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Hebrews 5:4

ESV And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
NIV And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
NASB And no one takes the honor for himself, but receives it when he is called by God, just as Aaron also was.
CSB No one takes this honor on himself; instead, a person is called by God, just as Aaron was.
NLT And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was.
KJV And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

What does Hebrews 5:4 mean?

These verses are meant to make a particular point about Jesus, using the example of a human high priest. True priests are not those who simply decide, for themselves, to take on that title. A priest serves as a mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). No man can insert himself into that role—he must be appointed by God.

The writer of Hebrews often looks back to the Old Testament for examples and evidence. In this case, the example is that of Israel's first high priest, Aaron (Exodus 28:1). His appointment to the priesthood was exactly that: a selection by God, not an act of ambition. As it applies to the argument being made here in Hebrews, the ultimate High Priest of all men must be a man (Hebrews 2:17), appointed specifically by God to that role. The frequent use of Old Testament quotations is meant to show how God has specifically chosen Jesus Christ as the one meant to fulfill this function. Upcoming verses will highlight this decision as one made by God the Father, and applied particularly to Jesus.
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