Hebrews 7:8
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
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(8) “Here,” under the Levitical economy, dying men receive the various tithes. Men enter by birth into a state with which this right is associated, and by death again pass out of it. No special significance, therefore, attaches to the men themselves. “There,” in the history now considered, one (receives tithes) of whom the Scripture simply witnesses that he lives. The narrative of Genesis gives no other basis for his priesthood than the mere fact of his life. What he holds, he holds by personal right.

Hebrews 7:8-10. And here — In the Levitical priesthood; men that die, receive tithes, but there — In the case of Melchisedec; he of whom it is witnessed that he liveth — Who is not spoken of as one that died for another to succeed him, but is represented only as living, being mentioned in such a way as if he lived for ever. And even Levi, who received tithes — Not in person, but in his successors, as it were, paid tithes in the person of Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father — “This might justly be said of Levi, who descended from Abraham in the ordinary course of generation. But it cannot be said of Christ, who was born in a miraculous manner, without any human father. While, therefore, the apostle’s argument, taken from Abraham’s paying tithes to Melchisedec, and his receiving the blessing from him, proves that both Abraham and the Levitical priests, his natural descendants, were inferior to Melchisedec, it does not apply to Christ at all.” — Macknight. 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 here men that die receive tithes - Another point showing the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood. They who thus received tithes, though by the right to do this they asserted a superiority over their brethren, were mortal. Like others, they would soon die; and in regard to the most essential things they were on a level with their brethren. They had no exemption from sickness, affliction, or bereavement, and death came to them with just as much certainty as he approached other men. The meaning of this is, that they are mortal like their brethren, and the design is to show the inferiority of their office by this fact. Its obvious and natural signification, in the apprehension of the great mass of readers, would not be, as the meaning has been supposed to be, that it refers "to the brief and mutable condition of the Levitical priesthood;" see Stuart in loco. Such an interpretation would not occur to anyone if it were not to avoid the difficulty existing in the correlative member of the verse where it is said of Melchizedek that "he liveth." But is the difficulty avoided then? Is it not as difficult to understand what is meant by his having an immutable and perpetual priesthood, as it is to know what is meant by his not dying literally? Is the one any more true than the other? Whatever difficulties, therefore, there may be, we are bound to adhere to the obvious sense of the expression here; a sense which furnishes also a just and forcible ground of comparison. It seems to me, therefore, that the simple meaning of this passage is, that, under the Levitical economy, those who received tithes were mortal, and were thus placed in strong contrast with him of whom it was said "he liveth." Thus, they were inferior to him - as a mortal is inferior to one who does not die; and thus also they must be inferior to him who was made a priest after the "order" of him who thus "lived."

But there - In contrast with "here" in the same verse. The reference here is to the account of Melchizedek, "Here," in the Levitical economy, men received tithes who are mortal; "there," in the account of Melchizedek, the case is different.

He receiveth them - Melchizedek - for so the connection evidently demands.

Of whom it is witnessed - Of whom the record is. There is not in Genesis, indeed, any direct record that he lives, but there is the absence of a record that he died, and this seems to have been regarded as in fact a record of permanency in the office; or as having an office which did not pass over to successors by the death of the then incumbent.

That he liveth - This is an exceedingly difficult expression, and one which has always greatly perplexed commentators. The fair and obvious meaning is, that all the record we have of Melchizedek is, that he was "alive;" or as Grotins says, the record is merely that he lived. We have no mention of his death. From anything that the record shows, it might appear that he continued to live on, and did not die. "Arguing from the record," therefore, there is a strong contrast between him and the Levitical priests, all of whom we know are mortal; Hebrews 7:23. The apostle is desirous of making out a contrast between them and the priesthood of Christ on "this point" among others, and in doing this, he appeals to the record in the Old Testament, and says that there was a case which furnished an intimation that the priestly office of the Messiah was not to pass over from him to others by death.

That case was, that he was expressly compared Psalm 110:4 with Melchizedek, and that in the account of Melchizedek there was no record of his death. As to the force of this argument, it must be admitted that it would strike a Jew more impressively than it does most readers now; and it may not be improbable that the apostle was reasoning from some interpretation of the passages in Genesis 14:and Psalm 110. which was then prevalent, and which would then be conceded on all hands to be correct. If this was the admitted interpretation, and if there is no equivocation, or mere trick in the reasoning - as there cannot be shown to be - why should we not allow to the Jew a uniqueness of reasoning as we do to all other people? There are modes of reasoning and illustration in all nations, in all societies, and in all professions, which do not strike others as very forcible. The ancient philosophers had methods of reasoning which now seem weak to us; the lawyer often argues in a way which appears to be a mere quirk or quibble, and so the lecturer in science sometimes reasons.

The cause of all this may not be always that there is real quibble or quirk, in the mode of argumentation, but that he who reasons in this manner has in his view certain points which he regards as undisputed which do not appear so to us; or that he argues from what is admitted in the profession, or in the school where he is taught, which are not understood by those whom he addresses. To this should be added also the consideration, that Paul had a constant reference to the Messiah, and that it is possible that in his mind there was here a transition from the type to the antitype, and that the language which he uses may be stronger than if he had been speaking of the mere record of Melchizedek if he had found it standing by itself. Still his reasoning turns mainly on the fact that in the case of Melchizedek there was no one who had preceded him in that office, and that he had no successor, and, in regard to the matter in hand, it was all one as if he had been a perpetual priest, or had continued still alive.

(The reasoning in the whole passage is founded on the Scripture account of Melchizedek. He is not to be regarded absolutely, but typically. View him just as he appears in the record in Genesis, and the difficulty will be greatly lessened, if it do not altogether disappear. There, he is presented to us, in his typical character, as living. All notice of his death is studiously omitted with the express design, that, appearing only as a living priest, he might the better typify our immortal Redeemer. In this view, which indeed is so well brought out in the commentary above, "the apostle's argument unto the dignity, and pre-eminence of Melchizedek above the Levitical priests, in this instance, is of an "unquestionable evidence." For, consider Melchizedek, not in his natural being and existence, which belongs not unto this mystery, but in his Scripture being and existence, and he is immortal, always living, wherein he is more excellent than those who were always obnoxious to death in the exercise of their office" - Owen. McKnight, observing that the Greek verb ζη zē here is not in the present, but the imperfect of the indicative, translates - lived, a priest all his life, in contradistinction from those who ceased to be priests at a certain age. But whatever view may be taken of the passage, whatever solution of the difficulty may be adopted, apology for the mode of reasoning may well be spared. An inspired writer needs it not. All his reasoning has, doubtless, a solid basis in truth. It is impossible he should proceed on any peculiarities or modes of reasoning, but such as are strictly true, the accuracy of which might, any where, and at any time, be admitted, by those who had the means and patience for a right understanding of them.)

8. Second point of superiority: Melchisedec's is an enduring, the Levitical a transitory, priesthood. As the law was a parenthesis between Abraham's dispensation of promise of grace, and its enduring fulfilment at Christ's coming (Ro 5:20, Greek, "The law entered as something adscititious and by the way"): so the Levitical priesthood was parenthetical and temporary, between Melchisedec's typically enduring priesthood, and its antitypical realization in our ever continuing High Priest, Christ.

here—in the Levitical priesthood.

there—in the priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. In order to bring out the typical parallel more strongly, Paul substitutes, "He of whom it is witnessed that he liveth," for the more untypical, "He who is made like to Him that liveth." Melchisedec "liveth" merely in his official capacity, his priesthood being continued in Christ. Christ, on the other hand, is, in His own person, "ever living after the power of an endless life" (Heb 7:16, 25). Melchisedec's death not being recorded, is expressed by the positive term "liveth," for the sake of bringing into prominence the antitype, Christ, of whom alone it is strictly and perfectly true, "that He liveth."

His greatness as to his priesthood above the Levitical, is proved from its immortality. Immortal is greater and better than mortal; such is his order of priesthood. This argument he brings in to heighten the former, and so connects it to it.

And here men that die receive tithes: the particle wde, here, if referred to time, notes during Moses’s economy, while the Levitical law lasted; if it refer to place, it notes Jerusalem in the land of Canaan, where the temple was: in that habitation of the Israelitish church the Levitical priests were not only as to their nature and persons withering and decaying, ceasing to be on earth, though they had the honour to decimate their brethren, but as to their order and office, mortal, they were no better than the tithed and blessed by them, in prospect of death. Aaron himself, the first of the order, died, and so did all his successors, as well as Israel.

But there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth: but how much better is Melchisedec and his order! ekei, there, may refer either to the place where his business was transacted with Abraham, near Salem; or to the place of Scripture record concerning him, either Genesis 14:18-20, where there is no account of his death, or in Psalm 110:4. By the prophet David is the testimony borne, that his order is for ever; that Melchisedec, as to his order and office of priesthood, now liveth and subsisteth in the Son of God incarnate, and continueth for ever. It is suggested by a great light in the church, as if Melchisedec was translated as Enoch was, and so continued a priest to the very moment of his translation; and that neither his person nor priesthood died, but liveth for ever: but in this the Scripture is silent. An other refers it immediately to Christ, reading it thus: Here, i.e. in this world, they receive tenths, or are priests; but there, i.e. within the innermost of the veil, whither the foreranner is for us entered, Jesus; supplying this out of Hebrews 6:19,20. Here, is to be understood, not who receiveth tithes, but who is, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. He saith this sense is to be found in so many words in Hebrews 7:23-25, where those who receive tenths, and die, are no other men than those many priests who were not suffered to continue by reason of death, Hebrews 7:23. Nor can

he, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth, be any other than Jesus, who, Hebrews 7:24, is the man that continueth for ever; and, Hebrews 7:25, is ever-living. And here men that die receive tithes, The priests and Levites were not only men, and mortal men, subject to death, but they did die, and so did not continue, by reason of death, Hebrews 7:24

but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth; which is to be understood of Melchizedek; who is not opposed to men, as if he was not a man, nor to mortal men, but to men that die; nor is he said to be immortal, but to live: and this may respect the silence of the Scripture concerning him, which gives no account of his death; and may be interpreted of the perpetuity of his priesthood, and of his living in his antitype Christ; and the testimony concerning him is in Psalm 110:4.

And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
Hebrews 7:8. Second point of superiority. The Levitical priests are mortal men; but of Melchisedec it is testified that he lives.

By καὶ ὧδε μέν, “and here,” reference is made to the Levitical priests, by ἐκεῖ δέ, “but there,” to Melchisedec, because the Levitical priesthood still continues to exist to the time of our author, thus having something about it near and present; the historic appearing of Melchisedec, on the other hand, falls in the period of hoary antiquity.

δεκάτας] The plural, on account of the plurality of tithes levied by the Levitical priests.

ἀποθνήσκοντες] as the principal notion placed before ἄνθρωποι.

ἀποθνήσκοντες ἄνθρωποι] men who die (irrevocably or successively), comp. Hebrews 7:23.

ἐκεῖ δὲ μαρτυρούμενος ὅτι ζῇ] but there, one who has testimony that he lives, sc. δεκάτην ἔλαβεν. That by reason of the coherence with that which precedes only Melchisedec can be understood, and not (with Justinian, Jac. Cappellus, Heinsius, and Pyle) Christ, scarcely stands in need of mention. ζῇ, as opposition to ἀποθνήσκοντες, can be interpreted only absolutely, of the life which is not interrupted by death. That the author, in connection with μαρτυρούμενος, had before his mind a testimony contained in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Covenant, admits of no doubt. Whether, however, he derived the testimony of Melchisedec’s continued life from the silence of Scripture as to Melchisedec’s death, or found in the declaration, Psalm 110:4, a direct proof therefor, or, finally, combined the two facts together, and deduced his conclusion from both in common, is a question hardly to be decided. The first supposition is entertained by Calvin, Estius, Drusius, Piscator, Grotius, Owen, Wolf, Bengel, Stein, Bisping, Delitzsch, Maier, Moll, and others; the second, by Theodoret, Zeger, Whitby, Heinrichs, Bleek, Bloomfield, Alford, Conybeare, Kurtz, M‘Caul, Woerner, and others; the third, by Böhme, Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. pp. 201, 454, and others.Hebrews 7:8. Another note of the superiority of Melchizedek. καὶ ὧδε μὲν δεκάτας … “And here men that die receive tithes, but there one of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” ὧδε “here,” i.e., in this Levitical system with which we who are Hebrews are familiar, ἐκεῖ, “there” in that system identified with that ancient priest. ἀποθνήσκοντες ἄνθρωποι, “dying men,” who therefore as individuals passed away and gave place to successors, and were in this respect inferior to Melchizedek, who, so far as is recorded in Scripture, had no successor. Giving to the silence of Scripture the force of an assertion, the writer speaks of Melchizedek as μαρτυρούμενος ὅτι ζῇ, a person of whom it is witnessed; note absence of article. So Theoph., ὡς μὴ μνημονευομένης τῆς τελευτῆς αὐτοῦ παρὰ τῇ γραφῇ. Westcott distinguishes between the plural of this verse, δεκάτας, appropriate to the manifold tithings under the Mosaic system and the singular, δεκάτην, of Hebrews 7:4, one special act.8. And here] As things now are; while the Levitic priesthood still continues.

men that die] “Dying men”—men who are under liability to die (comp. Hebrews 7:23), as in the lines

“He preached as one who ne’er should preach again

And as a dying man to dying men.”

it is witnessed that he liveth] i.e. he stands as a living man on the eternal page of Scripture, and no word is said about his death; so far then as the letter of Scripture is concerned he stands in a perpetuity of mystic life. This is the third point of superiority.Hebrews 7:8. Μαρτυρούμενος) He of whom it is witnessed (Who was honoured with the testimony).—ὅτι ζῇ, that He liveth) The death of Melchisedec is not mentioned in the Old Testament. That circumstance is positively expressed by the term, life, for the sake of the Apodosis, respecting Christ.Verse 8. - And here (in the case of the Levitical priesthood) men that die (literally, dying men) receive tithes; but there (in the case of Melchizedek) one of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. The difference here noted is between a succession of mortal priests and one perpetually living, who never loses his personal claim, which is inherent, in himself. But how so of Melchizedek? For it is to him, and not to Christ the Antitype, that the words evidently apply. Is it at length implied that he was more than mortal man? No, if only for this reason; that the witness appealed to (μαρτυρούμενος) must be that of Scripture, which nowhere bears such witness of the historical Melchizedek. The words, μαρτυρούμενος ὅτε ζῇ, are, in fact, only a resumption of what was said in ver. 3: "having neither beginning of days nor end of life;" and hear the same meaning; viz. (as above explained) that he passes before our view in Genesis with no mention of either death, birth, or ancestry, and thus presented the ideal of "a priest for ever" to the inspired psalmist. The witness referred to is that of the record in Genesis, viewed in the light of the idea of the psalm. Here (ὧδε)

In the Levitical economy.

Men that die receive tithes

The emphasis is on ἀποθνήσκοντες dying. The Levites are dying men, who pass away in due course, and are succeeded by others.

But there (ἐκεῖ δὲ)

In the case of Melchisedec.

(He receiveth them of whom) it is witnessed that he liveth (μαρτυρούμενος ὅτι ζῇ)

The Greek is very condensed: being attested that he liveth. The A.V. fills it out correctly. Melchisedec does not appear in Scripture as one who dies, and whose office passes to another. See on abideth continually, Hebrews 7:3.

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