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Hebrews 7 Study Notes


7:1-10:39 These chapters are an extended discourse on the superiority of the priesthood of Christ as demonstrated by the superiority of his order, his covenant, his ministry, and his sacrifice.


Greek pronunciation [ah PAH tohr]
CSB translation without father
Uses in Hebrews 1
Uses in the NT 1
Focus passage Hebrews 7:3

Apator means without father and appears once in the NT (Heb 7:3), in reference to the genealogy of Melchizedek, Salem’s king. In Classical Greek, apator generally meant one without a father. It could refer to a deity who had no father (Orphicha, Hymni 10.10), the fatherless or orphans as those separated from a father (Sophocles, Trachiniae 300), or one who is disowned by a father (Plato, Leges 929a). Elsewhere, apator referred to a person of unknown father (Plutarchus, Moralia 2.288e) or of illegitimate birth. In the latter case, apator was followed by the mother’s name (e.g., “the illegitimate (apator) daughter of Tanephremmis”). In Hebrews, apator is followed by ametor (without mother), highlighting that Melchizedek was not born illegitimately but that he had no traceable genealogical origin. The OT lists no genealogy for Melchizedek (Gn 14:18-20; Ps 110:4), who, as a type of Christ, remains a priest forever (Heb 7:3).

7:1-19 The Levitical priesthood of the Jews was grounded in the order of Aaron, but the priesthood of Jesus Christ is grounded in the order of Melchizedek. The mysterious Melchizedek appeared in Gn 14:18-20 and was not mentioned again until the messianic promise was made in Ps 110. The author of Hebrews drew from the OT witness to show that the order of Melchizedek was eternal in origin and scope. Melchizedek was a type of Christ reflecting the divine attributes of eternity, righteousness, peace, and sovereignty. His eternality is evident in that he was a priest forever—without record of beginning or end. His righteousness is evident in his name since Melchizedek is Hebrew for king of righteousness. His peace is evident in the fact that he was also declared to be the king of Salem, which means king of peace.

Finally, Melchizedek’s sovereignty was recognized by Abraham, who paid this priest-king a tithe of all he had when he returned victorious from war. If Abraham recognized Melchizedek’s superiority by paying him a tithe, then Israel must, too. The author argued that the Levitical priesthood was inferior to that of Melchizedek because the inferior is blessed by the superior. The sovereignty of Melchizedek is reflected in the sovereignty of the Son of God, because while the Levitical priesthood was authorized by a legal regulation, the priesthood of Christ was authorized by the power of an indestructible life.

7:20-8:13 The author addressed next the authorizing sources of the two priesthoods. Typically, authority was granted to an agreement or a covenant through the confirmation of an oath. Citing Jr 31:31-34, the author noted the old covenant between God and Israel was dependent on the oath of man; unfortunately, they did not continue in this covenant. But the new covenant promised through Jeremiah was different, because that oath was made entirely by God. Because God swore to the new covenant, it was eternally guaranteed. He said he would be merciful to them and place his laws in their minds and hearts. Because of the divine oath, the new covenant is a better covenant. The first covenant is obsolete and growing old and about to pass away.

The priesthood based on the old covenant was filled with priests who could not remain in office because they died, but the new covenant priest always lives to intercede. The old covenant priesthood was filled with priests who were weak (7:28), but the new covenant priest was perfected forever through Jesus’s obedient suffering. The old covenant priest had to offer sacrifices every day, but the new covenant priest offered a sacrifice once for all time. The old covenant priest sacrificed for both himself and his people, but the new covenant priest, being sinless, offered himself on behalf of the people.