Remember all the way back to two weeks ago when I was writing on tithes and Levites? That was because the main message of the Hebrews passage is founded on a line of argument about what tithes mean, to whom they are given, and the relationship between the giver and the receiver.
Our author is building his central case of how Jesus is greater than the Old Covenant rituals and institutions, including the Levitical priesthood. His key linkage is that Jesus is a ‘high priest in the order of Mel.’ Because of this, our author can draw contrasts between what we know about Mel and the Levitical priests and argue that those same contrasts apply in Jesus’ favor.
To this end, this week we’ve been reading about tithes. Abe gave Mel a tithe back in Gen 14 and received a blessing from him. Later, in Lev 27, God instructs the people to give Him a tithe because the grain and the animals and the bounty of Creation are His. In Num 18, He chooses to allow the Levites to use it to take care of their material needs so they can focus on serving Him in the OT rituals, but it is His and not theirs.
Our author argues that since Abe tithes to Mel, this means that Abe recognizes Mel as being greater than himself; he also adds that it is Mel that blesses Abe, not the other way around, and the superior is the one who blesses the inferior. So Mel is established as Abe’s superior. Since the Levites are descendants of Abe, they are included in that transaction, acknowledged way back in Gen 14 (three generations before the namesake of their tribe was born) as being inferior to Mel. Our author makes this so explicit as to say that Levi tithed to Mel through Abe.
Thus the Heb tithe argument says that Levi (through great-grandpa Abe) tithes to Mel and acknowledges the latter’s superiority, that Jesus is represented by Mel and coidentified with him, and that Jesus is thus established as superior to the Levitical priesthood. QED.
More on this larger argument on Thursday as we look at the implications of this Mel/Jesus > Abe/Levi/priests idea.