Was Abraham tithing?

Let’s now move to the records of Abraham and Jacob, starting from the former. We find the related passage in Hebrews 7. Paul is explaining there Jesus as our High Priest. The last verse of Hebrews 6 tells us:


Hebrews 6:20
“where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”


Then chapter 7 carries on speaking more about Melchizedek and how he was a prototype of Christ as High Priest. It is in this context we read about Abraham:


Hebrews 7: 1-6
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.”


Some people use this passage to say that tithing is a principle that transcends times and administrations and thus it is valid today too. This is because – they say – Abraham was a tither and this was before the law. So also we, without the law, should be tithing too. But I don’t think that this is what the passage is telling us. The main focus of the passage is on Melchizedek and how Jesus Christ is the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. To show how great the order of Melchizedek is, it refers to Genesis where Abraham, returning from the slaughter of the kings, gave him a tenth of the spoils that he got. But this has nothing to do with the tithe as we know it, and here is why:


1. What Abraham gave was completely voluntary. Nobody told him that he had to give a tenth of the spoils. He did it absolutely voluntary. In contrast tithing is mandatory, something that you have to do, regardless of whether you really desire it or not.

2. Furthermore, tithing is something that you do regularly. Not just once. Did Abraham do something like this ? His life is well documented in the Bible with 14 chapters of Genesis devoted almost completely to him. Yet this is the only time in his life in which we see him giving a tenth. In other words, what is described in Hebrews and Genesis was a one time event and not something that was repeated regularly, week after week or month after month.

3. The fact that what Abraham did was something extraordinary rather than something regular is also obvious by the fact that he gave Melchizedek 10% of the spoils that he got. This was not his normal income or belongings, but spoils. Something unexpected, a windfall gain. Today, such gains are for example: lottery winnings, or an unexpected inheritance. His giving was like getting an unexpected inheritance and then giving 10%. Again this is not what people mean by tithing.

To summarize, what we see Abraham giving was a one time voluntary gift of 10% of a windfall gain he received.

His giving was:

i) voluntary, not obligatory.

ii) a one time thing, not something done regularly.

iii) Finally it was out of a windfall gain he received, not out of his regular income.


Was his giving 10% ? Yes it was. Was his giving a tithe in the meaning it is taught today (regular and obligatory giving of 10% of your income) ? From what we saw, this was obviously not the case.


Tassos Kioulachoglou






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