Hebrews 7:4-10 elucidates and substantiates the Superiority of the
Melchizedekian compared with the Levitical priesthood. The basic
argument of the writer is to explain that
Melchizedek was greater than the great patriarch Abraham, who himself was the "rich root of the olive tree"
(the "fountainhead" as it were of the Hebrew nation - see
A W Pink notes
The chief design of the (writer) in this
chapter was not to declare the nature of Christ’s priesthood,
nor to describe the exercise thereof; instead, he dwells upon the
excellency of it. The nature of Christ’s sacerdotal (relating to
priests or the priesthood) office had been treated of in the first half of
Hebrews chapter 5 and is dealt with again, at length, in Hebrews chapter 9.
But here he occupies us with the great dignity of it. His
reason for so doing was to display the immeasurable superiority of
Christianity’s High Priest over that of Judaism’s, and that, that the faith
of the Hebrews might be established and their hearts drawn out in love and
worship to Him. Unless the scope of the apostle’s theme in this chapter be
clearly apprehended, it is well-nigh impossible to appreciate and understand
the details of his argument. (Hebrews 7:4-10 Melchizedek
Kenneth Wuest offers an excellent
summation of the exceptional significance of this section of Hebrews
The writer now proceeds to show that
Melchisedec was better than Abraham, in order that he might show that he was
better than Levi, and thus better than Aaron. It follows therefore that if
Melchisedec is superior to Aaron, his priesthood must be better than that of
Aaron. Since that is the case, Messiah’s priesthood, being in the order of
the priesthood of Melchisedec, must be better. That makes Messiah better
than Aaron and, therefore, the New Testament He instituted, better than the
First Testament, which Aaron was instrumental in bringing in. And that is
the argument of the Book of Hebrews, namely, that the New Testament in
Jesus’ blood is superior to and takes the place of the First Testament in
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
The verbal inerrancy of the OT as Word of God is demonstrated by this NT
argument which rest on a small historical detail (Hebrews 7:4-10)
When Abraham returned to his home after the slaughter of the kings he was a
hero, at the pinnacle of martial success. Can you see him proudly astride
his lumbering camel, smeared with the dirt and blood of battle, leading his
318 proud men plus Lot and all the captives and all the plunder through
Jerusalem? If so, you have the “feel” necessary to begin to appreciate
Abraham’s strange, mystic encounter with a shadowy figure of immense
MAN WAS TO WHOM ABRAHAM THE PATRIARCH: Theoreite (2PPAM) de
pelikos houtos o kai dekaten abraam edoken ho patriarches:
) (Genesis 12:2;
renderings help bring out the meaning of this passage...
You can see that Melchizedek was very
great. Abraham, the great father, gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything
that Abraham won in battle. (International Children's Bible)
You can see how important Melchizedek
was. Abraham gave him a tenth of what he had captured, even though Abraham
was the father of the chosen people. (GWT)
Now notice the greatness of this man.
Even Abraham the patriarch pays him a tribute of a tenth part of the spoils.
(theoreo from theoros = a spectator <> theaomai = to
look closely at; gives us our English word "theater") means to continually give
careful consideration to the writers logic in the following discourse, like a general
would who is inspecting his
army! Weigh with attentive contemplation. This word describes one who his a
spectator although not one who is an apathetic spectator but one who looks
with rapt attention and focused interest (-- Just like most men watch their
favorite professional sporting event on the weekends!)
is issued as a command calling for his readers to continue gazing at and
discerning by giving careful
consideration to how great Melchizedek was in light of how Abraham chose to
demonstrate his reverential respect. The writer is calling his readers to
make a critical, discriminating inspection of the facts regarding
Pink says the writer commands...
the Hebrews to attentively mark and
seriously ponder the official dignity of this ancient servant of God. (Ibid)
Vincent writes that theoreo...
denotes calm, intent, continuous
contemplation of an object which remains before the spectator. So John 1:14,
we beheld, implying that Jesus’ stay upon earth, though brief, was such that
his followers could calmly and leisurely contemplate his glory. Compare John
2:23: “they beheld his miracles,” thoughtfully and attentively. Here (Luke
10:18 [Jesus declared] "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like
lightning") it denotes the rapt contemplation of a vision.
How great - An
exclamation, not a question. The idea is "how important" or "how high is his
This man -
The word man is added by the translators (Young's Literal = "how
great this one"), and should read “now consider how great this”, i.e.
royal priest. His exalted rank appears from the fact that none other than
Abraham, the father and head of Israel, had shown him deference.
It is also notable that the writer is careful in his argument
to identify Melchizedek as the man (literally "this one"), lest his Jewish readers think it might be some other man of
the same name.
encourages us to...
Consider how great Melchizedek was.
There is something majestic about every movement of that dimly-revealed
figure. His one and only appearance is thus fitly described in the Book of
Genesis...We see but little of him, yet we see nothing little in him. He is
here and gone, as far as the historic page is concerned, yet is he “a
priest for ever,” and “it is witnessed that he liveth.” Everything about
him is on a scale majestic and sublime.
“Consider how great this man was”
in the combination of his offices. He was duly appointed both priest and
king: king of righteousness and peace, and at the same time priest of the
Most High God. It may be said of him that he sat as a priest upon his
throne. He exercised the double office to the great blessedness of those who
were with him; for his one act towards Abraham would seem to be typical of
his whole life; he blessed him in the name of the Most High God.
“Consider how great this man was,”
that he not only ruled his people with righteousness and brought them peace,
but he was their representative towards God and God’s representative to
them; and in each character distributed divine blessings.
“Consider how great this man was”
in the power of his benedictions. Abraham had already been greatly blessed,
so much so that he is described as “he that received the promises.” Yet a
receiver of promises so great, a man with whom God had entered into solemn
covenant, was yet blessed by Melchizedek, “and without all contradiction
the less is blessed of the better.” This great man yet further blessed the
blessed Abraham, and the father of the faithful was glad to receive
benediction at his hands. No small man this: no priest of second rank; but
one who overtops the sons of men by more than head and shoulders, and acts a
superior’s part among the greatest of them.
“Consider how great this man was”
in his supremacy over all around him. He met Abraham when he was returning
as a conqueror from the overthrow of the robber kings; and the victorious
patriarch bowed before him and gave him tithes of the best of the spoil.
Without a moment’s hesitation the man of God recognized the priest of God,
and paid to him the tribute of a subject to the officer of a great king. In
Abraham’s bowing all the line of Aaronic priesthood did homage unto
Melchizedek; for as the apostle saith, “Levi also, who receiveth tithes,
paid tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father when
Melchizedek met him.” So that all kings in Abraham, and all priests in
Abraham, did homage unto this man, who, as king and priest, was owned to be
“Consider how great this man was.”
When the writer of Hebrews had once proved that Melchizedek was greater than
Abraham, he felt that he had clearly proved him to be greater than all
others, at least to the Hebrews; for the seed of Abraham can recognize none
greater than Abraham; and since Abraham by paying tithes acknowledges his
subordination to Melchizedek, it is clear that the priest of the Most High
God was the greatest of men.
“Consider how great this man was”
as to the singularity of his person, “without father, without mother,
without descent”: that is to say, we know nothing as to his birth, his
origin, or his history. Even this explanation hardly answers to the words,
especially when it is added, “Having neither beginning of days, nor end of
life.” So mysterious is Melchizedek that many deeply-taught expositors
think that he was veritably an appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are
inclined to believe that he was not a king of some city in Canaan, as the
most of us suppose, but that he was a manifestation of the Son of God, such
as were the angels that appeared to Abraham on the plains of Mamre, and that
divine being who appeared to Joshua by Jericho, and to the three holy ones
in the furnace.
At any rate, you may well “consider
how great this man was” when you observe how veiled in cloud is
everything about his coming and going — veiled because intended to impress
us with the depth of the sacred meanings which were shadowed forth in him.
How much more shall this be said of him of whom we ask —
“Thy generation who can tell,
Or count the number of thy years?”
“Consider how great this man was”
in the specialty of his office. He had no predecessor in his priesthood, and
he had no successor. He was not one who took a holy office and then laid it
down; but as far as the historic page of Scripture is concerned we have no
note of his quitting this mortal scene; he disappears, but we read nothing
of his death any more than of his birth. His office was perpetual, and
passed not from sire to son; for he was the type of One “who is made not
after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless
“Consider how great this man was”
in his being altogether unique. There is another “after the order of
Melchizedek,” the glorious Antitype in Whom Melchizedek himself is
absorbed; but apart from Him Melchizedek is unique. Who can equal this
strange, mysterious priest, prophet, king, sent of the Most High God to
bless the father of the faithful? He is altogether alone: he receives no
commission from the hands of men, nor from God by men; and he does not
transmit to a successor what he had not received from a predecessor.
Melchizedek stands alone: one mighty crag, rising out of the plain; a lone
Alp, whose brow is swathed in cloud sublime. “Consider how great this man
was;” but think not to measure that greatness.
I shall leave you to that consideration;
for my business this morning is not with Melchizedek, but with a greater
than he. I shall take my text in its connection, but lift it up to a higher
Beloved friends, if Melchizedek was so
great, how much greater is that man whom Melchizedek represents! If the
type is so wonderful what must the Antitype be! I invite you to consider
“how great” is He of Whom it is written, “The Lord swore and will not
change His mind, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of
Melchizedek.” I will not say “Consider how great this man was,”
for there is no verb: the “was” is inserted in italics by the
translators. We are to consider “how great this man.” Say “was” if you
will, but read also “is,” and “shalt be.” Consider how great this man
was and is, and is to be, even the Man Christ Jesus. (If you have time read
Spurgeon's application of these truths to our Great High Priest Christ Jesus
in his message entitled
The Man Christ Jesus)
Unto whom even
the patriarch Abraham (KJV) - The KJV accentuates the significance of
the interaction between Abraham and Melchizedek. To Melchizedek as his
superior, Abraham even paid a tithe from the best of his
patriarch - This designation is important to the writer's logic and he
accentuates in the original Greek sentence by placing patriarches
emphatically at the end of the sentence. Since Abraham is the forefather and
head of the Jewish race and nation, it is legitimate to make a comparison
between Abraham's descendants (the Levitical priesthood) and Melchizedek.
The point is that Abraham as the ancestor
of the Levitical priests, represents (as it were) his entire group of
descendants -- he stands at the fountainhead of all the subsequent
Expositor's Greek Testament adds that...
Abraham is in emphatic place, but
the emphasis is multiplied by the position of ho patriarches
("the patriarch"). It is as if he heard some of his readers saying, "He must
be mistaken or must refer to some other Abraham and not the fountain of all
our families and of Levi and Aaron". He adds ho patriarches
("the patriarch") to indicate that it is precisely this greatest of men to
whom the people owe even their being, of who he says that Melchizedek was
Melchizedek was superior because he was a specially consecrated
king-priest (as emphasized in
and was above the later patriarch-priests.
The argument goes like this - Since Abraham was himself one of the founders
of Israel, the implication is that he, although a patriarch of the Jews,
nevertheless chose to recognize Melchizedek as more important than
from patria = lineage, family <> from pater = father + archo =
to be chief, to lead, to rule or arche = beginning or head) is
literally the chief father (or "first father"). Patriarch is in Scripture
was applied to important male
ancestors who were the father of a tribe or nation. The patriarch represented the
primary ancestor of a national entity, which in this case was Israel or
the Hebrew nation.
In short, Abraham is
the "first father" of these Jewish readers. He is their great progenitor,
and yet, as the writer explains, Melchizedek is even greater!
Dictionary writes that patriarch was...
(father of a tribe), the name given to
the head of a family or tribe in Old Testament times. In common usage the
title of patriarch is assigned especially to those whose lives are recorded
in Scripture previous to the time of Moses, as Adam, Abraham, Isaac and
"In the early history of the Hebrews we
find the ancestor or father of a family retaining authority over his
children and his children's children so long as he lived, whatever new
connections they might form when the father died the branch families did not
break off and form new communities, but usually united under another common
head. The eldest son was generally invested with this dignity. His authority
was paternal. He was honored as central point of connection and as the
representative of the whole kindred. Thus each great family had its
patriarch or head, and each tribe its prince, selected from the several
heads of the families which it embraced." --McClintock and Strong.
"After the destruction of Jerusalem,
patriarch was the title of the chief religious rulers of the Jews in Asia
and in early Christian times it became the designation of the bishops of
Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem." --American
There are 4 NT uses of
Acts 2:29 "Brethren, I may
confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both
died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Acts 7:8 "And He gave him the
covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and
circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and
Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 9 "And the patriarchs became
jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him,
Hebrews 7:4 Now observe how great
this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the
There are 5 uses of patriarches in the
Lxx (1 Chr. 24:31; 27:22; 2 Chr. 19:8; 23:20; 26:12) as exemplified by the
2 Chronicles 19:8 And in Jerusalem
also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the
heads of the fathers' (2 Hebrews words, rosh = head + 'ab = father; Lxx =
patriarches) households of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD and to judge
disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
MacDonald reasons that...
Since Abraham was one of the greatest
stars in the Hebrew firmament, it follows that Melchizedek must have been a
star of even greater magnitude. (MacDonald,
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or
A W Pink adds the force of the
reasoning here is easily perceived. To
give tithes to another who is the servant of God is a token of official
respect, it is the recognition and acknowledgement of his superior status.
The value of such official tokens is measured by the dignity and rank of the
person making them. Now Abraham was a person of very high dignity, both
naturally and spiritually. Naturally he was the founder of the Jewish
nation; spiritually he was the “father” of all believers (Romans 4). In
his person was concentrated all the sacred dignity belonging to the people
of God. How “great” then must be Melchizedek, seeing that Abraham himself
owned his official superiority! And therefore how “great” must be that
order of priesthood to which he belonged!
That upon which the Jews insisted as
their chief and fundamental privilege, and which they were unwilling to
forego, was the greatness of their ancestors, considered as the high
favorites of God. They so gloried in Abraham and their being his children,
that they opposed this to the person and doctrine of Christ Himself (John
With regard to official dignity, they
looked upon Aaron and his successors as to be preferred above all the world.
Whilst they clung to such fleshly honours, the Gospel of Christ, which
addressed them as lost sinners, could not be but distasteful to them. To
disabuse their minds, to demonstrate that those in whom they trusted came
far short in dignity, honour, and greatness, of the true High Priest, the
apostle presses upon them the eminence of him who was a type of Christ, and
shows that the greatest of all their ancestors paid obeisance (deferential
respect and respectful submission, such as when one bows in an attitude of
homage) to him. (Ibid)
GAVE A TENTH OF
THE CHOICEST SPOILS: edoken (3SAAI) ek ton akrothinion o
Notice how this second "sentence" in this
verse brings out the reason for recognizing the greatness of Melchizedek.
Leon Morris makes the point
In the ancient world, it was
generally recognized that there was an obligation to pay tithes to important
religious functionaries. This implies a certain subjection on the part of
those paving to those to whom the tithe was paid. (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan
Gave a tenth - More literally it
reads "gave from or out of (ek)". The point is that the tithe was taken out
of the best portion of the plunder. The giving of “tenths” or
“tithes” is a custom in a number of cultures today (including many
Ryrie explains the significance of
the transaction this way...
By taking the role of the one who tithed
and the one who received the blessing (v. 1), Abraham, to whom God gave the
promises, doubly acknowledged his inferiority to Melchizedek. (The
Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation: 1995. Moody Publishers)
Choicest spoils (205)
from akron = topmost point + this = a heap) means literally
"the topmost part of the heap" and originally meant "first fruits"
but came to be used of the choicest spoils of war,
the finest booty, the best of the plunder. This is the only use of this word
in Scripture (NT or OT)
From these spoils an offering would be
made to the gods as a thanksgiving for victory. Abraham gave a tenth of the
very best to Melchizedek.
Expositor's Greek Testament notes
The Greeks after a victory gathered the
spoils in a heap (Greek = "this") and the top or best part of the heap
("akron") was presented to the gods.
this word depicts the
“firstfruit offerings,” and in war “the
Wuest adds that...
The Greeks after a victory, gathered up
the spoils in a heap, and the top, or best part of the heap, was presented
to the gods. The fact that Abraham gave a tenth of the pick of the spoils to
Melchisedec, magnifies the latter’s greatness in the eyes of the readers of
this letter. But it was not any ordinary man called Abraham who paid tithes
to Melchisedec. It was Abraham, the patriarch. The writer is careful to
identify him, lest his Jewish readers think it might be some other man of
the same name. (Ibid)
Abraham voluntarily gave his best to a "shadow" of Messiah without
being asked! Do I give the Lord who is the Substance my best (time, talent,
finances) or just throw
Him my leftovers?