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Tithe fulfilled: Heb 7:9-10

(Garth D. Wiebe, January 2017)

There are many discussions by many authors on the so-called "tithe." I wrote this article to document a single, very profound point that is always missed.

First, by way of background, "tithe" is Greek δεκατη ("dekate"), Hebrew מעשר ("ma'asar"), which is a "tenth." That's arithmetic, a number: 1/10, as in 10%, not 9%, not 11%. The word has become a religious term, but it wasn't originally. There were certain Old Covenant regulations that required one tenth to be set aside, but this is irrelevant to the New Covenant, since it is never even mentioned in connection with the New Covenant.

Hebrews 7:9-10 shows that the "tithe" of the Old Covenant was already fulfilled by the man of faith, Abraham, even before the Old Covenant was put into place 430 years later. This is because Levi, who was still in the body of Abraham, "paid" the tithe to Melchizedek by virtue of Abraham paying it. As literally as I can translate, in Heb 7:8-10,

And here indeed dying men are getting tithes, yet there being attested that he is living, and so to be saying, through Abraham and/also Levi the one getting tithes has been tithed, for he has been being still in the body of the father when the Mechizedek meets to him.
Melchizedek was the Christ-figure to whom this Abraham paid a "tithe," the only one who, as it says in verse 3, was "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor completion of life, yet likening from the son of God, is remaining priest into the perpetual," In verse 5, the "sons of Levi" receive tithes from their brothers, all of whom (Levi and his brothers) come out of the "body of Abraham."

Melchizedek "has been tithed" (perfect tense) by Abraham, so any part of the body of Abraham also took part in that tithe, including Levi, who would eventually come out of Abraham's body, three generations later.

Abraham's tithe is the only valid "giving back to God" in the Bible, because the only way to give material things to God would be through an eternal figure, in this case, Melchizedek.

This one verse in Hebrews is so profound that it makes moot all the other discussion of "ought we to tithe or not." How can we "tithe," being "in Christ," if the "tithe" is "giving back to God" and Christ is God? If we reckon our identity as now being "in Christ," then does Christ tithe to Christ? Or, does Christ tithe to Levi now, who, by virtue of Abraham, tithed to Melchizedek? Or, how is it that a church or clergyman is representative of Levi, if we are "in Christ," who is greater than Levi? This goes beyond "ought we to tithe or not." "Tithing" becomes a silly and nonsensical proposition. Also silly is the prevalent argument that "since Abraham tithed apart from the Law of Moses, so should we." This pulls the rug out from such a superficial and shallow proposition.

In the time of the Old Covenant, therefore, no more "tithes" were "owed" to God; the repeated Old Covenant "tithe" could only be construed as a reminder and a foreshadow of the reality that is in Christ.

The book of Hebrews speaks of many things of the Old Covenant in such a way. For example, the weekly sabbath could only be construed as a reminder and foreshadow of the reality that is in Christ, since the sabbath did not give them lasting, let alone eternal, rest; indeed, they had to return to work the very next day after the weekly sabbath "rest"! Yet Hebrews 4 explains that "Today" (verse 7) is the sabbath, and we should endeavor to enter into God's eternal rest "Today." Likewise, the repeated animal sacrifices, unending procession of priests, and so on, did not satisfy, but only pointed to an eternal reality that is in Christ.

Abraham is used as an example many times in the New Testament. Moses was the man representing the Law; Abraham was the man representing faith and the promise, a patriarch, yet preceding the Law by 430 years. Much of the New Testament contrasts prevalent Jewish legalistic thought, leveraging the fact that they deeply honored and exalted Abraham as the original patriarch. Again, Abraham was indeed the original patriarch, yet was not under the Law of Moses, yet was saved by faith alone, apart from any works (Gen 15:6, cited by Rom 4:1-10). This point was lost on the legalistic Jews.

Melchizedek, however, is (verse 3)

α-πατωρ ("without-father")
α-μητωρ ("without-mother")

having neither αρχην ("origin/source/beginning")

nor τελος ("completion/finish/end") ημερων ("of days")

μενει ("is-remaining" -- present tense)
ιερευς ("priest")
εις το διηνεκες ("into the perpetuity")

In the case of Levi (verse 8)
αποθνησκοντες ανθρωποι λαμβανουσιν δεκατας
from dying [present participle] men are getting tithes
contrasting Melchizedek,
μαρτυρουμενος οτι ζη
one-being-attested/witnessed [present participle] that he is living [present tense]
Besides the actual lexical meanings of the words, the verb tenses indicate that Melchizedek is currently (still) living at the time of writing of the book of Hebrews, whatever his nature may be, whereas the Levites are attested as "dying" men.

Verses 15-17, as literally and carefully as I can translate,

and it is still more excessively sure if a different priest is arising according to the likeness of Melchizedek who has not come into being [γεγονεν] according to law of a fleshly precept but according to the ability/power [δυναμιν] of indissoluble/perpetual life [ζωης ακαταλυτου]
I emphasize the above points and original language concerning Melchizedek because I heard a view from someone who believed that Melchizedek was nothing more than a pagan priest. The language of scripture describes him as "priest of Most High God," of an eternal nature, culminating in Hebrews 7 quoting Psalm 110:4 about Jesus, which declares,
You are priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek
Jesus is also a pledge (Heb 7:22) of a better covenant (better than the Old).

Then, moving forward in history, we see that Jacob "vowed" a tithe, in Gen 28:22:

This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house and of all that you give me I will surely give a tenth to you.
In the Old Covenant that became an obligation, the basis for the tithing regulations of the Old Covenant, since Jacob (Israel) made the declaration, which would put his offspring under obligation as well. However, Jacob himself never paid anything to anybody as a result of his vow; furthermore, that vow was never to be fulfilled in an eternal sense, since it was just wealth shuffled around and consumed by Isrealites, whereas Abraham freely gave a tithe, once-for-all fulfilled to Melchizedek, who was an eternal proxy and Christ-figure, making all the Old Covenant tithes to come already fulfilled, since Levi was in his body at the time it was paid.

Note that the reason that Jacob's tithe was never to be fulfilled was that it was never actually paid to God by Jacob or his offsprings; wealth was only shuffled around among his sons, over and over again, each time being spent. Note that in Gen 28:20 Jacob's vow was in response to the promises given to him in the dream he just had, and he uses the Hebrew אם "if" (also Koine Greek LXX εαν, the contraction ει+αν, "if+supposition"), which can be seen in the grammatically subordinate clause, two verses before (Gen 28:20):

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey..."
This forms the proposition of,
If God will bless me, then I will give a tenth.
Not so with Abraham's tithe, which came after the blessing. It is of the form,
God has already blessed me; my response is to give a tenth.
The blessing was given to Abraham because he was the man of promise. All of the Old Covenant was fulfilled in Christ, and now we see that there never was a "tithe" paid to God himself as a material obligation to God himself, but in a freewill offering not subordinate to anything, by the man of promise, Abraham, after he was blessed by Melchizedek.

There is no "tithe" to God, because it was already fulfilled by Abraham, the man of promise, the man of faith. Any "tithes" obligated were under the Old Covenant, applicable only to the genealogical nation of Israel. (Note that Matt 23:23 and Luke 11:42, " should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former...," is still under the Old Covenant, since Jesus had not yet gone to the cross.) Jesus having fulfilled the Old Covenant in every way, we are now set free from obligation, acting now according to our new life in Christ, wherein we consider 100% (not 10%) of our labor and wealth belonging to God.

And all those believing were together and were having all things in common, and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing with them all, as anyone was having need. [Acts 2:44-45]

And the multitude of those believing were being of one heart and soul; and not one of them were saying that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were in common to them. [Acts 4:32]

All else being spouted out by pulpit preachers about "tithing" today is just religious fluff, especially with regard to "tithing" being an obligation or "giving back to God."

No copyrightI grant this work to the public domain.