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Verse 4 Now consider how great this man was. The object of the apostle was to exalt the rank and dignity of Melchizedek. The Jews had a profound veneration for Abraham; and if it could be shown that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, then it would be easy to demonstrate the superiority of Christ, as a priest, to all who descended from Abraham. Accordingly he argues, that he to whom even the patriarch Abraham showed so much respect, must have had an exalted rank. Abraham, according to the views of the East, the illustrious ancestor of the Jewish nation, was regarded as superior to any of his posterity, and of course was to be considered as of higher rank and dignity than the Levitical priests, who were descended from him.

Even the patriarch Abraham. One so great as he is acknowledged to have been. On the word patriarch, See Barnes "Ac 2:29".

It occurs only in Ac 2:29; 7:8,9, and in this place.

Gave the tenth of the spoils. See Barnes "Heb 7:2".

The argument here is, that Abraham acknowledged the superiority of Melchizedek by thus devoting the usual part of the spoils of war, or of what was possessed, to God by his hands, as the priest of the Most High. Instead of making a direct consecration by himself, he brought them to him as a minister of religion, and recognised in him one who had a higher official standing in the matter of religion than himself. The Greek word rendered spoils—akroyinion—means, literally, the top of the heap, from akron, top, and yin, heap. The Greeks were accustomed, after a battle, to collect the spoils together, and throw them into a pile, and then, before they were distributed, to take off a portion from the top, and devote it to the gods, Xen. Cyro. vii. 6, 36; Herod. i. 86, 90; viii. 121, 122; Dion. Hal. ii. In like manner it was customary to place the harvest in a heap; and, as the first thing, to take off a portion from the top to consecrate as a thank-offering to God. The word then came to denote the first-fruits which were offered to God, and then the best of the spoils of battle. It has that sense here, and denotes the spoils or plunder which Abraham had taken of the discomfited kings.

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