Gave a tenth part of all - It was an ancient custom, among all the nations of the earth, to consecrate a part or tenth of the spoils taken in war to the objects of their worship. Many examples of this kind occur. This however was not according to any provision in law, but merely ad libitum, and as a eucharistic offering to those to whom they imagined they owed the victory. But neither Abraham's decimation, nor theirs, had any thing to do, either with tithes as prescribed under the Mosaic dispensation, or as claimed under the Christian.
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all - That is, a tenth part of all the spoils which he had taken Genesis 14:20, thus acknowledging that in dignity of office Melchizedek was greatly his superior; Hebrews 7:4, Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 7:8. This does not appear to have been on the part of Abraham so much designed as a present to Melchizedek personally, as an act of pious thankfulness to God. He doubtless recognized in Melchizedek one who was a minister of God, and to him as such he devoted the tenth of all which he had taken, as a proper acknowledgment of the goodness of God and of his claims. From this it is evident that the propriety of devoting a tenth part of what was possessed to God, was regarded as a duty before the appointment of the Levitical law. “Some” expression of this kind is obviously demanded, and piety seems early to have fixed on the “tenth” part as being no more than a proper proportion to consecrate to the service of religion. For the propriety of the use which the apostle makes of this fact, see the notes on Hebrews 7:4, Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 7:8.
First being - The “first” idea in the interpretation of his name and office, etc. First being mentioned as king of righteousness, and then as king of peace.
King of righteousness - The literal translation of the name Melchizedek; see the notes on ver. 1. The “argument” implied in this by the remarks of the apostle is, that he bore a name which made him a proper emblem of the Messiah. There was a propriety that one in whose “order” the Messiah was to be found, should have such a name. It would be exactly descriptive of him, and it was “worthy of observation” that he of whose “order” it was said the Messiah would be, should have had such a name. Paul does not say that this name was given to him with any such reference; or that it was “designed” to be symbolical of what the Messiah would be, but that there was a “remarkable coincidence;” that it was a fact which was worth at least “a passing thought.” This is a kind of remark that might occur to anyone to make, and where the slight use which Paul makes of it would not be improper anywhere; but it cannot be denied that to one accustomed to the Jewish mode of reasoning - accustomed to dwell much on hidden meanings, and to trace out concealed analogies, it would be much more obvious and striking than it is with us.
We are to place ourselves in the situation of those to whom Paul wrote - trained up with Jewish feelings, and Jewish modes of thought, and to ask how this would strike “their” minds. And this is no more unreasonable than it would be in interpreting a Greek classic, or a work of a Hindu philosopher, that we should endeavor to place ourselves in the situation of the writer and of those for whom he wrote, and ascertain what ideas would be conveyed to them by certain expressions. It is not meant by these observations that there was really no intrinsic force in what Paul here said respecting the import of the “name.” There was force; and all the use which he makes of it is proper. His meaning appears to be merely that it was a fact worthy of remark, that the “name” had a meaning which corresponded so entirely with the character of him who was to be a high priest of the same “order.” “And after that.” He is mentioned after that with another appellation equally significant.
King of peace - A literal translation of the appellation “king of Salem;” Hebrews 7:1. The idea of Paul is, that it was “worthy of remark” that the appellation which he bore was appropriate to one whose ministry it was said the priesthood of the Messiah would resemble.
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.” PP 136.1
Abraham gladly returned to his tents and his flocks, but his mind was disturbed by harassing thoughts. He had been a man of peace, so far as possible shunning enmity and strife; and with horror he recalled the scene of carnage he had witnessed. But the nations whose forces he had defeated would doubtless renew the invasion of Canaan, and make him the special object of their vengeance. Becoming thus involved in national quarrels, the peaceful quiet of his life would be broken. Furthermore, he had not entered upon the possession of Canaan, nor could he now hope for an heir, to whom the promise might be fulfilled. PP 136.2
In a vision of the night the divine Voice was again heard. “Fear not, Abram,” were the words of the Prince of princes; “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” But his mind was so oppressed by forebodings that he could not now grasp the promise with unquestioning confidence as heretofore. He prayed for some tangible evidence that it would be fulfilled. And how was the covenant promise to be realized, while the gift of a son was withheld? “What wilt Thou give me,” he said, “seeing I go childless?” “And, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.” He proposed to make his trusty servant Eliezer his son by adoption, and the inheritor of his possessions. But he was assured that a child of his own was to be his heir. Then he was led outside his tent, and told to look up to the unnumbered stars glittering in the heavens; and as he did so, the words were spoken, “So shall thy seed be.” “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3. PP 136.3Read in context »
In the Hebrew economy one tenth of the income of the people was set apart to support the public worship of God. Thus Moses declared to Israel: “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord.” “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, ... the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30, 32. PP 525.1
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. PP 525.2
The system of tithes and offerings was intended to impress the minds of men with a great truth—that God is the source of every blessing to His creatures, and that to Him man's gratitude is due for the good gifts of His providence. PP 525.3
“He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” Acts 17:25. The Lord declares, “Every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” Psalm 50:10. “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine.” Haggai 2:8. And it is God who gives men power to get wealth. Deuteronomy 8:18. As an acknowledgment that all things came from Him, the Lord directed that a portion of His bounty should be returned to Him in gifts and offerings to sustain His worship. PP 525.4
“The tithe ... is the Lord's.” Here the same form of expression is employed as in the law of the Sabbath. “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Exodus 20:10. God reserved to Himself a specified portion of man's time and of his means, and no man could, without guilt, appropriate either for his own interests. PP 525.5Read in context »
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 (The Review and Herald, February 18, 1890). 1BC 1093.1
20 (Genesis 28:22; Leviticus 27:30). Tithing Goes Back to Days of Adam—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 Melchisedek, the priest of the most high God. The same principle existed in the days of Job (The Signs of the Times, April 29, 1875). 1BC 1093.2Read in context »
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. 3T 393.1
The Lord designed to bring man into close relationship with Himself and into sympathy and love with his fellow men by placing upon him responsibilities in deeds that would counteract selfishness and strengthen his love for God and man. The plan of system in benevolence God designed for the good of man, who is inclined to be selfish and to close his heart to generous deeds. The Lord requires gifts to be made at stated times, being so arranged that giving will become habit and benevolence be felt to be a Christian duty. The heart, opened by one gift, is not to have time to become selfishly cold and to close before the next is bestowed. The stream is to be continually flowing, thus keeping open the channel by acts of benevolence. 3T 393.2Read in context »