Hebrews 7: Extremely Important

An Exhaustive Examination of "Tithe," "Tithes" and "Tithing"

Should the Church Teach Tithing?

A Theologian's Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Section 19

The Importance of Hebrews, Chapter 7

Hebrews chapter 7 is extremely important because it is the only New Testament mention of tithing after Calvary! Although this chapter is not primarily a discussion of tithing, it draws heavily from Numbers 18, which is the ordinance establishing the priesthood and tithing. It contrasts the mortal Aaronic priesthood, which was partially sustained by tithing principles, with Christ’s Melchizedek priesthood, which is eternal and is sustained by grace principles of the unlimited eternal power of God.

While “tithe/tenth” is found in verses 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9, beyond this chapter the word does not appear after Calvary in the New Testament! Because of this fact, it is difficult to understand how and why biblical researchers of the subject of New Covenant giving, as a group, ignore this important chapter. Strangely, many who do refer to this chapter stop at verse 12. By ignoring this chapter in a study of tithing, the most fundamental rules of sound Bible study are set aside. Therefore, for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph and for the sake of honesty to the Word of God, this chapter’s use of tithing must be thoroughly researched and included in any legitimate discussion about tithing.

Three Pivotal Texts Involving Tithing

It is the goal of this chapter to accurately and honestly bring together all of Hebrews 7 (esp. 5, 12, 18) into the logical and correct conclusion that the New Covenant teaches that tithing is not a valid doctrine for the Christian. The purpose is to reveal biblical truth and move believers from a legalistic approach of giving towards the superior principles of the New Covenant.

The Historical Context of Hebrews

The letter of Hebrews was written to prepare Jewish Christians in Jerusalem for the severe religious culture shock which was approaching. Soon after the letter was written, in A.D. 70 a Roman army under Titus destroyed the city. The temple was destroyed and its sacrifices ceased. Jews were not allowed to enter the ruins and rebuild. Consequently, the high priest and other priests were not allowed to perform any sacrificial services.

The Root of the Problem in Jerusalem

Because of the importance of Acts 15 and 21, an entire chapter was to my book. The particular problem concerned the many Jewish Christians who still considered themselves Jews first, and Christians second. It is evident from the activities recorded in Acts 15; 18:18 and 21:17-26 that there was no lessening of law-observances for the Jewish Christians in Judea. As a historical fact, most Jewish Christians in Jerusalem never did abandon the Mosaic Law; they later established their own Christian sect, and rejected Paul as a heretic. The full impact of the meaning and shift of the gospel away from the Mosaic Law never did come to many Jewish Christians. Such realization and changes of over a thousand years of tradition could not possibly occur quickly as far as Jewish Christians were concerned. Paul’s letters to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians especially tried to explain the shift away from the law. Acts 21:17-26 is crucial to understand for the context of Hebrews.

Concerning tithing, almost 40 years after Calvary, there is no legitimate reason to believe that Jewish Christians had ever ceased paying tithes TO THEIR TEMPLE SYSTEM. In fact, history records that these Jewish Christians continued to observe the law’s holy days, feasts, rituals and continued to honor the high priest. Galatians 4:10 reveals what they had taught that church. Therefore, it is also logical to assume that they, as obedient Jews, also felt obligated to keep on paying tithes, not to the church, but to the Levitical system!

Noted church historian, Williston Walker, agrees, “The early Jerusalem company were faithful in attendance at the temple, and in obedience to the Jewish law, but, in addition, they had their own special services among themselves, with prayer, mutual exhortation, and ‘breaking of bread’ daily in private houses. This ‘breaking of bread’ served a twofold purpose. It was a bond of fellowship and a means of support for the needy”.[1] Notice that he does not say, “for the support of the clergy” except as they were also among the very poorest.

The Problem the Letter Must Solve

It was essential for the writer of Hebrews to convince the church in Jerusalem that their current earthly city of Jerusalem with its temple, high priesthood, sacrifices and support structure were no longer a necessary part of God’s plan for the church! They must immediately break away from their immature faith in, and mistaken dependence upon, the city of Jerusalem, the temple and the high priesthood. Otherwise, when all of these soon disappeared, within a few years at most, their spiritual lives would suffer severe devastation.

In order to break this connection, the Jewish Christians must stop going to the temple for festivals, vows and sacrifices. They must also immediately stop accepting the Levitical high priesthood as legitimate and stop paying tithes to support the system. The careful wording of the letter of Hebrews was necessary because of the inaccurate theology of the Jewish Christians. Again, since they still accepted the legitimacy of the Jewish temple and priesthood, they must have also continued to pay their law-commanded tithes to it. Thus tithing plays an important part in the ­ dismantling of the Jewish priesthood in Hebrews, chapter 7.

How Christ’s High-Priesthood Solves the Problem

Jesus Christ is presented in the Letter to the Hebrews as the answer to all of their imminent problems. “In Christ” the believer has a better country, a better city, a better sanctuary, a better high priesthood, a better priesthood, better sacrifices and—consequently, a better financial support system! The better country, city and sanctuary are heavenly for the church. The better high priest is Christ. The better priests are all believers (not pastor-teachers). The better sacrifices from believers are those of praise and thanksgiving. The better financial system is grace giving motivated by love instead of fear and law. Only by understanding these truths could the Jewish Christian survive the culture shock which occurred after A.D. 70.

Melchizedek Was the Key to Understanding the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ

7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him.

“Historically” speaking, Melchizedek was the “king of Salem” (considered by most commentators to be Jerusalem) approximately 2000-1970 B.C. However, the writer of Hebrews uses Melchizedek “typically,” not “historically.” For a detailed discussion of the historical Melchizedek, see the previous chapter of this book on Genesis 14.

As detailed in the Genesis 14 discussion, “the Most High God” (El Elyon and its Aramaic equivalent) was a common non-Hebrew title for one of the “gods” who occupied the high places. The most important revelation of Genesis 14 is that the Canaanite concept of the “Most High God” was, in reality, the “LORD (Yahweh) the Most High God.” Perhaps the writer of Hebrews was inspired to use the Gentile version of the title (rather than Abraham’s) in order to strengthen the argument that God, and Christ’s royal high priesthood, are not exclusively Hebrew, which required “Yahweh” as a qualifier. This difference is lost by many while discussing tithing from Genesis 14.

7:2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being, by interpretation, King of righteousness, and, after that, also King of Salem, which is, King of peace.

After rescuing Lot and recovering the goods stolen from the region around Sodom, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of war (also verse 5).

“First of all,” Melchizedek’s historical identity was “being by interpretation” only, but not in reality. In Hebrew, “melchi” means “king,” “zedek,” means “righteousness,” and “salem,” evolved to mean “peace.” Therefore Melchizedek was, typically, by interpreting his name, the “King of Righteousness” and also the “King of Peace.” Both of these titles are appropriate for the Messiah in the Old Testament.

Historically speaking, though, Melchizedek was not actually “the” King of Righteousness or “the” King of Peace (that is, Christ); he was only that person “typically,” “by interpretation.” The article “the” before the titles is absent in the Greek.

Abraham gave a tenth “of all” to Melchizedek. Verse 4 limits this to the “spoils of war.” Actually, according to Genesis 14, Abraham kept absolutely nothing from these spoils of war. Except for what his personal army had consumed, the rest was freely returned to its owners in Sodom and Gomorrah through the king of Sodom. God had blessed Abraham so that he required nothing else. Neither did he want to give the king of Sodom an opportunity to brag that he had made Abraham rich.

7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like to the Son of God, abides a priest continually [perpetually].

Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without descent.” Historically, these facts disqualified him as a Hebrew priest. Also, in the ancient world, this term could merely mean the parents were “obscure,” “of no importance,” or even “slaves.” To an Israelite, one who applied to serve as a priest and had Gentile parents or wife was considered to be “without father, and without mother.” Both Ezra 2:61-62 and Nehemiah 7:63-64 record that some claiming to be priests were not “reckoned by genealogy” because they had become “polluted” and were “put from the priesthood.” No records identify Melchizedek’s father, his mother, or any ancestors. Because of this lack of genealogy, the Israelites would never have accepted the historical Melchizedek as either king or priest. .

“Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” must be understood “typically,” but not literally. Why? Because Melchizedek was not Jesus Christ living in the flesh before his virgin birth. Jesus DID have family trees in both his deity and humanity! As God, he always existed. As the God-man, he often declared that the Father sent him. As the Son of David, his physical genealogy is recorded in Matthew and Luke. There is no doubt concerning the descent, or genealogy, of Jesus Christ. Therefore, legally (through the law), Jesus Christ would never have been accepted as high priest without Aaronic credentials. HOWEVER, “typically,” these non-credentials of Melchizedek actually make him eternal, and not limited to death as was Aaron’s priesthood, and spiritually superior to the law and its qualifications.

“Made like the Son of God.” The historical Melchizedek was not THE Son of God, but was “made LIKE the Son of God.” His name, title, and lack of genealogy all make him into a type of Christ—not his person! Christ is “after the order of,” “like” (v. 3), or “after the similitude” or ” of Melchizedek (v. 15). The Christ-event, not Melchizedek’s rule as priest-king, is the time when God took on flesh and personally lived among his created beings. However, occasionally someone will use the description from Hebrews 7:1-3 to teach that Melchizedek was actually Christ in a pre-incarnate form. Such a claim destroys both the meaning of the incarnation of Christ and the necessity for Abraham’s calling.

Unfortunately, this discussion has confused, and angered, many who have read my first edition. However, I simply cannot back away from this very important principle. We MUST realize the difference between the “historical” Melchizedek of Genesis 14, and the “typical” “prophetic” Melchizedek of Psalm 110 and Hebrews 7. “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” “historically” means “national Israel,” but “typically” and “prophetically” it means Jesus Christ (Hos. 11:1 cf. Matt. 2:15). “A virgin shall be with child” “historically” referred to Isaiah’s wife and child, but “typically” and “prophetically” it refers to Mary and Christ (compare Isa. 7:14-16 and Matt. 1:23). First, the “historical” Melchizedek appeared in Genesis 14. Second, Melchizedek appeared “prophetically” when David mentioned him in Psalm 110 almost a thousand years later. And, third, Hebrews 7 uses him both “prophetically” and “typically.”

This is important! “Negative” features about Melchizedek are actually reversed to become “positive” features of Christ in Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5-7. Negatively, Melchizedek only worshiped the Gentile concept of a god called “El Elyon, God Most High.” He did not know God as “Yahweh, the LORD,” the God of Abraham’s household. Also negatively, his family record did not exist. Without a proven genealogy, he would never qualify later under the Old Covenant, either as a Levitical priest, or as a legitimate king from one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The genealogies of Genesis do not link him to Abraham, Noah, nor anybody else!

Psalm 110 and Hebrews use Melchizedek’s “negatives” as “positives.” Whereas, the LORD (Yahweh) was the exclusive covenant God of Abraham and Old Covenant Israel, in the New Covenant, God expanded special knowledge of himself beyond national Israel. When God reached out as “God Most High” to all nations,

Melchizedek’s unrecorded family tree is used to illustrate that Christ was eternal, pre-existed his incarnation, and was superior to the law.

First Evidence That Melchizedek is Greater: Abraham Paid Tithes to Melchizedek

7:4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

The first evidence that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham and the Mosaic Law is that Abraham gave tithes to him. With “now consider” the author of Hebrews begins laying the groundwork for his crucial declaration in verse 18 that the entire Levitical system of worship, including its high priesthood and tithing, has been “set aside,” or “disannulled.” “Now consider” begins a presentation of four evidences which prove to the Hebrew mind that Melchizedek’s priesthood replaced that of Aaron. This list of evidences is found in verses 4-10 and the conclusions begin in verse 11.

It is important to note that the “tithe” is a vital part of every evidence used! Melchizedek was greater than the Levitical priests because Abraham “gave a tenth of the choicest spoils” to him. While Abraham’s pre-law tithe was the first mention of tithing before the law began, this chapter in Hebrews is the only mention of tithing after the law ended at Calvary.

In Hebrews 7, tithing is merely used as a means of understanding Melchizedek, both before and after the Mosaic Law. As seen in Genesis 14, Abraham acknowledged Melchizedek’s authority when he gave the expected tithe-tax of the spoils of war. Melchizedek’s rule may have reached to Mamre and Hebron where Abraham lived. Since it is evident that no Mosaic Law of tithing existed, Abraham was following long-established Semitic Canaanite custom recognized by most commentaries in their discussion of Genesis 14:21. He was paying a mandatory tribute to his Semitic king.

The First Key Verse Involving Tithing

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.

This is a crucial verse for understanding the remainder of the chapter, because the conclusions reached in 7:12 and 7:18 affect this foundational ordinance.

“Sons of Levi” reminds the readers that the Levitical priests owed much of their existence and authority to their privilege of receiving tithes. The writer of Hebrews first reminds his readers where the authority of the Levitical priesthood originated before he proves that Christ’s authority is greater and replaces the ­ former!

“According to the law” establishes the connection between “tithing” and the Mosaic Law. Whereas, in Hebrews, neither the word “tithe” nor “law” occurs before chapter 7, in this chapter “tithe” occurs 7 times (vv. 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9), and “law” occurs 7 times (vv. 5, 11, 12, 16, 19, and 28). Tithing does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament after Calvary! A primary purpose of this chapter in Hebrews is to demonstrate the change of the legal system which established the Levitical priesthood.

As already mentioned, both the first and last Scriptural occurrence of tithing involve Melchizedek! Therefore, in order to correctly understand this chapter, one must observe the vital connection between tithing and the Old Covenant Mosaic Law. From the context, the word “law,” first used in verse 5, definitely must, though not exclusively, refer to tithing!

“A commandment” refers specifically to Numbers, chapter 18. Those who study Numbers 18 in order to support New Covenant tithing are compelled to discard it and concentrate on more obscure texts. However, one who takes the time to study Numbers 18 will soon discover why tithing is not suitable for New Covenant believers. Since Numbers 18 actually contains the “commandment,” “ordinance” or “statute” of tithing, it should be carefully studied by every serious Bible student with the goal of discovering exactly what the Bible says.

Even in our own society, any law which creates a job position must first include the “provision,” that is, the source of revenue for paying that person for services rendered. Therefore, the “provision” is the very heart, the foundation, and the enabler of the person in the position being created by law. Again, Numbers 18 is the “chair,” or “provision ordinance,” of the Mosaic Law which established the Levitical priesthood and all of its support, including tithing. The connection explains why tithing is mentioned so often in Hebrews, chapter 7. This “ordinance” or “statute” of tithing which provided sustenance for the Levites had abolished the centuries-old tradition which had designated the male head of the household as the family priest. The tithing ordinance forced Israel to support the Levitical system through tithes and offerings. It also applied a death penalty on anyone trying to “draw near” to worship God directly.

Second Evidence That Melchizedek Is Greater: Melchizedek Received Tithes and Blessed Abraham

7:6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.

7:7 And, without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better.

The second evidence that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham and the Mosaic Law is that Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham and blessed Abraham. Using accepted Hebrew logic, the writer of Hebrews states that, since the historical Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, such reception proves that the typical Melchizedek (Christ) was greater than Abraham.

Melchizedek was greater than Abraham because Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Yet he was neither an Israelite, not a Levite, and was not descended from Abraham (v. 6). The one bestowing the blessing is greater than the one being blessed. (That destroys the “Shem” argument.”

Third Evidence That Melchizedek Is Greater: Melchizedek Received Tithes and Is Eternal

7:8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he received them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.

The third evidence that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham and the Mosaic Law is that Melchizedek received tithes while being eternal, but Levites receive tithes and die. Melchizedek was greater than Levi because Levi is mortal, while the typical Melchizedek is eternal and is still living. The “mortal” men are those of the Levitical priesthood. Typically, Melchizedek was eternal and had no beginning. Whereas the Genesis account says nothing about his lack of genealogy or eternal attributes, Psalm 110 “witnessed” that he lives on. The Melchizedek of Psalm 110:4 is clearly the “Messiah.”

Historically speaking, whereas the Levitical priesthood received its authority to receive tithes from the Mosaic Law, Melchizedek received tithes from his own inherent authority as a Canaanite priest-king. However, the author of Hebrews ignores the historical “Canaanite priest-king” aspect and builds his argument on the fact that Melchizedek’s typical authority was inherent and eternal. The focus is on the eternal-ness and superiority of Jesus Christ.

Fourth Evidence That Melchizedek Is Greater: Levitical Priests Paid Tithes to Him

7:9 And, as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.

7:10 For he was still in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him.

The fourth evidence that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham and the Mosaic Law is that the Levitical priests, through Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek. Levi’s great-grandfather was Abraham. What Abraham did represented all of his promised seed, including Levi. This evidence is stronger in the eastern mind-set of the Bible than in western society.

Conclusions from Evidence Presented: Melchizedek’s Priesthood Replaced Levi’s Priesthood

7:11 If, therefore, perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

“If therefore” begins drawing conclusions from the evidence presented in verses 4-10, which began with “now consider.” On the basis of the Levitical priesthood Israel “received the law,” that is, all of the Mosaic Law! Since this is a discussion of tithing, common sense teaches that “the law” must also include tithing. A compound Greek noun-verb here means that the law was “legislated” and “enacted” through the priests. After being ­ initiated by God, the “legislated” law of tithing and other offerings provided for the very existence of the Levitical priesthood, and, in turn, the Levitical priesthood gave the whole law to Israel.

“If therefore perfection were” (or could have been achieved) through the Levitical priesthood implies that something was lacking. The problem was that nothing, absolutely nothing, in the system of laws that established their priesthood, or that resulted from the ministry of their priesthood, had been able to produce the perfection required by God! This included tithing! All the financial support in the world cannot, and will not, produce a moral priesthood (or clergy). Therefore, there was need for another greater priesthood.

In Acts 15:5-22, the apostles in Jerusalem, being Jewish Christians, had not required Paul to teach the Gentiles to observe the Mosaic Law and tithing. However, due to a lack of spiritual insight, they still required themselves and other Jewish Christians to continue observing all of the law. This error caused a multitude of problems which Paul faced and tried to correct in his letters, especially Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Second Corinthians, chapter 3. This failure to understand the impact of the gospel on the Mosaic Law also caused the situation in the church that was being addressed by this letter to the Hebrews.

Since all four “evidences” in verses 4-10 involved tithing, it is therefore logical to conclude that the “law” being discussed in verse 11 must also include the law of tithing in Numbers 18. This is especially true since the first use of both “law” and “commandment” in Hebrews refers to tithing. In verse 5, tithing was singled out of the entire law because it best enabled the Levitical system to exist. The Levitical system, like human organizations, began with the means to support it.

“Order of Melchizedek.” The writer of Hebrews returns again to Psalm 110 to discuss the consequences of understanding and applying Christ’s Messianic high priesthood to the order of Melchizedek (instead of to the order of the Levitical ordinance).

The Second Key Text

7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

“Being changed” begins this Greek sentence for emphasis. The Greek word, me-ta-ti-the-me-nees, is a present passive participle. It is a metamorphosis, a transposition, a change from one to another (Strong’s 3346). As used in Scripture, it means a great change. The word describes Jacob’s bones moving from Egypt to Canaan (Acts 7:16), the Galatians’ apostasy from the gospel (Gal. 1:6), Enoch’s translation (Heb. 11:5) and apostates (Jude 4). The following verses make it clear that this great “change” in the priesthood was its total abolishment and replacement.

“There is made of necessity” (comments at verse 18).

“A change also of the law.” This is an interesting phrase because the Greek omits the article “the.” While most versions insert the article, the New American Standard omits it. Although the Greek article appears with “law” in verses 5, 11, 19, and 28, it is missing in verses 12 and 16. Since the Mosaic Law does not govern both sides of the “change,” it is probably best to omit the article and let the word “law” refer to a “principle.” Context leads to the conclusion that the “principle” being changed “from” is the Mosaic Law. On the other hand, the “principle” being changed “to” is an eternal one which is not governed by any set of laws. The following texts further clarify this principle.

The instant that Christ died, “the [Levitical] priesthood” was changed by being abolished. The veil in the temple was ripped open and the Passover lamb’s blood was replaced by Christ’s blood. The result changed the history of the world! The high priesthood of Aaron was replaced by the Melchizedek high priesthood of Jesus Christ and the regular priesthood of the other priests was replaced by the New Covenant doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” (See 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6; 5:9.)

Exactly what was “changed”?—the law, or ordinance, which had established the Levitical priesthood—especially the primary law of tithing! Neither the change in the high priesthood nor the change in the regular priesthood were taught in the Mosaic Law. The ” or “principle” which now establishes the office of Jesus Christ (and also believer-priests) is not derived from any kind of written law whatsoever, and this includes tithing! Instead, the principles of grace and faith are linked to the eternal nature of God which supersedes the law.

Any change in the priesthood itself would make necessary changes in all the laws governing and supporting the priesthood, especially tithing.

7:13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.

7:14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah—of which tribe

Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

In the phrase, “For he of whom these things are spoken,” the writer of Hebrews begins pulling all of the evidences and conclusions together into the person of Jesus Christ. This “change of the law” was not minor, but catastrophic to the entire Levitical system! Jesus was from the tribe of Judah which was forbidden by the law to officiate as priests. Finally, the author makes it clear that he was speaking about Jesus Christ, and NOT the historical Melchizedek.

“Moses spoke nothing” about a change of the priesthood from Levi to another tribe. Whereas large portions of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy describe Levi’s financial support structure, authority, and duties, absolutely nothing is said in the law about how a priesthood from Judah should be financially supported and serve! The reasons are, first, Christ’s priesthood is completely new and beyond the law. Second, tithing is not required to support a “priesthood of every believer.” And, third, the New Covenant structure of pastor-teachers, evangelists, and deacons is foreign to the Old Covenant system. Therefore, by logic and extension concerning tithing, neither can anything in the law be legitimately used to dictate how the New Covenant structure should operate! The idea of grace-giving is even superior to the basic Old Covenant idea of free-will offerings.

The key to Hebrews 7 is found in verses 13 and 14. NOTHING said from Hebrews 7:1-12 about Melchizedek referred to the “historical” person, but ALL referred to the “typical” or “prophetic” Jesus Christ! When you try to make it apply literally to the historical Melchizedek, it simply does not make sense at all—for example, Levi’s tithe to a Canaanite priest.

The texts are not attempting to argue the validity (nor non-validity) of Abraham’s tithe. Instead, they are setting the stage for the necessity of tithing’s abolition as part of the total support system of the Levitical priesthood in verse 18.

The “historical” Melchizedek of Genesis 14 was NEGATIVE FOR ISRAEL:

(1)  Melchizedek received tithes because of a long-standing spoils of war Semitic Canaanite  law.

(2)  Melchizedek received tithes because he was the governing priest-king of Abraham and the region he traveled through.  ,

(3)  Melchizedek worshiped El Elyon, the very common title for pagan Baal. Israel did not worship God using this name until 1000 years later—after King David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites,

(4)  Melchizedek worshiped Salem (Shalim), goddess of the dawn, and Zedek (Tsadeq) (Jupiter) god of justice—two very common lower gods in the Canaanite pantheon (research under ‘Phoenician gods’),

(5)  Melchizedek honored El Elyon as the “god of the nations” known to Gentiles; Melchizedek did not know God as YAHWEH, Abraham’s covenant God (Deut. 32:8).

(6)  Melchizedek had no recorded genealogy to prove that he was an Israelite or Levitical priest, therefore, he was not qualified to be a priest,

(7)  Melchizedek had no recorded birth or death, therefore, had no legal proof that he could be the father of a priest in Israel

The “typical” Melchizedek, Jesus, was a POSITIVE FOR ALL NATIONS:

(1)  Jesus received tithes as proof that he was greater than Abraham; [Since Jesus was also the seed of Abraham, does that prove that Melchizedek was greater than Jesus? Of course not!]

(2)  Jesus received tithes because he was “like” the Son of God, “typical”,

(3)  Jesus, who was Israel’s YAHWEH, re-interpreted Melchizedek’s Canaanite title to become the title for the true God Most High,

(4)  Jesus is the true God of Peace whom Melchizedek thought that he worshiped; Jesus is the true God of Righteousness whom Melchizedek thought that he worshiped

(5)  Jesus’ New Covenant transcends Israel’s Old Covenant and reveals the true God as “God of the Nations,” “Most High God,” and this Semitic Canaanite NEGATIVE of Melchizedek becomes a POSITIVE for Jesus,

(6)  Like the historical Melchizedek Jesus, on his God-side, had no recorded parents because he was Eternal God; however, unlike the historical Melchizedek, Jesus on his human-side, both his mother’s and his father’s genealogical record is in the Bible,

(7)  Jesus, on his God-side is Eternal; however, unlike the historical Melchizedek the Bible records both a birth and a death for him.

Other considerations:

(1)  The nature of Abraham’s the tithe was only pre Mosaic Law; it was not pre-Canaanite law. It is easy to prove that non-Israelites all around the Semitic world gave spoils of war tithes long before the Mosaic Law existed.

(2)  Therefore, the very common declaration that Abram gave it “voluntarily” is unbiblical—it is not stated in the Bible.

(3)  The percentage of Abraham’s spoils of war tithe is not from the Mosaic Law. Numbers 31:21, 26-29 described an ordinance from the Law which limits the spoils of war tithe to only one 1000th (.1%) instead of one tenth (10%).

(4)  Whereas, the “historical” is only such “by interpretation,” the “typical” is such in reality.

(5)  Whereas, the historical Abraham returned 90% to the King of Sodom, the typical, Jesus, would never consider such action.

(6)  Whereas, the historical Melchizedek was only “made like the Son of God,” the typical, Jesus, WAS the Son of God.

(7)  Concerning Levi’s tithe to Melchizedek: First, even if Melchizedek were a true priest of Yahweh, Levi would normally give a true tithe of only 1%, that is, one tenth of one tenth, to the priests; therefore his gift is only typical. Second, according to Numbers 31, Levi’s spoils of war tithe to the Aaronic priests would only be .1%, that is, one part in a thousand; therefore, his tithe through Abraham is, again, typical.

(8)  Since Hebrews 7:13-14 excludes the historical Melchizedek, then Levi never did pay tithes through Abraham to the “historical” Melchizedek! He paid them to the “typical” Melchizedek, Jesus Christ. It is wrong to use Hebrews 7’s description of the typical Melchizedek in order to change the literal meaning of Genesis 14. Hebrews 7:13, “For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar,” cannot possibly “literally” change Genesis 14 because Hebrews 7:14 says Jesus came out of Judah (which is not true of the historical Melchizedek).

(9)  The typical Levi paid tithes to the typical Melchizedek, that is, Jesus Christ—every time he forwarded his tenth of the tithe to the priests. This is because Jesus is the true High Priest of all believers with no genealogy because he is eternal.

Perhaps the writer of Hebrews was inspired to use the Gentile version of the title, “El Elyon,” rather than Abraham’s, “LORD El Elyon,” in order to strengthen the argument that God, and Christ’s royal high priesthood, are not exclusively Hebrew, which required “Yahweh” (LORD) as a qualifier.

I have pointed out that the word, tithe, could refer to, first, 1/10, or 10%, of pagan spoils from Sodom and Gomorrah; second, Law spoils-of-war ordinance of 1/1000th (.1%), or, third, 1/10th of 10%, 1%, which Levi was required to give to the Aaronic priests. Therefore, the amount of the tithe is irrelevant in the discussion of Hebrews 7.

7:15 And it is yet far more evident [that], when another priest arises after the likeness of Melchisedec,

7:16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal [physical] commandment, but after the power of an endless [indestructible] life.

While it was “evident” that Moses spoke nothing in the law about a priest from Judah, it “is yet far more evident” that Moses in the law spoke nothing about a priest after the likeness of Melchizedek, who was (can you believe) a Gentile! While it would be difficult enough trying to explain financially supporting an Israelite priesthood from Judah from the Mosaic Law, it would be impossible trying to explain supporting a Gentile priesthood with roots outside of the heritage of Israel, for instance, that of Melchizedek. This serious problem can be solved only by doing away with the entire Mosaic Law, or, at the very least, that part of the law relating to the establishment of the priesthood.

“Not after the law of a carnal [physical] commandment” must, in its context, include the commandment of tithing mentioned in verse 5. This adds to the statement that “Moses spoke nothing concerning [the] priesthood” beyond Levi, and especially not beyond Israel itself. The author of Hebrews has now taken the reader outside of the boundaries of the Mosaic Law for an answer to the legitimacy of Christ’s high priesthood! Clearly, Christ’s priesthood, the priesthood of believers, and the ministry of pastor-teachers and other church workers are NOT governed by instructions in the Mosaic Law!

“But after the power of an endless [indestructible] life.” What a statement! The “commandment,” “law,” or (better) “principle,” that authorizes and makes Christ’s priesthood work, comes from his divine eternal character which preceded the law. This remark is drawn from Psalm 110:4’s statement about Melchizedek being a priest “forever.” Because of this, he cannot fail! Because of this, we, as priest-believers cannot fail! The church will be victorious!

Again, in its basic context, this primarily refers to “the priest’s office [which has] commandment in the law to collect a tenth,” from verse 5 (which refers back to Numbers 18:19-28)! By extension, however, it applies to every aspect of the Levitical system, including dress code, ritual anointing, how to offer sacrifices, etc. Whereas Levi had the ordinance of Numbers 18 from the law establishing his priesthood and support by tithing and other sacrifices, Christ’s greater priesthood needs neither! Christ has the power, the authority of God!

Grace principles of support, motivated by love for God, out-give legalistic forced principles of support such as tithing. Christ is the high priest of the church, which means every believer. Now every believer is personally a priest—not giving tithes to other priests, but, as priests themselves, offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Christ is the head and the priesthood of believers is his body, this means his “power” flows into us and becomes our power. Therefore, the church does not need to use the weak Mosaic Law-power of tithing to further its goals; it has the eternal “indestructible” life-power of grace and faith from Jesus Christ!

7:17 For he testifies, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.

Psalm 110:4, again quoted here, is the key point of the entire book of Hebrews. It is directly quoted, or referred to, five (5) times in chapter 7 alone, and eight (8) times in Hebrews (5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 17, 20, 21, 28).

The Most Important Text

7:18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside [disannulling: KJV] of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness [unprofitableness: KJV]. NAS

“On the one hand” (Greek: men…de…construction) God removed something that had been around since the time of Moses. He removed the ordinances of the Levitical system in order to establish the greater eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ.

“There is a setting aside a former commandment.” The context of this chapter can only point to Numbers, chapter 18, as the “former commandment” being discussed and first mentioned in verse 5! The conclusive statement of this verse is the key statement of this chapter. Whether or not one cherishes his/her own understanding of tithing is totally irrelevant. What does the Scripture say? What does this verse mean in its context? These questions must be answered honestly. If tithing is indeed included in this verse, then the New Covenant Christian must deal with such conclusion in an honest manner.

Again, Numbers 18 is “the” “commandment in the law” from 7:5 which established the support structure and described the broad duties of the Levitical priesthood. Numbers 18 is the basic statute/ordinance which details the fundamental use of the first tithe by both the Levites who served in the tabernacle and the priests who offered sacrifices before the altar. As mentioned in the discussion of verse 5, the first use of both “law” and “commandment” in the book of Hebrews are both in the context of tithing.

It is totally illogical to teach that 7:18 abolished every ordinance pertaining to the Levitical priesthood except tithing! In reality, by first abolishing tithing (its chief financial support) the priesthood would end. The domino effect from abolishing tithing knocks down every other authority and function of Levitical priests. This is exactly why tithing has such an important role in Hebrews 7.

Comments from Noted Biblical Scholars on Hebrews 7

Consider what some well-known Bible commentators and teachers say about the results of Hebrews 7:5; 7:12 and 7:18. They agree that Christ abolished the entire system, structure, or apparatus, of the Levitical priesthood, that is, everything remotely connected to it! After reading this chapter and the conclusions below, it is difficult to understand how any logical person, determined to preach God’s truth for the New Covenant church, can still say that tithing is a New Covenant doctrine!

William Barclay:

The law of tithes is laid down in Numbers 18:20-21. There Aaron is told that the Levites will have no actual territory in the promised land laid down for them but that they are to receive a tenth part of everything for their service…. From beginning to end the Jewish priesthood was dependent on physical things…. The whole paraphernalia of the ceremonial law was wiped out in the priesthood of Jesus.[2]

Albert Barnes:

But the meaning is, that since a large number of laws—constituting a code of considerable extent and importance—was given for the regulation of the priesthood, and in reference to the rites of religion, which they were to observe or superintend, it followed that when their office was superseded by “one of a wholly different order,” the law which had regulated them vanished also, or ceased to be binding.[3]

Adam Clarke:

There is a total abrogation, of the former law, relative to the Levitical priesthood.[4]

Louis H. Evans Jr.:

The sacrifices were to be provided for by the people by means of tithes brought to the priests. An interesting comparison is implied between the Levites and the Son. Whereas the dependency of Levites is upon the obedient tithe-giving of the Israelites, the Son is dependent upon no human resource. This is one more factor of superiority of the Son over the Levitical priests.[5]

Matthew Henry:

Changing the Levitical priesthood also means changing the whole economy with it. There being so near a relation between the priesthood and the law, the dispensation could not be the same under another priesthood; a new priesthood must be under a new regulation, managed in another way, and by rules proper to its nature and order.[6]

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:

These presuppose a transference of the priesthood; this carries with it a change also of the law which is inseparably bound up with the priesthood: both stand and fall together. And, as the Levitical priesthood and the law are inseparable, a repealing of the law also.[7]

  1. M. Stibbs:

Also, the priesthood was so fundamental to the Old Covenant between God and His people (the whole relationship was constituted in dependence upon its ministry), that any change in the order of priesthood must of necessity imply and involve a change in the whole constitution; i.e. it implies nothing less than an accompanying new, and indeed better, covenant.[8]

“Setting aside” (Greek: a-the-tee-sis) (Strong’s N.T. 115), is the first word in this Greek sentence for emphasis. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it has stronger meanings such as “disannulling,” “annulling,” “putting away,” “cancellation,” “abolition,” and “rejection.”[9] In Hebrews 9:26, atheteesis means that Christ appeared once to “put away” sins by the sacrifice of himself.

“Because of its weakness and uselessness” (Greek: asthenes kai anootheles). The Bible clearly states that all of the laws concerning the Levitical priesthood (including tithing) had proven to be “without strength and without profit, or advantage.” While the NAS and RSV read “because of its weakness and uselessness,” the NIV says “because it was weak and useless,” and the TLB paraphrases “because it didn’t work.” (For other texts using this word for “profit,” see 1 Cor. 15:32; 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Tim. 3:16; Tit. 3:8; 5:9; Jas. 2:14, 16.)

Simply stated, the laws which established the Levitical priesthood and detailed its functions, including tithing, did not accomplish the spiritual maturity which God had intended them to provide. Yet it is strange how many fundamental conservative Christians set aside the first 27 chapters and 29 verses of Leviticus as being Old Covenant, but keep the last five verses on tithing (27:30-34) as applicable to the New Covenant church. It is as if the last few verses do not exist within the context of the last chapter and the entire book of Leviticus. As one reads all of Leviticus, chapter 27, in context, everything said about tithing is also said about the other items in chapter 27 which New Covenant Christians almost always set aside.

It is also strange how so many theologians can agree that Hebrews 7:18 refers to all of the ordinances relating to the Levitical priesthood, and then resurrect tithing as a “strong,” “profitable,” and “necessary” New Covenant doctrine.

Tithing Had Become a Powerless and Profitless Doctrine

One: Tithing, along with all of the other Levitical ordinances, had failed to produce the spiritual perfection and maturity within believers which God required (7:11, 19; 9:9, 11; 10:1).

Two: Since the Levitical ordinances (including tithing) had proven weak and unprofitable, there was an inherent need of a New Covenant (7:19, 22; 8:7-13; 10:1-9).

Three: Old Covenant tithing was not motivated by grace, love, or the burden for lost souls. Under the Mosaic Law, it did not matter whether one paid tithes out of sincere desire, paid grudgingly, or paid without being cheerful. One must pay, regardless of attitude or the condition of the heart.

Four: “You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods” (Exod. 23:32; also Deuteronomy 7:2). Tithing was never used for evangelism. As a matter of biblical truth, national Israel was commanded NOT to share its covenant with any other nation; the covenant was their distinction which set them apart (Num. 18:19-21; Lev. 27:34; Mal. 3:6-9). Even today Jews do not deliberately evangelize or attempt to convert others.

Five: Tithes limited the priesthood. Only one part of one family in one tribe could “draw near” into the presence of God—Aaron’s house. Levites and priests were not encouraged to establish independent outposts for evangelism of other nations. Today, too many churches totally ignore the clear implication of verse 18. In practice, they replace the tithe-receiving aspect of the Levitical priesthood, not with the priesthood of believers, but with tithe-receiving pastor-teachers. Too many ignore New Covenant ­ giving principles of grace and insist that pastors be paid a tithe according to the commandment of the Mosaic Law. The pastors then keep more than ten percent of the total tithe, and also own and inherit property—all contrary to the law itself. In doing so, both churches and pastors “set aside” better giving principles of grace, based on God’s “indestructible power,” and return to the “weak” and “unprofitable” principles of tithing.

Six: Tithing too often receives a greater priority than evangelism. I have personally known pastors who preach on tithing at least monthly, yet the members do not have a burden for souls, are not trained in soul-winning, and the churches are weak, dying, or dead. Preaching tithing is not the Scriptural ingredient that guarantees successful church growth!

Seven: The New Testament clearly shows that tithing, along with circumcision, Sabbath-keeping and adherence to food laws became useless marks of boastful self-righteousness among the legalistic Pharisees and scribes.

Eight: It is not by accident that the only three uses of the words “tithe” and “tithes” recorded in the Gospels record the hypocrisy and failure of legalistic Jews who boasted of their tithing achievements. Jesus actually cursed tithe-payers for their hypocrisy.

Nine: Even in the church, tithing does more harm than good. First, church leaders tend to be wealthier tithe-payers, while better spiritual leaders who cannot give as much because of family sickness and other legitimate losses are left out of leadership roles. The Bible does not teach that the financially competent are also the best spiritual leaders. Neither does the Bible teach that an inability to give disqualifies one from a church office. There is no justification in adding to the Bible a requirement that church officers are required to give ten percent of their income. Excluding the financially less-fortunate deprives the church of their God-given gifts and competent leadership abilities. The resulting unbalanced leadership is spiritually weak.

Ten: Also, tithing is more harmful than good in the church when its abuse of tithing negatively affects the public reputation of the church. Frankly, the legalistic strict preaching of tithing has given many churches a bad ­ reputation and a weak witness.

Eleven: The most important reason that tithing does more harm than good relates to the gospel. Teaching tithing to meet financial needs ­ actually robs the church of God’s blessing available if it had used the Spirit-approved New Covenant principles. Those pastors and churches that teach tithing will never experience the greater success they will enjoy from God’s hand when they replace tithing sermons with sermons about soul-winning. The success of the New Covenant church proves that the first century poor, women, children and slaves were motivated by the desire to see souls won to the Lord. Their giving was motivated by love, not Law.

Twelve: Great evangelistic movements, great revivals and great growing churches (whether tithe-teachers or not) occur only when church members are burdened for the lost. The power is in gospel principles, not in principles of the law. Sincere believers, burdened for lost souls, will give out of a love response for the lost without recourse to any legal prodding. Churches that are not growing are churches without a burden for the lost.

Thirteen: Since tithing is included within the scope of Hebrews 7:18, one must conclude that teaching tithing is equivalent to teaching a spiritually “weak” and “useless,” or “unprofitable” doctrine.

7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw near to God.

7:25 Therefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to [draw near: NAS] God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.

“The law made nothing perfect.” It is clear that neither a perfect sacrifice, nor a perfect fellowship, nor a perfect system of giving were accomplished under the terms of the Mosaic Law, or Old Covenant.

“But, on the other hand,” concluding the thought introduced in verse 18, God replaced the old with the better; he took away all weak unprofitable legalistic principles and replaced them with better principles of grace. Accepting the truth of Christ’s high priesthood brings in a “better hope” than tithing and the Levitical priesthood could ever bring in. That “better hope” is the person of Jesus Christ (6:19; 9:24).

If and when the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem realized this fact, they could look beyond the physical temple to Christ. They could finally be free from, and forget, the Levitical priesthood and its ordinances. The author of Hebrews was trying to stop his readers from supporting and depending on the temple services. They must stop Old Covenant homage, sacrifices, and tithes and offerings to that system. They must accept their own priesthood as believers, and accept Jesus Christ as high priest. That was the key to success. Sadly, however, history records that they never accepted the truth and eventually self-destructed.

“Draw near” (also 7:25) is another direct reference to the original tithing law in Numbers 18 which uses similar terminology four times (vv. 3, 4, 7 and 22). The Hebrew term (Strong’s O.T. 7126) is common and can mean “approach, come near, draw near, or present as offering.” The abolishment of the Levitical priesthood, with its prohibitions about “drawing near” to God, opened the way again to the priesthood of every believer. Before Calvary, only Levitical priests could “draw near” to God; the penalty for disobedience was death! Now each believer-priest “comes boldly to the throne of grace” (4:16). We “draw near” because of our “better hope.” God saves us forever because we “draw near” as believer-priests (7:25). We draw near, not with a tithe and a real sacrificial lamb, but with the blood of Jesus Christ and a committed and victorious lifestyle. Through Christ’s blood we “draw near” in full assurance of faith, having a clean conscience (10:22).

7:20 And inasmuch as, not without an oath, he was made priest.

7:21 (For those priests were made without an oath, but this with an oath by him that said to him, The Lord swore and will not repent, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec).

7:28 For the law makes men high priests which have infirmity, but the word of the oath, which was since the law, makes the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

The “oath” refers back to the discussion of 6:13-20. Christ’s priesthood will succeed because God is able to perform his oath and fulfill his needs. And, since Christ is the high priest of the church, and its members are priest-believers, then the church is assured of its success. Therefore, the church is not dependent on any “commandment in the law” (tithing or otherwise) to assure its continued success. Success was assured by the oath of God the Father to God the Son! What a marvelous thought! Preaching Christ has produced many successful churches, schools, and ministries which do not find it necessary to teach tithing. They have found better principles of grace.

“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind” (NAS) is from Psalm 110:4 yet another time. However, for the first time, the first part of the text is included, and the last part is omitted. This emphasizes that God has no intention of ever going back to the ordinances of the Levitical priesthood or any part of them for success. His promises to Christ are forever.

7:22 By so much was Jesus made a guarantee of a better testament.

Concerning Melchizedek, the detailed discussion now concludes. After chapters 5, 6 and 7 neither he (nor tithing) are mentioned again in God’s Word. The post-Calvary discussion of both Melchizedek and tithing both begins and ends in the book of Hebrews.

The point has been made and proven with Scripture and deductive reasoning from Scripture. Since the Levitical priesthood was limited, weak, and mortal, it could not possibly bring in perfection concerning sin and salvation. Therefore, it was “fitting,” or “perfectly suited,” that Jesus, the Melchizedek-high priest, prophesied in Psalm 110, would of necessity replace it and laws governing it (including tithing). That is the only way he could “bring in” the perfection of salvation that the law could not do.


One: Tithing is inseparable from “the commandment in the law” that provided for, appointed, and set apart the Levitical priesthood (7:5).

Two: Tithing is used in each of four evidences to prove that Christ’s priesthood is superior to that of the Mosaic Law (7:4-10).

Three: The Old Covenant methods of worshiping God through tithes, offerings, sacrifices and Levitical priests failed (7:11).

Four: Failure of the old system implied a need for a totally new system of service and worship (7:11).

Five: The change of priesthood must also bring in entirely new principles of service and worship (7:12).

Six: Since Christ came from Judah, it is evident that nothing in the law that related to the Levitical priesthood (including tithing) could be carried over to the new priesthood of Christ (7:13-14).

Seven: Psalm 110 patterned the new priesthood after a non-Jewish Melchizedek. This fact makes it far more evident that nothing in the law regarding the Levitical priesthood (including tithing) should be carried over to the priesthood of Christ (7:15).

Eight: Therefore one must conclude that Christ’s Melchizedek priesthood is not governed by any set of laws given to men. His priesthood is governed by the power of Eternal God (7:16-17).

Nine: The old commandment which financed, established and described the Levitical priesthood’s duties has been set aside. It was inherently weak and unprofitable (7:18).

Ten: Man can become spiritually perfect only through applying the principles of the better hope (7:19).

Eleven: Since the Levitical priesthood has been replaced by the high priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of all believers, this means that all believers, as priests who do not require tithes, can draw near to God in worship (7:19).

Twelve: The success of Christ’s priesthood and his church is as sure as God’s oath to him (7:20-27).

[1] Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., (Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, 1970), 22.

[2] William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Letter to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), s.v. “Heb. 7:5-19.”

[3] Barnes, s.v. “Heb. 7:12-18.”

[4] Clarke’s, s.v. “Heb. 7:18.”

[5] Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews (Waco: Word, 1985), s.v. “Heb. 7:18.”

[6] Henry, s.v. “Heb. 7:18.”

[7] Jamieson, s.v. “Heb. 7:18.”

[8] New Bible Comm., s.v. “Heb. 7:18.”

[9] Thayer’s, s.v. “atheteesis.”

NOT IN BOOK: From John Owen, famous Calvinist apologist, Commentary on Hebrews 7. For full article see http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id191.html

Owen: 1. If this latter be intended, it is with me past all doubt and question that a bountiful part of our enjoyments is to be separated unto the use and service of the worship of God, particularly unto the comfortable and honorable supportment of them that labor in the ministry.

Kelly: Owen has no quarrel with the (3rd above) definition of tithes as merely another word for freewill offerings. This will be his final observation XXIV that only freewill giving is for the Church today.


Owen: 2. If the strict legal course of tithing be intended [as a definition], it cannot be proved from this text [Hebrews 7] nor from any other instance before the law.