Many Christians believe that Abraham’s tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek is older than and superior to the abolished food tithe of the law of Moses. They hinge their tithe payments to this Genesis 14 event but find it difficult to practice it exactly like Abraham.

I have studied the fourteenth chapter of Genesis many times. Here is a summary of the chapter.   

King Chedorlaomer of Elam and the three kings who joined forces with him were on a war campaign to crush the nations who rebelled against him. This army defeated the rebellious nations and headed towards Sodom and Gomorrah.

 The Kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela were defeated by Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. They also carted away all the goods and food supplies of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s nephew, Lot was among the people who became prisoners of war.

Abraham received the news of Lot’s capture from one of the war prisoners who escaped. Abraham knew he had to get his nephew back. He took his 318 trained servants and some war veterans and pursued his nephew’s captors.

He successfully attacked and defeated King Chedorlaomer’s army at Hobah. Lot and all the war prisoners and their possessions were rescued. Abraham met with a Canaanite priest-king of Salem called Melchizedek as he returned from the battlefield.

Melchizedek gave the war heroes bread and wine. He blessed Abraham and thanked God for Abraham’s victory. Abraham then gave Melchizedek tithes (10%) of all the war spoils he brought back.

Should Christians make a doctrine out of this story? Did God make a doctrine out of Abraham’s tithe? Here are my findings from a careful study of the whole chapter of Genesis 14.  

Fact # 1

Abraham was rich in silver, gold, crops, livestock and servants before his onetime meeting with Melchizedek. The Bible has no records of Abraham paying tithes from his wealth. His tithe to Melchizedek did not kick-start his prosperity.

Fact # 2

The Bible has no records showing that God instructed Abraham to pay a tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek. If Lot had not been a prisoner of war, Melchizedek would not have received any tithe from Abraham.

Fact # 3

Abraham paid this tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek once. The Bible has no records showing that Abraham returned to Melchizedek ever again with more tithes. Proponents of Abraham’s tithe should rescue a close relative and pay a onetime tithe from the proceeds.

Fact # 4

The other war heroes who went with Abram took their shares of the war spoils while Abram decided not to take any share of the war spoils. Abraham honored Yahweh by refusing the blessings from a pagan custom (verses 22 & 23).

Fact # 5

The sharing formula for the war spoils was okay with all the war heroes who participated in the rescue mission. Abraham did nothing new that day. He only obeyed the custom of the land by giving Melchizedek a tenth of the war spoils. God later gave the Israelites His own formula for sharing war spoils (Numbers 31:21-31).

Fact # 6

Abraham and Melchizedek referred to God by different names. Melchizedek called Him “the most high God” while Abraham used His covenant name “the LORD, the most high God”. Melchizedek would have known God’s covenant name if he was Yahweh’s true priest. This clearly showed that Abraham’s God was different from the one worshipped by Melchizedek. 

Fact # 7

King Bera of Sodom was the pagan king of pagan Sodom. He made a plea for his people to be given to him in verse 21 while asking Abraham to keep the goods. If the event of that day was the payment of tithes to Yahweh, a pagan king should not be the one instructing Abraham on how to go about it.

Fact # 8

The Old Testament has no records of God referring to Abraham’s tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek. This showed that God did not recognize it nor was he part of that transaction. He never reminded the Levites that the tithe laws given to them had root in Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek.

Fact # 9

Abraham’s onetime tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek was not an act of worship to Yahweh. Melchizedek was not Abraham’s priest. Abram had a direct line to God because he played priestly roles (building altars and performing animals sacrifices) for his family.

Fact # 10

Jesus did not mention Abraham’s tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek. The only tithe he spoke of was the Levitical tithe (Matthew 23:23) which later became abolished after his death and resurrection.


The tithe system found in many churches and Christian organizations is different from Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek. Today, money is used in the payment of tithes and must be paid regularly. Abraham did not practice this. He paid a onetime tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek and that was it.

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