Abram institutes the tithe

Scriptures this week leading up to Sunday, January 21

Genesis 14:17-20
Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram, who in turn treats him as a priest of God the Most High and gives him a tenth of everything.

Psalm 128
Blessing comes from a deep desire to walk closely with the Lord.

John 2:1-11
The first miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, Galilee.

Revelation 19:6-10
The sound of heaven: the cry of an immense gathering praising God and saying “Hallelujah, for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns!”

Genesis 14: 17-20

 Monday, January 15

Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram, who in turn treats him as a priest of God the Most High and gives him a tenth of everything

17  After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley)...

  • The back story here is that Abram and his nephew Lot, after friction with their herds and flocks and  stockmen, decided to separate, Lot having first choice and taking the well-watered plain of Jordan towards Zoar, and Abram content to head east to Mamre, near Hebron. However a battle between the wicked kings of Sodom and Gomorrah (their names portray their character) with three others, and an alliance of four kings from Babylon and Mesopotamia led by the Elamite Kedorlaomer in the Valley of Siddim, under the present Dead Sea, results in Lot’s family and flocks being seized. Abram goes into battle to rescue his nephew with a surprisingly small but strategic force, and gets Lot, his women, servants and stock back. Our story begins with a meeting near present-day Jerusalem, between Abram and two very different key players.

18-20  Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying…

  • Salem is a known abbreviation of Jerusalem, Ps 76:2. Melchizedek means ‘king of righteousness’ but he is also a priest of God Most High – El Elyon – and he blesses Abram in a priestly way. Abram defers to him as his spiritual superior and affirms that the victory belongs to God.
  • The simple explanation of the bread and wine are for entertaining the battle-weary Abram with refreshment – we should not hurry to read a NT meaning into this, over 1,000 years beforehand (but see Application, below).
  • Melchizedek, acting in the role of a priest more than a king, blesses Abram and ascribes the victory Abram has won, to God Most High.

…“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

  • Abram is more concerned to honour God by giving the first part back – in this he institutes the principle of the tithe. The passage continues with him refusing the spoils of war from the king of Sodom. He is not going to take control of Canaan by might, or accept an offer that might have strings attached. Abram’s response, warm and deferential to Melchizedek, cool and objective toward the pagan king, is remarkable in terms of the customs of the time. Abram makes a determination not to seize spoils and power, but to take the route of faith, to honour God and wait on Him to give Him the land as He promised.


Who was Melchizedek? He never appears again, and unusually there are no references to his ancestry, but he is revered in Scripture. Subsequent revelation sees him as a type, or foreshadowing appearance, of Christ whose priesthood cannot end – a priesthood of the order of Melchizedek

For further study: see Ps 110:4, Hebrews 7:17, 21.

Genesis begins with an account of humankind’s God-given authority over the earth and portrays violence as a perversion of this.

Abram, or Abraham as he became, was remarkable as a man who heard from God, trusted God in extreme circumstances – and waited on God. Waited and waited…

Abraham initiates here two life principles of divine providence.

  • He gave God the glory for ‘his’ success and victory.
  • He also instituted the practice of honouring God with the first part of everything, the tithe, the voluntary and willing practice of which endures as part of Christian worship today and is seen as God’s provision for His church.

As we know, Abraham was not impoverished by his act of faith. He went on to be the wealthiest man of his time as well the founder of a nation. A third principle we can draw from this, is that as we give to God, He trusts us with more.

Discussion starter

1.  How will you consider giving God the first part of everything He gives you? Does this only apply to monetary income?

Also published on Medium.

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