Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 2

Priests and brothers

Hebrews 2:17

In previous verses, we have seen that Jesus calls Christians his ‘brothers’.

The Old Testament is the 39 Bible books from before the birth of Jesus. It too describes God’s people as ‘brothers’. There is a good reason why it does that. God’s people in the Old Testament were the Israelites (also called Jews). And all the Israelites originally came from 12 men who really were brothers. They were the 12 sons of Jacob, who is also called Israel.

So, for example, God referred to all the Israelites as ‘brothers’ in Deuteronomy 15:7 and Deuteronomy 22:1-4. He considered them all as if they were the sons of Israel. In fact, the Old Testament uses the words ‘sons of Israel’ (in the original language) to mean ‘Israelites’.

Among the Israelites, God chose Aaron and his sons to be priests. After them, the future male members of their families would be priests. One of them was the chief priest. But they were all called ‘brothers’ (Leviticus 21:10). Even when they had different parents, the priests’ relationship with each other was like that of brothers.

People who were not priests could not enter the temple (God’s house). So the priests looked after God’s holy things there.

Also, people could not offer their own sacrifices (gifts – usually animals – that they gave to God). The priests offered the sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. So, by sacrifice, the priests dealt with the people’s sin. (Sin is whatever God considers wrong. Each person’s life is in a wrong state in front of God, until God forgives that person’s sin.)

As Hebrews 10:1-4 explains, these priests could not deal with sin completely. But their work was important for the Israelites. It made it possible for the people to have a relationship with God.

Jesus was an Israelite, but he was not one of those priests. He was a different kind of priest (Hebrews 7:15-17). But his work was similar to their work. He too was responsible for God’s holy things. And he too dealt with sin. By his sacrifice of himself, Jesus made it possible for God to forgive all our sin.

Next part: Christ, our helper (Hebrews 2:18)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.