Monday, 20 July 2015

Abraham and Melchizedek

This implies that Abraham looked on Melchizedek as his superior. It is true that Aaron’s descendants also receive tithes from other descendants of Abraham (verse 5). 6 But Melchizedek who does not share their ancestry collected a tithe from Abraham and blessed the one who possessed the promise. Genesis 14 and Psalm 110:4 make the point that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, and to his descendant, Aaron.


But how is it that Aaron can be said to be subordinate (inferior?) to Melchizedek? Our author reasons that, in a sense, Aaron was in Abraham’s loins when he gave a tithe to Melchizedek. 2 To him also Abraham apportioned a tithe of everything. Let’s look at how the argument develops, leading the reader to the conclusion that Melchizedek is a prototype of Messiah, and that his priesthood was vastly superior to that of Aaron and his descendants.

Monastery of al-Baramus (Deir al-Baramus, Monastery of the Romans ...

1 Now this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him. 5 And those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have authorization according to the law to collect a tithe from the people, that is, from their fellow countrymen, although they too are descendants of Abraham. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” 3 There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. One could say that Melchizedek was not even Jewish. Abraham was said to have offered a tithe to Melchizedek. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God. In return, Abraham gives him a tithe of the booty.

Melchizedek, who was he?

The first ten verses of Hebrews 7 divide into two main parts: verses 1-3, and verses 4-10. 10 For he was still in his ancestor Abraham’s loins when Melchizedek met him (Hebrews 7:1-10).

7 This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. Verses 4-10 focus on Abraham’s response to Melchizedek and its implications. 3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time. This Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, the one to whom God had made such great and amazing promises (verse 6). 7 Now without dispute the inferior is blessed by the superior, 8 and in one case tithes are received by mortal men, while in the other by him who is affirmed to be alive. 2 Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. That is the point our author is seeking to prove, and in his mind, he has accomplished his task.

The author now focuses on Abraham’s response to Melchizedek. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. 5 Now the law of Moses required that the priests, who are descendants of Levi, must collect a tithe from the rest of the people of Israel, who are also descendants of Abraham. In particular, the author focuses on the fact that Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek. The priesthood of Jesus – of the order of Melchizedek – is greater than that of Aaron. 6 But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. The lesser (Abraham) pays a tithe to the greater (Melchizedek). 7 And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed.

In the episode, Melchizedek meets Abraham on his return from battle, gives him bread and wine (which has been interpreted by some Christian scholars as a precursor of the Eucharist, so that Melchizedek’s name entered the canon of the Roman mass), and blesses Abraham in the name of “God Most High” (in Hebrew El ʿElyon). 4 But see how great he must be, if Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe of his plunder. Specifically, he wishes to dwell on the fact that Abraham offered a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek. In verses 1-3, the author dwells on those things that we know about Melchizedek from Genesis 14. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. But the one who collected a tithe in Genesis 14 (Melchizedek) was not one of Abraham’s descendants. He does this to prove that Melchizedek and His antitype, Jesus, are vastly superior to Abraham and his future offspring, Aaron.

4 Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. He does not do this as a fund-raising device; he does this because of what his tithe revealed about the relationship of these two men. How easy it would be for a Jew to think of Abraham as being superior to Melchizedek, but neither David nor our author sees it this way. His name first means king of righteousness, then king of Salem, that is, king of peace. Thus, not only Abraham but Aaron as well gave a tithe to Melchizedek, thus acknowledging his superiority to them. 9 And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. The greater (Melchizedek) blesses the lesser (Abraham).

No comments:

Post a Comment