line of high priests. In 1512 B.C.E., Jehovah appointed Aaron to serve as the first high priest. When Aaron died at 123 years of age, his son Eleazar succeeded him as high priest. (Nu 20:25-28; 33:39) In turn, when Eleazar died, his son Phinehas succeeded him. (Jos 24:33; Jg 20:27, 28) By Paul’s day, some 15 centuries later, many had “become priests in succession.” Apparently, over 80 men had served as high priest by the time the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.

has no successors: Or “is permanent,” that is, does not pass on to someone else. The Aaronic high priests all eventually died, so they needed to have successors. (Heb 7:23) Jesus Christ, however, “continues alive forever,” so his priesthood does not need successors.​—See study note on Heb 7:25.

he is able also to save completely: Unlike those imperfect human high priests who offered animal sacrifices year after year, Jesus offered his perfect sacrifice “once for all time.” (Heb 7:27) In addition, Jesus is immortal, so he is able to accomplish​—from start to finish​—the work of saving sinful humans. (Ro 6:9; Heb 7:23, 24) He saves “completely” in that he helps each obedient disciple gain everlasting life, whether immortal life in heaven or endless life on earth.​—1Co 15:54, 55; Re 21:3, 4.

to plead: This term means to appeal to someone in behalf of another person. Because no imperfect human can approach God directly, Jesus lovingly pleads in behalf of his followers, becoming their advocate before God. (Heb 2:18 and study note) Christians can always approach God in Jesus’ name, knowing that Christ stands ready to help them. (Joh 16:23; Heb 4:15, 16 and study note) Of course, Paul is not here suggesting that God is reluctant to forgive and requires that Jesus beg him to show mercy. Jehovah is compassionate and ready to forgive. (Ex 34:6, 7; Ps 86:5) In fact, God is the one who provided Jesus as the advocate through whom true worshippers can approach Him to obtain mercy and help.​—Ro 3:24, 25; 2Co 5:18, 19; 1Jo 2:1, ftn.; 4:10.

a high priest who is loyal: Paul mentions this quality as an outstanding reason why Jesus is superior to any Jewish high priest who served in the nation of Israel; none of them could match his record of perfect loyalty to God. The Greek word rendered “loyal” can convey the idea of being “holy” or “devout” (as some translations render it here), but the rendering “loyal” is well-supported. For example, this Greek word often appears in the Septuagint to render a Hebrew word meaning “loyal” or “loyal one.” As recorded at Ps 16:10, David wrote: “You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” Peter and Paul quoted this psalm and applied it to Jesus. The accounts at Ac 2:27 and 13:35 use the same Greek word that Paul uses here. (Compare study note on Tit 1:8.) Jesus is the foremost example of loyalty among God’s creatures, and he could rightly be called God’s “loyal one.”

separated from the sinners: Jesus was “separated from,” or different from, all other humans​—including any other high priest​—in that he never committed any sin. (1Pe 2:22) He had no sinful tendencies. Jehovah, by means of holy spirit, protected him from inheriting sin from his imperfect mother, Mary. (Lu 1:35) However, the description “separated from the sinners” does not mean that Christ avoided all sinful, imperfect people. As a compassionate High Priest, he associated with them in order to help them draw close to Jehovah and meet His standards. (Mt 9:11, 12) Paul thus sees it as “fitting” for sinful humans to have such a High Priest. (Compare Heb 2:10 and study note.) Furthermore, when Paul wrote to the Hebrews, Jesus had long since been “separated from the sinners” in another sense​—he had ascended to the heavens.

exalted above the heavens: Jehovah exalted his Son by raising him to sit at His right hand, to a position far higher than anything in the physical heavens and far above sinful humans. (1Ki 8:27; Heb 1:3 and study note; 4:14 and study note) Jesus’ priesthood was therefore exalted above that of the Levites, who served in a temple that was soon to be destroyed. In addition, the Bible often uses the word “heavens” or “heaven” figuratively to describe rulership or governments. (Isa 65:17; Da 4:26; 2Pe 3:13; Re 21:1) As the king-priest like Melchizedek, Jesus sits on his throne at God’s right hand and is exalted above every government and authority in heaven and on earth.​—Mt 28:18; 1Co 15:27; Eph 1:20, 21; Php 2:9; 1Ti 6:14-16; Heb 1:4 and study note; compare Col 1:16 and study note.

once for all time: This phrase highlights a sharp contrast between the sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered as High Priest and those offered by all the Aaronic high priests of Israel. Those imperfect men had to offer up sacrifices for their own sins and for those of the people. (Le 4:3, 13-16) They offered up sacrifices year after year on the Day of Atonement. (Heb 10:1) They could also choose to officiate when other sacrifices were offered daily. However, Jesus offered up only one sacrifice, a perfect one. It is the ultimate sacrifice, and it is valid for all faithful humans for all time. It will ensure that sin is wiped out forever. There is no need for this sacrifice ever to be repeated.​—Heb 9:12 and study note, 26, 28; 10:1, 2, 10; 1Pe 3:18.

made perfect: See study notes on Heb 2:10; 5:9.