This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him,
and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace."
Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!
Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people--that is, their brothers--even though their brothers are descended from Abraham.
This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater.
In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.
One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham,
because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come--one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?
For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.
He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.
For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears,
one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.
For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless
(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,
but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.' "
Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;
but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
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.
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.
The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.
If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.
They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.