Hebrews 7:9
And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
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(9) And as I may so say.—Or, so to speak: an apologetic mode of introducing an expression which might seem strange. In the thought itself there is no real difficulty, if we are careful to take into account the principle which prevailed throughout, that pre-eminence depended upon descent alone. Had Judah possessed an inherent superiority over his brother Levi, the descendants of Judah (in such a system as is here before us) might have claimed the like pre-eminence over the descendants of Levi. “Through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath payed tithes.” The descendants of Abraham cannot but occupy a lower position in presence of one who appears as Abraham’s superior.

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 as I may so say - So to speak - ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν hōs epos eipein. For numerous examples in the classic writers of this expression, see Wetstein in loc. It is used precisely as it is with us when we say "so to speak," or "if I may be allowed the expression." It is employed when what is said is not strictly and literally true, but when it amounts to the same thing, or when about the same idea is conveyed. "It is a "softening down" of an expression which a writer supposes his readers may deem too strong, or which may have the appearance of excess or severity. It amounts to an indirect apology for employing an unusual or unexpected assertion or phrase." "Prof. Stuart." Here Paul could not mean that Levi had actually paid tithes in Abraham - for he had not then an existence; or that Abraham was his representative - for there had been no appointment of Abraham to act in that capacity by Levi; or that the act of Abraham was imputed or reckoned to Levi, for that was not true, and would not have been pertinent to the case if it were so. But it means, that in the circumstances of the case, the same thing occurred in regard to the superiority of Melchizedek, and the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood, as if Levi had been present with Abraham, and had himself actually paid tithes on that occasion. This was so because Abraham was the distinguished ancestor of Levi, and when an ancestor has done an act implying inferiority of rank to another, we feel as if the whole family or all the descendants, by that act recognized the inferiority, unless something occurs to change the relative rank of the persons. Here nothing indicating any such change had occurred. Melchizedek had no descendants of which mention is made, and the act of Abraham, as the head of the Hebrew race, stood therefore as if it were the act of all who descended from him.

Levi - The ancestor of the whole Levitical priesthood, and from whom they received their name. He was the third son of Jacob and Leah, and was born in Mesopotamia. On account of the conduct of Simeon and Levi toward Shechem, for the manner in which he had treated their sister Dinah Genesis 34:25, and which Jacob characterized as "cruelty" Genesis 49:5-6, Jacob said that they should be "scattered in Israel." Genesis 49:7. Afterward the whole tribe of Levi was chosen by God to execute the various functions of the priesthood, and were "scattered" over the land, having no inheritance of their own, but deriving their subsistence from the offerings of the people; Numbers 3:6 ff. Levi is here spoken of as the ancestor of the tribe, or collectively to denote the entire Jewish priesthood.

Who receiveth tithes - That is, his descendants, the priests and Levites, receive tithes.

Payed tithes in Abraham - It is the same as if he had payed tithes in or by Abraham.

9. as I may so say—to preclude what he is about to say being taken in the mere literal sense; I may say that, virtually, Levi, in the person of his father Abraham, acknowledged Melchisedec's superiority, and paid tithes to him.

who receiveth tithes—(Compare Heb 7:5).

in Abraham—Greek, "by means of (by the hand of) Abraham"; through Abraham. "Paid tithes," literally, "hath been tithed," that is, been taken tithes of.

And as I may so say: the Spirit now sets this priesthood above the Levitical by instance, which instance being not so proper or direct, his form of introducing it is considerable, as wv epov eipein, as to say the word, which is a Greek elegancy of speech, when that is uttered which is remarkable, and yet hard to be understood; and it is not only conclusive to what was spoken before, I will speak a word more, and then end the discourse, but interpretative of what he was about to say concerning Levi, born a hundred and sixty-two years after this transaction; As I may so say, or, in some sense it may be said.

Levi also; Levi, not so much taken personally as collectively, for the tribe that sprung of him, who were priests or ministers to Israel, which Levi personally was not. He was the third son of Jacob, and his seed God separated for, and consecrated to, his service, settling the priesthood in Aaron’s family, which was a branch of that tribe, and making all the rest servants to them.

Who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham; these did receive these tenths by God’s law from their brethren, and these paid tenths by or in Abraham, and so showed them to be inferior in office to Melchisedec, who received this homage from them as due to God, and to him as his high priest. This was not properly, but figuratively; true parents and children being accounted here as one person before they exist, as well as after; Levi, not actually existing then, but virtually in his parent. Christ was in his loins virtually too, as to his humanity, but not to descend of him by natural propagation, but by miracle; and in him as an antitype to this Melchisedec, and one to be set above him, in whom Melchisedec himself was to be blessed, and therefore could not pay tenths to him in Abraham.

And as l may so say,.... With truth, and with great propriety and pertinence:

Levi also who receiveth tithes; or the Levites, who receive tithes according to the law of Moses from the people of Israel:

paid tithes in Abraham; that is, to Melchizedek; and therefore Melchizedek must be greater than they, and his priesthood a more excellent one than theirs; since they who receive tithes from others gave tithes to him.

{4} And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.

(4) A twofold amplification: The first, that Melchizedek took the tithes as one immortal (that is, in respect that he is the figure of Christ, for his death is not mentioned, and David sets him forth as an everlasting Priest) but the Levitical priests, took tithes as mortal men, for they succeed one another: the second, that Levi himself, though yet in Abraham, was tithed by Melchizedek. Therefore the priesthood of Melchizedek (that is, Christ's, who is pronounced to be an everlasting Priest according to this order) is more excellent than the Levitical priesthood.

Hebrews 7:9-10. Third point of superiority. In Abraham, Levi the receiver of the tithes has also already been tithed by Melchisedec.

The formula ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, of very common occurrence with classic writers, as likewise frequently met with in Philo, is found in the N. T. only here. It denotes either: to say it in one word (in short), or: so to say, i.e. in some sense. Theophylact: Τὸ δὲ ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ἢ τοῦτο σημαίνει ὅτι καὶ ἐν συντόμῳ εἰπεῖν, ἢ ἀντὶ τοῦ ἵνʼ οὕτως εἴπω. In the former sense our passage is apprehended by Camerarius, Jac. Cappellus, Er. Schmid, Owen (preferably), Elsner, Wolf, Bengel, Heumann; in the latter,—and this is here the more correct one,—the Vulgate, Faber Stapulensis, Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Schlichting, Grotius, Carpzov, Kypke, Heinsius, Böhme, Kuinoel, Stuart, Bleek, de Wette, Stengel, Tholuck, Bloomfield, Bisping, Delitzsch, Alford, Maier, Moll, Kurtz, Ewald, Hofmann, Woerner, and the majority. The author himself feels that the thought he is on the point of expressing has something singular and unusual about it. Thus he mitigates and limits the harshness thereof by ὠς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, whereby he indicates that the ensuing statement is, notwithstanding its inner truth, not to be understood literally.

διʼ Ἀβραάμ] by Abraham, i.e. by the fact that Abraham gave the tenth. Ἀβραάμ is a genitive. Mistaken; Augustine (de Genes. ad lit. x. 19): propter Abraham; Photius (in Oecumenius): διὰ τὸν δεκατωθέντα Ἀβραάμ φησι τρόπον τινὰ καὶ ὁ ἐν τῇ ὀσφύϊ αὐτοῦ ἔτι ὢν Λευῒ δεδεκάτωται.

Λευΐς] As is shown by the participle present in the addition ὁ δεκάτας λαμβάνων, we have not to think of the mere individual personality of Levi, but of him in connection with his posterity, thus of Levi as ancestor and representative of the Jewish priests.

Hebrews 7:9. καὶ ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, “And, I might almost say,” adding a new idea with a phrase intended to indicate that it is not to be taken in strictness. It is frequent in Philo, see examples in Carpzov and add Quis rer. div. her., 3. Adam’s note on Plato, Apol. Soc., 17A, is worth quoting “ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν i. q. paene dixerim: in good authors hardly ever, if at all = ut ita dicam. The phrase is regularly used to limit the extent or comprehension of a phrase or word. It is generally, but by no means exclusively, found with f1οὐδείς and πάντες, οὐδεὶς ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ‘hardly anyone’; πάντες ὡς ἔ. εἰπ. = nearly everyone.” A significant use occurs in the Republic, p. 34IB, where Socrates asks Thrasymachus whether in speaking of a “Ruler” he means τὸν ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ἢ τὸν ἀκριβεῖ λόγῳ. The phrase is discussed at great length by Raphel. The further idea is, that “through Abraham even Levi, he who receives tithes, has paid tithes,” the explanation being ἔτι γὰρ ἐν τῇ ὀσφύϊ … “for he [Levi] was yet in the loins of his father [Abraham] when Melchizedek met him,” Isaac not yet having been begotten. There was a tendency in Jewish theology to view heredity in this realistic manner. Thus Schoettgen quotes Ramban on Genesis 5:2 “God calls the first human pair Adam [man] because all men were in them potentially or virtually [virtualiter]”. And so some of the Rabbis argued “Eodem peccato, quo peccavit primus homo, peccavit totus mundus, quoniam hic erat totus mundus.” Hence Augustine’s formula “peccare in lumbis Adam,” and his explanation “omnes fuimus in illo uno quando omnes fuimus ille unus” (De Civ. Dei, xiii. 14). On Traducianism see Loofs’ Leitfaden, p. 194.

9. as I may so say] Rather, “so to speak;” shewing the writer’s consciousness that the expression is somewhat strained, especially as even Isaac was not born till 14 years later. The phrase is classic, and is common in Philo, but occurs here only in the N.T.

Levi … payed tithes] This is the fourth point of superiority.

Hebrews 7:9. Ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν) When, in the explanation of any subject something of the highest importance must be unexpectedly said after the other parts, which had been and might be treated of, where the particle denique is an apt expression in Latin, this courteous phrase, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, or ὡς εἰπεῖν, not to be met with elsewhere in the New Testament, has been generally used by the Greeks to avoid hyperbole and the prolixity of a somewhat precise discourse, or for the sake of anticipatory mitigation[42] and softening the expression, by which it was intimated that the matter can scarcely be told unless it be expressed in the present words, and yet that it must be told. See Not. ad Chrys. de Sacerd., p. 494.—ΛΕΥΐ, Levi) the progenitor of the priests.—λαμβάνων, who receiveth) Hebrews 7:5.

[42] Ποοθεραπεία. Append.

Verses 9, 10. - And, so to say, through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him. Or, in other words, "Nay, further, Melchizedek may be said to have tithed Levi himself and his priestly tribe." For, inasmuch as the whole position of Levi and his tribe, in the old dispensation, came by inheritance from the great patriarch who received the promises, the subordination of the patriarch to one above himself involved that of all who so inherited, it is not simply the physical descent of Levi from Abraham, but the peculiar position of the latter as "the patriarch," that justifies the assertion that Levi paid tithes through him. And thus, while we remember how Abraham is elsewhere viewed in Scripture as the representative of the chosen people, and also how the lives of individual patriarchs (notably so in the case of Jacob and Esau) are so told and referred to as to prefigure the positions and fortunes of the races they represent, we may recognize in this assertion no mere rabbinical fancy, but an interpretation true to the spirit of the Old Testament. Be it further observed that the original significance of Abraham's action as bearing upon his descendants is enhanced by the fact that, while it was after the receiving of the promise, it was before the birth of Isaac. He, and consequently his descendant Levi, was yet (ἔτι) in the loins of Abraham; on which point, "Proles e parenlis poteslate egressa in suam venit tutelain: sod quoad in parentis potestate, imo in lumbis est, illius conditionem sequitur" (Bengel). Hebrews 7:9Levi himself, in the person of Abraham, was tithed by Melchisedec.

As I may say (ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν)

equals so to speak. N.T.o. olxx. Introducing an unusual statement, or one which may appear paradoxical or startling to the reader, as this statement certainly is, to a modern reader at least.

In Abraham (δι' Ἀβραὰμ)

Lit. through Abraham.

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