4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
Verses 4–10 present doctrinal implications of Christ’s Melchizedekian priesthood. Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior because:
—Abraham gave a tithe to him,
—he blessed Abraham, and
—his priesthood is eternal.
Verses 4–7 show how Melchizedek was better than Abraham.
The word “consider” means to weigh something with attention. It is important to give Melchizedek serious attention.
how great this man [Melchizedek] was,
The degree of greatness of Melchizedek is stated in the next phrase.
to whom even the patriarch [emphatic] Abraham gave a tenth [emphatic] of the spoils.
We can see the superiority of Melchizedek over Abraham by the fact that the patriarch gave tithes to this priest. Little is known of Melchizedek. He was the king of Salem, but he did not fight with Abraham against king Chedoriaomer to save Lot. All we know is that Abraham gave him a tithe as a priest of the “Most High” God. That made him greater than Abraham and by implication greater than Aaron and Levi (the Levitical priesthood). Not only was Melchizedek superior to Abraham, he was superior to the Levites as well.
The word “indeed” in the Greek indicates the beginning of the idea “on the one hand.” The “on the other hand” is found in verse 6. Thus, verses 5 and 6 are tied together. Verse 5 gives the reason for the collection of tithes by Levites. The ground for doing this is the Mosaic law (Nu 18:21–24).
those who are of the sons of Levi,
The “sons of Levi” were Levitical priests of the Old Testament economy. They belonged to the family of Aaron. Levi was Abraham’s great grandson. The sons of Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham (He 7:9–10).
who receive the priesthood,
The Levites received their priesthood from God.
have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law,
Levitical priests collected tithes in accordance with the law of Moses.
that is, from their brethren,
The Levites collected tithes from Israelites.
though they have come from the loins of Abraham;
The “brethren” came from the common descent of Abraham, yet they had to pay tithes to the Levites. This made the Levitical tithes inferior to Abraham, and Abraham was secondary to Melchizedek.
“But” picks up the “on the other hand” from verse 5. The information of verse 6 is more prominent than verse 5.
he whose genealogy is not derived from them
Melchizedek did not need to trace his genealogy back to its origin, as did the Levitical priests.
received tithes from Abraham
Melchizedek did two things that the Levites did: (1) collect tithes and (2) bless Abraham.
and blessed him
The tense of “blessed” means that Melchizedek blessed Abraham with an abiding effect (perfect tense). Part of the Abrahamic Covenant was that all the world would be blessed through him.
who had the promises.
Abraham was the recipient of God’s promises, yet Christ would come and fulfill every one of them. This is the argument of 7:1–10:18.
Melchizedek’s priesthood was greater than either the Abrahamic or the Levitical.
Levitical priests sprang from Abraham. Although Abraham was great, Melchizedek was greater (He 7:9–10). He was greater than both the priests and their Levitical line. Christ is greater than them all.