7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. 8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Not only is Melchizedek better than Abraham, he is greater than the Levites (vv. 7–10).
Now beyond all contradiction
Without doubt or question the lesser person (Abraham) was blessed by the greater (Melchizedek). Abraham had lower status in rank than Melchizedek.
the lesser is blessed by the better.
The person who blesses is superior to the one blessed. Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek and that made him “better” or greater than the patriarch. On principle, an ancestor is greater than his descendants. The issue here is rank, not character.
Here mortal men receive tithes,
The word “here” refers to the reception of tithes under the Levitical priesthood. “Mortal men” refers to the Levitical priests who were subject to death. Death prevented them from serving as priests in perpetuity because they were subject to death; their role as priest ceased at some point (He 7:23).
but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he [Melchizedek] lives.
“There” refers to priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. In the case of Melchizedek, the situation was different because God presented him as a type of Christ. It was “witnessed” or declared that he “lives.” It was not that he was living but that he was “witnessed” to live. As far as the biblical record, there was no evidence that he died.
It is assumed that Melchizedek never died in his capacity as a priest as far as the biblical record. He continues to live in Christ’s priesthood. On the other hand, Christ “ever lives” (He 7:16, 25). Melchizedek’s priesthood superiority endures while the Levitical is transitory.
Verses 9–10 conclude the argument from 7:1 with a single sentence in the Greek.
Even Levi, who receives [collected] tithes,
Levi collected tithes through both Abraham and by Melchizedek.
paid tithes through Abraham,
Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek through their patriarch Abraham (He 7:5). By doing this, Levi acknowledged Melchizedek’s superior priesthood. That is why tithes were paid to him. Levi by his solidarity with Abraham collected tithes for Melchizedek.
so to speak,
These words indicate that the author was making an unusual statement. What is to be said is not to be taken with strict interpretation. This phrase indicates that what he was saying was not to be taken literally. The author was speaking idiomatically. The idea is “one might even say.” This indicates that the author was communicating in a typological matter.
for he [Levi] was still in the loins of his father [Abraham]
“Still in the loins” is an allusion to the idea that descendants derived who they were from their ancestors (Ge 25:23; Ro 5:12). Thus, Levi was still in Abraham in a corporate or family sense. The Levitical priesthood was inferior because it came out of Abraham.
when Melchizedek met him.
Levi, centuries after Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek. Abraham represented all his descendants including Levi. This shows the superiority of the Melchizedekian priesthood over the Levitical.
The timeless nature of Melchizedek’s priesthood shows the superiority of Christ’s priesthood.
Since the entire Levitical priesthood is subordinate to the Melchizedekian priesthood, Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Levitical.