“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God….And he gave him tithes of all.” (Genesis 14:18, 20)
This is one of the more curious passages of the Old Testament. Abram had rescued his nephew Lot, along with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, after a fierce running battle with a five-king federation led by Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam (Genesis 14:1-17).
As Abram returned victorious from the battle, he was met by Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who seems either to represent or actually be the pre-incarnate Person of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:1-3). Melchizedek greeted Abram with words of victory and praise, to which Abram responded with a no-nonsense declaration of his service to the “most high God” (Genesis 14:22-24).
The king of Sodom offered to let Abram take the spoils of war. The custom was (and is) well established that the victor was due all the value of the conquered land. Abram’s response was most gracious. Not only would he take nothing for himself other than what was due his servants and confederates, but he would return everything outside of the tithe to the original owners. “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils” (Hebrews 7:4).
It is here that tithing is established in Scripture, long before the Mosaic law. The event is so incidental that it seems the custom had already been in practice for some time. Whatever the case, Abram offers “tithes of all” to Melchizedek without a second thought. Centuries later, the Lord Jesus told the Pharisees that they ought to pay their tithes “and not to leave the [weightier matters] undone” (Matthew 23:23). It is interesting how much the tithing practice is still debated among God’s children. HMM III
From Days of Praise