on Genesis 14 :20
And he gave him tithes - A tenth part of all the spoils he had taken from the confederate kings. These Abram gave as a tribute to the most high God, who, being the possessor of heaven and earth, dispenses all spiritual and temporal favors, and demands the gratitude, and submissive, loving obedience, of all his subjects. Almost all nations of the earth have agreed in giving a tenth part of their property to be employed in religious uses. The tithes were afterwards granted to the Levites for the use of the sanctuary, and the maintenance of themselves and their families, as they had no other inheritance in Israel.
on Genesis 14 :20
The second part of this benedictory prayer is a thanksgiving to the common God of Melkizedec and Abram for the victory which had been vouchsafed to the latter. "Thy foes." Here Abram is personally addressed. Melkizedec as a priest first appeals to God on behalf of Abram, and then addresses Abram on behalf of God. Thus, he performs the part of a mediator.
And he gave him a tithe of all. - This is a very significant act. In presenting the tenth of all the spoils of victory, Abram makes a practical acknowledgment of the absolute and exclusive supremacy of the God whom Melkizedec worshipped, and of the authority and validity of the priesthood which he exercised. We have here all the indications of a stated order of sacred rites, in which a costly service, with a fixed official, is maintained at the public expense, according to a definite rate of contribution. The gift in the present case is the tenth of the spoils of war. This act of Abram, though recorded last, may have taken place at the commencement of the interview. At all events, it renders it extremely probable that a sacrifice had been offered to God, through the intervention of Melkizedec, before he brought forth the bread and wine of the accepted feast.
It is obvious that here we stand on broader ground than the special promise made to Abram. Melkizedec was not a partner in the call of Abram, and yet the latter acknowledges him as a priest of the Most High God. Hence, we must fall back on the covenant made with Noah - the representative of the whole race after the deluge - as the broad basis of authority on which Melkizedec acted. That covenant, then, was not a dead letter. It still lived in the heart and will of a part of the nations. Its hallowing and exalting truths had produced at least one center of pure and spiritual worship on the earth. Even Abram, the called of God, acknowledges its constituted head. And the Most High God, Founder and Upholder of heaven and earth, thereby guarantees its validity for all who in every place call on his name in sincerity and truth. And his special call to Abram is given with a view to the final removal of all obstacles to the acceptance and application of this his everlasting covenant. We are thankful for this glimpse into the comprehensive grandeur of the divine purpose concerning man, which is for some time forward cast into the shade, until it begins to break forth again in the anticipations of the prophets, and at length shines forth with imperishable splendor in the revelations of the New Testament.
The genealogy of Melkizedec seems designedly veiled in impenetrable obscurity. To lift this veil entirely is therefore hopeless. Yet we may venture to hint the possibility that here we have another Shemite chieftain in the land of Kenaan. The indefinite statement of Josephus, that he was a potentate of the Kenaanites, is no proof to the contrary, even if it were of much value. The address of Ezekiel to Jerusalem: "Thy origin and thy birth are of the land of Kenaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite" Ezekiel 16:3, may refer to the period immediately before the entrance of Israel into the land. At and after that time the Amorite and the Jebusite seem to have been in possession of the city Joshua 10:5; Judges 1:21. But in the time of Abram, more than four hundred years before, it may have been different. We have discovered other tribes in this land that were not of the race of Kenaan. It is not likely that Kenaan would furnish a priest of the most high God. It is evident that Melkizedec was not in the confederacy of the Pentapolis with the king of Sodom. He comes out separately and suddenly to meet Abram, who was one of "the children of Heber," of whom Shem was the father.
And he is the acknowledged head of the worshippers of the most high God, who is "the Lord, the God of Shem." But be this as it may, it is only a secondary question here. The matter of primary importance, as has been already noted, is the existence of a community of pure worshippers of the true God in the land of Kenaan, antecedent to Abram. If this community be descendants of Kenaan, it only renders the discovery the more striking and impressive. The knowledge of the true God, the confession of the one everlasting supreme Creator of heaven and earth, the existence of a stated form of worship by means of a priest and a ritual attested by Abram the elect of God, in a community belonging to the Gentiles, form at once a remarkable vindication of the justice and mercy of God in having made known to all mankind the mode of acceptable approach to himself, and a singular evidence that such a revelation had been made to Noah, from whom alone it could have descended to the whole race, and consequently to this particular branch of it.
We have reason to believe that this was not the sole line in which this precious tradition was still preserved in comparative purity and power. Job and his companions belong to one other known line in which the knowledge of the one God was still vital. The fundamental principles of divine truth planted in the human breast by this and antecedent revelations were never afterward wholly eradicated; and from the hereditary germs of a primitive theology, cherished by contact with the Sidonians and other Phoenicians, were Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other sages of the East and West, enabled to rise to the exalted conceptions which they occasionally formed of the unity, purity, spirituality, and supremacy of the Divine Being. The idea of God, conveyed into a soul of any power and freedom, is wonderfully prolific. It bursts the bonds of the animal nature, and expands and elevates the rational to some shadowy semblance of its primeval glory. Where it has become altogether extinct, the human has sunk down under the debasing bondage of the brutal. During the four centuries that elapsed from the arrival of Abram to the conquest of the country by his descendants, this interesting relic of a pure Gentile worship seems to have disappeared. But the traces of such a purifying and elevating knowledge of God were not even then effaced from the memories, the customs, and the phrases of the people.
on Genesis 14 :20
14:20 And blessed be the most high God - Note, In all our prayers we must praise God, and join hallelujahs with all our hosannas. These are the spiritual sacrifices we must offer up daily, and upon particular occasions. God as the most high God must have the glory of all our victories. In them he shews himself higher than our enemies, and higher than we, for without him we could do nothing. And he gave him tithes of all - That is, of the spoils, Heb 7:4. This may be looked upon, As a gratuity presented to Melchizedek, by way of return for his respects. As an offering dedicated to the most high God, and therefore put into the hands of Melchizedek his priest. Jesus Christ, our great Melchizedek, is to be humbly acknowledged by every one of us as our king and priest, and not only the tithe of all, but all we have, must be given up to him.