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The promise of blessing

Now consider how great this man was: even Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the plunder to him. The sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have a command according to the law to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their brothers and sisters—though they have also descended from Abraham. But one without this lineage collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. Hebrews 7:4-6 CSB


What we have in Chapter 7 of the Book of Hebrews is an explanation about the Messianic prophecy referring to our Lord Jesus Christ in Psalm 110:4: “You are a priest forever according to the pattern of Melchizedek.” This was quoted as well in Hebrews 5:10 and 6:20. Then, the author reiterates just how great Melchizedek was in his role as a priest. First off, Abraham “gave a tenth of the plunder to him.” The Jewish readers of the letter of Hebrews would not dispute the greatness of Abraham. He was seen as the father of nation of Israel, “the patriarch.” In the Greek language, the word “patriarch,” is positioned at the end of the sentence to emphasize that term. When Abraham returned victoriously from defeating four kings in northern Canaan and from setting five kings free, he had reached a pinnacle in his leadership career in the southern part of Canaan. But upon his return, Abraham paid tribute to Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of the plunder. Literally the text reads: “Abraham gave him a tenth of the top of the heap.” Abraham gave him the best! Yet, as great as Abraham was, he tithed to Melchizedek, showing who was considered greater in that relationship. According to the author, “the priestly office have a command according to the law to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their brothers and sisters.” The people were to pay a tithe to the Levites, as seen in Numbers 18:21, “Look, I have given the Levites every tenth in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work they do, the work of the tent of meeting.” Then in 18:26, it says, “Speak to the Levites and tell them: When you receive from the Israelites the tenth that I have given you as your inheritance, you are to present part of it as an offering to the Lord—a tenth of the tenth.” There was a familial aspect within the nation of Israel, in that the priests and the people who tithed to the priests were “brothers and sisters” all having “descended from Abraham.” Because of this relationship, a brother or sister was not superior to another brother and sister: they were equal. They were tithing not because of one who was lesser to the greater, but rather, through obedience to God according to the Law. Yet, Melchizedek did not stem from this bloodline. He had no genealogy and had not received the promises. He was “one without lineage [who] collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.” He stood alone in all his grandeur as king of Salem and priest of the Most High God. Abraham acknowledged Melchizedek’s greatness through the giving of the tithe, and Melchizedek responded to this act by blessing him.



Blessings,

Isaac De Guzman


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