Consider how great this man was - There is something exceedingly mysterious in the person and character of this king of Salem; and to find out the whole is impossible. He seems to have been a sort of universal priest, having none superior to him in all that region; and confessedly superior even to Abraham himself, the father of the faithful, and the source of the Jewish race. See Hebrews 7:7.
The patriarch Abraham - Ὁ πατριαρχης· Either from πατηρ, a father, and αρχη, a chief or head; or from πατριας αρχη, the head of a family.' But the title is here applied, by way of eminence, to him who was the head or chief of all the fathers - or patriarch of the patriarchs, and father of the faithful. The Syriac translates it Rish Abahatha, "head of the fathers." The character and conduct of Abraham place him, as a man, deservedly at the head of the human race.
Now consider how great this man was - The object of the apostle was to exalt the rank and dignity of Melchizedek. The Jews had a profound veneration for Abraham, and if it could be shown that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, then it would be easy to demonstrate the superiority of Christ as a priest to all who descended from Abraham. Accordingly he argues, that he to whom even the patriarch Abraham showed so much respect, must have had an exalted rank. Abraham, according to the views of the East, the illustrious ancestor of the Jewish nation, was regarded as superior to any of his posterity, and of course was to be considered as of higher rank and dignity than the Levitical priests who were descended from him.
Gave the tenth of the spoils - see the notes, Hebrews 7:2. The argument here is, that Abraham acknowledged the superiority of Melchizedek by thus devoting the usual part of the spoils of war, or of what was possessed, to God by his hands, as the priest of the Most High. Instead of making a direct consecration by himself, he brought them to him as a minister of religion, and recognized in him one who had a higher official standing in the matter of religion than himself. The Greek word rendered here “spoils” - ἀκροθίνιον akrothinion- means literally, “the top of the heap,” from ἄκρον akron“top,” and θίν thin“heap.” The Greeks were accustomed, after a battle, to collect the spoils together, and throw them into a pile, and then, before they were distributed, to take off a portion from the top, and devote it to the gods; Xen. Cyro. 7,5,35; Herod. i. 86,90; 8:121,122; Dion. Hal. ii. In like manner it was customary to place the harvest in a heap, and as the first thing to take off a portion from the top to consecrate as a thank-offering to God. The word then came to denote the “first-fruits” which were offered to God, and then the best of the spoils of battle. It has that sense here, and denotes the spoils or plunder which Abraham had taken of the discomfited kings.
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 »