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giver, and who the receiver, is not expressly declared in the history. Whether Abraham was the receiver, or Melchizedek, is a point indifferent in itself, and the reader may perhaps wonder how Mr. Chubb came to employ so much time and pains in deciding it. The truth is, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in speaking of this transaction, supposes that Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek; and this was inducement sufficient for Mr. Chubb to take the other side of the question.
The writer of this epistle speaks his own sense, and the sense of Jews and Christians at that time; and their authority, one would think, is enough to silence a modest man in a point left undetermined in the original history, and of which they were much better judges than we. But laying aside all authority as of no importance to the question, Mr. Chubb appeals to the history itself; to the history therefore let us go.
And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was a priest of the most high God; and he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abraham of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand. And he gave him tithes of all.'*
The version of the Seventy was near three hundred years old at the birth of Christ, and was had in great reverence by the Hellenistical Jews, and afterwards by the Christians. In the common editions of this version, and in that copy of it printed in Walton's Polyglot, which was taken from the famous Roman edition, you read expressly, not he gave tithes of all, but -'Abraham gave tithes of all ;' and yet Mr. Chubb "apprehends the several copies of the Pentateuch do not at all differ in their relation of this piece of history, with respect to the point under consideration." Dr. Grave has indeed omitted the word Abraham in his edition, because he found it not in the Alexandrian manuscript.
But I lay no stress on this word being in the Septuagint, and mention it only to show that Mr. Chubb's apprehension, exact as he would be thought, does sometimes outrun his evidence.
* Genesis xiv. 18. 19. 20.
Let us see then how he reasons on the history, as it has been cited from the English translation. "Here we see that the active person, or the person speaking (in the 18th, 19th, and part of the 20th verse) was Melchizedek; and the passive person, or the person spoken to and of, was Abraham. The historian goes on, without the least hint or intimation of a change of persons, and observes that he, the active person, or the person speaking, namely, Melchizedek, gave him, the passive person, or the person spoken to and of, namely, Abraham, tithes of all. Thus we see the historian is very particular and express, that it was Melchizedek which gave tithes to Abraham, and not Abraham to Melchizedek."
Mr. Chubb does not argue like one that has attended to the language of the Bible. Nothing is more common than a change of persons, without the least intimation given of it by the writer. One instance of this you find in the 11th verse of this very chapter, which Mr. Chubb, one would think, could not easily overlook. When Chedorlaomer had engaged and defeated the five kings in the vale of Siddim, the history says, they that remained, fled to the mountains.' Here, to speak in Mr. Chubb's language, the active persons, or the persons who fled to the mountains, were the broken remains of the conquered army. “The historian goes on without the least hint or intimation of a change of persons :" and they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and they took Lot and his goods and departed.' Who now were the persons that took Lot's goods, and the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah? Was it not the victorious army? Mr. Chubb confesses it was; and yet, by his new invented rule of actives and passives, it ought to be, not the conquerors, but the conquered.
If the reader will be at the trouble of looking forward to the 32nd verse of the xxivth chapter, he will find a remarkable instance to the same purpose. Abraham sent his servant to Bethuel, to demand his daughter Rebekah in marriage for his son Isaac. Her brother Laban received him and his company with much kindness and hospitality, and invited them into the house to take some refreshment. · And the man (that is, Abraham's servant) came into the house: and he ungirded the camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and
water to wash his feet and the men's feet that were with him.' Here again you see no intimation of any change of persons. Who was it then that provided straw for the camels, and water to wash the men's feet? Was it Abraham's servant? By Mr. Chubb's rule of interpretation it should be so; in the mean time common sense shows it was Laban.
A change of person, without giving express notice to the reader, is frequent in all languages: in relating a conversation or transaction between two persons, it is difficult to avoid it, without an unnecessary and offensive repetition of names. Examples of this kind are indeed more common in the Hebrew than in any other language; and if the reader requires farther satisfaction in the point, he will scarce read two pages together in this book of Genesis, or any other historical book of Scripture, without receiving it.
The he in question may without all doubt, consistently with the rules of common speech, and agreeably to the genius of the Hebrew language, be referred either to Abraham or the king of Salem. And yet, on the strength of his actives and passives, Mr. Chubb scruples not to say that the historian is particular and express in referring it to the latter. These are very strong expressions, and one cannot but wonder that a man who sets up for a reasoner, should find nothing to support them but one small circumstance that betrays his carelessness and inattention, or something worse.
Actives and passives then being quite out of the question, we must have recourse to some other criterion to determine who it was that paid tithes, Abraham or Melchizedek. The circumstances of the story are what must lead us to the truth, and to the circumstances Mr. Chubb himself in the next place appeals. Melchizedek, it seems, had done nothing to or for Abraham, which called for such a grateful return; whereas Abraham had laid Melchizedek, and all the people in that neighborhood, under an obligation of gratitude to him, in that he had rid the country of their great oppressor." But what if no gratitude was intended by the giver of tithes to the receiver? Should this be the case, as will presently appear, what will become of this argument from Abraham's services and Melchizedek's gratitude?
There is indeed another circumstance, which, if true, would go near to decide the matter in Mr. Chubb's favor; and that is, that Abraham "had nothing in the valley of Shavek of his own to make a present with, or to give tithes of." But how does it appear that he had nothing proper for this use? Why, "he went out in haste, and the men that were with him; and therefore they took nothing with them but their weapons of war, and what was necessary to annoy the enemy, and did not needlessly incumber themselves with goods and riches to make presents withal." Well then, he went out to seek the enemy with instruments of war only; but did he bring nothing else back with him at his return? Did he not return laden with the spoils taken from Chedorlaomer? And has not the Epistle to the Hebrews told us that he gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoil?* Yes, says Mr. Chubb; but "this supposition is altogether groundless, because when the king of Sodom offered to Abraham all the spoil, Abraham would not accept the least part for himself, not from a thread even to a shoe-latchet." But was it the whole of the spoil which the king of Sodom offered, and which Abraham refused, or was it only the nine parts after a tenth had been given to Melchizedek ? This Mr. Chubb has left undetermined. He goes on: "besides the goods or spoil referred to was, antecedent to the aforesaid quarrel, the property of those unfortunate people whom Chedorlaomer and his adherents had vanquished." But will it follow that because it was their property before it was taken, it must be theirs also after it was retaken? Mr. Chubb must mend his logic, and learn to draw better consequences, or he will certainly not come at that truth which he professes to seek. Every one knows that spoils taken from a conquered enemy are the captor's property by the law of nations. Abraham's dividing to his auxiliaries their portion of the spoil, is an evidence of the law at that time; and his returning his own share to the king of Sodom was a mere act of generosity, in consequence of a vow made to Almighty God, and not restoring a right.
But after all, had Chedorlaomer nothing else of value but what he took at the battle of Siddim? Mr. Chubb is positive that he had not. But has he forgotten that Chedorlaomer engaged the kings of Canaan just after he had conquered several other nations in that neighborhood? And can it be imagined that he conquered them merely for the sake of conquest, and that he neglected to take the usual fruits of victory?
Let him lay these things together, and then judge whether he might not have spared his reflexion on the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, for supposing that the tithes given to Melchizedek were a tenth part of the spoil. To call the supposition of an inspired writer altogether groundless, unnatural, and preposterous, is very hard language at the best; but to call it so without the least color of reason is a liberty which nothing can excuse.
That Abraham had something to give tithes of is a clear point; but that Melchizedek had any thing that could with any propriety be applied to this use, is not so evident. Mr. Chubb says, "he presented Abraham with a tenth part of the bread and wine he had provided, and such other good things as Salem afforded." The history speaks of nothing but bread and wine; the other good things are an addition of his own. And if he is authorised to make history, he might as well make the whole as a part, and then the business would be done without trouble. But be this to himself. That Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine is agreed; but if he gave Abraham a tenth part, and divided the other nine parts amongst his attendants, he made a very unnatural distribution. For what sense could there be in giving to Abraham for present refreshment, thirty or forty times as much as to any man in the company?
But after all, what if the bread and wine were not intended as a refreshment for Abraham and his men, (who wanted it not, having taken plenty of provisions from the enemy,) but for a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God? Should this be the case, where shall we find tithes to compliment Abraham with ? Certain it is, learned men have understood it to be a sacrifice, and I am inclined to think Mr. Chubb cannot prove it was