Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 7

The flesh is weak

Hebrews 7:18

It would be easy to imagine that the author of Hebrews 7:18-19 disliked God’s law. But we can see from the rest of the book that, really, the author loved it. He refers to it constantly. He explains it very carefully. He considers it very important. So there must be another explanation for these verses. And we find that explanation in the words ‘flesh' and ‘weak’. The first Christians liked to use those words when they spoke about the law. For example, we see them often in the Book of Galatians.

‘Flesh’ is the word for the soft parts of the human body: the skin, muscles, and fat. These parts last only for a very short time after a person’s death. So the first Christians use the word ‘flesh’ as a word-picture. By it, they emphasised that people are weak. And this does not mean the weakness of the body. It means that people consider it hard to trust God. Paul described this weakness in Romans 7:14-24. It is a weakness in people’s minds and their spirits.

The author has used a word for ‘flesh’ in Hebrews 7:16. Your translation of that verse probably uses another word. The word describes the command by which members of Aaron’s family became priests. The duties passed from each father to his sons. They became priests because of a human relationship, that is, because of the ‘flesh’. And flesh is weak. But Christ did not become a priest in a weak manner.

So here in Hebrews 7:18, the author expresses more clearly the idea that this command was weak. He does not mean that anything was wrong with God’s command. But it became weak because of people’s reaction to it. Many people cared about that rule very much. And they wanted to have priests who came from Aaron’s family. But those people did not care whether their priests were good men or bad men. Some priests did not want to please God; they were only doing a job. But the priests’ attitudes did not seem important if they carried out all the ceremonies. That is what people thought. And they started to care more about ceremonies than they cared about God.

So the rules mattered more to those people than God did. But it was not God, or his law, that they loved. They loved the traditions and the ceremonies. When they did those things, people felt important. Such attitudes belong to the flesh; in other words, they are weak. They are the attitudes of people who are not trusting God.

Next part: A better hope (Hebrews 7:19)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.