Hebrews 7:5
And truly 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 brothers, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
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(5) They that are of the sons.—Rather, those of the sons of Levi that receive, &c. There is an apparent difficulty here. The priests, it is urged, did not receive tithes from the people; the tithe was paid to the Levites, and but the tenth part of this tithe fell to the lot of the priests. Two considerations seem entirely to remove this difficulty. (1) The question is not one of emolument, but of position. The authority to exact tithes was in strictness vested in the priests, the supreme guardians of the laws relating to all religious duties and observances, and the Levites were but their assistants. That the priests received for their own use but a part of the tribute paid by the nation is a matter of no moment here. (2) The Levites themselves paid tithes to the priests, who therefore stood alone in receiving tithes but paying none. It is the positive ordinance of the law, and nothing but this, that raises brethren above brethren, and gives to the priest this claim upon men who would otherwise be on an equality with himself through common descent from Abraham.

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.And verily they that are of the sons of Levi - The meaning of this verse is, that the Levitical priests had a right to receive tithes of their brethren, but still that they were inferior to Melchizedek. The apostle admits that their superiority to the rest of the people was shown by the fact that they had a right to require of them the tenth part of the productions of the land for their maintenance, and for the support of religion. But still he says, that their inferiority to Melchizedek, and consequently to Christ as a priest, was shown by the fact that the illustrious ancestor of all the Jewish people, including the priests as well as others, had confessed his inferiority to Melchizedek by paying him tithes.

Who receive the office of the priesthood - Not all the descendants of Levi were priests. The apostle, therefore, specifies particularly those who "received this office," as being those whom he specially designed, and as those whose inferiority to Christ as a priest it was his object to show.

Have a commandment to take tithes - Have by the Law a commission, or a right to exact tithes of the people. Deuteronomy 14:22, Deuteronomy 14:27-29.

5. sons of Levi—namely, those alone who belonged to the family of Aaron, to whom the priesthood was restricted. Tithes originally paid to the whole tribe of Levi, became at length attached to the priesthood.

according to the law—sanctioned by Jehovah (Heb 9:19).

of their brethren—with whom, in point of natural descent, they are on a level.

though, &c.—Though thus on a level by common descent from Abraham, they yet pay tithe to the Levites, whose brethren they are. Now the Levites are subordinate to the priests; and these again to Abraham, their common progenitor; and Abraham to Melchisedec. "How great" (Heb 7:4) then, must this Melchisedec be in respect to his priesthood, as compared with the Levitical, though the latter received tithes! and now unspeakably great must "the Son of God" be, to whom, as the sacerdotal archetype (in God's purpose), Melchisedec was made like! Thus compare the "consider," Heb 7:4, in the case of Melchisedec, the type, with the "consider" (Greek, "contemplate attentively," see on [2556]Heb 3:1, a stronger word than here) in the case of Christ, the archetype.

This is a proof by instance out of the Levitical law, that he who receiveth is greater than he who giveth.

And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood: the seed of Levi the son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, Numbers 1:48-50 3:1-5, and not all of them neither, but the sons of Levi descending from Aaron, were separated and consecrated in the priesthood by God’s precept, and vindicated from those who would usurp it, Numbers 16:1-17:13, and confirmed in it by miracle.

Have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law: God himself gave them a law from heaven to tithe by, and a charge to observe this law, as to all parts of tithes, such as were due to all Levites, Numbers 18:24, to the high priest only as God’s substitute, Numbers 18:8-19,25-29; to the Levites, widows, and poor together, Deu 14:22-29. These the same law obliged all the Israelites to pay to these Levites as a homage due from them to God, and so delivered to his substitutes superior unto them, as his priests and ministers, and due to them by his own constitution, being the first-fruits of his own blessing.

That is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: yet these Israelites who were to pay those tithes to these as superior to them in office, were their own brethren by nature, of the same rank, coming out of the same loins of Abraham, but subjected to these priests, who, by God’s ordinance, were set above them in their office; and their receiving tithes was an inseparable property of that superiority. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi,.... Or Levites; who are of the tribe of Levi, whose descent is from him:

who receive the office of the priesthood; as some of them were priests, though not all; and the Levites therefore are sometimes called priests. R. Joshua ben Levi says, that in twenty four places the priests are called Levites; and this is one of them, Ezekiel 44:15 "and the priests and Levites", &c. (k).

these have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law; the ceremonial law, Numbers 18:20, these they took of all the people of Israel in the rest of the tribes, by the commandment of God, on account of their service in the tabernacle; and because they had no inheritance in the land; and to show that the Israelites held their land of God himself:

that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham; who are their brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh, though of different tribes; and from these they receive, notwithstanding they are the sons of Abraham: but here a difficulty arises, how the Levites that were priests can be said to receive tithes from the people, when they received the tenth part of the tithes, or the tithe of tithes from the Levites, Numbers 18:26, but it should be observed, that it was not necessary that the Levites should give these tithes to the priests themselves; an Israelite might do it, and so give the Levites the less; on which account the priests may be said to receive from the people; besides, Ezra in his time ordered, that the first tithe should not be given to the Levites, but to the priests, because they would not go up with him to Jerusalem (l).

(k) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 86. 2. & Becorot, fol. 4. 1.((l) Maimon. Hilchot Maaser, c. 1. sect. 4.

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 {b} come out of the loins of Abraham:

(b) Were begotten by Abraham.

Hebrews 7:5. Admission of the relatively privileged position of the Levitical priests.

καί] the explanatory: and certainly.

οἱ μὲν κ.τ.λ.] preparatory to the adversative ὁ δὲ κ.τ.λ., Hebrews 7:6.

οἱ ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευῒ τὴν ἱερατείαν λαμβάνοντες] those of the sons (descendants) of Levi who obtain the office of priest. For not all Levites, but only those of them who claimed lineage from the house of Aaron, were entitled to enter upon the priesthood. Comp. Exodus 28:1 ff.; Numbers 3:10; Numbers 3:38; Numbers 3:16; Numbers 18:1 ff., al. Mistaken is the opinion of Delitzsch, Maier, and Moll (in coinciding with Hofmann), that the ἐκ in ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευΐ is the causal ἐκ of origin: “those who receive the priesthood from the sons of Levi, i.e. by virtue of their descent from Levi, in such wise that their person is not taken into account as such, but only in so far as they belong to this lineage.” If that had been intended, οἱ ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευῒ ὄντες καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τὴν ἱερατείαν λαμβάνοντες must have been written.

ἐντολὴν ἔχουσιν ἀποδεκατοῦν τὸν λαὸν κατὰ τὸν νόμον] have a charge to tithe the people according to the law. Comp. Numbers 18:20-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Nehemiah 10:38-39; de Wette, Lehrb. der hebr.-jüd. Archäologie, 3 Aufl. p. 273 f.; Delitzsch, Talmudische Studien, XIV. Justification of Hebrews 7:5[81] (in Guericke’s Zeitschr. f. d. gesammte luth. Theol. u. Kirche, 1863, H. 1, p. 16 ff.).

κατὰ τὸν νόμον] belongs not to ΤῸΝ ΛΑΌΝ (Seb. Schmidt, Hammond, Starck, Böhme, Hofmann), against which even the non-repetition of the article after ΛΑΌΝ decides; nor yet to ἈΠΟΔΕΚΑΤΟῦΝ (Owen, Delitzsch, Alford, Maier, Ewald), but to ἘΝΤΟΛῊΝ ἜΧΟΥΣΙΝ.

In the closing words, ΤΟΥΤΈΣΤΙΝ ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟῪς ΑὐΤῶΝ, ΚΑΊΠΕΡ Κ.Τ.Λ., Bleek, after the example set by Böhme, erroneously finds the sense: “that, although they are the posterity of Abraham, the lauded patriarch, who are tithed by the Levitical priests, yet they are, after all, still the brethren of the latter, i.e. fellow-Israelites; which cannot be so astonishing as when Abraham himself paid the tithes to Melchisedec.” On the contrary, the elucidation of τὸν λαόν by ΤΟΥΤΈΣΤΙΝ ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟῪς ΑὐΤῶΝ serves to bring into more striking relief the singularity of the ἈΠΟΔΕΚΑΤΟῦΝ; since elsewhere only the higher receives tithes from the lower, not the equal from the equal (as here an Abrahamides from an Abrahamides), and this singularity of the ἈΠΟΔΕΚΑΤΟῦΝ is then yet further manifested by ΚΑΊΠΕΡ ἘΞΕΛΗΛΥΘΌΤΑς ἘΚ Τῆς ὈΣΦΎΟς ἈΒΡΑΆΜ. The author can therefore only design, by means of Hebrews 7:5, to characterize the priests as primi inter pares. This superiority, however, in regard to their own fellow-Israelites, the author concedes only in order immediately after, Hebrews 7:6, to oppose to the same the inferiority in regard to Melchisedec.

ἐξέρχεσθαι ἐκ τῆς ὀσφύος τινός] So the LXX. render the Hebrew יָצָא מֵחַלְצֵי פ׳, Genesis 35:11; 2 Chronicles 6:9.

[81] The justification consists of the attempted proof that in the post-exilian age the tenth was no longer levied in the first place by the Levites,—who had been wont only afterwards to render to the priests the portion pertaining to the same,—but the priests themselves had entered upon the right of levying the tenth, which had been originally assigned to the Levites. Nevertheless, however the matter may have stood in this respect, there was hardly any need of a justification of the words Hebrews 7:5, since no statement whatever as to the mode of receiving the tenths is contained in the same; on the contrary, these words are equally appropriate for indirect as for direct levying of the tithes.

Hebrews 7:5-7. First point of superiority. The Levitical priests, indeed, take tithes of their brethren, although these brethren, in like manner as they, have descended from Abraham: they have thus, it is true, a pre-eminence above these; but they are inferior to Melchisedec, since this man took tithes of Abraham himself, the common ancestor of the Jewish people, and blessed him.

Hebrews 7:5-10. Unfolding of the πηλίκος οὗτος κ.τ.λ., Hebrews 7:4, in that Melchisedec is compared with the Levitical priests, and a threefold superiority of the former over the latter is pointed out.Hebrews 7:5. The significance of this tithing is perceived when it is considered that, although the sons of Levi take tithes of their brethren, this is the result of a mere legal appointment. Those who pay tithes are, as well as those who receive them, sons of Abraham. Paying tithes is in their case no acknowledgment of personal inferiority, but mere compliance with law. But Abraham was under no such law to Melchizedek, and the payment of tithes to him was a tribute to his personal greatness. καὶ adds a fresh aspect of the matter. οἱ μὲν ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευῒ … “those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly service have an ordinance to tithe the people in accordance with the law, that is, their brethren, although these have come out of the loins of Abraham”. Not all the tribe of Levi, but only the family of Aaron received (cf. Hebrews 5:4) the ἱερατεία (also in Luke 1:9), which Bleek shows to have been used by classical writers of priestly service, while ἱερωσύνη was used of the priestly office. See Hebrews 7:11-12; Hebrews 7:24. ἀποδεκατοῖν, “The best MSS. make the infinitive of verbs in -όω to end in -οῖν” (Westcott and Hort, G., T. ii., sec. 410, and cf. Jannaris, Greek Gram., 851). The verb occurs only in Biblical Greek, the classical form being δεκατεύω. κατὰ τὸν νόμον follows ἀποδεκ. τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτῶν, κ.τ.λ. Not their fellow-Levites, although it is true that the Levites tithed the people, and the priests tithed the Levites (Numbers 18:21-24; Numbers 18:26-28), but the words are added in explanation of λαόν in order to emphasise the fact that the priests exacted tithes not in recognition of any personal superiority. Those who paid tithes were Abraham’s descendants equally with the priests; it was merely the law which conveyed the right to tithe their brethren καίπερ ἐξεληλυθότας ἐκ τῆς ὀσφύος Ἀβρααμ.5. who receive the office of the priesthood] The word used for “priesthood” is defined by Aristotle to mean “care concerning the gods.”

to take tithes of the people according to the law] Indirectly, through the agency of the Levites. Delitzsch argues that after the Exile the Priests collected the tithes themselves. It cannot however be proved that the Priests themselves tithed the people. This was done by the Levites, who gave the tithe of their tithes to the priests, Numbers 18:22-26, Nehemiah 10:38. There is however no real difficulty about the expression, for the Priests might tithe the people, as Jewish tradition says that they did in the days of Ezra; and (2) Qui facit per alium facit per se. There is therefore no need to alter “the people” (laon) into Levi (Leuin). The Priests stood alone in receiving tithes and giving none.

come out of the loins] A Hebrew expression, Genesis 35:11.Hebrews 7:5. Τὸν λαὸν, the people) An abbreviated expression, to be resolved into a subject and predicate consisting each of two members. The priests (and Levites) tithe (the Levites and) the people, Numbers 18:21; Numbers 18:26; Nehemiah 10:38. So the style of Paul admits, Romans 5:16, note.—κατὰ τὸν νόμον) according to or in the law, ch. Hebrews 9:19.—ἀδελφοὺς, brethren) with whom they are of the same natural condition. To these, however, are preferred the Levites; to these latter, the priests; to these again, Abraham: to Abraham is preferred Melchisedec.Verses 5-7. - And they indeed of the song of Levi who receive the office of priesthood have commandment to receive tithes of the people according to the Law, that is, of their brethren, though these have come out of the loins of Abraham: but he whose genealogy is not counted from them hath received tithes of Abraham. As much as to say, "Let it not be said that the tithing of Abraham by Melchizedek implies no higher priestly prerogative than the tithing of Abraham's descendants by the sons of Aaron; for there is this difference: They, in virtue only of a special ordinance of the Law, not of original right, were allowed to tithe their brethren, though descended from the same great ancestor; he, though not of them or of the race at all, in virtue of his own inherent dignity, tithes the whole race as represented in its patriarch." (We observe how, in place of the aorist ἔδωκε, used when the mere historical incident was referred to, we have here the perfect δεδεκάτωκε (as also εὐλόγηκε in what follows, and δεδεκάτωται in ver. 9), denoting a completed act, of which the effects and significance remain; Melchizedek, who represents the priesthood after his order, being viewed in permanent relation to Abraham, who represents the chosen race.) And hath blessed him that hath (i.e. the holder of) the promises. But, without all controversy, the less is blessed of the better. The superiority evidenced by bestowal of blessing no less than by receiving of tithe having been thus noticed, the contrast with the Levitical priesthood is continued in the following verses. If Melchisedec was greater than Abraham, he was greater than Abraham's descendants, including the tribe of Levi.

They that are of the sons of Levi who receive, etc. (οἱ ἐκ τῶν υἱῶν Λευεὶ λαμβάνοντες)

Those out of the sons of Levi who become priests. Not those who receive the priesthood from the sons of Levi. Not all Levites were priests, but only those of the house of Aaron.

The office of the priesthood (τὴν ἱερατίαν)

Only here and Luke 1:9.

A commandment (ἐντολὴν)

A special injunction. See on James 2:8; see on Ephesians 2:15.

To take tithes (ἀποδεκατοῖν)

See on Hebrews 7:4.

That is of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham

The people, the brethren of the Levites, are descended from their common ancestor, Abraham, yet the Levites exact tithes from them.

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