Hebrews 5: Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 150


Many men from the tribe of Levi were called to work as priests in Israel’s temples, but only one man—a descendant of Aaron—was called as the high priest (in the Aaronic Priesthood order). As explained in Leviticus 16, this high priest went into the Holy of Holies in the temple once a year and offered a special sacrifice for the sins of all the people. The people often fasted on this day, which was known as the day of Atonement. Paul explained in Hebrews 5 how the high priest in Israel was only a symbol of their real high priest, Jesus Christ, who made the ultimate Atonement for the sins of all people and then entered into the presence of His Father. This knowledge would have been helpful to converts from the Jewish faith who still felt pressure to follow the Jewish high priest, a powerful person in the community.

Understanding the Scriptures

Hebrews 5

Compassed with infirmity (v. 2)Filled with weaknesses 
As for the people, so also for himself (v. 3)The priest not only offered sacrifice for other people’s sins, but for his own as well. 
Honour (v. 4)Calling 
Supplications (v. 7)Prayers and pleading to God 
Oracles (v. 12)Words or utterances of God 
Discern (v. 14)Tell the difference between, judge 

Hebrews 5:6–10—Melchizedek

The Joseph Smith Translation points out that Hebrews 5:7–8 refers to Melchizedek, who was a great high priest in the days of Abraham. These same verses could also refer to Christ. To learn more about Melchizedek, see the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 14:25–40 and “Melchizedek” in the Bible Dictionary (p. 730).

Hebrews 5:6, 9–10 refers to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Doctrine and Covenants 107:1–4 tells us that the Savior’s priesthood is called the Melchizedek Priesthood for two reasons: to avoid the too-frequent use of Christ’s name and because Melchizedek was such a great king and high priest. Paul emphasized throughout the book of Hebrews that Jesus was a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. He taught that the Melchizedek Priesthood was greater than the Aaronic Priesthood that was exercised under the law of Moses. We are fortunate to live in a day when the higher priesthood is given to all worthy, mature men in the Church so they can do Christ’s saving work.

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A–C as you study Hebrews 5.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Hebrew 5:4

  1. 1.

    According to Hebrews 5:4, who is entitled to receive the priesthood or any calling in it?

  2. 2.

    Read Exodus 28:1 and describe how Aaron was called. Compare this verse to the fifth article of faith.

Moses ordaining Aaron

Activity B iconLearning Obedience

  1. 1.

    According to Hebrews 5:7–8, how did Melchizedek become so great?

  2. 2.

    Explain why you think a person can learn obedience that way.

Activity C iconMilk or Meat?

In Hebrews 5:12–14 Paul explained that some members, such as small children, can only be fed spiritual “milk” until they become more mature in living the gospel and can handle spiritual “meat.” Consider your own spiritual maturity right now and write about the kind of spiritual food you are ready for. Explain why.