Amplified: Now observe and consider how great [a personage] this was to whom even Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth [the topmost or the pick of the heap] of the spoils (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
NLT: Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized how great Melchizedek was by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Young's Literal: And see how great this one is, to whom also a tenth Abraham the patriarch did give out of the best of the spoils,
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 note Romans 11:17).
A W Pink - 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 Continued)
Wuest offers an excellent summation of the exceptional significance of this section of Hebrews observing that "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 animal blood. (Hebrews Commentary online)
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)
NOW OBSERVE HOW GREAT THIS MAN WAS TO WHOM ABRAHAM THE PATRIARCH: Theoreite (2PPAM) de pelikos houtos o kai dekaten abraam edoken ho patriarches: (Acts 2:29; 7:8,9 ) (Genesis 12:2; 17:5,6; Romans 4:11-13,17,18; Galatians 3:28,29; James 2:23)
The following renderings help bring out the meaning of this passage...
Spurgeon - 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. “See how great this man was,” that he not only ruled his people with righteousness and brought them peace, but he was their representative toward God and God’s representative to them.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 that the Lord “has sworn and he will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek” (Psa 110:4). I will not say “Consider how great this man was,” for there is no verb: the “was” is inserted by the translators. We are to consider “how great this man.” Say “was” if you will, but read also “is,” and “shall be.” Consider how great this man was and is, and is to be, even the Man Christ Jesus.
Observe (2334) (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!)
The present imperative 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 Melchizedek.
As Pink says the writer commands...
Vincent writes that theoreo...
How great - An exclamation, not a question. The idea is "how important" or "how high is his status".
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.
Spurgeon thus encourages us to...
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 spoils.
Abraham the 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 offspring.
Expositor's Greek Testament adds that...
Melchizedek was superior because he was a specially consecrated king-priest (as emphasized in Hebrews 7:3), 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 himself.
Patriarch (3966) (patriarches 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!
Smith's Bible Dictionary writes that patriarch was...
There are 4 NT uses of patriarches...
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 following use...
As MacDonald reasons that...
A W Pink adds the force of the writer's
GAVE A TENTH OF THE CHOICEST SPOILS: edoken (3SAAI) ek ton akrothinion o patriarches: (Genesis 14:20)
Notice how this second "sentence" in this verse brings out the reason for recognizing the greatness of Melchizedek.
Leon Morris makes the point that " 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 Publishing)
Spurgeon - 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.
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 churches).
Ryrie explains the significance of the transaction this way...
Choicest spoils (205) (akrothinion 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 that...
Vine writes this word depicts 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. (Hebrews Commentary online)
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?
Hebrews 7:5 And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended * from Abraham (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: kai oi men ek ton huion Leui ten hierateian lambanontes (PAPMPN) entolen echousin (3PPAI) apodekatoun (PAN) ton laon kata ton nomon, tout' estin (3SPAI) tous adelphous auton, kaiper exeleluthotas (RAPMPA) ek tes osphuos Abraam;
Amplified: And it is true that those descendants of Levi who are charged with the priestly office are commanded in the Law to take tithes from the people—which means, from their brethren—though these have descended from Abraham (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
NLT: Now the priests, who are descendants of Levi, are commanded in the law of Moses to collect a tithe from all the people, even though they are their own relatives. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Young's Literal: and those, indeed, out of the sons of Levi receiving the priesthood, a command have to take tithes from the people according to the law, that is, their brethren, even though they came forth out of the loins of Abraham;
AND THOSE INDEED OF THE SONS OF LEVI WHO RECEIVE THE PRIEST'S OFFICE HAVE COMMANDMENT IN THE LAW TO COLLECT A TENTH FROM THE PEOPLE: kai oi men ek ton huion leui ten hierateian lambanontes (PAPMPN) entolen echousin (3PPAI) apodekatoun (PAN) ton laon: Nu 18:21-26 (Heb 5:4; Exodus 28:1; Numbers 16:10,11; 17:3-10; 18:7,21-26) (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:26-32; 2 Chronicles 31:4-6; Nehemiah 13:10)
The point the writer is building toward is that if Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, he was also greater than Abraham's descendants, some of which would include the Levites including the priests from Aaron's lineage.
The UBS Handbook however adds this interesting observation noting that...
Sons of Levi - Sons speaks of the male lineage and the Greek is rendered literally "out of the sons of Levi". So what? The implication is that the reference here is not to all Levites, for not all were priests but only those who were out of (preposition ek = out of or from) the tribe of Levi and from the house of Aaron and thus were duly qualified to be priests.
Spurgeon - In Abraham’s bowing all the line of Aaronic priesthood did homage unto Melchizedek. 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 supreme.
Who receive the priest's office - Genuine God honoring ministry is not something one "achieves" but a privilege one "receives". And all believers have received this high privilege -- priests of the Most High God. How are you fulfilling your purpose as His privileged priest? Are you interceding? Are you offering up sacrifices?..."of praise to God"? see note Hebrews 13:15; of thanks for everything? see note 1Thessalonians 5:18; How is it possible for saved sinners, as even we yet non-glorified priests are, to offer acceptable sacrifices? see note Hebrews 13:21.
Dear priest of the Most High God, is His praise continually in your mouth and on your lips as it was for David, even in the miserable circumstances of Psalm 34:1? You are encouraged to ponder the psalm and Spurgeon's note below, especially taking note of his comment "I will"...
The Law (3551) (nomos) - Beginning in this passage, the writer mentions Law for the first time in this book and then some 13 times in Hebrews 7-10 (click for all uses). Nomos can denote law in general or a principle according to which one acts, but in this context it is used for the law of Moses.
Not only was the payment of one-tenth widely customary in the ancient world, the Mosaic law required that a tithe be paid to the priests.
The significance of this act of tithing is seen when one understands that the Aaronic priests took tithes of their brethren by law only. When they paid tithes in this way, there was no acknowledgment of inferiority on the part of those who paid tithes. Their tithing reflected an obligatory compliance with the law. But in the case of Abraham, there was no law that obligated him to pay tithes to Melchizedek. When he paid Melchizedek tithes, it was an acknowledgment on his part of his own inferiority and a personal tribute to Mel's greatness and superiority.
Guzik explains that...
Expositor's Greek Testament agrees adding that...
THAT IS FROM THEIR BRETHREN ALTHOUGH THESE ARE DESCENDED FROM ABRAHAM: kata ton nomon toutestin tous adelphous auton kaiper exeleluthotas (RAPMPA) ek tes osphuos abraam: (Heb 7:10; Genesis 35:11; 46:26; Exodus 1:5; 1 Kings 8:19)
From their brethren - This refers to the countrymen of the Jewish priests.
Although these - "These" refers to the priests.
Leon Morris explains that "The law required tithes to be taken of people of whom the priests were "brothers." There is a sense in which the priests had no inherent superiority. They were kin to those who gave tithes to them. They owed their ability to collect tithes to the provision made in the law and not to any natural superiority. But with Melchizedek it was different. He "did not trace his descent from Levi." Melchizedek was not simply one among a host of brothers. He was a solitary figure of grandeur. And he exacted tithes not simply from his brothers but from Abraham. His greatness stands out. (Ibid)
Melchizedek had no part in the Levitical genealogy, and therefore no legal right to exact tithes, and yet he took tithes from the great patriarch himself! And thus Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. The writer emphasizes that the right of the Levitical priest to receive tithes was only their right because it was ordained by a specific law and therefore their receiving tithes implied no intrinsic superiority of the priests to their Jewish brethren. On the other hand, to reiterate, Melchizedek, though he had to legal right, nevertheless received tithes from Abraham as a voluntary gift (Abraham was under no legal obligation to give a tithe to anyone), which implied Abraham’s recognition of the personal greatness of Melchizedek.
Although they are descended - JFB explains "although" writing...
Descended from - There are 4 words in Greek, the verb exerchomai (literally to come out of) and the phrase "ek tes osphuos" which are rendered more literally "to come out of, from the loins of" Abraham