Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek gives us a picture of several long-standing institutions yet to come. In my previous posting we covered the priesthood, illustrating the contrast between the priesthood set up by God (an eternal priesthood according to the Order of Melchizedek) with Christ as the high priest, and the Aaronic priesthood under the Mosaic law.
One verse that gets easily glossed over is Genesis 14:18: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine;” This appears to prefigure communion in the church today. Christ offered bread and wine to his disciples during the last supper. (Matthew 26:20-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23) Melchizedek offers Abram bread and wine, presumably to celebrate Abram’s victory. Abram here acknowledges Melchizedek as being worthy (he gives Melchizedek a tenth of all, indicating he is greater than Abram). Just so, we acknowledge Christ as being worthy, and greater than ourselves.
“…and he gave him a tenth of all.” Gen. 14:20
Plaut tells us in his modern Torah commentary: “Abram was thought to prefigure his people, who in the centuries to come would pay their tithes to the Temple on the very spot where Abram made his first covenant.” The tithe is more formally instituted in the levitical laws (see Exodus 22:29-30; Leviticus 27:30).
The New Testament mentions tithing as well. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18:10 in which a Pharisee boasts about his religious rituals in that he fasts and tithes from all he gets. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus rebukes some scribes and Pharisees for holding tithing in importance over mercy and justice, and tells them that these “weightier matters of the law” should have been at the forefront “without neglecting the others” (That is the other elements of the law, which I presume includes tithing.)
And so the institution of tithing was first recorded in the scriptures between Abram and Melchizedek, which was later practiced formally under the Levitical law, and in a less formal way today is still practiced in Judaism and by followers of Christ.