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       Before we get to the verse most frequently used to teach tithing as a requirement for Christians, let’s make sure we have a firm foundation for understanding the context of Malachi. If you haven’t read my discussion on 2 Chronicles 31 and Nehemiah 10, 12, and 13, please take the time to go back and study those articles. This post will still be here for you to read later. It’s important to have the right historical context for Malachi before reading and interpreting it. (Nehemiah and Malachi probably lived in the same place at the same time, so studying Nehemiah will help you better understand Malachi.)

Robbing God’s Tithes and Offerings

       Malachi 3:8-12 begins by accusing the sons of Jacob of robbing God in tithes and offerings.

       6 “For I, Yahweh, don’t change; therefore you, sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says Yahweh of Armies. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings.”

Malachi 3:6-8 (WEB)

       As we’ve studied already, these tithes and offerings are the things God specifically commanded to the Israelites. Although tithing advocates use these verses to support a single 10% tithe to the church, they do not discuss the other tithes God required of the Israelites or the various offerings (sin, peace, wave, etc.) He required of them as well. God was calling the people and the priests to return to keeping all of His commandments, statutes, and ordinances – not just those concerning a single 10% tithe. Using this passage of Scripture to teach a requirement of tithing to a church without including the requirement to follow all of the Law is abusing the Scriptures and twisting it for man’s purposes.

Cursed with the Curse

       God makes it clear that He is specifically speaking to the nation of Israel (and not to Christians) by cursing them with “the curse”.

       You are cursed with the curse; for you rob me, even this whole nation.

Malachi 3:9 (WEB)

       The nation of Israel had bound themselves to follow all of the commandments, statutes, and ordinances found in the Law under penalty of the curse (see my discussion on Nehemiah). What is “the curse” if not the curse that applied to those who did not keep the whole Law?

       Those who use these verses in Malachi to teach Christians that they will be cursed if they do not tithe are seriously misusing the Scriptures. You must understand that the curse God is referring to here is the same curse found in Deuteronomy 27 and 28, which applies to the Israelites who do not keep the Law of Moses.

       So if you want to teach Christians that they must tithe or else be cursed by God, then you must also teach them to keep every single commandment in the Law or else be cursed. And if you want to do that, you might as well ignore the fact that Jesus came to die for our sins and take away the curse of the Law. But we know that we (Christians) no longer live by the Law but by faith because Christ redeemed us from the curse.

       10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
       
       11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not of faith, but, “The man who does them will live by them.”
       
       13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:10-14 (WEB)

       So we should not be teaching that Christians must tithe under penalty of a curse from God, or else we completely ignore all that Jesus did for us. We cannot place ourselves under the yoke of the Law with regards to tithing and choose to ignore all of the other commandments, statutes, and ordinances that are found in the Law.

The Tithe in the Storehouse

       Verse 10 then says to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in God’s house.

       “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this,” says Yahweh of Armies, “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough for.”

Malachi 3:10 (WEB)

       As we learned in our study of Nehemiah and 2 Chronicles 31, the Temple storehouse was not designed to hold the entire tithe of Israel. Only the Levites received the tithe, and they received it in their Levitical cities (not at the Temple). It was then the duty of the Levites to bring the tithe of the tithes to the Temple so there would be food available for the Levites and priests serving at the Temple during their shifts. Nehemiah specifically notes that the priests had stolen the Levites’ portion of the tithe of the tithes and the Levites went home so they could eat. (And remember that Nehemiah and Malachi address the same time period in Israel.)

       Tithing advocates stretch the meaning of this verse to include the full tithe that went to the Levites and say that the storehouse is the local church. However, the clear context of these verses and the Bible’s teaching on the tithe do not support these ideas. Furthermore, placing Christians under the burden and curse of the Law entirely ignores Christ’s sacrifice for us.

The Tithe Was Still Food and Only Food

       Finally, these verses continue to make it evident that God’s tithing statutes for the Israelites only included food and never money.

       10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this,” says Yahweh of Armies, “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough for. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before its time in the field,” says Yahweh of Armies. 12 “All nations shall call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Malachi 3:10-12 (WEB)
emphasis mine

       Every single instance of tithing in the Bible, including this one, refers to the tithe containing only food and never money. The entire description of how God would bless the Israelites in this passage relates to the production of food. It’s all about how God would send them rain (open the windows of heaven means to send rain) and protect their crops. It says nothing about money or income – only food because that’s all the tithe ever contained. It was not that the Israelites did not have money – there are plenty of Biblical examples that show the use of money before, during, and after tithing was enacted among the Israelites. God never intended for the Israelites’ tithes to contain money.

       But modern tithing teachers tell you that you must give 10% from any and all sources of income – not just agricultural produce. At the same time they claim to be holding to the Bible’s teaching about tithing. It should be very clear by now that the Bible never taught anyone to tithe money, but men today want your money and teach false doctrines in an effort to get as much as they can. When will we open our eyes to this truth?

No More Lies

       I challenge you to study the truth of what I am saying and to read what God has to say about this issue. Stop listening to men long enough to hear God and then you will find His truth. We have seen that Malachi 3:8-12 plainly does not apply to Christians, but it is constantly used to force Christians to tithe out of fear of a curse from God. Do not let these lies infest your church any longer! Stand up for the truth and follow God’s principles for New Covenant giving.

Stay Tuned!

       With this we’ve looked at all the Old Testament examples of tithing. (I didn’t look at Amos 4:4-5, but it barely mentions tithing and hardly applies to our study.) I’ll begin looking at New Testament verses on tithing next week. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you don’t want to miss anything!

       Nehemiah 10, 12, and 13 provide some of the clearest verses on how tithing worked in the Old Testament. Having a solid understanding of tithing in Nehemiah is critical if you want to correctly understand Malachi 3:8-10. Too many people look at those verses in Malachi without correctly understanding the meaning behind those verses. Then they take those verses and apply them to Christians – saying that those who tithe will be blessed and those who do not will be cursed.

       When we get to Malachi, we’ll see why understanding how tithing worked is important and why many modern applications of the verses in Malachi miss the mark in the meaning of those verses. Let’s take some time now to prepare for our study of Malachi by looking at the context that Nehemiah gives us.

An Oath to Do All of God’s Commandments

       An important factor to consider as we study Nehemiah and Malachi is that these Israelites were under the Law of Moses including the blessings and curses that came with it. Jesus’ sacrifice paid the full price for the punishment that is due to us under the Law of Moses, which means the curses of the Law do not apply to us any more. Malachi was written specifically to the Israelites – and more specifically to a group of Israelites that had entered into a curse and taken an oath to keep all of God’s commandments, ordinances, and statutes.

       28 The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge, and understanding— 29 they joined with their brothers, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of Yahweh our Lord, and his ordinances and his statutes;

Nehemiah 10:28-29 (WEB)

       What I find interesting is that tithing advocates today choose to bind themselves and others to the statute of tithing but neglect all the other commandments, ordinances, and statutes God gave the Israelites. Even following these two verses in Nehemiah are several things that no one teaches Christians to do like refusing to buy or sell on the Sabbath (Saturday), not charging interest to fellow Christians, and observing the Sabbatical Year every seventh year. But God’s Word tells us that if we try to keep the whole Law and fail in even one point then we’re guilty of failing in all of it.

       10 For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged by a law of freedom.

James 2:10-12 (WEB)

       By His blood, Jesus has paid for the condemnation we are under because of our sin – taking away that condemnation from us and along with it the curses of the Law. So when someone tells you that God will curse you if you do not tithe, they are failing to realize that we are under a law of freedom in Christ and they ignore the value and purpose of His shed blood. (Note that this is not a freedom to do whatever we wish. We are free from the punishment of the Law because Christ paid what was due on our behalf.)

       This understanding is key to knowing why the curses of Malachi 3:8-10 do not apply to Christians. God still calls us to give, but it is no longer under the statutes of tithing. We are called to give because of His love living in us as His Spirit leads us.

The Tithe Went to the Levites – Not the Temple

       Although we already learned this in Numbers 18, the tithes went to the Levites in the cities where they lived. It was the Levites’ responsibility to bring the tithe of the tithes to the Temple for the support of the priests and the Levites while they were serving in their shifts. This is made clear by these verses in Nehemiah:

       34 We cast lots, the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of Yahweh our God, as it is written in the law; 35 and to bring the first fruits of our ground, and the first fruits of all fruit of all kinds of trees, year by year, to the house of Yahweh; 36 also the firstborn of our sons, and of our livestock, as it is written in the law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; 37 and that we should bring the first fruits of our dough, and our wave offerings, and the fruit of all kinds of trees, the new wine and the oil, to the priests, to the rooms of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground to the Levites; for they, the Levites, take the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.

       38The priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms, into the treasure house.

Nehemiah 10:34-38 (WEB)
emphasis mine

       It’s very important you understand those parts I emphasized before reading Malachi 3:8-10. The people of Israel only brought the first fruits and the firstborn to the Temple for the priests. These first fruits would have been quite small compared to the tithe that came from all of Israel. First fruits were small enough to fit into a basket.

       The tithe went to the Levites, who lived in the Levitical cities (not at the Temple). Then the Levites were charged with bringing the tithe of the tithes to the Temple. Only the Levites – not the people of Israel – took the tithes into the Temple storehouse. Further evidence is given in Nehemiah 12 that the Levites gathered the whole tithe (10%) in their cities and brought a tenth of that (1% of all Israel’s increase) to the Temple storehouse.

       On that day were men appointed over the rooms for the treasures, for the wave offerings, for the first fruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them, according to the fields of the cities, the portions appointed by the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites who waited.

Nehemiah 12:44 (WEB)
emphasis mine

       This is important to understand because those who use Malachi 3:8-10 to teach tithing to Christians hold that those verses are speaking to the entire nation of Israel to bring their tithes into the Temple storehouse – which they then use to say that Christians should bring their tithes into the church. However, such an application of those verses is wrong because:

  1. Christians are not under the curses of the Law.
  2.        

  3. The New Testament temple is not a building – the bodies of those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them are the temple.
  4.        

  5. Only the Levites – not all of Israel – took tithes into the Temple storehouse – and even then it was only a tithe of the tithes (a tenth of the 10% all of Israel gave to the Levites).

Priests Who Steal

       The final part of Nehemiah that we’ll study gives us a clear context for Malachi. Both books were written around the same time, and both books show how the priests failed to follow God’s statutes concerning the use of the tithe of the tithes.

       In Nehemiah 13:4-12, we see how the priests had failed to give the Levites their portion of the tithe of the tithes while they were serving in the Temple. It appears that the priests even stole the Levites’ portion of the tithe of the tithes.

       4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the rooms of the house of our God, being allied to Tobiah, 5 had prepared for him a great room, where before they laid the meal offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the wave offerings for the priests.

       6 But in all this, I was not at Jerusalem; for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king: and after certain days asked I leave of the king, 7 and I came to Jerusalem, and understood the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a room in the courts of God’s house. 8 It grieved me severely: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the room. 9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the rooms: and there brought I again the vessels of God’s house, with the meal offerings and the frankincense.

       10 I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them; so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled everyone to his field. 11 Then I contended with the rulers, and said, “Why is God’s house forsaken?” I gathered them together, and set them in their place. 12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the treasuries.

Nehemiah 13:4-12 (WEB)

       Due to Eliashib’s actions the Levites who were serving at the Temple were not receiving the portion due to them. So the Levites went back home and started working in their fields (like they normally did when they weren’t serving in the Temple) so they’d have something to eat. After Nehemiah got the Levites to come back, he needed to replenish the food the priests had stolen. That’s why we see all of Judah bringing the tithe to the treasuries of the Temple rather than to the Levitical cities. This was a special exemption to the normal practice because of the circumstances. If Nehemiah had not done this, there would still have been no food for the Levites while they were serving at the temple.

       This passage shows us three things:

  1. The tithe that belonged in the storehouse of the Temple was meant to provide food in God’s house for those who were serving at the Temple. However, this is the tithe of the tithes – not the full tithe that was given to the Levites. This is key to understanding Malachi 3:8-10.
  2.        

  3. The Levites did not serve at the Temple full time. They had fields they farmed when they weren’t serving their shift at the Temple.
  4.        

  5. The tithe was still only food items and never money. This aspect of tithing never changed in the Bible. Modern tithing supporters have changed it to include money.

Stay Tuned!

       We still have several verses to examine concerning tithing. However, the last few Scriptures won’t need nearly as much background information to understand. Thanks for sticking with me as we look at these Old Testament examples of tithing. After we look at Malachi, we’ll be looking at New Testament verses on tithing. If you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning.

Tithing in the Bible: 2 Chronicles 31

Corey —  November 30, 2009

       After Deuteronomy 26, tithing is not mentioned in the Bible again until 2 Chronicles 31 – almost 800 years later. This chapter contains the account of how King Hezekiah reestablished the worship of God among the Israelites after a long period of bad kings, rule by other nations, and worship of false Gods. In fact, Ahaz, the king who ruled just before Hezekiah, had shut up the doors to the Temple and began worshiping Baal and other false gods (2 Chronicles 28).

       So as we look at this passage, we have to realize that this is all occurring after a long period of time where the Law of Moses was not taught and the Israelites had not been worshiping God. Hezekiah got some things right and some things wrong as he was leading Israel back to worship God. We’ll see why this is true as we look back at the original commands to tithe in the Law of Moses.

Revival in Jerusalem

       Everything that happens in 2 Chronicles 31 follows the events of chapter 30. Hezekiah had called out to all of Israel asking them to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and worship God. Not everyone came, but the ones who did come celebrated the Passover with great joy. In fact, they decided to spend an extra week celebrating and worshiping God. This was the start of a great revival among the Israelites.

       Chapter 31 picks up by describing how those who observed the Passover in Jerusalem went out and destroyed all the altars and idols of false gods in the areas that belonged to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. After they went home, Hezekiah took the first step to reestablishing the worship of God at the Temple by appointing the priests and Levites to their divisions to serve at the Temple.

       Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and the Levites after their divisions, every man according to his service, both the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the camp of Yahweh.

2 Chronicles 31:2 (WEB)

       After this, he sends out a command to those living in Jerusalem to give the tithe.

       4 Moreover he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the law of Yahweh. 5 As soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. 6 The children of Israel and Judah, who lived in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of dedicated things which were consecrated to Yahweh their God, and laid them by heaps. 7 In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.

2 Chronicles 31:4-7 (WEB)

       The “portion of the priests and Levites” is referring to the tithe that went the Levites and the tithe of the tithes that the Levites gave to the priests (as we learned when we looked at Numbers 18). The command in Numbers 18 applied to all of Israel, but here we only see the Israelites in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside (Judah) bringing in the tithe.

       Again, we see that the tithe consisted only of food items and never money. Otherwise, the tithe would not have ended for that year after the harvest was over (the seventh month). The Israelites would have kept bringing money from their income in all year round. But as we know, the tithe was never on an Israelite’s income – it was only on the increase in their crops and their herds or flocks (again, check out Numbers 18).

The Temple Was Not the Storehouse for All the Tithes

       The command that Hezekiah gave to resume tithing did not go out to all of the Israelites – only to those living in Jerusalem. It then spread to those living near Jerusalem in the region of Judah – but those Israelites only brought the tithe of the cattle, sheep, and the things they had dedicated or vowed to the Lord. So the things that made up the heaps were only a small portion of what the entire nation of Israel would have ever tithed, and even this small amount was too much to fit into the Temple at Jerusalem. In fact, it was so much that Hezekiah had to have rooms prepared in the Temple to hold all the extra.

       8 When Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed Yahweh, and his people Israel. 9 Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.

       10 Azariah the chief priest, of the house of Zadok, answered him and said, “Since people began to bring the offerings into the house of Yahweh, we have eaten and had enough, and have left plenty: for Yahweh has blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.”

       11 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of Yahweh; and they prepared them.

2 Chronicles 31:8-11 (WEB)

       Many people who use Malachi 3:8-10 to teach tithing for Christians explain that Israel was commanded to bring all the tithes into the storehouse at the Temple. They then say that today’s church buildings are the modern-day equivalent of the Temple, so Christians should bring all their tithes to the church building. However, this is not correct for five main reasons:

  1. The Israelites were to give the tithes to the Levites. Then the Levites were to give the tithe of the tithes to the priests and take the tithe of the tithes to the Temple (the place God chose). (See Numbers 18 and Nehemiah 10:34-39)
  2.        

  3. The Temple in Jerusalem was never meant to hold all the tithes of Israel. It was designed only to hold the tithe of the tithes. It would not have been large enough to hold a tenth of all the agricultural produce within the land of Israel.
  4.        

  5. Most of the Levites were not priests, and they all (the priests and the Levites) served in one week shifts at the Temple. So at most they were working at the Temple two weeks out of the year. The rest of the time they lived in the Levitical cities and their suburbs working at their regular jobs just like everyone else.
  6.        

  7. The tithes would have gone to the Levites where they lived (in the Levitical cities – not the Temple). The Levites would have then taken the tithe of the tithes to the Temple to support the priests and the Levites who were serving at the Temple during their shifts.
  8.        

  9. The tithe as it is described in the Bible does not apply to Christians.

       All of this will become clearer when we study the verses about tithing in Nehemiah, but you can even see it in 2 Chronicles:

       15 Under him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their office of trust, to give to their brothers by divisions, as well to the great as to the small: 16 besides those who were reckoned by genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even everyone who entered into the house of Yahweh, as the duty of every day required, for their service in their offices according to their divisions; 17 and those who were reckoned by genealogy of the priests by their fathers’ houses, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their offices by their divisions; 18 and those who were reckoned by genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their office of trust they sanctified themselves in holiness.

       19 Also for the sons of Aaron the priests, who were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every city, there were men who were mentioned by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all who were reckoned by genealogy among the Levites.

2 Chronicles 31:15-19 (WEB)
emphasis mine

       Like I said, we’ll see this better as we study Nehemiah. Then we’ll be able to understand Malachi 3:8-10 in the correct context (and by looking at the whole book of Malachi rather than just a few verses).

       If you were caught off guard by the idea that the Levites did not spend all their time at the Temple, take some time to check out Joshua 21:1-45, Nehemiah 10:37, and Nehemiah 13:10. You can find more proof that the Levites had other jobs (besides ministering at the Temple) by looking at 1 Chronicles 23:3-5.

Stay Tuned…

       We’ve seen here again that the Biblical tithe was quite different from what tithing advocates teach today. We’re going to keep seeing this as we examine the rest of the Scriptures on tithing. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss anything!

       When we looked at Numbers 18, we found that the tithe only consisted of agricultural products (crops grown and animals raised) and was not based on an Israelite’s income (in money). We also found that only a tithe of the tithes went to the priests, while the remaining nine-tenths of the tithe belonged to the Levites. Today, we’re going to look at three places in Deuteronomy where the tithe is discussed in more detail, and we’ll find some more surprising things that aren’t taught by tithing advocates.

       These passages are also sometimes used to determine that there may have been one or two tithes in addition to the tithe that supported the Levites and the priests. However, I’m personally not sure it’s clear exactly how many tithes the Israelites paid and it doesn’t really matter. These passages contain enough clear teaching to refute anyone who would try to teach that Christians should be tithing 10% of their gross income to their church.

Statutes & Ordinances

       Tithing is mentioned three times in Deuteronomy 12, but first we’re going to look at how this chapter begins. It starts out by making it clear that the things which follow are for Israel and apply in the land of Israel.

       These are the statutes and the ordinances which you shall observe to do in the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess it, all the days that you live on the earth.

Deuteronomy 12:1 (WEB)

       Moses is about to explain the statutes and ordinances that God has given him to set before the Israelites. Many of these statutes and ordinances include things that Christians do not even consider maintaining today, such as the dietary laws. But some believe that the tithe is somehow different and stands apart from all the other statutes and ordinances contained in Deuteronomy and the rest of the Law. However, Moses makes no distinction between the statutes on tithing and those concerning anything else. They were all statutes and ordinances that God commanded the Israelites to follow.

       We cannot choose to enforce one of these laws and neglect all the others. But how many tithing advocates have you heard teach that Christians are required to keep all the Laws of Moses? Even the Jewish Christians did not impose such requirements on the Gentile Christians (in Acts).

Eating the Tithe

       Later in Deuteronomy 12, we see that Moses instructs the Israelites to eat their tithes in the place God chooses.

       5 But to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, even to his habitation you shall seek, and there you shall come; 6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and the wave offering of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock: 7 and there you shall eat before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, in which Yahweh your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 (WEB)

       This is then followed by a passage explaining that the tithes and offerings were to be taken to the place God chooses after the Israelites pass over the Jordon. This passage also repeats the command about rejoicing before the Lord after bringing the tithes.

       10 But when you go over the Jordan, and dwell in the land which Yahweh your God causes you to inherit, and he gives you rest from all your enemies around you, so that you dwell in safety; 11 then it shall happen that to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the wave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which you vow to Yahweh. 12 You shall rejoice before Yahweh your God, you, and your sons, and your daughters, and your male servants, and your female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you.

Deuteronomy 12:10-12 (WEB)

       And later on we see yet another passage that discusses eating the tithe before the Lord in the place He chooses. Additionally, the following passage indicates that all the Israelites ate of the tithe along with the Levites.

       17 You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain, or of your new wine, or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, nor any of your vows which you vow, nor your freewill offerings, nor the wave offering of your hand; 18 but you shall eat them before Yahweh your God in the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your male servant, and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates: and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God in all that you put your hand to.

Deuteronomy 12:17-18 (WEB)

       Then in chapter 14 we see the command to tithe repeated once again and with it the command to eat the tithe before the Lord.

       22 You shall surely tithe all the increase of your seed, that which comes forth from the field year by year. 23 You shall eat before Yahweh your God, in the place which he shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, the tithe of your grain, of your new wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock; that you may learn to fear Yahweh your God always.

       24 If the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you, which Yahweh your God shall choose, to set his name there, when Yahweh your God shall bless you; 25 then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose: 26 and you shall bestow the money for whatever your soul desires, for cattle, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 (WEB)

       Verses 24 through 26 talk about selling the tithe and converting it to money if it’s too much to carry to the place God has chosen. But once the Israelites arrived at the place God had chosen, they were to use the money they got from selling their tithe to buy food and drink to eat before the Lord and celebrate. Clearly, money was used during this time, but it was never considered to be part of the the tithe. The Israelites never paid a tithe on their money or income – they tithed on the increase they had in their crops, herds, and flocks.

       Now don’t you find these passages quite strange when compared with the modern teaching of tithing? Tithing advocates often condemn those who do not pay a full 10% to their church – but God commanded the Israelites to eat their tithes in His presence. Tithing is taught as 10% of your gross (or sometimes net) income – but God commanded the Israelites to only tithe the increase of their fields (crops) and animals (herds or flocks). Israelites who did not farm or raise animals would have never paid the tithe as it is described in the Law of Moses.

The Levites, the Strangers, the Orphans, and the Widows

       Finally, we’re going to look at two places where the tithe seems to have been used to specifically care for the poor. Some take this to mean that the normal tithe was kept in each Israelite city every third year to help care for the poor, while others believe this was a separate tithe (a full 10%) that was only paid every third year for the same purpose. Either way, it doesn’t matter for our purposes. The point here is that at least every third year the tithe (as described in the Bible) went specifically to the poor and needy.

       27 The Levite who is within your gates, you shall not forsake him; for he has no portion nor inheritance with you. 28 At the end of every three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase in the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates: 29 and the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the foreigner living among you, and the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Deuteronomy 14:27-29 (WEB)

       We also see this mentioned in chapter 26:

       When you have made an end of tithing all the tithe of your increase in the third year, which is the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the foreigner, to the fatherless, and to the widow, that they may eat within your gates, and be filled.

Deuteronomy 26:12 (WEB)

       The point I’m raising here is not whether there was an additional tithe (or even two additional tithes, some think the tithe I was talking about before was the “festival tithe”). The point is that the tithe went to care for the poor and needy in the communities of the Israelites. This included the Levites (most of whom merely served to care for the Tent of Meeting or the Temple and were not priests), the strangers, the orphans, and the widows. If this was an important part of God’s command to the Israelites concerning the tithe, why is it not repeated when Christians are taught that they should be tithing?

       The idea that those who gave the tithe were to eat it and the idea that the tithe didn’t just go to support the priests, Levites, and the Temple (the church?) are inconsistent with modern teaching that supports tithing as a requirement for Christians. But clearly the Scriptures teach these ideas in regard to the tithe.

Keep Learning!

       We still have several more verses about tithing to cover before we’ll have fully examined tithing in the Bible. If you want to keep learning what the Bible has to say about tithing, make sure you sign up to get free updates to Provident Planning.

       Also, I want to take this chance to say that just because Christians aren’t under the Mosaic Law of tithing does not mean that we should not give. There are clear New Testament passages which indicate the kind of giving Christians should be doing and the fact that we should support those who labor in preaching and teaching the Word. But these New Covenant giving principles supersede the Old Testament tithe. Therefore, those New Covenant giving principles should be taught and the tithe should not be taught as a requirement for Christians.

       As always, please share your thoughts and comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

       The next time we see a discussion of tithing after Leviticus 27:30-33 is in Numbers 18. This chapter in the book of Numbers details the duties and support of the priests and the Levites. It contains the specific statutes of God which established the tithe for the support of Israel’s priests and Levites. (There were two other tithes which the people of Israel had to make, but we’ll look at those when we get there.)

       Since this is the place in God’s Word where the tithe that supported the priests and Levites is instituted, we should look at it for the foundation of the purpose and requirements of the tithe. What you’ll learn may surprise you.

The Priesthood of Aaron

       Numbers 18 begins by making it clear that God was speaking specifically to Aaron and the line of priests that would follow his bloodline and his father’s bloodline. Only Israelites who came from the line of Aaron were allowed to be priests. Only those priests were allowed to draw near to worship God. Even the Levites, the only Israelites allowed to minister to the priests and take care of the Tent of Meeting (or Temple), were not allowed to come near the altar of God or they would die.

       1 Yahweh said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your fathers’ house with you shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary; and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. 2 Your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, bring near with you, that they may be joined to you, and minister to you: but you and your sons with you shall be before the tent of the testimony. 3 They shall keep your commands, and the duty of all the Tent: only they shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary and to the altar, that they not die, neither they, nor you. 4 They shall be joined to you, and keep the responsibility of the Tent of Meeting, for all the service of the Tent: and a stranger shall not come near to you.

Numbers 18:1-4 (WEB)

       All the commands that follow in this chapter are specifically for Aaron, the priests, and the Levites. But we know that when Jesus died the veil in the Temple was torn in two – symbolizing the fact that Jesus’ death and the sanctification He brings allows all of us to draw near and worship God without fear of death. The priesthood of Aaron has been replaced by a priesthood of believers and these statutes no longer apply.

The Maintenance of the Priests

       The next section (Numbers 18:8-19) discusses the first part of how the priests and their families were to be maintained and fed. All of the sacrificial offerings could only be eaten by the priests and only in the Tent of Meeting/Temple. The families of the priests were not allowed to eat those things. However, the first fruits of the oil, grain, and wine, all vow offerings, the firstborn animals, the redemption money of the firstborn children and the firstborn of unclean animals, the wave offerings, and the heave offerings could all be used to feed and care for the families of the priests and could be eaten anywhere.

No Inheritance

       In exchange for the right to those various offerings, God commanded that the priests were not allowed to receive any kind of inheritance or portion of the land in Israel:

       Yahweh said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.”

Numbers 18:20 (WEB)

       One of the conditions of receiving the offerings and tithes was that they could no longer own or inherit land. This same restriction is placed on the entire tribe of Levi later in verses 23 and 24. This is why the Levites were not assigned any portion of the land of Israel when it was divided among the tribes (in Joshua 18-21).

The Levites Received the Tithe of Israel

       In the next four verses, we see a very clear indication that the Levites received the tithe of Israel and not the priests.

       21 “To the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the Tent of Meeting. 22 Henceforth the children of Israel shall not come near the Tent of Meeting, lest they bear sin, and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the Tent of Meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations; and among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a wave offering to Yahweh, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance: therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’”

Numbers 18:21-24 (WEB)

       God gave the Levites the tithe of Israel in return for their service to the Tent of Meeting/Temple. The tithe as we think of it was for the care of the servants of the Temple and not the priests. Obviously, this has huge implications for those who believe Christians are under the tithe of the Old Testament.

The Priests Only Received a Tithe of the Tithes

       The final section of Numbers 18 describes how the Levites were to handle the tithe they received from the rest of the Israelites.

       25 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover you shall speak to the Levites, and tell them, ‘When you take of the children of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a wave offering of it for Yahweh, a tithe of the tithe. 27 Your wave offering shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 Thus you also shall offer a wave offering to Yahweh of all your tithes, which you receive of the children of Israel; and of it you shall give Yahweh’s wave offering to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all your gifts you shall offer every wave offering of Yahweh, of all its best, even the holy part of it out of it.’

       30 “Therefore you shall tell them, ‘When you heave its best from it, then it shall be reckoned to the Levites as the increase of the threshing floor, and as the increase of the winepress. 31 You shall eat it in every place, you and your households: for it is your reward in return for your service in the Tent of Meeting. 32 You shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have heaved from it its best: and you shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, that you not die.’”

Numbers 18:25-32 (WEB)

       This passage contains four major points that must be understood about tithing:

  1. Only the Levites received the full tithe from the Israelites.
  2.        

  3. The priests only received a tithe of the tithes – which would have been 1% of all the agricultural increase from Israel.
  4.        

  5. The Levites kept the rest of the tithes – which would have been 9% of all the agricultural increase from Israel. They were allowed to eat it anywhere and use it for their families. It was their reward for their service to the Tent of Meeting/Temple.
  6.        

  7. The tithes were only food products – never money. Silver, gold, and money (shekels) were commonly used but were never considered part of the tithe. Only the agricultural increase of Israel (crops grown and animals raised) made up the tithe.

       As you can see, this chapter alone flies in the face of all modern teaching that requires Christians to tithe. We don’t require any of the other offerings or sacrifices described in the Old Testament. We substitute money for food when it was never used in the tithe. The priests of the Temple only received 1% – not 10%. The rest (the other 9%) went to take care of the Levites as a reward for their service to the Temple. And it’s clear that all of these statutes applied specifically to Israel – to the extent that modern Jews do not even tithe.

Stay Tuned!

       We still have several more Scriptures to examine before we’ll have the full picture on tithing, but it’s becoming clear that the modern teaching of tithing (10% of your gross income going to the church, mostly to support preachers) as a requirement for Christians cannot be supported through the Scriptures that even instituted tithing in Israel. Christians are under much different principles of giving as outlined in the New Covenant. If you’re interested in learning more, make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. And as always, feel free to leave a comment below!

       We’ve looked at Abram’s example and Jacob’s example of tithing, which are the only two instances we have in the Bible of tithing before the Mosaic Law. Now we’re going to start looking at tithing as it is defined and laid out in the Law. I’m looking at the verses on tithing as they appear in the Bible, so today we’re going to look at Leviticus 27:30-33:

       30 “‘All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is Yahweh’s. It is holy to Yahweh. 31 If a man redeems anything of his tithe, he shall add a fifth part to it. 32 All the tithe of the herds or the flocks, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to Yahweh. 33 He shall not search whether it is good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he changes it at all, then both it and that for which it is changed shall be holy. It shall not be redeemed.’”

Leviticus 27:30-33 (WEB)

It Is Holy to Yahweh (the Lord)

       Many people look at these verses and determine that since the tithe is “holy to the Lord” we are required to pay it. However, if we’re going to use that as the standard for determining which Old Testament laws we should keep, we don’t want to leave anything out. Here are just a few other things we should be doing if we’re required to do anything that is “holy to the Lord” in the Old Testament:

  • Make our grain and sin offerings (Leviticus 2:1-3 and Leviticus 6:25-29)
  •        

  • Make our trespass offerings (Leviticus 7:1-6)
  •        

  • Keep and do all the other things God commanded that were holy, including the feasts, holy days, the sanctuary (as it was described in the Old Testament), a crown for the high priest, the clothes for the priests (linen garments), and the fruit a tree produces in its fourth year (Leviticus 23:1-44, Leviticus 8:9, Leviticus 16:4, and Leviticus 19:24)
  •        

  • Keep all the statutes in the Law so we can be holy to the Lord (Leviticus 20:7-8)
  •        There are many other things besides the tithe that were considered holy to the Lord in the Old Testament. If we’re going to say that we must keep the tithe because “it is holy to the Lord”, then we must also keep all the other things that are “holy to the Lord”. That phrase is common throughout the Law and was used to signify the importance that the Israelites should keep the Law that they were under. Unless Christians are going to begin keeping all of the Law, we cannot pick and choose certain aspects to enforce based simply on the phrase “it is holy to the Lord”.

    The Tithe of the Land, Herds, or Flocks

           Only food items are discussed in this passage as being part of the tithe. In fact, as we continue to examine the tithe in the Bible, we’ll see that money and income are never mentioned as items to be tithed. Only crops from the land and animals from herds were used in any of the tithes. This means if you weren’t a farmer, shepherd, or otherwise didn’t grow crops or raise animals then you didn’t pay any kind of tithe as described in the Old Testament. (There are other offerings you would have had to pay, but if you were poor there were provisions for paying a smaller amount.)

    Not the Best Tenth

           Another aspect of this passage that is missed by those who teach that Christians should tithe is the fact that the tithe was not the best tenth. Those who teaching tithing say the tithe should be the first and best 10% of all our increase (not just the crops and animals). But in this passage on tithing we see the exact opposite.

           First, there is no mention of the quality or order in which the crops should be tithed. It’s simply stated as the tithe of the land.

           Second, in the section on herds and flocks, the animal that must be tithed is the tenth one to pass under the rod (shepherd’s staff) – not the first. If an Israelite only had nine animals in his flock, then he did not tithe any of them according to the Law.

           Finally, those who had more than ten animals were forbidden from picking which one should be tithed. It had to be the tenth one to pass under the rod. He couldn’t change it regardless of whether it was bad or good. This means he couldn’t even choose to give God the best as the tenth animal – God told the Israelites that it must be the tenth animal no matter what.

           Only the Levites were commanded to give the best tenth when they gave the priests the tithe of the tithes. The Levites received the tithes from the people of Israel, and in turn they were to give the best tenth of those tithes to the priests who served at the temple. We’ll look at that in the next part of this series, but that’s the only time anyone in Israel was commanded to give the best tenth and it only applied to the Levites.

    Get Free Updates!

           We’re already beginning to see that the tithe as it is taught to Christians today is not even based on the Bible’s definition of the tithe. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in learning more about what God’s Word says about tithing. If you want to know what the giving requirements are for Christians, I recommend you check out my posts on New Covenant giving principles.

           As always, please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts about this article.

       Last week, we looked at Abram’s example of tithing. The tithe he gave was only from spoils of war and not from any of his own possessions. We also have no other example of Abraham tithing or continuing to tithe in the rest of Genesis. Today, we’re going to look at Jacob’s example of tithing, which is also very different from tithing in the Mosaic Law and tithing as it is taught today.

A Conditional Tithe

       After Issac sent Jacob to find a wife for himself, Jacob slept at Luz. While he was sleeping, he dreamed about “Jacob’s ladder” where angels were walking up and down a stairway that went from earth to heaven. It was during this dream that God promised to bless Jacob with numerous descendants, to keep him safe, to bring him back to the land he was in, and to give him that land. We’ll pick up with Jacob’s response that next morning:

       18 Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, and Yahweh will be my God, 22 then this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, will be God’s house. Of all that you will give me I will surely give the tenth to you.”

Genesis 28:18-22 (WEB)

       Besides Abram’s example, this is the only other place where we see tithing mentioned before the Law of Moses was instituted for Israel. Just as Abram’s example is never used as a basis for tithing in the Bible, neither is Jacob’s example used to justify tithing. I also haven’t heard many people using Jacob’s example to justify tithing in today’s church – probably because it would go against everything else they try to teach about tithing (i.e., all Christians must do it, it must be the first 10% before anything else, etc.).

       After God promises to bless and protect Jacob, Jacob doesn’t respond by promising a tithe that resembles the tithe in the Law of Moses. Jacob promises to give a tenth to God if, and only if, God first keeps His promise and blesses Jacob. How many people do you hear teaching this Scripture when they talk about tithing? No one who believes tithing is a requirement for Christians would teach that you can decide to tithe only if God blesses you first.

       God did not ask for a tenth from Jacob – Jacob decided to give it on his own and only if God actually blessed him. We know that God indeed blessed Jacob as He had promised, but it is interesting that we never see any further mention of tithing in Jacob’s life.

Whom Would Jacob Have Given His Tithe?

       Jacob’s tithe also differs from the tithe in Mosaic Law because there was no priesthood established during Jacob’s time. There was no temple to worship and sacrifice at and there were no priests or temple workers to support with the tithe. To whom would Jacob have given the tenth he promised to God?

       God would not have taken it directly from Jacob. He had no need for it. However, we know that hospitality to strangers was a large part of the culture during Jacob’s time and would have indicated good character. We can also imagine that Jacob would have given his tithe to the poor and needy. But we have no indication that Jacob had a church or priests to give his tithe to, and so we have no examples before the Mosaic Law for tithing as we understand it today.

       Neither Abram’s example or Jacob’s example of tithing correlate to the tithe as it is described in the Law of Moses or to tithing as it is taught today. When these examples are examined in their context, it’s clear that they do not support the concept of a tithe as the first 10% of your increase (or income) as many understand it today.

Stay Tuned!

       I’ll continue to examine tithing as it is described in the Bible as I complete this series. If you’re interested in learning what the Bible says about tithing, then make sure you get free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss an article. If you have any questions or comments, please share them below. I always look forward to hearing from you all!