- Locate the passage.
Themetically, 5:1 is the continuation of the author’s thought from 2:10–18. Hebrews 5:1 is connected to the immediately preceding section, which serves to introduce the grounds for the exhortation of 4:16.
Expository. The passage is an explanation of superiority of the high priesthood of Jesus compared to the Levitical priests.
- Determine the structure of the text
Hebrews 5:1–10 forms a unit whose theme, the high priesthood of Jesus, was first introduced back in 2:17. The unit is divided into two sections: 5:1–4 and 5:5–10.
The author makes two key points in this section. There are two general qualifications which every high priest must meet: (1) ability to sympathize with those whom he represents, and (2) appointment to the office by God. These are given in this order in vv. 1–4 and then are applied to Jesus in inverse order in vv. 5–10.
What one finds thematically in 4:15–16 is further demonstrated to be true in 5:1–10. The notion of mercy mentioned in 4:15 becomes the main point of 5:1–4. Hebrews 5:5–10 identifies Jesus with suffering humanity and to his own submission to suffering which qualifies him for the priestly office in 5:9–10.
- Exegete the passage
5:1 Hebrews 5:1 as a unit is introduced by gar, “for,” and subordinates this paragraph to the preceding hortatory paragraph.
The author makes two key points in 5:1-4: (1) the high priest must be able to sympathize with those whom he represents, and (2) he must be appointed to the office by God.
5:5 Verse 5 begins the second section of the overall paragraph with the conjunction houtōs, meaning “thus” or “in this way.”
In Heb 5:5–10, the author makes the key point that the high priesthood of Jesus is fundamentally distinct from the Levitical priests. The author returns to Ps 2:7, which played a crucial role in the argument of Heb 1:5–13, establishing the supremacy of the Son.
5:6 The author quotes Psalm 110:4. This OT verse is not used by any other New Testament author, yet our author makes more references to Psalm 110:4 than any other Old Testament text. It is quoted three times and alluded to eight times. It is the key Old Testament text for the author’s high priestly Christology.
5:7-8 The conjunction kaiper, “although,” which begins v. 8 is important. It modifies the participle translated “being” and semantically encodes concession: “although being the Son, he learned obedience. . . .”
5:9 Verse 9 continues the complicated syntax of the passage. The aorist participle translated “to be made perfect” is related to the main verb “he became” as a prior temporal event: he was first made perfect and then he became. . . . Both the death and resurrection/exaltation of Christ are viewed as one single event preceding his becoming the source of salvation.
The author’s point is that “by means of his [Christ] being perfected, he became the source. . . .”
Returning to the last clause of v. 9, commentators are divided over how to construe the clause “he became the source of eternal salvation.” (1) It could express the result of his sufferings that brought about his perfection: “he suffered and was perfected; as a result he became the source of salvation.” (2) It could express the result of “he learned” with the meaning: “he learned obedience and as a result he became….” (3) It could express the result of Jesus having been perfected: “as a result of having been perfected, he became….”
The key point here is Christ’s obedience is the basis for our obedience.
5:10 Verse 10 is the author’s paraphrase of the quotation of Ps 110:4 he has already made.
For more detailed exegetical data on this text, see Neva Miller, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Analytical and Exegetical Handbook, 135-53; J. Harold Greenlee, Hebrews: An Exegetical Summary, 156-74; and David L. Allen, Hebrews, 313-32.
- Let the structure of the text drive the structure of the sermon.
I. 5:1-4 Characteristics of the Levitical Priesthood
II. 5:5-10 Characteristics of Christ’s Superior Priesthood
The focus should be on 5:5-10 which emphasizes the superiority of Christ’s priesthood. Also, the density of 5:7-8 means you should spend more time explaining 5:5-10 than 5:1-4.