Hebrews 5 Commentary

vv.1-4 “Certain qualifications for high-priesthood under the old covenant are highlighted here as a basis for explaining more fully how Jesus can be the high priest of the new covenant. High priests were selected and appointed to act as mediators between the people of Israel and God. They were to represent them in matters related to God, specifically, but not exclusively, in offering gifts and sacrifices for sins. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest was to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people (cf. Lv. 16:6; 11–14). This was an indication that the high priest was subject to weakness, like the rest of the community, and in need of cleansing from sin. Such a ritual should have encouraged him to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray. The Greek verb translated ‘to deal gently’ means literally ‘to moderate anger’. The comparison and contrast with Christ is clear: Jewish high priests were at least to control their anger when dealing with those who sinned, but our high priest will actively sympathise with our weaknesses (4:15). From a statement about the general function of the high priest in the Israelite community and a comment about a necessary quality in his ministry, the writer turns to his calling. The honour of such an office is given by God alone: one must be called by God, just as Aaron was (cf. Ex. 28:1; Lv. 8:1; Nu. 16–18).” [1]

vv.5-6 “In reverse order, the qualifications for priesthood mentioned in vs 1–4 are now applied to Jesus. Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest but was appointed by God to this role, as indicated in Ps. 110:4. However, before Hebrews quotes that verse, the words of Ps. 2:7 are cited. This recalls the argument of ch. 1, where Ps. 2:7 is taken to affirm the absolute supremacy of the Son of God over the whole creation, including the angels (1:5). Ps. 110:1–3 similarly asserts the triumphant rule of the Messianic king who sits at God’s right hand. However, Ps. 110:4 adds the unusual perspective that the Messiah will be a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek. Joining these psalm citations together, Hebrews again links the idea of Jesus as Son and high priest (cf. 4:14), but makes it quite clear that his priesthood belongs to a different order from that of Aaron and the levitical priests. Jesus fulfils the role and function of the Jewish priesthood as high priest in the order of Melchizedek. The application of Ps. 110:4 to Jesus is explored more fully in Hebrews 7.”[2]

v.6 “Melchizedek was a Canaanite priest-king (Gen 14:18); to speak of a ‘priest like Melchizedek’ was thus to speak first of all of a priest who was also king.”[3]

vv.7-8 “In reverse order, the qualifications for priesthood mentioned in vs 1–4 are now applied to Jesus. Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest but was appointed by God to this role, as indicated in Ps. 110:4. However, before Hebrews quotes that verse, the words of Ps. 2:7 are cited. This recalls the argument of ch. 1, where Ps. 2:7 is taken to affirm the absolute supremacy of the Son of God over the whole creation, including the angels (1:5). Ps. 110:1–3 similarly asserts the triumphant rule of the Messianic king who sits at God’s right hand. However, Ps. 110:4 adds the unusual perspective that the Messiah will be a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek. Joining these psalm citations together, Hebrews again links the idea of Jesus as Son and high priest (cf. 4:14), but makes it quite clear that his priesthood belongs to a different order from that of Aaron and the levitical priests. Jesus fulfils the role and function of the Jewish priesthood as high priest in the order of Melchizedek. The application of Ps. 110:4 to Jesus is explored more fully in Hebrews 7.”[4]

vv.8-10 “Discipline, including beatings, was an essential part of most Greek education. Classical Greek writers stressed learning through suffering, and the Old Testament and later Jewish wisdom traditions portray divine chastisement as a sign of God’s love. The Greek paronomasia here, emathen aph? h?n epathen, ‘learned from the things he suffered,’ was already a common play on words in ancient literature. But the writer here challenges the Greek idea that the supreme God (with whom the writer in some sense identifies the Son—1:9; 3:3–4) was incapable of feeling, pain or true sympathy. Jesus’ participation in human suffering qualified him to be the ultimate high priest; the Septuagint applies the word used here for ‘made perfect’ to the consecration of priests (v. 9).”[5]

vv.9-10 “Learning obedience from what he suffered, Jesus was made perfect (‘perfected’) i.e. ‘qualified’ or ‘made completely adequate’ as the saviour of his people (cf. 2:10). More specifically, he was perfected as the source of eternal salvation. Every experience of testing prepared him for a final act of obedience to the Father in his sacrificial death (cf. 10:5–10). By this means he achieved a salvation from sin, death and the devil, enabling those who trust in him to share with him in the life of the world to come. The idea that Christ establishes a pattern of obedience for others to follow is suggested by the words for all who obey him. However, this expression does not indicate that salvation is to be earned by obedience. Salvation is God’s gift to us in Christ, but those who look to him as the unique source of eternal salvation will want to express their faith in ongoing obedience as he did (cf. 12:1–4). Faith in Christ commits us to share in his struggle against sin.”[6]

vv.11-14 “The readers have become slow to learn or more literally ‘dull with respect to what is heard’. Despite their initial enthusiasm as Christians, a certain sluggishness has crept in and the writer fears they may now be unwilling to work out the deeper implications of the gospel and respond with faith and obedience (cf. 2:1–4; 3:1–4:2, where the key issue is responding to what is heard). One sign of this developing slackness is their unwillingness or inability to be teachers. After a certain time, anyone instructed in the faith ought to be able to explain it to others (cf. 3:13; 10:24–25; 1 Thes. 5:11, 1 Pet. 3:15). If people want to be taught the elementary truths of God’s word all over again, when they should be communicating basic Christian teaching to others and desiring solid food for themselves, a serious case of arrested spiritual growth has developed. As in the physical realm, milk is the appropriate food for an infant but solid food is for the mature. The writer equates spiritual milk with what he describes as (lit.) ‘the first principles of the oracles of God’ (Gk. ta stoicheia t?s arch?s t?n logi?n tou Theou). This could mean that the readers needed some guidelines for interpreting the OT (‘the oracles of God’) from a Christian point of view. More specifically, the expression may be a parallel to what 6:1 describes as the elementary teachings about Christ (Gk. ton t?s arch?s tou Christou logon). Solid food will involve a deeper understanding of fundamental biblical truth (as in chs. 7–10). A spiritual infant is virtually defined as someone not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness, that is, teaching which can motivate them to righteousness (cf. 12:11). Furthermore, immature Christians have not trained themselves to distinguish good from evil by the constant practice of responding to God’s revelation.”[7]


[1] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Heb 4:14–5:10). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Heb 4:14–5:10). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[3] Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Heb 5:6). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Heb 4:14–5:10). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[5] Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Heb 5:8). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Heb 4:14–5:10). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[7] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Heb 5:11–6:20). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

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