What is tithing and how does it relate to Believers today?
“He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative, Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people…Avram gave him a tenth [ma`aser] of all.” (Gen.14:16-20). This forms the conclusion of the passage regarding Malki-Tzedek and is often quoted as Avram instigating the principal of tithing. However, this falls down on three accounts:
1) that tithing was commonplace well before Avram’s time where people gave offerings to the priests and false gods and Avram would have carried on the traditions of his fathers. This offering of a tenth is well documented in antiquity and widespread throughout the then known world of Arabians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Lydians, Pelasgians, Greeks, various Italian nations, Egyptians and most significantly Mesopotamians cited in Akkadian literature (Fairbairn, Laird Harris et al);
2) that in this passage, the tithe was only a tenth of the booty that Avram had retrieved from the five kings and not of everything that Avram owned or its increase. Avram did not keep any of the retrieved goods.
3) #H4643 מַעֲשֵׂר ma`aser *1711h a tenth part.
#H6237 עָשַׂר `asar *1711c to take or give a tithe (Laird Harris et al). This is the technical term of that which יְהֹוָה required to be given back to Himself. It was not restricted to 10%. ‘Christian church’ unfortunately derives its doctrine of tithing from this mis-translation and confusion over these two terms. This is one of those ‘selective’ laws that seem to be readily accepted by ‘Christian churches’.
Therefore, this offering of Avram’s was a free-will or thanksgiving offering whereby Avram was acknowledging יְהֹוָה’s role in bringing back everyone safely. Avram gave the offering to the priest of El `Elyon, Malki-Tzedek.
“Ya`akov vowed a vow, saying, ‘If יְהֹוָה 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, then this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, will be יְהֹוָה ‘s house. Of all that you will give me I will surely give the tenth to you.’” (Gen. 28:20, 22). Again, v22 is often quoted as Ya’akov continuing his father’s principal of tithing. However, this is conditional upon Ya’akov’s part and both this account and that of Avram above are responses to their safe return. Each of these should be considered as a sacrifice of peace offerings for thanksgiving (Lev. 7:12) and as a one-off offering and not as a regular event.
“All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is יְהֹוָה s: it is holy to יְהֹוָה. All the tithe of the herd or the flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to the יְהֹוָה.” (Lev. 27:28, 30). The tithe was only taken from people working the land; from the Land, fields, orchards, vineyards and beehives and from the livestock. It was never a monetary ‘tax’ taken from the salaries of tradesmen etc.
“For the tithe of the children of Yisra’el, which they offer as a heave-offering to יְהֹוָה, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance: therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Yisra’el they shall have no inheritance.’” (Num. 18:24). All the tribes of Israel except the L’vi’im were given an allocation of the Promised Land by יְהֹוָה. This was in order to support the people. However, the L’vi’im had the responsibility of caring for the Tabernacle services and were excluded from land ownership. It was given to the other tribes to support the L’vi’im by taking up a tithe of the produce and livestock. This was called מעשר ראשון ma’aser rishon the First Tithe.
“Moreover you shall speak to the Levites, and tell them, When you take of the children of Yisra’el the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave-offering of it for יְהֹוָה, a tithe of the tithe.” (Num. 18:26). All of the Levitical tithes were considered as being sacred and could not be used by the L’vi’im until of the best part of their tithe a tenth was given onto the priests. The priests also received a part of peace offerings (Lev. 7:14). This has sometimes been referred to incorrectly as the ‘Second Tithe’ but is really a part of the First Tithe. However there are other tithes that need to be considered.
“You shall surely tithe all the increase of your seed, that which comes forth from the field year by year. You shall eat before יְהֹוָה your `Elohiym, in the place which He shall choose, to cause His name to dwell there, the tithe…If the way be too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you, which יְהֹוָה your `Elohiym shall choose, to set His name there, when יְהֹוָה your `Elohiym shall bless you; then shall you turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go to the place which יְהֹוָה your `Elohiym shall choose: and you shall bestow the money for whatever your soul desires, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before יְהֹוָה your `Elohiym, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.” (Deut. 14:22-26). This is what is termed as the ‘Second Tithe’ מעשר שני ma’aser sheni. It has no connection to the First Tithe except that it referred to agricultural and livestock produce.
“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: 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 יְהֹוָה your `Elohiym may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” (Deut. 14:28, 29). Like the First Tithe, the Second Tithe is in two parts. In the שְׁנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה shĕmittah shaneh the seventh year of release cycle, years three and six are collected for relief of the poor. Years one, two, four and five are used to celebrate going up to Yerushalayim for festivals (usually for Sukkot). The seventh year no produce is to be harvested as the land is left uncultivated. The overall total works out to approximately 23.3% per year (www.gotquestions.org).
“Woe to you, Sofrim (scribes) and Perushim (Pharisees), hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and
faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.” (Matt.
23:23). In the Master’s condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, it is not that they tithed meticulously (legalistically Torah-observant) but that they forgot or ignored the reason that the Torah was given (spiritually Torah-observant).
“Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless. Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. (Psa. 82:3, 4). To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to יְהֹוָה than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:3). “He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does יְהֹוָה require of you, but to act justly, To love mercy, and to walk humbly with your `Elohiym?” (Mic. 6:8). These are considered to be the over-riding ethos behind Torah as they all point towards Messiah.
“I thought it necessary therefore to entreat the brothers that they would go before to you, and arrange ahead of time the generous gift that you promised before, that the same might be ready as a matter of generosity, and not of greediness.” (2 Cor. 9:5). This collection was taken up to support Believers in Yerushalayim. In following Yahshua, Jewish Believers generally forfeited family, friends, occupation and religious fellowship. In taking up this collection, Sh’aul was showing his concern for Believers and that there was indeed only one Faith. Other collections (Exod. 25:2; Acts 2:45; 5:1-10; 2 Cor. 11: 7-9) are for the support of ministries and other Believers and are special occasions, not regular tithes.
“A poor widow came, and she cast in two small brass coins, which equal a quadrans coin. He called his talmidim (disciples) to himself, and said to them, ‘Most assuredly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, for they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.’” (Mar. 12:42-44). “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what you have,
not according to what you don’t have.” (2 Cor. 8:12). In the giving of any offering, it is the intention that is valued by יְהֹוָה and not the actual cost. This is true of any offering whether it is money, goods or time.
Fairbairn Rev. P. The Imperial Bible-Dictionary, Blackie & Son, London.
Harris R.L., Archer Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody, Chicago,
G.J. Jr., Waltke B.K.(1980) Il.
www.youtube.com YaHuWaH – Giver of All Life