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writer of the epistle adds that without contradiction the person less in dignity is blessed by the person who is greater in dignity. Hence we conclude that the tenth paid by Abram was not merely an offering, which the patriarch was at liberty to render or to withhold as he pleased, but a payment of obligation.
This, too, appears the more likely because Abram by right of conquest might have claimed all that he captured from Chedorlaomer. The king of Sodom,
recognizing this, invites him to take the goods to 1 Gen. xiv. 21. himself. But Abram declines to take anything for
himself, though, as a conqueror, he seems to have recognized that he had no jurisdiction over God's tenth ; and whilst surrendering his own claim to nine-tenths of the spoil, he acted as though he could not surrender God's. *
It seems, moreover, exceedingly probable that the priestly acts which Melchizedek performed for Abram were simply such as this priest-king would from time to time perform for any Canaanitish chief returning from a victorious expedition, as also perhaps when his people paid their tithes on ordinary occasions. And since Abram often was dwelling within a day's journey of Salem (that is, Jerusalem), we need not at all conclude that this was either the first or the last occasion on which Abram paid a tenth of his increase to Melchizedek. If the patriarch did so annually, it would be only in keeping with the practice of his Babylonian ancestors, and what we know was afterwards conceded by the Carthaginians to be due to their Phænician priesthood.
* Compare Gold and the Gospel, p. 24.
1 Gen. xxviii. 20-22.
This inference or supposition is strengthened to something like probability by consideration of the subsequent conduct of Abram's grandson Jacob, who, being about to undertake a journey, did what we know quite well was common among the Semites, the Greeks and Romans, and, indeed, is still practised : * he vowed a vow, and he said :
“ If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God : and this stone which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house : and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee."1
Now it will be remembered that Abram lived till the boyhood of Jacob; that Jacob was brought up in the faith of his grandfather; and that at Bethel God confirmed to Jacob and his posterity all the promises He made to Abraham. What, then, could be more natural than that Jacob should avow himself ready to practise Abraham's religious observances ? He promises to take the God of Abraham for his own God, to dedicate a certain place to His worship as did Abraham, and also to follow his grandfather's practice in dedicating to God a tenth of all he should receive. But there are manifested certain points in Jacob's tithe-paying which we could not have certainly inferred in the offering of a tenth by Abram.' Gospel, p. 38.
For, first, Jacob's vow was, manifestly, to be con* I remember my Muhammadan interpreter in Bokhara telling me that before crossing the trans-Caspian desert he vowed that if God would bring him safely to Khiva, he would distribute bread to the prisoners in Bokhara. This vow he redeemed, and so was able give me certain information I required about the structure of the prison.
9 % Gold and the
tinued throughout his lifetime, and was not framed for the occasion or the journey, only.
The second feature in Jacob's tenth differing from
be 1 Sacred Tenth, called the scientific aspect of the question ?"
The prevalence of tithe-paying amongst ancient nations, quite apart, so far as we see, from the Bible, has, if possible, to be accounted for. If it was originally left to every man to give for religious purposes merely according to his own inclinationthat is, as much or as little as he pleased—then how should so many peoples have hit upon a tenth for God's portion, rather than a fifth, or a fifteenth, or any other ? Does not the universality of this proportion point to a time when the ancestors of those nations lived together, and so derived the custom from a common source ?
No profane author, and no account or tradition known to us in any country, professes to give that origin, nor does the Bible do so in express terms. Can we, then, frame any hypothesis that would account for the facts before us ?
Most men, presumably, will allow that sacrifice was not a human invention, but a divine institution appointed by God. And if God appointed also that some things were acceptable to Him as "clean," and
others not so, is it reasonable to suppose that He would have omitted directions about the quantity, or proportion in which such things should be offered ?
If, then, we may venture the hypothesis that God from the beginning taught Adam that it was the duty of man to render a portion of his increase to his Maker, and that that portion was to be not less than a tenth, then we shall see that the facts recorded in Genesis not only do not contradict such a supposition, but corroborate and strengthen it.
The Septuagint version, then, would show an instance of covetousness in the person of Cain, as does the Acts of the Apostles in the persons of . Ananias and Sapphira, each pretending to offer more than was really given, each attempting to deceive the Almighty, and thus, in New Testament language, lying to the Holy Ghost.
In accord with this theory, also, Abel's fuller sacrifice was accepted ; and so sacrifice and tithe-paying may be presumed to have continued all along the centuries to the days of Noah. Then, when his descendants built cities in Babylonia and afterwards became scattered, they would naturally take with them, among other primeval customs and traditions, the offering of sacrifice and tithe-paying. And thus would be accounted for, only a few centuries later, the existence of these customs as recorded in cuneiform literature on the tablets we possess, as well as the information given us about tithe-paying in the literatures of Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
It is not pretended that this hypothesis must be true, or that no other can be advanced ; but mean
1 Acts V. 3.
while I am among those who think that it meets the facts of the case, but who hold themselves ready to examine another theory if forthcoming. *
It may be objected, of course, that we do not read in Genesis of a law for the payment of a tenth; which is no proof, however, that no such law had been given, seeing there existed various laws in primeval times of which we have no written evidence now. Do any, for instance, doubt that there was, from the beginning, a law against murder, for breaking of which Cain was punished ; or against adultery, in
keeping with which Judah said of Tamar, “ Bring 1 Gen. xxxviii, her forth and let her be burnt”? Similarly, it is
possible that tithe-paying may have been among the " commandments and the statutes and the laws"
of God which Abraham is praised for keeping, but 9 Gen. xxvi. 5. which have not come down to us in writing.
Or, again, if it be urged that tithes are not even mentioned until the days of Abram and so were till then unknown, it is easy to point to persons and things which we feel sure must have existed long before they are mentioned in the order of events recorded in Genesis.
* After this chapter was written, my attention was called to Professor Cheyne's articles on “ Cain” and “ Abraham" in the Encyclopædia Biblica (vol. i. 23. 260), which would make the accounts of these two persons of later origin by several centuries than is generally received. But this does not greatly affect the main purpose of my argument. Moreover, if Professor Petrie is right in telling us that from three to four thousand years or more before Christianity appeared, the ancient Egyptians repudiated, before the judgment of Osiris, sins such as "cutting short the rations of the temples," “ diminishing the offerings of the gods” and stealing their property, then the story of Cain, as interpreted from the reading of the Septuagint, has a striking resemblance thereto, and is thereby rendered more credible.