PART 2 THE DOCTRINE OF TITHING
The Age of Israel
The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt to the Birth of Christ:
Moses led the Jews out from their captivity in Egypt. They arrived at Mount Sinai, where he received the Ten Commandments, along with instructions concerning the building of a tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable tent-like structure that was to be used in the worship of Yahweh throughout their wilderness wanderings to the land that God promised they would inhabit, the Promised Land of Canaan.
Joshua followed Moses as the next leader of the Jews. Under his leadership, the Jews crossed over the Jordan River and entered the land of Canaan, thus becoming a nation of people. This section of the scriptures contains the spiritual ceremonies by which the Jews would worship Yahweh along with the precise ethics they were to follow. These are: the testimonies [the laws directing the commemoration of certain events (e.g. Seventh year Sabbath rest; the 50th year, the year of Jubilee; the ordinance of the Passover; the feast of unleavened bread; etc.)] and the civil statutes (e.g. laws for military service, diet, soil conservation, etc.), which were previously delineated by Moses during their wilderness wanderings, and are now in force at this time.
After Joshua died, the Jews were ruled by various leaders called judges for a period of about 400 years. God would raise up these judges to rule over Israel, when Israel, after a period of apostatizing from Him and being in subjection to a foreign nation, would cry out to him for deliverance from their enemies.
Following the period of the Judges, the Jews decided they wanted a king to rule over them. So, God allowed them to have their desire. Their first three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon ruled over the entire nation or 12 tribes of Israel. After the reign of Solomon, the nation split into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was comprised of 10 tribes, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was comprised of 2 tribes. Because of apostasy, the Northern Kingdom was invaded by the Assyrians and led away into captivity. Years later, the Southern Kingdom was also invaded, and led away into captivity by the Babylonians. When the Babylonian captivity ended, the Jews began to return to their homeland.
During this time, tithing was mentioned frequently. There are also many verses that don’t mention the word “tithing,” but I present them in order to illustrate that what was being offered was considered a tithe.
Remember, a non-dispensationalist will look at all of the scripture sections where tithing was mentioned, and they will incorporate certain verses in order to support the perpetuation or continuation of this practice during the current age in which we live, that which a dispensationalist would identify as the Church Age.
The dispensationalist will look at the practice of tithing as it was used during a particular dispensation. If tithing was used in a particular dispensation this will not necessary mean that it will be used in the dispensation that follows. Verses from another dispensation would not be used to support the continuation of this practice.
The scriptural sections that follow along with the related content as to what they are about will help us to determine if this practice was not only being implemented at this time, but whether it should be a practice that continues on today.
Was the giving of the firstborn male or animal to the Lord considered a tithe?
6. All the Firstborn Are Mine:
Suggested Reading: Exodus 12:12-13, 18, 41-50; 13:1-2, 5-6, 10; Numbers 3:13, 44-45; Deuteronomy 14:22-23
Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the Lord. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord. (Numbers 3:13, 44-45)
In these accounts, the children of Israel have left Egypt, where they had been in captivity for 430 years under the leadership of Moses, and have arrived at a place called Succoth. They are having deliberations concerning the regulations that determine who should be able to participate in the Passover. The deliberation was necessary because there were many people who went out from Egypt with the Jews, who were not Jews.
The Passover refers to the last of the 12 plagues that God instituted against Egypt while the children of Israel were still captives. The children of Israel were told to put blood on the doorposts of the houses they were living in. When the avenging angel passed over the land of Egypt, any house that did not have blood on the doorpost would have the firstborn male of both man and beast slain. As a result of this plague, Pharaoh let the people go. Because Jehovah had preserved the children of Israel that night from the destroyer, it was to be holy to them, to be kept by them on the 14th day of Abib in all future ages. The Lord said to Moses to set aside for religious use all of the firstborn of man and beast of the Jews, whose lives were saved that night.
The Passover which was to be held on the 14 day in the month, Abib, was to be followed on the 15th day by the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, which was to last for seven days, with a special feast occurring on the final day. This feast signified that the children of Israel had to leave the land of Egypt in haste, and because of this they couldn’t wait for their bread to ferment. There was not enough time to allow the yeast to cause the bread to rise. The unleavened bread, which was likened to flatbread or a cracker, was sour, unpleasant, and unwholesome, and served to remind them of their Egyptian misery or slavery. The two feasts are usuallyconsidered one feast. The Passover and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread were not to be observed until the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan.
When the Jews left Succoth, they eventually came to the Red Sea, through which they were able to pass by means of the Lord’s miraculous intervention. In time, they arrived at Mount Sinai, where the people were numbered in a census (Exodus 36:28). One of the 12 tribes, called the tribe of Levi—Levites—was not counted in the numbering. The Levites, along with their cattle, were to be separated or substituted to minister unto the Lord, in place of the firstborn male of the people and their cattle.
Initially the devotion of the first-born male was believed to indicate a priesthood belonging to the eldest sons of families, which was transferred to the tribe of Levi. This priesthood is said to have lasted until the completion of the tabernacle (Jahn, Bibl. Arch. 10:§ 165, 387; Selden, De Syn. c. 16; Mishna, Zebachins, 14:4, vol. v, 58; comp. Ezek 24:5). After the building of the tabernacle and the introduction of the extensive sacrificial service, which required a special priestly order, as well as a separate staff of servants, who could exclusively devote themselves to the ministry of the sanctuary, the offices of the firstborn were superseded by those of the Levites (Numbers iii, 11-13).
The question is: was the setting aside of the firstborn male of man and beast considered a tithe?
Hopefully, we will answer this question as we look at some of the other scripture sections which follow.
Was the temple tax believed to be a tithe?
7. The Temple Tax:
Suggested Reading: Exodus 30:11-16
When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls.
And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation… (Exodus 30:12, 14-16)
So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel; (Numbers 1:45)
But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them. (Numbers 1:47)
The children of Israel are encamped at Mount Sinai. Moses is ordered by the Lord to take a census of the sons of Israel, who were 20 years of age and above, by way of a poll, so much a head, for the service of the tabernacle. This tribute was to be a half a shekel, which was equivalent to about 15 cents today. Both the rich and the poor paid the same amount on a yearly basis. The tax was not levied on women, anyone under 20 years of age, those males that were not able to go to war, or the Levites.
While this head or poll tax was mandated it was not described as being a tithe. This tax not only preserved the lives of the males, who gave it, but it was also used for the service of the tabernacle (which needed money for sacrifices, flour, incense, wine, oil, fuel, salt, the priest’s garments, etc.).
An example of giving which was not considered a tithe.
8. Freewill Offerings to Help Build the Tabernacle:
Suggested Reading: Exodus 35:5, 21; 36:1-3
Take from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart… And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation … (Exodus 35:5, 21)
God commanded Moses to ask the people for offerings of all kinds, including using their talents, in order to: help build the tabernacle and make the decorations, weave the materials, and set the precious stones that were donated. This is an example of free will offerings.
Did the Jews give tithes of 10% on a yearly basis?
9. Three Tithes:
Suggested Reading: Leviticus 25:20-22; Leviticus 27:30-34; Numbers 18:21, 26, 28; Deuteronomy 12:5-7; 14:22, 24, 28-29; 15:19-20; 16:16; Deuteronomy 14:28-29
God commanded Israel to bring forth tithes.The word “tithe” means “a tenth” or 10 percent of what one owns or received, which were delineated in the Mosaic Law for the citizens of Israel. Tithing was not a form of free will giving in the Old Testament.Churches which advocate that tithing is still for today ask their members to tithe 10% of their gross income. However, it will come as a surprise to many of them that tithing for the Jews was tied to a seven year farming cycle known as the Shemittah.
How was the tithe determined under this arrangement?
And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store. (Leviticus 25:20-22)
A. The Levite Tithe of the produce of the land was to be given by those capable every year in the seven year Shemittah cycle. There were not one, not two, but three tithes which were required over this seven-year farming cycle. What were they used for and what percent of one’s agricultural produce was required? These tithes were used for the maintenance of the Levites (the sons of Levi; Levi was a son of Jacob), who were to care for and guard the tabernacle. They in turn would tithe of the 10% they received and give 1% to the high priest. Besides the tithe of the produce of the land it also appears that tithes (the tenth animal out of a group of animals) of the herd or flock or of whatever animal as it passed through a small door was selected and marked by a rod (a stick, the end of which was dipped in red ochre) were given to the Levites.
But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation… Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshing floor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the Lord of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the Lord's heave offering to Aaron the priest. (Numbers 18:23a, 26-28)
And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. (Leviticus 27:32)
It is believed the produce (harvest) of the land from year six would provide an abundance to take care of the tithe for years six, seven, and eight. Another way to say this is the produce harvested from year six could be divided up in order to provide a tithe for years six, seven, and eight. Sowing would resume in the fall of year eight, the harvest of which wouldn’t be available until the fall of year nine. There would be no harvesting in years seven and eight along with no sowing in years six and seven. In this respect year seven would remain fallow, as no harvesting or sowing was allowed. Year eight would begin the first year of the seven-year farming cycle with this same process re-occurring over again.
I have provided a monthly description of what was harvested and when below.
APRIL – Barley.
MAY – Wheat, green almonds, apricots, and plums.
JULY – Grapes, figs, and olives.
AUGUST – Grapes, figs, peaches, apples, and pears.
SEPTEMBER - Pomegranates and bananas.
OCTOBER – Grapes, figs, olives, sugarcane, and dates.
OCTOBER - Wheat and barley.
Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And
thou shalt eat before the Lord thyGod, in the place which he shall choose to place his name
there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlingsof thy herds and of thy
flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. And if the way be too long for
thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord
thy God shall choose to set his name there, when theLord thy God hath blessed thee:
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: (Deuteronomy 16:16)
B. The Festival Tithe was given to support all of the Lord’s feast days and sacrifices for the celebration of God’s people to learn to respect the Lord. This is believed to be a second tithe that was taken from the 90% of the produce of the land that remained after the initial tithe was given to the Levites. In this case this tithe would be 10% of the remaining 90% of the produce of the land, which would essentially be an additional tithe of 9% of what remained. This tithe enabled the Israelites to go up to Jerusalem with their children and servants on a yearly basis for the three pilgrimage festivals (feasts) of Passover (observed with the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Along with the produce of the land,, they would also bring with them the firstling (firstborn) of the herd and flock, which would also be consumed by them at these feasts.
C. The Poor Tithe was given for four groups of people: the Levites who were not located in Jerusalem, aliens (strangers-merchants, tourists, travelers, etc.), orphans, and widows. This third tithe was collected every 3 years during years 3 and 6 of the seven-year farming cycle, and was to be kept in one’s home. Some believe that this was a third tithe, which constituted 10% of the remaining produce (81%) of the land after the tithes of the Levites and Festivals were given. This would constitute about 8% of what remained.
At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
It appears that there were three tithes that the Jews were responsible to give. One for the Levites, another for the festivals, and a third for the poor over seven-year periods of time known as the Shemittah farming cycle. While the literal meaning of a tithe is ten percent, because of the different requirements applying to different years, it appears that the Jews gave over 19% of the fruits of their land during five of the seven farming years and as much as 27% the other two years. As far as the tithe of the animals some commentators believe that this was only given in accordance with the Levite tithe on a yearly basis.
What do you think about this? Would a tithe of 19% or 27% be considered excessive?
This brings me to another story about financial giving. I eventually left the church where the couple was asked to consider working less, and began attending a church that was affiliated with a Bible college. This church also advocated tithing. One thing that stood out to me about this church was that the messages for the most part were directed at helping me as a new Christian learn how to grow spiritually. In time, I was asked if I would consider going on staff and working as an outreach coordinator. I can honestly say that when the messages were preached I was impacted with God’s presence. I also grew in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
In regards to giving financially, one of the things that became more and more prevalent was the request by those in leadership for additional financial support for a ministry need. If anyone had anything of value that they could sell and give the proceeds toward, it was much appreciated. In some cases, the leadership would ask members to consider selling their real estate (e.g. land, houses, etc.). I have to admit that when I heard this request I was taken aback. As for myself, when needs came up in the church that only could be addressed in a financial manner I had no problem selling some of my own possessions and making a donation, about which I have no regrets. Eventually, I was asked to consider going to Bible college to obtain a certification in Christian Leadership. Off I went with my wife and newborn son to undertake a new spiritual chapter.
I loved it there. There was always something going on that one could participate in, such as: worship services, Bible studies, live radio, musical concerts, rap sessions, street witnessing, etc. It was extremely difficult though to find a good paying job. This area was economically depressed; there were not many jobs to choose from. I also became aware, as I began to meet new people on campus, that some of them had sold their houses and given the proceeds to the church with a verbal guarantee that they could live on campus rent free. At first I thought well if that’s what they wanted to do, fine. But I did wonder what would happen if they decided they didn’t want to remain in the church; would they get some of their money back?
Then one day, as I was watching a softball game being played on the campus field, a loud shouting match broke out between the president of the Bible college and another man. What I could gather from what was being said was that a member of a family who was residing on campus was upset because they no longer wanted to live on campus—they were asking for some of the money back that they had given to the church from the sale of their house. It became apparent that they were not going to receive any of the proceeds. As time went on, I noticed that this idea of church members selling real estate and donating the proceeds to the church would resurface from time to time in various messages from the pulpit. I assumed that some church members sold their land or houses and gave the proceeds, while others didn’t. I began to wonder where scripturally this idea had come from. I found it in Acts 2:44-45.
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (Acts 2:45)
At this time, in the first century, there was intense persecution against the Christian Jews at Jerusalem, not only from fellow unsaved Jews, but also from the Roman government. Many of the Jewish Christians either had their property confiscated or were unable to provide for themselves financially because they couldn’t get work or were not supported if they were business-owners. There were some in the church who sold their land or houses and brought the proceeds to the apostles, who would then disperse the money to those in need. What stood out to me as I read about this occurrence were three things. The first thing I noticed here was that this was a time of great persecution, which required financial resources. Second, it doesn’t appear that those in the leadership of the church actually made a request for the members to sell their real estate in order to meet these needs. Third, it appears that those who did sell their land gave as they were led by the Spirit.
My point in presenting this story is that it is one thing for a church to ask for its members to tithe. But it’s quite another thing to ask its members to sell their land or houses. All of us have to live somewhere. If there is a financial need in the church for whatever or whomever there is nothing wrong with letting the members know how much is needed and asking for donations. However, I believe that each member should be able to decide by means of the leading of the Spirit as to what or how much they should give.
In the next scripture section, we will attempt to answer the question, did everyone tithe?
10. Did Everyone Tithe?
And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s… And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. (Leviticus 27:30-32)
There are differences of opinion concerning the answer to this question. It’s possible that the same restrictions that applied to the temple tax would apply to those who were required to tithe. Those required to pay the temple tax were males of age 20 years or older, who were able to go to war. Therefore, those who might not have been mandated to tithe were women, anyone under 20 years of age, those males that were not able to go to war, and the Levites.
Here is another example of free will offerings.
11.Temple Free Will Offerings:
FURTHERMORE David the king said unto all the congregation,…I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house. Then the chief of the fathers and princes…,offered willingly, Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly,… (1 Chronicles 29:1, 3, 6, 9)
King David summoned all of the princes of Israel and addressed them. These princes were the representatives of the people, the leading men of the kingdom. He designated his son, Solomon, as his successor on the throne, having exhorted him to keep the commandments of the Mosaic Law, and eventually to build the Lord a house for a sanctuary. He committed to him sketches and plans for the sacred buildings. Following this, David announced that he would be giving of his own treasures of gold and silver to this construction project, and called upon the people to likewise voluntarily make a contribution for the same purpose. This is an example of free will offerings.
Why did the King of Judah command the people to tithe?
12. Hezekiah Commands the People to Tithe:
Suggested Reading: 2 Chronicles 29:1-31:21
He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them. (2 Chronicles 29:3)
…the Passover…for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written. (2 Chronicles 29:1-30:5)
NOW when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces,(2 Chronicles 31:1)
Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 31:4)
…the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. (2 Chronicles 31:5)
King Hezekiah, at age 25, in approximately 726AD, becomes the next king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, which is comprised of two tribes, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. In the meantime, the Northern Kingdom of the 10 tribes of Israel under King Hoshea, the 19th and last king, is within four years of being taken into captivity by the Assyrians.
During the first month of his rule, Hezekiah has both the outside and inside of the temple at Jerusalem cleansed from idolatrous paraphernalia. Following this cleansing, the doors of the temple are reopened, and the priests and Levites returned to its service. He decided to invite the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to come to the temple at Jerusalem and worship with the people of the Southern Kingdom, in particular observing the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which had not been attended to for a long time. Hezekiah brought about a revival for worshipping Jehovah in Jerusalem. Following this joint participation the idolatrous statues and altars, which were located in the tribal areas of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, were destroyed. The inhabitants of Jerusalem brought tithes to the temple in order to support the high priest and Levites, so that they might devote themselves to the duties laid upon them by the Law as commanded by King Hezekiah.
Are firstfruits synonymous with the tithe?
13. The Firstfruits of all Thine Increase:
Suggest Reading: Proverbs 3:9-10; Deuteronomy 15:19-20; 17:15-20; Leviticus 23:9-10; Exodus 23:16a;Leviticus 23:10, 17; Exodus 23:16b; Nehemiah 10:35
What are firstfruits?
King David is speaking to his son, Solomon, instructing him to keep God’s statutes, which refers to the ordinances of the Law relating to the tabernacle (e.g. Holy Days, Offerings, etc.). Each king of Israel was to receive from the Levites a copy of the Law (many believe this to be the book of Deuteronomy), and make a copy of it for themselves. They were to continually read it and be sure to obey it all the days of their life.
Solomon was also instructed to honor the Lord with the firstfruits of agricultural produce. The firstfruits were the first part of the fields, which the people of Israel were mandated to give, when they entered the land of promise, the land of Canaan. Firstfruits of the fields, tithes of corn, wine, and oil, and the firstlings (firstborn) of the herds or flocks were to be brought by them when they attended the four yearly feasts.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread - Passover (March-April) The feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated the beginning of the barley harvest. Firstfruits were indicated as being a bundle of barley that was gathered from the beginning of the harvest and was brought to the priest in Jerusalem. The Feast of the Passover occurred on the 14 day of Abib and commemorated the final plague, which God initiated in the land of Egypt. In each house that the Jews were dwelling in, a lamb was killed and blood was applied to the doorposts. Any house on which no blood was applied would have the firstborn male and animals killed. As a result of this plague, Pharaoh finally decided to let the people go. This feast occurred 50 days before Pentecost. Passover lasted for one day, and was followed immediately by the feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted for 7 days.
The Feast of Weeks - Pentecost (June and July) marked the end of the wheat harvest. Firstfruits refer to the “firstfruits of thy labours” or to the first of the field-produce, which was to be offered to God. The first of field produce was bread, which was made of wheat flour.
The Feast of Tabernacles - Ingathering (September-October) refers to the final harvest of all the grain and the picking of the fruit in the vineyards and orchards. There is not much mentioned in specifics concerning the firstfruits of the vineyards and orchards.
Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep. Thou shalt eat it before the Lord thy God year by year in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household. (Deuteronomy 15:19-20)
What do you think? Are the firstfruits considered as a tithe? And better yet, are the firstlings of the herd or flock considered as a tithe?The firstfruits of produce or the firstlings (firstborn) of the flock were not considered as being a tithe, but are considered of being that which was first. The tithe was considered as being 10% of the final harvest. In relation to animals, it was considered to be every tenth animal that passed through a small door and was selected by means of a rod whose tip was covered with red ochre.
These verses are considered to be a main proof for those churches that advocate that tithing should continue to be observed.
14. Will a Man Rob God?
Suggested Reading: Malachi 2:1-17; Malachi 3:6-11
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings”. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:8, 10-11)
The book of Malachi speaks of a time surrounding the building of the second temple. The first temple was built under King Solomon in approximately 1008 BC. Later, in about 937 BC, the kingdom was divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel comprised of 10 tribes and the Southern Kingdom of Judah comprised of 2 tribes. The first temple, which was located at Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom, was destroyed in 587 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar of Chaldea (the Babylonian Empire). The Jews became slaves to him.
Upon the return from their captivity in approximately 516 BC, they worked on reconstructing the temple until it was eventually rebuilt (second temple).The people at some point decided to no longer give of their tithes and offerings. The Lord said that because they did not render tithes and offerings to the Levites, that He Himself suffered fraud. His ministers, constrained by hunger and penury, deserted the temple. As a result, they were no longer able to treasure up discernment. Instead, they proclaimed that everyone that did evil was good in the sight of the Lord.The Lord encouraged the people by saying to them that if they would bring their tithes of corn, new wine, and oil into the storehouse (refers to a special room or rooms in the temple for keeping tithed grain), then he would open the windows of heaven (provide adequate rainfall) and pour out upon them a blessing (an overabundance for the storehouse), and would not cause the fruits of the ground to be destroyed (by locusts).
As we can see, tithing was very prominent during the Age of Israel. Let’s summarize what we have found out about it and then take a look at what the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist would have to say in regards to answering the question, is tithing still relevant?
●The Passover refers to the last of the 12 plagues that God instituted against Egypt while the children of Israel were still captives. This plague preserved or saved the life of the first born of the Jews’ men and animals. This final plague would result in Pharaoh allowing the children of Israel to leave Egypt. Eventually, they arrived at Mount Sinai, where the people were numbered in a census. One of the 12 tribes, the tribe of Levi, was not counted in the numbering. The Levites, along with their cattle, were substituted to minister unto the Lord in place of the firstborn of the people and their cattle. Exodus 12:12-13, 18, 41-50; 13:1-2, 5-6, 10; Numbers 3:13, 44-45; Deuteronomy 14:22-24
●The children of Israel are encamped at Mount Sinai. Moses is ordered by the Lord to take a census of the sons of Israel, who were 20 years of age and above, by way of a poll, so much a head, for the service of the tabernacle. This tribute was to be a half a shekel, which was equivalent to about 15 cents today. Both the rich and the poor paid the same amount on a yearly basis. The tax was not levied on women, anyone under 20 years of age, those males that were not able to go to war, or the Levites. This was not considered as being a tithe.Exodus 30:11-16
●Moses asked the people for offerings of all kinds, which included them using their own talents to: help build the tabernacle; make the decorations, weave the materials, and set the precious stones that were donated. This is an example of free will offerings.Exodus 35:5,21; 36:1-3
●Some believe that the Jews gave tithes (10%) of the land produce and animals once a year. However, further study of scripture appears to indicate that there were three tithes: one for the Levites, one for the festivals, and one for the poor. Furthermore, these tithes were connected to the seven-year farming cycle known as the Shemittah. During these years a minimum of 19% of the land produce was given, and up to as much as 27%. Many commentators believe the animal tithe was only given on a yearly basis. Leviticus 25:20-22; Leviticus 27:30-34; Numbers 18:21, 26, 28; Deuteronomy12:5-7; 14:22, 24, 28-29; 15:19, 20; 16:16
●It appears that not every Jew was mandated to tithe. Those required to tithe were males of age 20 years or older, who were able to go to war. Therefore, those who might not have been mandated to tithe were women, anyone under 20 years of age, those males that were not able to go to war, and the Levites. Leviticus 27:30, 32
●King David asked all of the people to give willingly for the building of a temple. This was an example of a free will offering.1 Chronicles Chapters 28 & 29
●During the first month, Nisan, in the first year of the reign of King Hezekiah of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, he reopened the doors of the temple in Jerusalem, and brought back the high priests and the Levites. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were commanded by the king to bring tithes to the temple to support the priests and Levites, so that they might devote themselves to the duties laid upon them by the Law. 2 Chronicles 29:1-31:21
●Solomon was instructed by his father King David to honor the Lord with the firstfruits of agricultural produce. The firstfruits were the first part of the fields, which the people of Israel were mandated to give, when they entered the land of promise, the land of Canaan. For example,the firstfruits of barley was indicated as being a bundle of barley that was gathered from the beginning of the harvest. The firstfruits of produce or the firstlings (firstborn) of the flock were not considered as being a tithe, but are considered of being that which was first. The tithe was considered as being 10% of the final harvest. In relation to animals, the tithe was considered to be every tenth animal that passed through a small door and was selected and marked by means of a rod whose tip was dipped in red ochre.
The firstfruits of the fields, tithes of corn, wine, and oil, and the firstlings (firstborn) of the herds or flocks were to be brought by them when they attended the four yearly feasts. Proverbs 3:9-10; Deuteronomy 15:19-20; 17:15-20; Leviticus 23:9-10; Exodus 23:16a;Leviticus 23:10, 17; Exodus 23:16b; Nehemiah 10:35
●Upon the return of the Jews from their captivity to Babylon, in 516 BC, the temple was under construction and eventually rebuilt (the second temple). However, the nation was not providing tithes and offerings, and as a result the Levites and priests deserted the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord said to the people that if they would bring their tithes of corn, new wine, and oil into the storehouse (a special room in the temple), then he would open the windows of heaven (provide adequate rainfall) and pour out a blessing (an overabundance), and will not cause the fruits of the ground to be destroyed (by locusts). Malachi 2:1-17; 3:6-11
Remember, the views regarding whether the practice of “tithing” is to be continued or not continued during our current age is determined by how the verses that have been presented are grouped, that being either by dispensations (ages or eras during which time God related to human beings under different biblical covenants) or as a whole (to not use eras or ages; to use any verse on tithing as the basis to support the continuation of this practice). If the leadership of the church you are attending is dispensational, then their view on tithing will be different from the leadership of those churches who are non-dispensationalists. Based on the verses we have just looked at, what would be their conclusion in regard to answering the question, is tithing still relevant?
The dispensationalist would say that tithing was instituted during the Age of Israel for the nation of Israel. They would make no decision as to whether tithing was for the New Testament church unless there were verses taken from either the Age of the Gentiles or Age of the Jews, which clearly stated that tithing was to be continued during the time when the New Testament church would come into existence.
The non-dispensationalist would have many reasons to say that tithing is to be continued during the Age of the Church.
~ They might begin by saying that the basis for tithing occurred before the institution of the Mosaic Law, when Abram tithed to Melchizedek. In this regard, they would state that Melchizedek was a type of Christ, who was mentioned as being a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Therefore they would conclude that if tithes were given to Melchizedek by Abraham, then tithes should be given by the church to Christ.
~ Furthermore, they would say that tithing was mandated by God for the nation of Israel when they entered the Promised Land of Canaan. They will argue that biblically tithing was still observed during the time when Christ lived on the earth.
~ The non-dispensationalist would suggest that as the Jews were blessed with agricultural prosperity by God so New Testament saints will be blessed financially by God if they tithe.
~ And by the way there are also those that would say a Christian is not only obligated to tithe but also to give financially that which is first as signified by the offering of Abel (Genesis 4:3-7)and the bringing forth by the Jews of the firstfruits of the fields, tithes of corn, wine, and oil, and the firstlings (firstborn) of the herds or flocks, when they attended the four yearly feasts.
So, there you have it! Two distinct views have been presented concerning the topic of “tithing”—whether it should or shouldn’t be a practice by which the New Testament believer observes. We still have two more dispensations to look into! Are you enjoying reading about this topic? Have you learned anything new about this topic? Are you becoming more aware of how a view on any biblical topic may be determined by those in the leadership of the church?
In the next chapter, we will take a look at the subject of tithing during the Incarnation of Christ. What was Christ’s view on this topic?
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