Without father, without mother - The object of the apostle, in thus producing the example of Melchisedec, was to show,
The objection is this: If the Messiah is to be a true priest, he must come from a legitimate stock, as all the priests under the law have regularly done; otherwise we cannot acknowledge him to be a priest: but Jesus of Nazareth has not proceeded from such a stock; therefore we cannot acknowledge him for a priest, the antitype of Aaron.
To this objection the apostle answers, that it was not necessary for the priest to come from a particular stock, for Melchisedec was a priest of the most high God, and yet was not of the stock, either of Abraham or Aaron, but a Canaanite. It is well known that the ancient Hebrews were exceedingly scrupulous in choosing their high priest; partly by Divine command, and partly from the tradition of their ancestors, who always considered this office to be of the highest dignity.
2. that he should marry a virgin;
3. he must not marry a widow;
4. nor a divorced person;
5. nor a harlot;
He who was found to have acted contrary to these requisitions was, jure divino, excluded from the pontificate. On the contrary, it was necessary that he who desired this honor should be able to prove his descent from the family of Aaron; and if he could not, though even in the priesthood, he was cast out, as we find from Ezra 2:62, and Nehemiah 7:63.
To these Divine ordinances the Jews have added,
And that they might be well assured of all this, they took the utmost care to preserve their genealogies, which were regularly kept in the archives of the temple. When any person aspired to the sacerdotal function, his genealogical table was carefully inspected; and, if any of the above blemishes were found in him, he was rejected.
He who could not support his pretensions by just genealogical evidences, was said by the Jews to be without father. Thus in Bereshith Rabba, sect. 18, fol. 18, on these words, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, it is said: If a proselyte to the Jewish religion have married his own sister, whether by the same father or by the same mother, they cast her out according to Rabbi Meir. But the wise men say if she be of the same mother, they cast her out; but if of the same father, they retain her, לגוי אב שאין shein ab legoi, "for a Gentile has no father;" i.e. his father is not reckoned in the Jewish genealogies. In this way both Christ and Melchisedec were without father and without mother; i.e. were not descended from the original Jewish sacerdotal stock. Yet Melchisedec, who was a Canaanite, was a priest of the most high God. This sense Suidas confirms under the word Melchisedec, where, after having stated that, having reigned in Salem 113 years, he died a righteous man and a bachelor, Αγενεαλογητος ειρηται, παρα το μη υπαρχειν εκ του σπερματος Αβρααμ ὁλως, ειναι δε Χαναναιον το γενος, και εκ της επαρατου σπορας ὁρμωμενον, ὁθεν ουδε γενεαλογιας ηξιωτο, he adds, "He is, therefore, said to be without descent or genealogy, because he was not of the seed of Abraham, but of Canaanitish origin, and sprung from an accursed seed; therefore he is without the honor of a genealogy." And he farther adds, "That, because it would have been highly improper for him, who was the most righteous of men, to be joined in affinity to the most unrighteous of nations, he is said to be απατορα και αμητορα, without father and without mother." This sort of phraseology was not uncommon when the genealogy of a person was unknown or obscure; so Seneca, in his 108th epistle, speaking of some of the Roman kings, says: De Servii matre dubitatur; Anci pater nullus dicitur. "Of the mother of Servius Tullus there are doubts; and Ancus Marcus is said to have no father." This only signifies that the parents were either unknown or obscure. Titus Livius, speaking of Servius, says he was born of a slave, named Cornicularia, da patre nullo, of no father, i.e. his father was unknown. Horace is to be understood in the same way: -
Ante potestatem Tulli, atque ignobile regnum,
Multos saepe viros, Nullis Majoribus ortos,
Et vixisse probos, amplis et honoribus auctos.
Serm. l. 1. Sat. vi., ver. 9.
Convinced that, long before the ignoble reign
And power of Tullius, from a servile strain
Full many rose, for virtue high renown'd,
By worth ennobled, and with honors crown'd.
The viri nullis majoribus orti, men sprung from no ancestors, means simply men who were born of obscure or undistinguished parents; i.e. persons, who had never been famous, nor of any public account.
The old Syriac has given the true meaning by translating thus: -
Dela abuhi vela emeh ethcathebu besharbotho .
Whose father and mother are not inscribed among the genealogies.
The Arabic is nearly the same: -
He had neither father nor mother; the genealogy not being reckoned.
He had neither father nor mother upon earth, nor is his genealogy known.
As this passage has been obscure and troublesome to many, and I have thought it necessary to show the meaning of such phraseology by different examples, I shall, in order to give the reader fall information on the subject, add a few observations from Dr. Owen.
Melchisedec was without father and mother, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. His genealogy is not recorded; when he was born and when he died, is unknown. His priesthood, therefore, may be considered as perpetual. In these respects he was like to Jesus Christ, who, as to his Godhead, had neither father nor mother, beginning of time nor end of days; and has an everlasting priesthood. The priesthood of Melchisedec is to abide continually on the same ground that he is said to be without father and mother; i.e. there is no record of the end of his priesthood or life, no more than there is any account of his ancestry.
Without father - The phrase “without father” - ἀπάτωρ apatōr- means literally one who has no father; one who has lost his father; one who is an orphan. Then it denotes one who is born after the death of his father; then one whose father is unknown - “spurious. Passow.” The word occurs often in these senses in the classic writers, for numerous examples of which the reader may consult Wetstein in loc. It is morally certain, however, that the apostle did not use the word here in either of the senses, for there is no evidence that Melchizedek was “fatherless” in any of these respects. It was very important in the estimation of the Jews that the line of their priesthood should be carefully kept; that their genealogies should be accurately marked and preserved; and that their direct descent from Aaron should be susceptible of easy and certain proof. But the apostle says that there was no such genealogical table in regard to Melchizedek. There was no “record” made of the name either of his father, his mother, or any of his posterity. “He stood alone.”
It is simply said that such a man came out to meet Abraham - and that is the first and the last which we hear of him and of his family. Now, says the apostle, it is distinctly said Psalm 110:4, that the Messiah was to be a priest “according to his order” - and in this respect there is a remarkable resemblance, “so far as the point of his being a priest” - which was the point under discussion - “was concerned.” The Messiah thus, “as a priest,” StooD alone. His name does not appear in the line of priests. He pertained to another tribe; Hebrews 7:14. No one of his ancestors is mentioned as a priest; and as a priest he has no descendants, and no followers. He has a lonely conspicuity similar to that of Melchizedek; a standing unlike that of any other priest. This should not, therefore, be construed as meaning that the genealogy of Christ could not be traced out - which is not true, for Matthew Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:35, Numbers 4:43, Numbers 4:47; Numbers 8:24-25.
After the age of fifty, they were released from the more arduous and severe duties of their office. In later periods of the Jewish history they commenced their duties at the age of twenty; 1 Chronicles 23:24, 1 Chronicles 23:27. The priests, also, and the high priest entered on their office at thirty years of age, though it is not supposed that they retired from it at any particular period of life. The idea of the apostle here is, that nothing of this kind occurs in regard to Melchizedek. No period is mentioned when he entered on his office; none when he retired from it. From anything that “appears” in the sacred record it might be perpetual - though Paul evidently did not mean to be understood as saying that it was so. It “cannot” be that he meant to say that Melchizedek had “no beginning” of days literally, that is, that he was from eternity; or that he had “no end of life” literally, that is, that he would exist forever - for this would be to make him equal with God. The expression used must be interpreted according to the matter under discussion, and that was the office of Melchizedek “as a priest.”
Of that no beginning is mentioned, and no end. That this is the meaning of Paul there can be no doubt; but there is a much more difficult question about the force and pertinency of this reasoning; about the use which he means to make of this fact, and the strength of the argument which he here designs to employ. This inquiry cannot be easily settled. It may be admitted undoubtedly, that it would strike a Jew with much more force than it would any other person, and to see its pertinency we ought to be able to place ourselves in their condition, and to transfer to ourselves as far as possible their state of feeling. It was mentioned in Psalm 110:4, that the Messiah was to be a “priest after the order of Melchizedek.” It was natural then to turn to the only record which existed of him - the very brief narrative in Hebrews 7:1; and the intermediate statements are of the nature of a parenthesis, containing important suggestions respecting the character of Melchizedek, which would be useful in preparing the readers for the argument which the apostle proposed to draw from his rank and character. The meaning is, that there is no account of his death, or of his ceasing to exercise the priestly office, and in this respect be may be compared with the Lord Jesus. All other priests cease to exercise their office by death Hebrews 7:23; but of the death of Melchizedek there is no mention. It must have been true that the priesthood of Melchizedek terminated at his death; and it will be also true that that of Christ will cease when his church shall have been redeemed, and when he shall have given up the mediatorial kingdom to the Father; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28. The expression, “abideth a priest continually,” therefore, is equivalent to saying that he had a “perpetual priesthood” in contradistinction from those whose office terminated at a definite period, or whose office passed over into the hands of others; see the notes on ver. 24.
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 »