Tithes from Abraham
From Gospel Translations
“But this man … received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises” (Heb. 7:6).
- Hebrews 7:4–6
Thus far in the book of Hebrews, we have seen that the greatness of Christ’s priesthood guarantees the hope of our salvation (6:19–20). And one of the things that makes Christ’s priestly office so great is that He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:6; 7:17).
Hebrews 7 gives an extended discussion of the Melchizedekian priesthood. We have seen that Melchizedek resembles Christ because he is a king of righteousness and a king who has neither beginning nor end (vv. 1–3). We have noted that the comparison between the two priest-kings is to be understood in terms of typology and not as a literal, exact equivalence.
Though typologies are not to be understood in a strictly literal sense, that in no way renders them foreign to the original context from which they are drawn. Typologies always take seriously the original contexts of the passages from which they are drawn. This is most unlike allegories, which do not pay attention to the original context at all. The comparison of Melchizedek to Jesus in chapter 7 is a typology because all the author is doing is restating what Moses actually wrote about Melchizedek in Genesis 14. Moses never wrote about the birth or death of Melchizedek, so functionally, Melchizedek has no beginning or end. The Father knew that His Son would have to be a greater High Priest than all who came before Him. Therefore, Moses was inspired not to narrate Melchizedek’s birth and death so that the comparison between the two priest-kings would be more readily apparent.
The greatness of Christ is related to the greatness of Melchizedek. In Hebrews 7:4–6, the author of Hebrews begins showing from Scripture that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, the one to whom the blessings of the covenant were promised. One way we know that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham is that he collects tithes from Abraham without any command of the Law to do so. As verse 5 notes, the Levites, unlike Melchizedek, had a command in the Law to collect tithes. Without this command, they would not have known that they were to collect tithes. But Melchizedek, because he was so great, did not have to be commanded to accept tithes. And if Melchizedek was so great, how much greater is Christ, the perfect priest who serves in Melchizedek’s order?
Our Lord is not unconcerned with history. He does not just keep restarting His plan in a brand new way but, as we have seen with Melchizedek, always unfolds His plan in a way that has continuity with the past. Praise God for demonstrating His Lordship over the past, present, and future by unfolding His plan throughout history.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chron. 31:4–5