Sabbath, March 22, 2008
“But the tithing system did not originate with the Hebrews. From the earliest times the Lord claimed a tithe as His, and this claim was recognized and honored. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. Genesis 14:20. Jacob, when at Bethel, an exile and a wanderer, promised the Lord, ‘Of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.’ Genesis 28:22. As the Israelites were about to be established as a nation, the law of tithing was reaffirmed as one of the divinely ordained statutes upon obedience to which their prosperity depended.” – Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 525.
1. What information do we have in the Bible concerning Melchizedek? Hebrews 7:1; Genesis 14:18-20. What did Abraham do after he was blessed by Melchizedek?
Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him.
Genesis 14:18-20 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
Hebrews 7:2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace.
“Another who came out to welcome the victorious patriarch was Melchizedek, king of Salem, who brought forth bread and wine for the refreshment of his army. As ‘priest of the most high God,’ he pronounced a blessing upon Abraham, and gave thanks to the Lord, who had wrought so great a deliverance by his servant. And Abraham ‘gave him tithes of all.’” – Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 136.
“Melchizedek, in bestowing the benediction upon Abraham, had acknowledged Jehovah as the source of his strength and the author of the victory: ‘Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.’ Genesis 14:19, 20. God was speaking to that people by His providence, but the last ray of light was rejected as all before had een.” – Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 157.
2. What is impossible to find in Biblical genealogy about this king and priest? With whom is Melchizedek compared?
Hebrews 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
3. Was Melchizedek a heavenly or human being?
Hebrews 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
“There has been much discussion as to who Melchisedec was. Information concerning him is meager. He is mentioned in the OT only in Gen. 14:18-20; Ps. 110:4, and in the NT only in the book of Hebrews. There are some who believe that He was Christ; others, the Holy Spirit; others, Shem; still others, a supernatural being from another world. In the absence of good evidence for any of these positions, this commentary holds that Melchisedec was one of the contemporaries of Abraham, king of one of the small principalities of that time. He is set forth in Hebrews as a type of Christ, a representation based on the Messianic prediction in Ps. 110:4.” – Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 439.
“It was Christ that spoke through Melchisedek, the priest of the most high God. Melchisedek was not Christ, but he was the voice of God in the world, the representative of the Father. And all through the generations of the past, Christ has spoken; Christ has led His people, and has been the light of the world. When God chose Abraham as a representative of His truth, He took him out of his country, and away from his kindred, and set him apart. He desired to mold him after His own model. He desired to teach him according to His own plan.” – Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 1093.
4. From whom did the Levites take tithes and why?
Hebrews 7:5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham.
SUPERIORITY OF MELCHIZEDEK
5. How superior was Melchizedek to Abraham?
Hebrews 7:6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
6. What is absolutely the truth about who is the greater of the two?
Hebrews 7:7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
7. Which tithing system is most recognized? Hebrews 7:8. Who is that being who liveth?
Hebrews 7:8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
“The tithing system reaches back beyond the days of Moses. Men were required to offer to God gifts for religious purposes before the definite system was given to Moses, even as far back as the days of Adam. In complying with God’s requirements, they were to manifest in offerings their appreciation of His mercies and blessings to them. This was continued through successive generations, and was carried out by Abraham, who gave tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. The same principle existed in the days of Job. Jacob, when at Bethel, an exile and penniless wanderer, lay down at night, solitary and alone, with a rock for his pillow, and there promised the Lord: ‘Of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.’ God does not compel men to give. All that they give must be voluntary. He will not have His treasury replenished with unwilling offerings.” – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, p. 393.
“This, of course, would not be literally true of Melchisedec, nor is the explanation adequate that this simply means that there is no record in the Bible of Melchisedec’s death. It appears that these words reach beyond Melchisedec to the greater One whom he represents. Of Christ it is affirmed that ‘he ever liveth’ (v. 25). The Melchisedec priesthood lives in Jesus Christ’s priesthood.” – Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 440.
8. Who else paid tithes to Melchizedek?
Hebrews 7:9, 10 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
“The apostle here referred to the Lord’s plan for the maintenance of the priests who ministered in the temple. Those who were set apart to this holy office were supported by their brethren, to whom they ministered spiritual blessings. ‘Verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law.’ Hebrews 7:5. The tribe of Levi was chosen by the Lord for the sacred offices pertaining to the temple and the priesthood. Of the priest it was said, ‘The Lord thy God hath chosen him . . . to stand to minister in the name of the Lord.’ (Deuteronomy 18:5.) One tenth of all the increase was claimed by the Lord as His own, and to withhold the tithe was regarded by Him as robbery.” – Acts of the Apostles, p. 336.
“Melchizedek. The priest-king of Salem joins the king of Sodom in welcoming Abram. In the days of Abram, Jerusalem was known as Salem, or Shalem, ‘peace,’ or ‘security’ (see Ps. 76:2). The city of Jerusalem is first attested in Egyptian records of the 19th century B.C., and was then ruled by Amorite kings. Jerusalem means ‘city of peace,’ and Melchizedek, ‘my king is righteous’ or ‘King of righteousness,’ as the name is interpreted in Heb. 7:2. While Sodom’s king came to meet Abram with the purpose of obtaining the release of his subjects (Gen. 14:21), Melchizedek came to bless the victorious commander.
“Bread and wine. These were the chief products of Canaan. The purpose of Melchizedek’s meeting Abram with bread and wine has been the subject of much speculation. Some have thought that these were presented to Abram and his soldiers as refreshments, others consider them symbolic of the transfer of the soil of Canaan to the patriarch. Most likely they were simply a token of gratitude to Abram for recovering peace, freedom, and prosperity to the land.
“He was the priest. The occurrence of the term ‘priest,’ here used for the first time, implies the existence of a regularly constituted form of sacrificial worship.
“The most high God. Hebrew ‘El-‘Elyon, this name for God occurs only here and in v. 22. The first part of this word, ‘El, from the same root as ‘Elohim, signifies the ‘Strong One.’ It is seldom applied to God without some qualifying attribute, as in El-Shaddai, ‘God Almighty,’ or ‘Eloe-Yisra’El, ‘God of Israel.’ The second term, ‘Elyon, occurring frequently in the OT (Num. 24:16; Deut. 32:8; 2 Sam. 22:14; etc.), describes God as ‘the Highest,’ ‘the Exalted,’ ‘the Supreme One.’ It is surprising indeed to find among the wicked Canaanites and Amorites of Abram’s time a local ruler who was not only loyal to the true God but also officiated in a priestly capacity (cf. Ex. 2:16). It shows that God still had His faithful ones scattered here and there. Although in the minority, God’s true servants had by no means vanished from the face of the earth. God has never been without faithful witnesses, however dark the period or however wicked its people.
“Bible commentators have speculated much about the person of Melchizedek, a priest-king who appears suddenly in the Biblical narrative only to disappear again into the impenetrable obscurity of ancient history. Such speculation is almost entirely without value. ‘Melchizedek was not Christ’ (EGW, RH, Feb. 18, 1890), but his work prefigured that of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 6:20 to 7:21; DA 578). His unexpected appearance makes him in a certain sense a timeless figure, and his priesthood a type of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
“And he blessed him. In pronouncing the blessing of ‘the most high God’ upon Abram, Melchizedek acts in the role of a true priest (see on v. 20). The blessing itself is clothed in poetical language and consists of two parallelisms.
“Tithes of all. That Abram, and not Melchizedek, was the tithe payer is clearly stated in Heb. 7:4. Giving the tenth of the booty taken from the enemy was an acknowledgment of the divine priesthood of Melchizedek, and proves that Abram was well acquainted with the sacred institution of tithe paying.
“This is the first mention of tithing, repeatedly recognized throughout both the OT and the NT as a divine requirement (see Gen. 28:22; Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:21-28; Neh. 13:12; Matt. 23:23; Heb. 7:8). That Abram paid tithe shows clearly that this institution was not a later, temporary expedient to provide for the sacrificial services, but that it was a divinely instituted practice from the earliest times. By returning to God one tenth of his income the believer recognizes God’s ownership over all his property. Abram, of whom God testified that he had kept His commandments, statutes, and laws (Gen. 26:5), performed all his religious duties conscientiously. One of them was to return to God a tenth of his increase. In this act the father of the faithful set an example for all those who desire to serve God and share in the divine blessing.
As in days of old, God’s promises for faithfulness in tithe paying are still valid (see Mal. 3:10). God is still ready to fulfill His promises and richly bless those who, like Abram, return to him a faithful tithe of their increase.” – Seventh- day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, pp. 308, 309.