Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Hebrews (7:9 KKJV)
I got a few questions last week about Melchizedek, so I decided to devote a day to bring more clarity. The questions centered around the verses in Chapter 7 describing the relationship between Jesus, the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites, and Melchizedek.
God created humanity with a natural curiosity. It is true today and it was true in Old Testament times. Hebrew scientific minds of that day had no microscopes. They fully understood the process of procreation, but not the microbiology of it. DNA was thousands of years from human “discovery”. Therefore, their natural curiosity had led them desire and then create what we might think of as a very simple understanding of genealogy. We know that a genetic essence of ourselves was in our ancient ancestor’s DNA. They actually believed that a tiny little form of themselves was passed from generation to generation. They thought of this as a sort of nano-me who was too small to be detected until the time for their birth arrived. In fact they were completely wrong, but in concept they were correct. They just didn’t have the science to as fully understand the biology as we do.
In the light of that thinking, now let’s review the writer of Hebrew’s argument. All Hebrews (Aaronic priests, Levites and all others) trace their Hebrew heritage to Abraham. So let’s begin with first century Jews. If they came from the tribe of Judah, they didn’t think of Judah as an ancestor in they way we would. They thought they we actually in Judah. And since Judah was in Jacob (Israel), so were they. And since Jacob came was in Isaac, so were they. And since Isaac was in Abraham, so were they. That means that since Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek and recognized his priesthood, so did they. They were actually “in” Abraham. The writer wasn’t trying to convince them to recognize Melchizedek as a priest because Abraham had, rather he was reminding them that had already recognized him when they were in Abraham and that they had already offered him a tithe. To them, this logic was perfect and undeniable. It is so simple, he recapped it in a single verse — Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
So when Psalm 110:4 says — The LORD has sworn And will not relent, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”, they understood the Messianic implications that Jesus, if he was the Messiah, was a higher priest than the Levitical priests, since they had offered tithes to him through Abraham’s offering to Melchizedek. This means that although Melchizedek was an obscure Old Testament figure in our minds, he was significant in theirs. We need to be convinced of this. To them it was just a reminder of what the scriptures (for them the Old Testament) plainly stated. Genesis 14:18 — Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.
In response to Abraham’s offering, Melchizedek blessed Abraham saying — “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; he had also blessed them. Melchizedek (the King of righteousness) from Salem (from Shalom, peace) blessed them. If Jesus was, as the writer argued in the sermon called the book of Hebrews, “a priest in the order of Melchizedek” they didn’t need to decide he could be their “high priest”, they already had decided that in the generation of Abraham.
Hope this background helps bring you deeper understanding of the significance of the book of Hebrews.