The Abrahamic Covenant – Part 11


John Plunkett

 June 27, 2015




In recent months we’ve been through the “covenant” scriptures in Paul’s epistles to the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians.


This being the case, we are now getting close to the end of the Bible; so what is left for us to study?


What is left to study is the “covenant” scriptures in the book of Hebrews.


But haven’t we gone into them already?


Yes, we have been through some of them, but only in bits and pieces, as they have related to Paul’s mentions in his epistle to the Galatians and to other “covenant” scriptures that we have studied to this point.


In the next couple of weeks I would like to go through all of the covenant scriptures in the book of Hebrews.


So now, as we return to the book of Hebrews, and because a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since we began this portion of our long study, let’s just review the two very valid and significant questions that we’ve been asking:


1.     Which covenant are the New Testament covenant scriptures – or at least, most of them –referring to?

2.     According to those New Testament covenant scriptures, which covenant is looked upon – especially by God – as the superior one?


I repeat these questions because I don’t want you to think that I’m leading you through these Hebrews scriptures again for no good reason.


So now we’re looking for the “covenant” scriptures in the book of Hebrews; but we are looking for the “testament” scriptures as well, because the English word “testament” – as we find it in the King James Version – is the same Greek word ‘diatheke’  as the word “covenant.” 

So when we read the word “testament,” we are also seeing the word “covenant” – although later on in the book of Hebrews, we find that the word “testament” more and more leads to a testament in the way of a will – i.e. a last will and testament. 


Let’s pick up the story at the end of chapter 6.


Hebrews 6:18: 
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:


That “hope set before us” is the grace promise of the Abrahamic Covenant.


19:  which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil;


Why is the veil relevant?  And which veil is the author of Hebrews referring to? 


Obviously the one that separated the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) from the Holy Place (the main part of the temple or tabernacle building).  That veil was set up in between the two rooms


But in this particular instance, it is not the physical, earthly veil in the tent-tabernacle or in any of the Jerusalem temples.


The Person referred to here, who is authorized to do so, is entering into the real Most Holy Place which is the throne room of God the Father in heaven.


20:  whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.


Jesus is the One mentioned in verse 19, who was authorized to enter into the heavenly Most Holy Place.  He is the Forerunner and the High Priest of the Melchisedec order priesthood – not the Levitical, Aaronic one.


Yes, the human, Aaronic High Priest was authorized to go beyond the physical veil into the physical Most Holy Place; but only Jesus – the Melchizedek High Priest – was authorized and able to enter the heavenly one.


This mention of Melchizedek leads us into chapter 7 and its mentions of Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant.


The first actual mention of the word “covenant” is way down in verse 22; but let’s read the first verses of the chapter so that we can get the context and the true meaning:


Hebrews 7:
1:  For this Melchisedec, King of Salem
{King of Peace}, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
2:  To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace;

3:  Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abides a Priest continually.

4:  Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils…


This Melchisedec was no ordinary “man”!  He was the King of Righteousness.  Or, as we should say, He is the King of Righteousness, the King of Salem and the King of Peace.  He had no father and no mother; He had no decent; He had no beginning nor end of life.  It says that He was like the Son of God, and He was a Priest continually.


Who does this sound like to you?


5:  And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood {the Levitical priesthood}, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law {the Sinai Covenant law}, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:


It is interesting how the author makes us start thinking about what happened between the lifetimes of Abraham and Levi.


6:  But He whose descent is not counted from them {Levi or Abraham} received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises {the Abrahamic Covenant promises}.


So Abraham, who had the Abrahamic Covenant promises given to him, was blessed by this Melchisedec.


7: And without all contradiction the less {Abraham} is blessed of the better {Melchisedec}.


In other words, although Abraham was of a very high rank and importance, we believe that he was truly of royal stature, Melchisedec was even better (Greek Kreitton) – even higher.  Actually, way higher!


8:  And here men that die {i.e. Aaronic priests} receive tithes; but there {in God’s heavenly throne room} He receives them, of whom it is witnessed that He lives.


Yes, He, the One who lives – who lives eternally!  It is talking about Melchisedec – the One who is without father, without mother, without decent, and without beginning or end of life.


There is also the beginnings of a hint here – an implication that the human, Levitical/Aaronic priesthood is inferior to that of Melchisedec. 


The author of Hebrews puts the accent on the fact that the Aaronic priests are subject to death; but Melchisedec is not subject to death.  Rather it says that “He lives.”  The implication is that He lives eternally – that He possesses inherent eternal life!


9:   And as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.

10:  For he {Levi… and his Levitical/Aaronic descendants} was yet in the loins of his father {Abraham}, when Melchisedec met him.

At the time when Abraham paid tithes to Melchisedec, those Levites who eventually came to receive tithes were still in Abraham’s genes, still “in his loins.”


So He – the one who lives eternally – is Melchisedec.


Once again we see that the human Levitical/Aaronic, Sinai Covenant priesthood which, although a certain, limited level of respect certain was due to it, was so often unrighteously placed on pedestals by the Jews and other Israelites, it is shown here to be of a much lower rank than the Melchisedec priesthood.


11:  If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood {which, of course, it was not!}, (for under it the people received the law {the law of the Sinai Covenant}), what further need was there that another priest {another High Priest – Jesus} should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?


The author is asking his readers, “Why do we need another High Priest?  We had all of those human Levitical High Priests; so even if they were able to bring perfection to the people, why do we need another one – especially one who is not of the Aaronic order?


12:  For the priesthood being changed {verb form}, there is made of necessity a change {noun form} also of the law.


This is an absolutely hugely important statement.  Let’s dig into it and take a quick look at the twin terms here.  The phrase “being changed” is a verb form and “a change” is the noun form.  Let’s take a look at both of these terms that are related English, Greek and Hebrew.


It is very important what is being said here; and the order in which these things are being done is also of great importance.


First of all let us look at the verb form – “being changed”:


The English term is translated from the Greek verb metatithemi (Strong’s 3346) and is elsewhere in the New Testament translated as:

·        Translate (in its old English sense),

·        Remove (e.g. the removal of the obsolete Aaronic priesthood),

·        Turn (e.g. turning from the obsolete Aaronic priesthood –
not to a new priesthood; but to a priesthood that is very ancient and eternal.
This is actually not just a turning; but is a re-turning – to the Melchisedec priesthood.


The extended Greek meanings of metatithemi that are relevant in this context are:  


·        To transpose two things – one of which is put in place of the other,

·        To transfer or to go over – from one person or thing to another.


Metatithemi stems from two other Greek words:  Meta (Strong’s 3326) and tithemi (Strong’s 5087):


Meta is a simple, basic preposition which is frequently translated into many relatively minor words in the Bible, including with, after, among, and that kind of thing. 


But some of its biblical and extended Greek meanings are very much more significant to this verse and context:  hereafter, afterward, exchange, transfer, transmutation.

From all of these ways of translating the word Meta, we get the idea that: Hereafter (i.e. after Jesus’ death and resurrection), God was instituting a major exchange or transfer – specifically of the priesthood.


The second source word of metatithemi is the simple verb tithemi, which also can have multiple, relatively insignificant English meanings – such as lay, put and make.


But again, in the context of this verse and chapter, it can be rightly and more significantly translated as: to lay aside or to wear (or carry) no longer.

These translations might be applicable to the laying aside of the old, Levitical/Aaronic, Sinai covenant priesthood – like we might discard an old worn-out garment.


But also, on the other side of the coin, tithemi can be translated as to set, to fix, to establish, to ordain or to appoint – all of which give the idea of the re-establishment, re-ordination and re-appointment of the Melchisedec priesthood, which is eternal in the past, as well as in the present and the future.


So that is the detail on the verb form metatithemi of one priesthood being changed to another.  Now let’s look at the noun form that is in Hebrews 7:12 too: “a change” which is translated from the Greek noun metathesis (Strong’s 3331) and which has the same root words as metatithemi.


Just as metatithemi was referring to a change in the priesthood, this word – metathesis – is referring to a consequent change in the law.  Please note that the change in the priesthood came first and the change in the law came as a result of the change in the priesthood.  That is important!


As well as “a change,” the Greek word metathesis can also mean:

·        A removing  (relevant in this context to the removal of the old, obsolete, sacrificial law of the Sinai Covenant),

·        A change of things that were formerly instituted or established,

·        A translation – not as in the translation of one language to another; but in the old-English sense of a transformation,

·        A transfer from one place to another.
This is very relevant to the transference of the non-sacrificial laws – from the temple – to the hearts of God’s people (Jeremiah 31:33; Job 22:22; Psalm 37:31; Psalm 40:8). 


These are not totally doing away with everything in God’s law.  They refer to the transferring of the non-sacrificial laws from their former place in the temple to their new place – in our hearts and minds.


Once again, please notice the order of how God made these changes:


First of all, He changed the priesthood:


From the temporary Aaronic priesthood – which He had set up to look after the running of the responsibilities on the human side of the Sinai Covenant


To – or more accurately – returning to – the Melchisedec priesthood – which was and is eternal in the past, present and future; and which has looked after the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant – and, consequently, the New Covenant – since their inception approximately 4,000 years ago.


There is also an interesting side point that is worth thinking; and that is that there is no scriptural record of the Melchisedec priesthood going dormant during the approximately 1,500 year tenure of the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood.


So, if we think of the Levitical priesthood running from the time of Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai all of the way through to the death and resurrection of Jesus – approximately 1,500 years, the Melchisedec priesthood existed before and after that period.  It actually existed from eternity in the past to eternity in the future.  Again, God’s word doesn’t say that He took it away during that 1,500 years.


The way I try and get my mind around it is that, for those 1,500 years, the Melchisedec priesthood ran quietly – but efficiently – in the background – perhaps something like a virus protection software program looking after our computers – only occasionally coming forward when necessary to take some critical action.


Let me repeat once again the very interesting order of these changes:


First, God deemed it necessary to change the priesthood.


Secondly, because of this change in the priesthood, a change in the law became necessary!


From a human point of view, we might think that the reverse would have been better – i.e. to first replace the Sinai law with the better one – the law of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33) and then secondly, because the ritual sacrificial laws had been terminated, thousands of Aaronic priests were no longer required; so God could lay them all off as a result, thus terminating the Aaronic priesthood.


But God didn’t do it that way according to this verse (12)!


We have to remember that His thoughts and His ways of doing things are so very much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).


Although we may find this hard to understand, we have to remember that He is in charge of time and that He even has full control of it!  I believe that He obviously had a pre-set time limit for the duration of the Sinai Covenant – approximately 1,500 years; also that He works according to His time limits.  When His deadline drew near – getting close to the end of that 1,500 years – He sent His Son to fulfil the requirements, in order:


·        To terminate the obsolete Sinai Covenant,


·        To terminate (or “lay-off”) the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood (which we could also rightly refer to as “the Sinai Covenant priesthood”),


·        To return the Melchisedec priesthood to the forefront,


·        Then, as a result of this change in the priesthood, to change the law,

·        To terminate the Sinai covenant ritual sacrificial laws,


·        To relocate the remaining, still-valid, non-sacrificial laws – by writing them on the hearts and minds of every spiritual Israelite.


Let’s continue now… in verse 13:


13:  For He of whom these things are spoken {Jesus} pertains {belongs to} to another tribe {Judah}, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.


That “attendance at the altar” (the altar of the Sinai covenant temples) was reserved for the tribe of Levi.


14:  For it is evident that our Lord {Jesus} sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.


The human Jesus’ Judah was the royal, “kingly” tribe.  Levi was the priestly one.


15:  And it is yet far more evident for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there arises another priest,


This “other priest” is Jesus, who is, of course, is not just a priest; but a High Priest.


Although it is not my purpose here to go into a detailed proof of whether or not Jesus and Melchisedec are one and the same person, I personally believe that the evidence shows that they certainly are the same person.


16:  Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment {i.e. not by the authority of the temporary ritual sacrificial law of the temporary Sinai covenant priesthood}, but after the power of an endless life {that of the eternal Melchisedec Priest and priesthood}.


17:  For He {YHVH through David in Psalm 110:4} testifies, “You {Jesus} are a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”


This is the LORD – YHVH – talking through David, to the future Jesus.  In effect talking to Himself in the future!


18:  For there is verily {truly, definitely} a disannulling of the commandment going before {i.e. the former Sinai covenant sacrificial law} for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.


This “commandment going before” with its admitted “weakness and unprofitableness” is not referring to the Ten Commandments, as some, in the past, have falsely claimed.  Rather, it refers to the former temporary Sinai Covenant sacrificial law. 


May I repeat that the Sinai Covenant and its sacrificial system were designed, created, and instituted by God?  And in that, they were perfect.  But He purposely designed them to be temporary.  And yes, He even designed them to have a potential to become relatively weak and unprofitable!  But again, please remember, as we saw in chapter 8, that the weakness, the unprofitableness and the fault of the Sinai Covenant rested with the imperfect human Israelites on their side of the Sinai Covenant – not on the perfect YHVH’s side. 


19:  For the law {the Sinai Covenant sacrificial law} made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.


Although the Sinai Covenant sacrificial law could not make anything or anybody perfect, the New Covenant ultimately could!


This new and “better hope” and this newfound ability for human beings – including Gentiles – to “draw nigh to God” (the Father) is the most wonderful fulfilment of the promise of the New Covenant and, of course, of the “grace part” of the Abrahamic Covenant.


Now in verse 20 the inspired author of the epistle to the Hebrews switches gears, his narrative takes a turn and it gets into the necessity of the swearing of an oath under the terms of the New Covenant:


20:  And inasmuch as not without an oath He {Jesus} was made {High} Priest:


“Not without an oath” logically translates to “With an oath.”


21:  (For those priests {the Sinai covenant Aaronic ones} were made without an oath; but this {this one – this Melchisedec one – Jesus} with an oath by Him {by YHVH through David in Psalm 110:4} that said unto Him {the future post-human Jesus}, “The LORD swore and will not repent, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”


Yes, the LORD (YHVH) swore this oath – on behalf of the then-future, post resurrection, post-human Jesus Christ.


Another interesting side-note is that, even though the Greek words for “oath” and “swore” are quite different, the Hebrew ones are similar.  The Hebrew word for “oath” is “shebuah” and the Hebrew for “swore” is “shaba.”


22:  By so much {i.e. by this hugely important oath} was Jesus made a surety {guarantor} of a better testament.


The Greek word for “testament” is “diatheke” (Strong’s 1242) which is translated twenty times as “covenant” and thirteen times as “testament.”  They are one and the same thing.  In a future episode of this series, we will go into the aspect of the “Last Will and Testament” aspect of this word, which the Hebrews author discusses in chapter 9.


And there’s that word “better” (Greek: kreitton) yet again!  This “better testament” is the New Covenant, which, on a number of counts, is a better one than the Sinai Covenant.


Just one of those many counts is that the New Covenant and its Melchisedec priesthood is guaranteed and made sure by the oath of YHVH on Jesus’ behalf whereas the Sinai Covenant and its Aaronic priesthood was not backed up by any such oath.


23:  And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:


Over the space of those 1,500 or so years that the Sinai Covenant was in force – along with its temple, priesthoods and ritual law – many of its Aaronic priests and high priests lived, served and died.  They couldn’t “continue” forever – or even for all of that 1,500 years – because they were physical, human, and therefore subject to death.


24:  But this man because He continues ever, has an unchangeable priesthood.


Yes.  This “man” – this Melchisedec-order High Priest could continue forever.  He once served His time (His apprenticeship or training period, if you will) as a man – as a human being; but He could continue forever.  He can continue forever.  And He does continue forever.  Because He has eternal life inherent within Himself, His Melchisedec-order High-Priesthood is eternal and “unchangeable.”


25:  Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them.


This brings us right back to the promises of the “better testament” – of the New Covenant and the Grace Part of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Those promises are total salvation and access to God the Father – through this eternal, Melchisedec-order High Priest – Jesus Christ.


26:  For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;


This is an intriguing statement – that this Melchisedec-order “High Priest became us.”  That is what it says; but what does that mean?


Most modern translations render it as something like “such a high priest was fitting for us.”  I suppose this explanation is okay; but in this remarkable context, I find this explanation a little insipid – or watered down.  I think it goes much deeper and stronger than this.


Although it might be hard for us to get our minds around, if we consider the phrase in its strict English sense, it would mean that, at some point, Jesus actually became or becomes us... that Jesus actually turns into us!  Is that impossible?  Is that blasphemy?  Not really – especially when we consider the many scriptures that we have read throughout this series about Jesus dwelling within us through the indwelling of His Spirit, and us dwelling in Him.


Just to expand this a little, please remember when Jesus told Philip that He and His Father were virtually indistinguishable:


John 14:

7:  If you had known me, you should have known my Father also: and from henceforth you know Him, and have seen Him.

8:  Philip said unto Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us.”

9: Jesus said unto him, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip?  He that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, ‘Show us the Father?’”


I remember when my late brother, Tom, was getting into the poor health and grumpiness of his more senior years and my sister, Diane, used to joke: “I think our Tommy’s turning into my Dad!”


In a converse but positive way, Jesus told every one of us to work towards becoming just like the Father is – to work towards becoming as perfect as His Father is perfect:


Matthew 5:48:
{become} you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in

heaven is perfect.


If we put all of this together, at some point, we are all destined to become virtually identical in every important way with Jesus and His Father!


This is, of course, a very tall order, which we can’t do on our own; but as it says here, Jesus – our Melchisedec High Priest – is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has been made higher than the heavens.  We are to strive to emulate Him in all of these points.


But would it surprise you if I told you that Jesus was not always this way?  It’s true! 

Out of all of the eternity that He has lived, there was a third of a century when He came down from His high heavenly throne to this earth which had been defiled my mankind.


No, He didn’t sin; nor did He get involved in the defiled lifestyles of sinners; but while He was here, He did not keep Himself totally separate from sinners.  (It is important for us to remember this point).  Then, on His last Passover night and day, He bore all of the world’s sins.  When He fell down on His face and said, “Take this cup away from me,” He was not asking His Father to prevent Him from dying.  He had planned all of this with His Father, perhaps for millennia.  My point is that He had every single sin of the whole human race from all of man’s history – past and future – laid on His innocent, sinless head; and He bore those sins for about fifteen or so hours until those sins ran out with his water, His blood and His life into the dirt and rocks of Golgotha.  Yes, His ultimate sacrifice – which is mentioned right here in the very next verse:


27:  Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself.


During that 1,500 or so years of the Sinai Covenant, all of those high priests of the Levitical/Aaronic order offered thousands – perhaps millions – of daily sacrifices – for their own personal sins and for those of the people.  But Jesus didn’t need to do this – first of all, because He never sinned.  But when He did offer up Himself to atone for all of the sins of the whole world, He only needed to do it once.  Why?  Because He was totally sinless.  The sacrifice of the life of one uniquely sinless human being – especially one who just happens to be the Son of God the Father – is more than enough to cover the sins and the lives of all of sinful humanity from throughout the whole of its history.


28:  For the law {the Sinai Covenant sacrificial law} makes men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law {the Sinai Covenant sacrificial law}, makes the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.


This oath made the Son, it “made” Jesus to be the Son.  It “made” Him – caused Him – to be the Son of God.


Without the necessity of an oath, God’s institution of the Sinai ritual sacrificial Law “made” – instituted – the office of high priest – human ones, of course, who were subject to infirmity and death.


But “since the law” – after the termination of the Sinai Covenant’s ritual sacrificial law – this fantastic oath that had been sworn long ago by YHVH came into effect and caused Jesus to be consecrated as the Son of God the Father.  Previously, He was not the Son of God.  Before He was born as a human being, He was the Word – the Logos (John 1:1-14). 


After the termination of the Sinai Covenant law, the LORD’s swearing of this oath (long before) consecrated Jesus as the Son of God the Father and re-consecrated Him as the Melchisedec-order High Priest.


That gives us lots to think about.  We will see even more on this next time when we’ll continue our Bible study in Hebrews 8.