Previously we looked at the first two times the tithe was mentioned in the Law of Moses. We also saw the first consequences for not obeying the law of the tithe. The interesting thing about the mention of the tithe in the law up to now is that there were no consequences to the normal Israelite for not tithing. The Law of Moses was for the whole nation of Israel. But consequences for not tithing were only applicable to the priesthood of Israel. By the way the first mention of the tithe in the law had no consequences to anybody, it is in the second mention that you will find the first consequences for not tithing and the consequences was applicable on the Priesthood.
In this study however we will move onto the last book of the Law of Moses and the last book of the Pentateuch, which is Deuteronomy. Here you will find that the Israelites were at the threshold of entering the Promised Land and our topic, the tithe, comes up next, as they were about to enter the Promised Land.
(Deut 12v 1-11 KJV) “These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth. Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God. But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.
Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day; every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:”
Moses spoke the above quoted words, and to give you perspective on the context surrounding these words, we will just spend some time looking at where they were at that moment and what happened since last we left off on this subject. Deuteronomy opens with the Israelites near the Jordan River, and the Jordan River were the last border to cross before they entered the land of Canaan, which was the Promised Land. By that time the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years and eleven months to be precise, (Deut 1v 3). By then the Israelites had fought many battles, which they won, because the Lord told them too, and they conquered many enemies. The reason for the battles was mostly that the surrounding nations did not want the Israelites to cross their lands. God also told them whose land to invade and whose land to bypass.
An interesting occurrence that also happened by then was that everybody who rebelled against God and caused Israel to dwell in the wilderness for forty years had already died. They were not dead at the end of the forty-year penalty though, but already at the thirty-eight year mark, (Deut 2v 13-18.)
But coming back to our topic, the tithe, in the context of our quoted section, the Israelites were commanded not to fall after the type of worship that was practiced in the land they were about to inherit. God had the plan that He would personally designate a place where He would choose for the worship of Himself. This place would be the center for all the worship, sacrifice and offering rituals that God required of Israel. It is in this context that God brings up the tithe again. This time though it is just mentioned in passing. What we can learn from the quoted section, is this; God was very specific that there should be only one place where they could take their worship items.
Something we should realize here is that all the offering, sacrifices and so on were to be made at this place in the Promised Land and they were not in the Promised Land yet. Therefore everything that God required of them could only be fulfilled in full in the Promised Land and therefore their Laws was specifically aimed at the Promised Land. This means that we can conclude that the Israelites could only fulfill the full requirements of the Law after they entered the Promised Land and that would of course include tithing, “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day; every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:” and, (Deut 12:13-14 KJV) “Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.”
Here we can determine that all the ritual laws that God required of Israel to perform was for application in the Promised Land, this would include the tithe and of course we can see that all these laws was for Israel to keep, and for no one else.
Moving on to the next place the tithe is mentioned; up to now we did not have much expounding on the law specifically related to tithing as such, but the next quotation will show some laws specifically regulating what should happen with the tithe.
(Deut 12:17-18 KJV) “Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand: But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.”
Here we have a strange law that seems to imply that the Israelites were allowed to eat of their tithes. We might say that the verses are speaking of the Levites and priests, but the Levites are included in the verse, which allows the eating of the tithes. Also the priests and Levites did not receive land to cultivate crops or land for livestock, which could have firstlings. Therefore according to the above quoted scripture, the tither could eat of the tithe. This was not a case of redeeming the tithe and adding one fifth to it, because the verses in the context they were written in, does not speak about that, but it speaks about where you may or may not eat of tithes and offerings, as unusual that may sound to us. The things that the Israelites could eat of were tithes, first fruits, things vowed, freewill offerings and heave offerings. By the way I always thought that all which is included in the section above was forbidden to be eaten of but the quoted section shows otherwise. These were also all Holy things to God.
What was said above contradict the teachings we receive today, but we cannot miss interpret such a plain verse of scripture as the one above. Not only can’t we miss interpret the quoted section, but read this verse again, “But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates”. Does that sound like a command to you? It certainly sounds like a commandment to me. And the verse includes the whole nation Israel, not only the Levites. The implications of this verse if we were to apply it to tithers today in the Church, I am not going to discuss, but it do make you wonder what if we followed what Israel did to the letter concerning the tithe. Some verses that underline the above said statements is this one, (Deut 12:26-27 KJV) “Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose. And thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the LORD thy God: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the LORD thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh.” The people being spoken to here are not the Levites but the normal Israelites.
It is certainly apparent that God allowed the Israelites to eat of the holy things, tithes and offerings, which they already tithed and offered up of. This sounds wrong to say, since in Malachi they were accused of robbing God in tithes and offerings, but if you think about it, the Bible does not command the Israelites not to eat of the tithes and offerings, quite the opposite in fact, it only says that they should give it and then eat it at the appointed place. Some offerings were wholly burnt up and could not be eaten, but there were many types of offerings where they were commanded to eat of their offerings, after they did the offering. The same type of law was applicable for the tithe. The tithe was only thought of as an way to make sure the priests and Levites were cared for up to now, but in the scriptures we read just now, it is obvious that the tithe was not just for that, the tithe ritual must have caused an abundance and overflow of everything, when it was practiced the right way.
Just think of it, in the book of Numbers, where all the males in Israel were counted, there were 600000 plus males in Israel, (Num 1v 46), that was excluding the Levites. The Levites were only about 23000 males, (Num 27v 62). This would make the Levites about 4% of the Israelite nation, now in the time of Deuteronomy, which is 40 years later, if the ratio stayed more or less the same you would have had the scenario where 96% of the people were taking care of 4% of the people. It would have been physically impossible for the Levites to consume the entire tithe alone, because the tithe was given every year after harvest and besides the tithe, the Bible says the following was also given “the firstlings of the herds, the flocks, all the vows, freewill offerings, heave offering etc.” Despite that if you just think of all the tithe in the land and of the people that must have grown into the millions by then, it makes more sense now that God said the normal Israelite could eat of the tithe, when they brought it in to be given to the Lord as their offering. “But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates” Everybody was commanded to eat of what ever they tithed on and offered up. It would have been impossible for the priests and Levites to consume everything because there would have been physically too much food, wine etc. for them to handle, just think of all the perishable things and no refrigeration facilities! It do seem like God intended for the tithing time to become some kind of feast.
If you think of our taxes which we pay today it is clear that the ministers and so on, benefit from the taxes as well as we who pay the taxes. In other words taxes are more than enough for the civil servants to live off and for the citizens to benefit from. The same thing happened with the tithe in Israel, the normal Israelite did not live of the tithe, but they were commanded to eat of it and rejoice in what God gave to them to give to the priesthood. They did not eat the whole tithe that would not make sense besides one person can eat only so much food, but feasted with the priesthood at least once a year with the tithe.
Something interesting; the famous Malachi 3 v8-10 says bring the entire tithe into the ‘storehouse’, the word “owtsar” for storehouse is literally depository, this means the word does not mean God’s house or temple, but it means storehouse.
Now when God uses the phrase, ‘so that there may be food in My house’, we must decide did God say bring the tithe to His house or the storehouse? Of course He said bring the tithe to the storehouse, not His house. So what did He mean by His house?
The word “bayith” used for house in Malachi 3v 10 refers most of the time to a family or a household than to a building, when the building of God is referred to, you will find the word “beyth-'el” in the original language. If “beyth-'el” sounds familiar to you, it is because you have read it translated as Beth-El before, and that means literally house of God. Now we know that God said bring the tithe to the storehouse. His house was not a storehouse, if you would study out the architecture of the temple place, or even the tabernacle, which was actually a tent. The word temple means sacred or holy place, not storehouse.
This means God said literally; bring the whole tithe so that it can be stored, that there may be food for my family. God did not say bring the tithe to the Priesthood so that there may be food for the priesthood, He meant so that there may be food for His whole family. When Israel tithed, there was enough food etc. for everybody to eat before the Lord as He commanded, including the Levites and Priesthood who received the tithe as their wages. We will later find out that the poor etc. was fed out of the tithe as well, not that the tithe was the only way the poor was cared for in Israel. What I want to point out here is that Malachi 3v 8-10 proves that the tithe was for the whole Israel to benefit from, in other words, the whole family. God actually refer to Himself as a father in Malachi 1v 6.
One last scripture
(Deut 14:22-29 KJV) “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 thy God, 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 firstlings of 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 the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:” And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.”
The above quoted scripture is another place where the Israelites got the commandment from God that they should surely tithe, but then eat of it in His presence, in the place where He chose for the tithes to be eaten. Firstly, they should tithe every year of every crop they may have, the increase of the seed sown. Then it is expressly said that they should eat the tithe of the “corn, wine, and of the oil, and the firstlings of the herds and of the flocks; that they may learn to fear the LORD God always”.
That does not make sense that the eating of the tithe teaches you to fear the Lord. But if we look at the context where this particular recalling of the tithe is, then the picture becomes clearer. The whole context where the eating of the tithe finds itself, is of all places, the law of what the Israelites should eat and not eat. In other words God tells them what is clean and unclean foods, or better put, what is good and bad to eat. It seams that the Israelites did not know what a good diet was. Because if God had to tell them, you should not eat a vulture for example, which He did, it must mean that they did not know that many animals was carriers of parasites and diseases because they ate dead things, and God did not want His holy people to eat these animals and pick up diseases. So what was the best thing to eat rather? You guessed it, holy things like tithes and offerings. If you ate what was actually God’s you will come to see how He respects you and how much He thinks of you, that He allows you to eat what was reserved for Him and His priesthood. In other words Israel actually ate at God’s table so to speak, year by year as they brought in the tithe.
Then God goes on further to say that if the place were to far from them to bring their tithes and offerings, they should turn it into money.
In other words if they had their produce of whatever sort it was, and they determined God’s tithe, then they should sell whatever the tithe was so that they can have the tithe in money form and then take the tithe in money form to where God wants to be worshiped. Now comes the interesting part, when they came to the place where God chose for His worshipping to be, they took the money and “bought” “whatsoever thy soul lusteth after” yes and as it is put in the quoted section, even strong drink, you read right ‘strong drink’. I am not suggesting that God condoned them getting drunk before Him, but it look like whenever the time for tithing came, it turned out a very festive affair. Although putting the tithe in money form was commanded, it also shows that the priesthood did not mind selling off the tithe for money to the Israelites who lived far off, because how would they got rid of all that was tithed. It almost sounds like pay one price for all you can eat, with respect.
I think we are very short sighted today concerning tithing, the one camp scream you should tithe like your life depended on it, and the other side is either to stingy to give anything or is so put off by prosperity teachers who sounds like they are just interested in your money that the purpose which God had for tithing in Israel is lost sight of.
We will look at another aspect of tithing next time and that would be the issue of; did the Israelites actually give one tithe or was their more than one?
Copyright 2007 Richard D Kloosman. All rights reserved
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