Wednesday, 14 November 2018
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; Hebrews 7:5
As is recorded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the author now explains that even though the tribe of Levi descended from Abraham, just as all the other tribes of Israel (their brethren), they were to receive a tenth of the produce of the land. As stated in the analysis of the previous verse, this tenth was mandated in each third year. But even in the other two years when the tithe was eaten by the one tithing, the people were told, “You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.” Deuteronomy 14:27.
If the Levite’s portion during the third year of tithing wasn’t enough to sustain him for the full three years, he would suffer. So, even during the other two years, the people were instructed to tend to the needs of the Levites. This is because their job was to minister to the people, assist in matters of the law, etc. Because of this, they wouldn’t have been able to conduct the normal pattern of business, such as tending to land and fields, that the rest of the people would have had time for.
Understanding this, there is still the matter of the priesthood. It is this which the author is specifically addressing. The people of Israel worked and earned. Every third year, a tithe of that was to be given away, in its entirety. This was to be stored up and given to the Levites (Numbers 18:21-24). However, there was more to be done with it. The tribe of Levi was divided into his three sons – Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. From Kohath, the line of Aaron was chosen as the priestly line (Exodus 28:1). After the tithe was collected by the sons of Levi, a tenth of that was then to be taken and given to this priestly line (Numbers 18:25-32). In fact, it was to be the best portion as noted in Numbers 18:30.
This then explains the words, “And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood.” It is specifically speaking of the sons of Levi through Aaron, but indirectly from all of the sons of Levi, and then further from all of the children of Israel. It is this particular line who “have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law.” The priestly line of Aaron alone received tithes from the people without paying a tithe themselves. The line of tithing ended in them. However, it is to be understood that this is a precept of the law. Therefore, it is the law alone which then elevates the line of Aaron above the other Levites and thus above the other people of Israel. This is why the author says that it is by the law that the commandment is given concerning the tithes provided to Aaron’s line “that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham.”
In other words, other than by this precept, the priests would be on the same level as all the others in Israel who issue from Abraham. There was no right in them which inherently allowed them to exact tithes upon their brethren. Again, the right they possessed came apart from any personal merit. However, Abraham is said to have paid tithes to Melchizedek apart from the law. This shows an obvious inherent right in Melchizedek which the priests of Aaron did not possess. No law mandated this, and yet it happened. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth because Melchizedek possessed an inherent right to it. The importance of this will continue to be explained by the author in the verses ahead.
Life application: There is an important application here for us. Tithing is not a New Testament standard, but rather “let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper…” 1 Corinthians 16:2. We set our offerings aside to pay for the salary of our pastors and missionaries, and also to keep the church functioning properly. There’s obviously a lot of money in some Christian circles, such as televangelists, and sometimes pastors have it far better than their congregants. However, many pastors – particularly in small churches – eke out a living and are totally dependent on the goodness of the people they minister to. They have set their hearts, minds, and lives on Jesus, and they should be taken care of by those they tend to. So don’t forget them when you give, and also don’t forget them during the week with your prayers and assistance if they need it.
Lord, you’ve been so good to give us caring scholars, missionaries, pastors, preachers, and teachers of Your word. Help us to remember them in the giving of our offerings – both of money and of the abilities we have – that can benefit them. Their service is so much appreciated. Help us to remember to let them know it from time to time as well. Amen.