Hebrews 7:4
Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
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(4) How great this man was.—Better, is: the greatness abides, set forth in the words of Scripture. In the rest of the verse (where the best MSS. omit the word “even”) it is well to follow the literal rendering, unto whom Abraham gave a tenth out of the chief spoils—(Abraham) the patriarch. “He gave him tithes of all” (Genesis 14:20), but the tenth was selected from the choicest part of the spoils. “Patriarch” is a word used in the LXX. (in Chronicles only) for the head of a family or chief of a clan. In the New Testament it is used of David in Acts 2:29, and twice in Acts 7 of Jacob’s sons.

The next verse deals with the same subject, but under a new aspect. Here the thought is, Melchizedek received tithes even from Abraham the patriarch; there, He has been thus honoured, though no enactment of law invested him with superior rights.

Hebrews 7:4-7. Consider how great this man was — The greatness of Melchisedec is described in all the preceding and following particulars. But the most manifest proof of it was, that Abraham gave him tithes as a priest of God, and a superior; though he was himself a patriarch, greater than a king, and a progenitor of many kings. The sons of Levi take tithes of their brethren — Sprung from Abraham as well as themselves. The Levites, therefore, are greater than they; but the priests are greater than the Levites; the patriarch Abraham than the priests, and Melchisedec than him. But he whose descent is not counted from them — From that people who come out of the loins of Abraham, not only received tithes of Abraham, but blessed him — Another proof of Melchisedec’s superiority; even him that had the promises — With whom God made the covenant of grace, as with the Father of all the blessed seed. Thus Galatians 3:16 : To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. And without all contradiction — Without all question; the less is blessed authoritatively of the better — Or greater; that is, when a man does, in God’s name and stead, and by his authority, declare and pronounce another to be blessed, he that gives the blessing is, in that respect, greater than he who receives it.7:4-10 That High Priest who should afterward appear, of whom Melchizedec was a type, must be much superior to the Levitical priests. Observe Abraham's great dignity and happiness; that he had the promises. That man is rich and happy indeed, who has the promises, both of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This honour have all those who receive the Lord Jesus. Let us go forth in our spiritual conflicts, trusting in his word and strength, ascribing our victories to his grace, and desiring to be met and blessed by him in all our ways.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.

Even the patriarch Abraham - One so great as he is acknowledged to have been. On the word "patriarch," see the notes on Acts 2:29. It occurs only in Acts 2:29; Acts 7:8-9, and in this place.

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.

4. consider—not merely see, but weigh with attentive contemplation, the fact.

even—"to whom (as his superior) Abraham even paid tithe (went so far as to pay tithe) of (consisting of, literally, 'from') the best of the spoils (literally, 'the top of the heap"; whether of corn, the first-fruits of which, taken from the top, used to be consecrated to God; or of spoils, from the top of which the general used to take some portion for consecration to God, or for his own use)." He paid "tithes of ALL," and those tithes were taken out of the topmost and best portion of the whole spoils.

the patriarch—in the Greek emphatically standing at the end of the whole sentence: And this payer of tithe being no less a personage than "the patriarch," the first forefather and head of our Jewish race and nation See on [2555]Heb 7:3, on Melchisedec's superiority as specially consecrated king-priest, above the other patriarch-priests.

Now consider how great this man was: the Spirit compares with, and prefers, Melchisedec before Abraham, as he was God’s high priest; he introduces it with pressing these Hebrews to exercise an act of judgment under the metaphor of seeing, denoting it to be such a serious and intent act, as calls for the utmost exercise of the discerning faculty; a carelessness in it, or an oversight, might make the proposal to be to no purpose. The greatness of this high priest is what he sets in their view, and that indefinitely: How great is this officer! Intimating him to be somewhat excessive to other great ones: and how much greater then must be Christ, if his type be so great! Beyond not only Abraham, Levi, and his posterity, but this great Melchisedec, as to his sacerdotal power and dignity.

Unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils: this greatness is evinced by Abraham’s (the patriarch, chief of all the fathers of Israel, whom the Hebrews esteemed above all others, John 8:53, and God owns as his friend, and sets all believers under his fatherhood) giving, as a due to Melchisedec, being the greater person in office, the tenth of all the spoils, that which was due to God, and paid to him as God’s high priest: akroyiniwn notes either the first or choicest of the heaps of grains, especially the first-fruits dedicated to God; but here signifieth that part of the spoils which, according to the custom of war in most nations, after the victory, were offered to God as his part, whether they did consist of persons or things: the tenth part of these were given by him to Melchisedec, as the greatest priest of God in the world, and superior to himself. Now consider how great this man was,.... Melchizedek, of whom so many great and wonderful things are said in the preceding verses: and as follows,

unto whom the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils; of Abraham's giving tithes to him; see Gill on Hebrews 7:2 and Melchizedek's greatness is aggravated, not only from this act of Abraham's, but from Abraham's being a "patriarch", who did it; he was the patriarch of patriarchs, as the sons of Jacob are called, Acts 7:8 he is the patriarch of the whole Jewish nation, and of many nations, and of all believers, the friend of God, and heir of the world; how great then must Melchizedek be, to whom he paid tithes? and how much greater must Christ, the antitype of Melchizedek, be?

{3} Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

(3) Another figure: Melchizedek in his priesthood was above Abraham for he took tithes from him, and blessed him as a priest. Such a one indeed is Christ, on whom depends even Abraham's sanctification and all the believers, and whom all men should worship and reverence as the author of all.

Hebrews 7:4. Θεωρεῖτε] is imperative, whereby a strain is to be put on the attention for that which follows: but behold, namely, inwardly, i.e. consider.

πηλίκος] how great, i.e. how high and exalted.

οὗτος ᾧ καὶ δεκάτην Ἀβραὰμ ἔδωκεν κ.τ.λ.] Resuming of the historic notice already adduced at the beginning of Hebrews 7:2, in order then further to argue from the same. By the choice and position of the words, however, the author brings out the πηλίκος in its truth and inner justice. (Choice of the words ἁκροθίνια and πατριάρχης,—the latter in place of the elsewhere more usual ὁ πατήρ in regard to Abraham,—and effective placing of the characterizing title ὁ πατριάρχης at the close of the proposition at a far remove from the name Ἀβραάμ.)

καὶ δεκάτην] καί is not the merely copulative “also,” as Hebrews 7:2 (Hofmann), but is used as giving intensity. It gives intensity, however, not to the subject (so Luther, Grotius, Owen, Carpzov: “Abraham himself also”),—for then ᾧ καὶ Ἀβραὰμ δεκάτην ἔδωκεν must have been written,—but the predicate: to whom Abraham gave even the tenth.

ἀκροθίνια] composed of ἄκρος and θίν, in the N. T. a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, denotes the uppermost of the heap, the choice or best thereof. The expression is most current with regard to the first-fruits of the harvest presented to the Godhead; not seldom, however, is it used of the best, which was selected out of the spoils of war as an offering consecrated to the Godhead. In our passage, too, ἀκροθίνια denotes not simply the spoils acquired by Abraham (so Chrysostom: τὰ λάφυρα; Oecumenius: ἐκ τῶν σκύλων καὶ λαφύρων, Erasmus, Luther, Vatablus, Calvin, Schlichting, Böhme, Kuinoel, Stuart, Bloomfield, and the majority), but the choicest, most valuable articles thereof. Theophylact: ἐκ τῶν λαφύρων τῶν κρειττόνων καὶ τιμιωτέρων. Not that the meaning of the author is, that Abraham gave to Melchisedec the tenth part of the most choice objects among the booty acquired, but that the tithes which he presented to Melchisedec consisted of the choicest, most excellent portions of the booty.

ὁ πατριάρχης] he, the patriarch. The sonorous name of honour πατριάρχης, composed of πατριά and ἀρχή, designates Abraham as the father of the chosen race, and ancestor of the people of Israel. Comp. Acts 2:29, where David is distinguished by the same title of honour, and Acts 7:8-9, where the twelve sons of Jacob are so distinguished.Hebrews 7:4-10. Superiority of Melchizedek to Levitical priests. The argument is: he was greater than Abraham, the great fountain of the people and of blessing. How much more is he greater than the descendants of Abraham, the Levitical priests?4. Now consider] The verb means “to contemplate spiritually.”

how great this man was] Here begin the seven particulars of the typical superiority of Melchisedek’s Priesthood over that of Aaron. First. Even Abraham gave him tithes.

the patriarch Abraham] There is great rhetoric force in the order of the original “to whom even Abraham gave a tithe out of his best spoils—he the patriarch.” Here not only is the ear of the writer gratified by the sonorous conclusion of the sentence with an Ionicus a minore pătriarchçs; but a whole argument about the dignity of Abraham is condensed into the position of one emphatic word. The word in the N. T. occurs only here and in Acts 2:29; Acts 7:8-9.

of the spoils] The word rendered “spoils” properly means that which is taken from the top of a heap (ἄκρος θίς); hence some translate it “the best of the spoils,” and Philo describes the tithe given by Abraham in similar terms.Hebrews 7:4. Θεωρεῖτε) you see; comp. Acts 25:24, note; or rather see, consider. For Paul begins to teach in this passage, and at the same time excites our admiration: οὗτος, this man, accords with this view.—, to whom) as greater, and as a priest.—καὶ) even. The greatness of Melchisedec is described in all those things which precede and follow this clause; but the principal thing is receiving the tithes. For this is the privilege of a superior.—ἐκ τῶν ἀκροθινίων) of the spoils, which had properly belonged to Abraham as the conqueror. Hesychius explains: ἀκροθινίον, ἀπαρχὴ καρπῶν, ἢ σκῦλα, λαφύρων ἀπαρχαί. Ἀκροθινίον, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν θινῶν, θίνες δὲ εἰσιν οἱ σωροὶ τῶν πυρῶν ἢ κριθῶν· ἢ πᾶσα ἀπαρχή: “ἀκροθινίον is first fruits, or arms, clothes, the first fruits of spoils: ἀκροθινίον, the first fruits of θίνες, and θίνες are heaps of wheat or barley; or any first fruits whatever.”—ὁ πατριάρχης, the patriarch) He highly praises Abraham, that Melchisedec may be made the greater. The patriarch is even greater than a king, as being the progenitor of kings.Verse 4. - Now consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, even gave a tenth of the spoils. The typical significance of Melchizedek is now further seen in what passed between him and Abraham, in respect to tithe and blessing. Alford's inference, that πηλίκος οὕτος, referring as it does, not to the antitype, but to the man himself, implies some mysterious greatness beyond what appears in the original record, does not follow. Of one who simply blessed and received tithes from the great patriarch, the expression is not too strong. Observe the emphatic position, at the end of the Greek sentence, of παριάρχης, equivalent to "he, the patriarch." Abraham's being this, the father and representative of the chosen race, is what is shown in what follows to give peculiar significance to the transaction. The word ἀκροθίνια (properly, "the chief spoils"), which is not in the LXX., seems introduced to enhance the picture: "Quae Abrahami proprie fuerant, ut victoris" (Bengel). The superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood to the Levitical.

Consider (θεωρεῖτε)

Only here in Hebrews and oP. Except this passage, confined to the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and Johannine writings. See on Luke 10:18; see on John 1:18.

How great (πηλίκος)

Only here and Galatians 6:11.

The patriarch (ὁ πατριάρχης)

Only here and in Acts.

The tenth (δεκάτην)

Properly an adjective, but used as a noun for tithe. Only in Hebrews, as is the kindred verb δεκατοῦν to impose or take tithes. Ἀποδεκατοῖν to exact tithes, Hebrews 7:5. Comp. Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42.

Of the spoils (ἐκ τῶν ἀκροθινίων)

The noun N.T.o , from ἅρκον topmost point, and θίς a heap. The top of the pile: the "pick" of the spoil.

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