The Origin of the Tithe and the place it should be made at

While mainline Christianity holds to the doctrine of Tithes, all other requirements in the Old Testament (Tanakh) Scriptures are said to have been done away. The Tithes were a command given to Israel, as part of the Mosaic Law given at Sinai. But why was a Tenth or 10% of the produce of an individual in Israel required as an offering? Why was it not another percentage? Finding the origin of the commandment will enlighten us on the why, where, what and how of the Tithe.

The Commandment
The commandment of the Tithe was to give a tenth or 10% of everything that God had provided in the Land of Israel. It was “Holy” or Set-apart towards YHVH, whether it was livestock or the fruit of the land.

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.

Lev 27:30-32

The Recipients
The Tithe was given specifically to the Tribe of Levi for their service at the Tabernacle/Temple. They had no inheritance among the other Tribes who each received a portion of Land(Num 18:20, Deut 10:9, Jos 14:3). While all of the other tribes were ordered to pay a Tenth of all that they recieved from God to the Children of Levi for their livelihood, The Children of Levi, in turn were ordered to pay a Tenth of what they received to the Priestly Line of Aaron who worked inside the Holy Place.

And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest.

Num 18:21-28

The Location
The Tithe was to be brought to the Temple of God, as the payment was for the Levites who worked at the Temple. Jerusalem was “The Place” which was foretold in the below passage, to be chosen by God as a place for His Great Name to Dwell as we see confirmed in 1Kings 11:36.

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: And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you. 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.

Deu 12:6-14

The Festival Tithe & the Poor Tithe
Other than the Levitical Tithe, a Second Tithe was separated by all of the Israelites for use at the 3 feasts when they travelled to Jerusalem. This second 10% was used by them to rejoice at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles and was to be shared with the Levite who had no inheritance as well as all of the poor such as the Widow, the Orphan and the Stranger. Everyone was to share this second “Tenth” so that everyone could be joyful before YHVH.

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. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

Deu 14:22-29

And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there. And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us. And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God. And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you. When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:

Deu 26:1-13

The Tithe Schedule
The Tithe was done according to a schedule which is foreign to us, as it revolved around the Sabbatical Cycle of the Land mentioned in Leviticus 25.

  • 1st Year – 1st Tithe for the Levite & 2nd Tithe for the Feasts
  • 2nd Year – 1st Tithe for the Levite & 2nd Tithe for the Feasts
  • 3rd Year – 1st Tithe for the Levite & 2nd Tithe for the Poor (Every 3rd Year)
  • 4th Year – 1st Tithe for the Levite & 2nd Tithe for the Feasts
  • 5th Year – 1st Tithe for the Levite & 2nd Tithe for the Feasts
  • 6th Year – 1st Tithe for the Levite & 2nd Tithe for the Poor(Every 3rd Year)
  • 7th Year – The Sabbatical Year : No Tithes were offered

The Origin of the Tithe and the importance of the location
The proclamation an Israelite was supposed to make in front of the Priest is very telling, and gives us further insight on the origin of the commandment. The person connects the Tithe to “Jacob” – calling him “my father who was a syrian (Aramean) ready to Perish”.

And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there. And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us. And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God. And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you. When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:

Deu 26:1-13

Why was the proclamation of the Tithe connected to Jacob? The reason was that the Tithe that the Israelites are paying was a vow that was made by their Father Jacob, who was later named Israel.

Jacob’s vow fulfilled
The vow which consists of two parts mention that the “stone which Jacob annointed would become God’s House” and that he would “surely give a tenth of all that God has given him”. Both of which did not come to pass in the days of Jacob. Jacob did not build a house to God, neither does it mention that he gave a tenth to God after his return from the house of Laban.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And 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 raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

Gen 28:18-22

So what did Jacob mean by his vow? was he not going to pay the vow that he had made to God? Or did he see that his children would do it in his stead? Deuteronomy 26 shows us that the vow was indeed being paid by his children.

Moriah = The Place = Bethel(House of God) = Jerusalem
“HaMaqowm” as it is known in Hebrew is first seen by Abraham and subsequently the place which Jacob chooses to rest. It is also

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

Gen 22:2-4

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

Gen 28:11,16,17

So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

1Ch 21:25

Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

2Ch 3:1

The reason for the Tithe
God does need Sacrifices or offerings as we see many times in the Scriptures (Jer 7:22, Psalm 50:8-17, Hos 6:6). While the reason for the Tithe was Jacob’s Vow, God had no reason to take a Tenth from the Children of Israel. Thus the Tenth was given to His Servants – the Levites who kept The House of God in Jerusalem where God had placed His name forever (Neh 1:9, Psa 74:7). The reason was that they had no portion in the land, and was dependent completely on God’s portion. The Tithes were also to be shared with the other segment of society who had no portion – the poor, when all of the people gathered before God to celebrate His appointed times. Thus the main use for the Tithe was to relieve those who could not fend for themselves and to show that God cares for all His obedient children. Shalom!

2 thoughts on “The Origin of the Tithe and the place it should be made at

  1. Lahry

    I think this is accurate. But you gave no new testament connection. Since there is no more temple, we are HIS dwelling place. There are not Levites working at the temple, so now what? Very unfortunate that you ended where you did. 😦

    Reply
    1. RameshDeSilva Post author

      Dear Lahry,
      My aim was to show the origin of the Tithe and its usage as commanded by God. I believe a person who looks at the whole of God’s Word through the lens of Christ will be able to figure out what it means for us 2000 years later. Shalom!
      May you be a blessing to everyone around you.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s