The Tithe Issue: Part Six
Tithing in the History Of Israel
As we leave the law of tithing behind, I believe we will get another picture of tithing as it was actually practiced in Israel. We looked at the Law, in other words what should have happened, and now we will look at what Israel actually did as far as the Bible relates to this issue in the history of Israel. In this aspect of the tithe issue, we will eventually get to the famous Malachi chapter three that is often used to get people to tithe but that is still coming.
We have almost come full circle in this topic, remembering that we started with this topic long before Israel was a nation, and now we will look at the tithe in the History of this nation, Israel. Therefore, let us start with the following scriptures.
(1 Sam 2:27-35 KJV) “And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house? And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? And did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”
“Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house forever. And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age. And this shall be a sign unto thee that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.” Although the tithe is not mentioned as such in the verses above, it is clear that God spoke about all that Israel had to give to the priesthood to support them and that will include the tithe. In this instance the prophet of God is speaking to Eli the high priest of Israel, who did not discipline his two sons Hophni and Phinehas. But what they also did was to misuse the offerings, the tithe is also called the holy offering of Israel, to benefit and enrich themselves. If you read the account of Hophni and Phinehas, you will find out that they were rather ungodly, but Eli seems to have been a better man than his two sons. The comment the Bible gives about the two sons of Eli the priest of God is, (1 Sam 2:12 KJV) “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” Therefore it is obvious why God sends such a condemning message to Eli in the quotation above.
In the quoted section we can see what happened to the priests and therefore Levites (only Levites could be priests), who misused the tithes and offerings, even though they were commanded to take it from the children of Israel as their inheritance. This also fulfills what God said would happen to the priesthood if they misused the offerings of Israel. (Num 18:32 NIV) “By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.” Therefore it seems that the law was not really adhered too in our first reference to it in the history of Israel, because the two sons of Eli was about to die.
(1 Sam 8:15-19 KJV) “And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king, which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us”
The stubbornness of the Israelites came through in this passage of scripture again as they insisted on having their own king. The quotation above is speaking about a tithe tax a king would introduce if he would come into power in Israel. If you would study the law of a king in Israel, you will find that God did not establish a kingdom with a king in Israel, because He wanted to reign over Israel as King, but nevertheless, this is the law for a king in Israel if they would have wanted one, (Deut 17:14-19 KJV) “When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
Neither shall he multiply wives to him self, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:”
Note, what Israel will say, “I will set a king over me” and not God saying, I decide to set a king over you, which means that God did not intend to set a king over Israel, but He wanted to reign instead of a man reigning over His people. But just listen to God as He speaks to Samuel, (1 Sam 8:7-8 KJV) “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods”
In 1 Sam 8:15-19 , Samuel warns Israel effectively about the taxes a king could impose on them if they would chose to have a king instead of God ruling them. The taxes would be a tithe of almost everything they used or produced plus the first fruits of the things produced. Not only that, but the king would also take their best workers and use them for himself, and the tithe of the things he would take, he will give to his friends. Remember that God instituted the law that the tithe of all is His, and He gave that tithe to the Levites and the priests, but not only that, He also gave the first fruits to the Levites. Therefore what will happen to the law if the king takes the things the law say should go to the Levites?
One thing we all know is that God will not change His law to accommodate the whims of a king, therefore it seems that the Israelites had to pay tithes to God and to the king if a king would come into power. I could not actually find a scripture expressly saying that they did that, but that is what things would have boiled down too if a king would institute a tithe law of himself. It seems in the first quoted section that Samuel was warning the Israelites that they could loose one tenth of their income if they would insist on having a king, but they of course did not relent.
If you remember what was said in the last teaching on tithing, that there was only one tithe God required in the law and not three, here is the only place we can start to argue that there could have been another tithe the Israelites had to pay, but this one was not a law of God, but of a king that would come into power over Israel.
(2 Chron 24:5-16 KJV) “And he gathered together the priests and the Levites, and said to them, Go out unto the cities of Judah, and gather of all Israel money to repair the house of your God from year to year, and see that ye hasten the matter. Howbeit the Levites hastened it not. And the king called for Jehoiada the chief, and said unto him, Why hast thou not required of the Levites to bring in out of Judah and out of Jerusalem the collection, according to the commandment of Moses the servant of the LORD… “And at the king’s commandment they made a chest, and set it without at the gate of the house of the LORD. And they made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in to the LORD the collection that Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness. And all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest, until they had made an end. Now it came to pass, that at what time the chest was brought unto the king’s office by the hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, the king’s scribe and the high priest’s officer came and emptied the chest, and took it, and carried it to his place again. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance.
And the king and Jehoiada gave it to such as did the work of the service of the house of the LORD, and hired masons and carpenters to repair the house of the LORD, and also such as wrought iron and brass to mend the house of the LORD. So the workmen wrought, and the work was perfected by them, and they set the house of God in his state, and strengthened it. And when they had finished it, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada, whereof were made vessels for the house of the LORD, even vessels to minister, and to offer withal, and spoons, and vessels of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually all the days of Jehoiada. But Jehoiada waxed old, and was full of days when he died; an hundred and thirty years old was he when he died. And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God, and toward his house.”
Again here we do not read specifically about the tithe, although it is clear that if God’s house was in disrepair, that the tithes and offerings was withheld by the Israelites. But if you read the quoted section you will find that the king brought out a proclamation to Israel that they should start to bring to the house of God what Moses commanded the Israelites should bring and we know that to be the tithes and offerings. The context of the quoted section is actually sad since Judah, (the country of Israel and the nation of Israel was divided at that time into Judah and Israel) had quite a few ungodly kings, which did not do the will of God. Nevertheless in the time of Joash, he commanded that the house of the Lord should be repaired, and it was done under the supervision of Jehoiada the High Priest of that time.
So when Israel started to do what was right in the eyes of God, God started to prosper them, but if you read the whole chapter of the quoted section, you will find that Israel for some inexplicable reason turns from God after the death of Jehoiada and started to worship idols again. The very same king that then started the repair of the house of God commanded that the son of Jehoiada, the prophet Zechariah be stoned after he prophesied against what was happening. God then rose up a small army in comparison with Judah, and they overran Judah and killed the princes who initiated the idol worship, and Joash was killed by his own servants.
(2 Chron 31:2-12 KJV) “And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD. He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD. 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.
And as soon as the commandment came abroad, 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. And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps. In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month. And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel. Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store. Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD; and they prepared them, And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next.”
The above quoted section of scripture is one of the highlights in the history of Judah and Israel. The context here is that Ahaz the king of Judah was a very evil king who actually knew who the God of his people was, but he served other gods. He actually burned his children in sacrifice to these dead gods. Therefore God’s wrath was exceedingly harsh on Judah because of their king. However the son of Ahaz did what was right in the sight of God and put everything in order, which his father perverted.
As soon as Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, came to power he made sure that God’s house was cared for. It seems the neglect of God’s house was the first thing to happen as soon as Israel dwelt away from God, and it was the first thing to be put in order as soon as Israel came back to God. What also happened was that Hezekiah commanded the Israelites to give to the priests and Levites what the Word of God commanded they should get, everyone then came and gave the tithes and the offerings, which was due to the Levites.
Just read these quotations, “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.” And “And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty”
These quotations show that Israel totally neglected the commandments of God concerning the giving of tithes and offerings. It also shows that the priests and Levites neglected the teaching of the Law since they most probably had to do normal work to survive because they were not cared for by the Israelites as the Law commanded. But the first thing Hezekiah did was to put that right and God blessed his people again and they could give more than enough to the priests who could do their work again. This is actually one of the few times that you will read Israel doing what the Law commands them to do concerning tithing.
(Neh 10:34-39 KJV) “And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law: And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD: Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage. And the 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 unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.”
Here we have Nehemiah giving an account of what he and others were doing during the time of their captivity. The context of the quoted section was, Nehemiah asked the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, to go and build up the broken down walls of Jerusalem. The king gave him permission to go and after a while when the walls and gates were built, it was time to do what was said in the Law of Moses which was that the Israelites should worship God by bringing in the tithes and offerings and to care for the priesthood.
Note this quotation, “and we will not forsake the house of our God”, this means that Israel was again neglecting the house of God. But here we should remember that Israel was in captivity and those of the Israelites who were still in Israel was not taught the word of God and so did not really knew what was expected of them concerning the Law. If you would read the account of Nehemiah, you will find that he and Ezra were contemporaries and that Ezra and the priests of that time had to teach the remnant of Israel who were living in and near Jerusalem the Word of God.
It seems now that every time the tithe was mentioned in the history of Israel that the law of God was forsaken or forgotten by Israel. But what also happened was that every time the Israelites came back to God, it was in this order, get the priests in their place, fix the house of God, bring in the burnt offerings to consecrate the house of God and finally bring the tithes, offerings and first fruits to care for the priests. This interesting observation shows why God said what He said in Malachi, which we will come to eventually. Just read the confession of Nehemiah concerning the doings of Israel, this is what they did time and time again during their history,
(Neh 1:7 KJV) “We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.”
We will go on from here in the next teaching.
Notice! The next installment of this series will be added shortly. If you found the teaching interesting thus far please send some comments by clicking on the feedback tab below.
Copyright 2007 Richard D Kloosman. All rights reserved
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