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Hebrews 7:28 refers to “the word of the oath” in discussing the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. What is the word of the oath?:

[Heb 7:23-28 ESV] 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for the excellent question. – user25930 Oct 26 '18 at 10:11
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In this answer I argue that λόγος (which is translated as "word" in Hebrews 7:28) is poorly translated. Please refer to that answer and see why I believe "utterance" would be a much better translation here though most translators follow suit with the translation as "word".

An oath differed from a regular assertion in that it would either explicitly or implicitly contained a sanction. This might be in the form of "May God do so to me if I'm lying". See the Jewish Virtual Library entry for more information on how an oath differs from a regular assertion.

Hebrews is explaining why Jesus could not serve as priest under the Aaronic/Levitic priesthood but had to be after the order of Melchizedek:

KJV Hebrews 7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitic priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

He points out that Aaronic priests were always temporary because of death. In contrast God swore an oath that Jesus would be a priest forever:

[Heb 7:15-24 NIV] 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." 18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.' " 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

The benefit of a permanent priest is that he "truly meets our need":

[Heb 7:25-28 NIV] 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the [Levitic] law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

So the "word of the oath" is the "utterance of the oath". It was uttered by God to ensure a better provision for God's people - that they would have a continuing priesthood forever of one able to save to the uttermost.

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The English word “oath” can be defined as “a solemn or formal declaration invoking God” as well as “an act of making such a declaration.”1 In Greek, these two definitions could be translated as ὅρκος and ὁρκωμοσία, respectively. ὅρκος, as far as I know,2 does not refer to the “act of making such a declaration.” That is, it does not share the double meaning like our English word “oath.” Instead, it is the Greek word ὁρκωμοσία that refers to the “act of making such a declaration.” This is the word we find in Hebrews 7:28.

Therefore, when the author writes «ὁ λόγος...τῆς ὁρκωμοσίας», this translates as “the word of the oath-taking.” The sense of the genitive is: “the statement made during the oath-taking.” This refers back to Hebrews 7:17, which refers back to Psalms 110:4, wherein it is written,

4 Yahveh swore and will not repent, “You are a priest forever after the order of Malki-Tzedek.”

The English verb “swore” means that Yahveh took an oath;3 likewise for the Hebrew verb שָׁבַע (shava)4 and the Greek verb ὀμνύω.5 The oath itself is indicated by the statement contained within the quotation marks, for an oath itself is a (verbal) declaration. Therefore, “the word of the oath-taking” is the oath: “You are a priest forever after the order of Malki-Tzedek.”


Footnotes

1 Oxford English Dictionary online, “oath,” 1., a.
2 LSJ, p. 1252, ὅρκος
3 OED, “swear,” 2.:

To promise or undertake something by an oath; to take an oath by way of a solemn promise or undertaking. (Const. as in 1; also const. dative or to the person to whom the promise is made.).

4 For the Hebrew verb שָׁבַע (in Psa. 110:4), see Gesenius, p. 802, שָׁבַע:

“to swear...to promise any thing by an oath to any one.”

5 For the Greek verb ὀμνύω (in Heb. 7:21 and Psa. 110:4 LXX), see LSJ, p. 1223, ὀμνύω:

swear to a thing, affirm or confirm by oath.

References

Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Trans. Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. London: Bagster, 1860.

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1940.

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Psalm 110:4

The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Mĕl•chiz`•ĕd•ĕk.

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