Christian Churches of God
(Edition 6.0 19960310-20060513-20060701-20070224-20170713-20190312)
Tithing is common to many religions. Some leaders have made high demands on their followers, even preaching up to three separate tithes at times. This paper investigates tithing in the Bible and draws conclusions relevant to Jews and Christians today. Persons who have paid three tithes are in for some pleasant surprises.
The law of tithing does not stand in isolation. It is a central issue to the Faith and to the elect, and is in fact one of the signs of the elect as will be shown.
The Covenant of God is linked directly to the First Commandment, as seen in the papers The First Commandment: The Sin of Satan (No. 153) and Law and the First Commandment (No. 253). The signs of the Covenant are directly related to the First Commandment and the worship and knowledge of the One True God (Jn. 17:3; 1Jn. 5:20). The signs of the Covenant of God commence with the Old Testament signs of circumcision and the Passover. The Sabbath was the Fourth Commandment, flowing from the first, and is the last element in the First and Great Commandment regarding the love of God (cf. Law and the Fourth Commandment (No. 256) and The First Great Commandment (No. 252)).
Matthew 22:36-39 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (KJV)
This Great Commandment was established from Deuteronomy 6:5 and was the central element of the Law. All other laws progress from this law and all are based on it (see also Mk. 12:28-34; Lk. 10:25-28).
The Covenant of God requires the dedication of the members of physical and spiritual Israel. Israel was selected and placed apart by God as a nation with a number of signs. The first elements were the signs of circumcision and the Passover. The Sabbath was also one of the signs (Ex. 20:8,10,11; Deut. 5:12) between God – who makes us holy – and us (Ex. 31:12-14). The Passover, including the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was a sign or seal (from Ex. 13:9,16), which was and is a sign of the law of the Lord (Deut. 6:8) and of His redemption of Israel (Deut. 6:10). From the New Testament this redemption extends to all those in Christ (Rom. 9:6; 11:25-26).
The redemption of Israel was from the first-born of the womb and hence was the first-born of the female and not the male. This dedication of all Israel was established as the rite of circumcision and of itself pointed towards baptism as the primary sign. The Passover embraced the Lord’s Supper, which became the primary element of the Feast from the New Covenant. However, the entire Passover was required and was kept, although sometimes improperly (from Deut. 16:4-8; 1Cor. 11:1ff.; 2Pet. 2:13; Jude 12).
Circumcision was to be of the heart (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 4:4) and was not just physical (Gen. 17:11; Deut. 10:16). The establishment of the Passover as the second sign extended from the Lord’s Supper on the preparation day through the Feast (in accordance with Deut. 16:4-8). The Sabbath was the third sign of the elect as the physical nation. Thus Judah could keep the Sabbath and yet still not attain eternal life until after the Second Resurrection, being excluded from the Second Covenant (see also the paper Lazarus and the Rich Man (No. 228)). The Sabbath is the outward weekly renewable sign of the inward signs of the Covenant which are baptism and the Holy Spirit, while the footwashing and the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are annual renewals of the Covenant relationship established from baptism and receipt of the Holy Spirit (see the paper The Covenant of God (No. 152)).
The Sabbath is a sign of both physical and spiritual Israel. One can thus keep the Sabbath and be in physical Israel and yet still not be in the First Resurrection as part of the spiritual elect.
The blood of the Covenant was established from the Covenant with Abraham at Genesis 15:7-21. Abraham passed between the two pieces of the slain animals as an indication of Messiah who was to come. Christ was the Covenant deliverer or mediator.
Christ had to die in order to redeem the creation. Betrayal of the Covenant meant death. Moses signified this by his actions at Sinai where he sprinkled the altar and the people. This signified that Atonement rested entirely with God and that the penalty for apostasy from the Covenant was death and, through this death, the priesthood were sanctified (Ex. 24:6-8; 29:10-21) and with them the nation was sanctified.
Thus, blood is the symbolism of the ultimate gift and the extreme penalty of death and sacrifice in atonement. As Christ himself said: "Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). Hence the crimes that result in death are paid for by death.
The taking of life is vested in the authorities, so that by man shall his blood be shed (Gen. 9:6). Paul says of the magistrate that executes such penalty: "He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil" (Rom. 13:4) – the wages of sin being death (Rom. 6:23).
The First Commandment requires the establishment of the Law of God above all else, in thought and deed, as it flows from Him. This applies to food, to the civil law and to self-defence whether nationally, in war, or individually. Blood can only be shed in accordance with God’s word. What is established by God cannot be contradicted by man without sin. Thus vegetarianism, non-resistance and even pacifism in its extreme form all impeach the Laws of God and seek to elevate man and his law to a level with God.
The expiation for sin is ‘life for life’, and this cannot be given by man (Ps. 49:7-8; Mk. 8:36-37). Each man’s life is forfeit for his own sin and all life is God’s (Ps. 50:9-10). God thus provides the blood of atonement (Lev. 17:11), which He has done in Messiah and the Covenant. Sacrifice is thus the fruit of grace and not the basis or root of grace.
Circumcision and (later) baptism signified the election to the Covenant. The Passover celebrates Israel’s redemption from the world and sin. The twofold aspects are of physical and spiritual redemption thus comprising the Lord’s Supper and the Night to be Much Remembered (or the Passover proper), for which Messiah was the slain Lamb (see the papers The Lord’s Supper (No. 103); The Passover (No. 098) and The Night to be Much Observed (No. 101)). Blood was required both for the fallen of Egypt, for their unbelief, and also for the elect of Israel.
Thus the sentence against Egypt was a sentence against all mankind. Israel was also under sentence of death. The redemption of Israel was the redemption of all through the Passover lamb. The Jews (comprising Judah, Levi and part of the other tribes) were sentenced to death in Matthew 24 and destined for destruction for disobedience or treason against the Covenant. Judah was dispersed and sent to destruction because they did not keep the Law of Moses; in fact, they perverted it. The Church was redeemed and spared from this destruction (cf. the paper The Covenant of God (No. 152)).
The redemption was thus spiritual and physical, and was mirrored in the sequence of events from the Lord’s Supper through the Passover to the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread, where the leaven of malice and evil was laid aside for the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1Cor. 5:7-8). The resurrection then followed – after which Christ was presented as the Wave Sheaf Offering or the first-fruits of Israel. Messiah was thus the first-born sacrificed as holy to the Lord and thus the first of the tithe system in its ultimate physical and spiritual form (cf. the paper The Wave Sheaf Offering (No. 106b)).
Following on from the requirements of the First Commandment, we see that the nation and the Church were required to sanctify its people and its produce to the Lord God as part of the Covenant. The first element was that of the first-born of both man and beast. However, all the male children were circumcised and the daughters were daughters of the Covenant from their birth and purification sacrifice (see the paper Purification and Circumcision (No. 251)). The Passover was undertaken by all of the children and the strangers within the gates. The service was designed so that the youngest could ask: "What do you mean by this service?" (Ex. 12:26). This is in contradistinction to the Lord’s Supper, which involved only Messiah’s baptised disciples.
There is thus a distinction between the physical sanctification of Israel under the Covenant and deliverance from captivity, and the spiritual redemption of Israel from death.
The inability of commentators (such as Rushdoony) to comprehend the duality of the Passover Feast over the first two days, limits their capacity to understand the significance of the inclusion of the children in the Passover while they and the unbaptised are then excluded from the Lord’s Supper, even though they are present at the Feast and the meals.
This error then leads them into the logical dilemma resulting in infant baptism (see Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, USA, 1973, pp. 46-47). This error seems to stem also from a misunderstanding of the problem of the Passover Feast mentioned by Paul in 1Corinthians 11, where families were present (Deut. 16:4-7 refers). Moreover, the so-called communion of bread and wine has also been traditionally denied to the baptised young until confirmed as an adult, even in the Orthodox systems that practice infant baptism. This practice stems from an adaptation of the original quartodeciman Passover system (cf. the paper The Quartodeciman Disputes (No. 277)).
The New Covenant specifically states that the children are sanctified in the elect. The elect are sanctified (1Cor. 6:2) by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ (Jude 1). The saints are sanctified by God through the blood of the Covenant (Heb. 10:29), and the body of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:9-10). Thus, the Holy Spirit is a spirit of our God, and through the name of Jesus Christ the elect are then sanctified and washed by his sacrifice, continuing in the Faith through God by means of His Spirit (Acts 26:18).
The elect are granted forgiveness through grace and maintain their position through faith, thus sanctifying each other both in the Church and in families (1Cor. 7:14). The unbelieving spouse and children are thereby sanctified in the elect, while the elect themselves are sanctified in the one Body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; 1Cor. 12:20-27). Hence sanctification is not dependent upon corporate structures but is dependent upon baptism and receipt of the Holy Spirit. If children could be baptised, their sanctification would not flow from the converted parent but would be intrinsic. However, because their sanctification is dependent upon the converted parent and is not intrinsic, infant baptism is invalid.
As part of this process of sanctification and dedication under the Covenant, the first-born are consecrated as holy to the Lord.
Exodus 13:1-2 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine. (KJV)
Exodus 13:11-16 And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, 12That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD'S. 13And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem. 14And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: 15And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. 16And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt. (KJV)
Exodus 22:29-30 Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. 30Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me. (KJV)
The males of Israel are circumcised on the eighth day and placed into the Covenant relationship with God, and on the eighth day these sacrificial items represent that relationship. We are now starting to see that this introduction dealing with the first-born and the First Commandment and the relationship with God has a direct relationship to the first-fruits and the tithe system. The tithing system relates back entirely to our relationship with God as part of Israel, and it represents the relationship of the Church with God to the First Resurrection.
The concept of the first-fruits is related to the laws of redemption, and the link is thus clear. The redemption is by the Lamb. It was this Being who was the Angel and Elohim who redeemed Israel and was at their head (Gen. 48:15-16; Zech. 12:8). The observance of this law is also a sign of the elect.
Exodus 34:19-20 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. 20But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. (KJV)
Thus the offerings are mandatory. No man can sanctify the first-born; it is the Lord’s.
Leviticus 27:26 Only the firstling of the beasts, which should be the LORD'S firstling, no man shall sanctify it; whether it be ox, or sheep: it is the LORD'S. (KJV)
The nexus of the first-born with the Feasts and Sabbaths is also clear.
Deuteronomy 15:19-20 All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep. 20Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household. (KJV)
The first-born is tied into the tithe system both by redemption and the second tithe. Thus the first-born is holy because it is tied to the Plan of Salvation as found through the Feast system.
Romans 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. (KJV)
Redemption is both physical and spiritual. Israel was enslaved to Egypt both physically and spiritually, being under bondage to sin. Man’s redemption is thus tied to his spiritual life and his social order. The whole creation ultimately is to be redeemed (Rom. 8:20-21), which is why the millennial reign of Jesus Christ must also involve physical human beings within the social order as laid down at Sinai. That Law from Sinai was perfect. Some aspects (such as divorce) were allowed because of the hardness of the hearts of Israel.
The first-born is that of the mother and not the father, as we have seen (Ex. 13:2). More than one wife was traditionally allowed to the common man, while the king was allowed even more (four (mYeb 4:11; mKet. 10:1-6; and also the Koran) or five (mKer. 3:7) wives depending upon authorities (see also mKid. 2:7; mBkh. 8:4); and eighteen for the king (mSanh. 2:4)). The Qumran sect held that both king and commoners should be monogamous (see E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol. I, p. 320, n. 125). The New Testament limits elders and deacons to one wife (1Tim. 3:2,12). The first-born is thus sanctified and dedicated, even if resulting from a polygamous marriage and/or born under the levirate law of familial duty to a brother’s wife (Deut. 25:5-6). Zerubbabel was thus sanctified because he was born of that relationship (see the paper Genealogy of the Messiah (No. 119)).
It was important that Zerubbabel is listed there because of his significance in the building of the Temple.
In dealing with Israel under Egypt God placed all the first-born of Egypt, both man and beast, under the death penalty. With Israel, He made the entire nation His first-born.
Exodus 4:22-23 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: 23And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. (KJV)
This act of redemption confirmed Israel into Covenant membership. Thus man and beast became God’s by adoption. Through sin, Israel deserved to die, just as Egypt deserved to die. This was symbolised by God’s demand of Abraham that he sacrifice Isaac. However, through the Angel of Jehovah/Yahovah, God provided the sacrifice in his place; in fact, the Angel was symbolised by that sacrifice as the redeemer. Thus life is involved in sacrifice because of the idea that life is sacrificed in the maintenance or restoration of man to God in a religious context, through either consecration or expiation. Man in sin is disqualified from offering the gift of his life in his own person. Christ thereby reconciled humanity to God in order that they could then continue with that act of self-sacrifice on an ongoing basis (see also the paper The Purpose of the Creation and the Sacrifice of Christ (No. 160)).
The concept of the first-born being given to God on the eighth day was as a sacrifice, whereby the individual maintained the relationship with God. The entire tribe of Levi was created as the substitute first-born devoted to God (Num. 3:40-41). This points also to us as the true first-born of the order of Melchisedek. The animals were often given to the priests, but a priest could not make the daily sacrifice alone. The nation was divided into twenty-four divisions as were the priests, and they had individuals on duty in Jerusalem over the courses of their divisions as did the priesthood (this was a symbol pointing towards the later order of Melchisedek as the elect). The divisions met in their tribes, the majority also being away from the Temple when the division was on duty in Jerusalem (Schürer, ibid., Vol. II, pp. 292-293).
Sacrifice is thus integral to worship on a daily basis but involves the entire nation by divisions. The offerings of the national divisions were by prayer and Bible study in addition to the sacrifice. The sacrifice was substituted in Christ but the other elements – of prayer and Bible study and daily devotion – were not substituted or eliminated. From this position it is thus impossible for an elite priesthood to exclude the congregation from the sacrifice and the system of worship – for example, by withholding the wine at the Lord’s Supper and, by extension, within the communion system.
The eighth-day circumcision or offering was at the same time a reiteration of the Covenant relationship of the parent. This is where the idea of infant baptism originated. It was initially linked to the first-born sacrifice and circumcision legislation as a promise of Covenant on the part of the parents. While this aspect could be one of dedication, it could not take the place of baptism and conversion. That is why the acts of confirmation in some churches came to be substituted for adult baptism, because the individual alone must make the decision and, hence, must be baptised in repentance. An infant cannot logically repent and make an informed commitment, thus another fiction had to be invented, namely that of the godparent.
The fee for redemption of people was specified by law and was not onerous (Lev. 27:1-8). The redemption is divided into four categories based on age and sex. These are: one month-5 years; 5-20 years; 20-60 years; and over 60 years. The listings are in order of 20-60 years first, followed by the 5-20 years. It follows next because, as Stone’s Chumash says, it includes those over Bar-Mitzvah age and who are thus technically (or halachically) adults. The valuation of the 20-60 year category is set at fifty sacred shekels, being reduced to thirty for a female. It appears that these fees have some relationship to the Jubilee time-frame (i.e. of 20+50=70 years) and the capacity for these individuals to come into sanctification, based upon their capacity to pay. No person, no matter how poor or dependent, could be excluded because there was a special priest assigned to value the individual for sanctification based on need. The urge to make a comparison with sanctification and baptism and the levels of development and, hence, judgment – based upon age and calling – is irresistible.
Animals set aside as sanctified for use as an offering could not be redeemed or used for any other purpose (see Stone’s Chumash fn. to Lev. 27:9-13).
God connects His right to Israel’s first-born with the slaying of Egypt’s first-born (Num. 8:16-17). Numbers 8:18 establishes the Levites as the substitute first-born and specific details of the substitution are given in Numbers 3:11-13,44-51. The details of flocks and herds are given (Ex. 13:11-13; 22:30; 34:19-20; Lev. 27:26-27; Num. 18:15-17). The Levites became the substitute first-born as a prototype of the elect within the priesthood of Melchisedek. The elect alone face the First Resurrection and hence are the first-born with Jesus Christ for the millennial system.
In Numbers 18:15-17, we have seen that the firstlings cannot be redeemed but must, with the tithe of the corn wine and oil, constitute part of the second tithe according to Deuteronomy 14:23 and 15:19-22.
Deuteronomy 14:22-23 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. 23And 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. (KJV)
The tithe system is thus inextricably linked to the dedication of Israel to God under the Covenant – both physical and spiritual, Old and New, or First and Second Covenant. In this also the tithes themselves represent the two elements of the Covenant. The first tithe is dedicated to the priesthood within the nation. The second tithe is dedicated to the individual for participation in the Feasts as part of the harvests under the Second Covenant as priests and kings (see Rev. 5:9-10). The tithe of the Third year is to enable those who are less fortunate to take their place in the order of Melchisedek as kings and priests under Messiah. Thus the second tithe, as we will see, is converted to the ‘third tithe’ and is in fact one and the same tithe.
Deuteronomy 14:28 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: (KJV)
Rushdoony quotes Waller in relation to the second tithe mentioned here in verses 22-23 and also in relation to the third tithe in verse 28 (cf. Ellicott II, 44f.), as follows:
(22) Thou shalt truly tithe, - The Talmud and Jewish interpreters in general are agreed in the view that the tithe mentioned in this passage, both here and in verse 28, and also the tithe described in chap. xxvi, 12-15, are all one thing - “the second tithe”; and entirely distinct from the tithe assigned to the Levites for their subsistence in Num. xviii, 21, and by them tithed again for the priest (Num. xviii, 26)....
(23) And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God - i.e., thou shalt eat the second tithe. This was to be done two years; but in the third year and sixth years there was a different arrangement (see verse 28). In the seventh year which was Sabbatical there would probably be no tithe, for there was to be no harvest. The profit of the earth was for all and everyone was free to eat at pleasure....
(28) At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe. - This is called by the Jews Ma’aser ‘Ani “the poor’s tithe.” They regard it as identical with the second tithe, which was ordinarily eaten by the owners at Jerusalem; but in every third and sixth year was bestowed upon the poor. (Rushdoony, ibid., p. 50).
Rushdoony quotes P.W. Thompson in his work All the Tithes or Terumah (The Covenant Publishing Co., London, 1946, p. 19) in support of the contention that this second tithe was not strictly a tenth, in that a second tenth was not set apart from the specified livestock but that the “firstlings take the place of a second tithe on animals” (ibid.).
The RSV says it must be brought at the end of every three years.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 "At the end of every three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your produce in the same year, and lay it up within your towns; 29and the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled; that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do. (RSV)
This would be for the third and sixth years, as no tithe is payable in the seventh and Jubilee years. However, the Masoretic Text does not have the word every, merely stating at the end of the third year. The RSV seems to have inserted this word based on the tradition. This follows the Soncino translation which adds the word every in the English. Green’s Interlinear Bible omits the word and the main text shows it to be absent in the Hebrew. Thus, the only certain year is the third of the Sabbatical cycle. Nachmanides and Abraham Ibn Ezra held that it was the second tithe converted to the third tithe in the third year of the cycle. The Soncino states that this interpretation is according to tradition (fn. to v. 28).
The Stone edition of The Chumash (Mesorah Publications, 1994) notes the second tithe in these verses:
22-27 The second tithe. After the terumah, or the kohen’s portion, and the Levite’s tithe have been removed from a harvested crop, the owner must separate the second tithe, the subject of this passage. It is taken in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of the seven-year Shemittah cycle. During the third and sixth years, a tithe is taken instead for distribution to the poor. During the seventh year, no tithes of any sort are taken.
22 ... you shall tithe. Midrash Tanchuma notes the juxtaposition of the commandment to tithe and the previous commandment. The Torah implies that if you fail to give the required tithes, you will lead God to bring forth the hot, dry east wind to “cook” the tender kernels of grain while they are still in the stalk with their mother (Rashi).
Tanchuma comments further that the second part of this compound verb can be read ...you will become rich. Thus the Torah teaches that if you give tithes, you will become rich, in complete contradiction to those who claim that they cannot contribute to charity because they are afraid of becoming poor. This same concept - that tithing will increase the giver’s wealth, not decrease it - is found elsewhere in Scripture: God says: Bring the tithe into the storehouse ... and test Me now with this, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing upon you (Malachi 3:10).
Tithe of the Third Year
In the Second year of the cycle we have to prepare for the tithe of the Third year, in which the second tithe that we normally keep for ourselves to attend Feasts is given to the priesthood (now the Church). This is then the tithe of the Third year and it is used to help our poor and to cater for their needs to attend Feasts, and to assist them in matters of emergency or crisis (Deut 26:12); for this Third year is the marker of the hallowed things of God (Deut. 26:13).
This is the sign of the Lord and His Holy People, and it is through and from this Third year of the Sabbath cycle – and the setting aside of the Third year tithe as hallowed offerings – that His Holy People are identified and set aside as His Covenant People Israel, which is the Church of God. That is why changes also occur in this year.
Deuteronomy 26:11-19 and you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you. 12"When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13then you shall say before the LORD your God, `I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all thy commandment which thou hast commanded me; I have not transgressed any of thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them; 14I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead; I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, I have done according to all that thou hast commanded me. 15Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel and the ground which thou hast given us, as thou didst swear to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.' 16"This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17You have declared this day concerning the LORD that he is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his ordinances, and will obey his voice; 18and the LORD has declared this day concerning you that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19that he will set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he has spoken." (RSV)
Simply put, if we are not tithing and not setting aside the tithe of the Third year to give to the elect as the Church of God, we are not obeying the Covenant and have broken ourselves from the Body – the Covenant People of the Church of God. If our ministry teaches us that we do not have to tithe and we listen to them, then we can join them in the Second Resurrection; or we can repent and set ourselves right with God. This also demands that the ministry identify the true Calendar, with the Jubilee set in place alongside the Sabbath cycles. They will be punished if they neglect to do that or if they mislead the brethren.
Tithe of the Tithe
There is thus a first and a second tithe. The first tithe is payable to the priesthood. Under the Old Covenant it was payable to the Levites, who in turn paid a tithe of the tithe to the Temple priesthood (Num. 18:26; Neh. 10:38). The tithe was collected on an area basis and administered on a local basis. Only the tithe of the tithe went to the Temple priesthood. The second tithe was used for the Feasts at the place designated for such purpose (Deut. 14:22-23). It was also shared with the less fortunate, and, importantly, with the landless Levitical class (Deut. 14:27). As we have seen above, the second tithe was allocated entirely to the poor at the end of the Third year. This was the tithe of the Third year rather than being a third tithe. There is no third tithe – but it is sometimes called that in colloquial speech. It was to be converted to money for reasons of practicality and thus has direct relationship with the wage and cash society. It formed the store of support for the Sabbath cycle. This was supplemented by the gleanings of the corners of the fields (Lev. 19:9) and the Sabbath access to whatever grew of and by itself.
This text in Numbers as interpreted by Jewish authorities is that a Levite must pay a tithe to the Kohanim or priests, and that tithe remains ceremonially pure, being eaten only by them.
Numbers 18:26 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. (KJV)
However, we see from Nehemiah that it was more than that – it was a specific direction for an administrative system. When properly employed, this specifically precluded the establishment of an hierarchical system.
Nehemiah 10:37-38 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. 38And 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. (KJV)
From the text in Nehemiah 10:37-38 in comparison with Numbers, we see the confusion over the second tithe and the first-fruits being brought to the Temple and offered there. The first-fruits were offered at the Feasts to the priesthood. The second tithe enabled the people to attend the Feasts, and it was specifically intended to be consumed by the owners and their beneficiaries (they helped the poor) at the Feast. Thus, the first-fruits by definition must be separate to the second tithe and, therefore, Stone and the Midrash cannot logically be correct. The first tithe is given to the Levites on a local basis but the first-fruits are reserved for the chambers of the House of God. The first-fruit of the shearing (Deut. 18:4) and the tribute of dough (Neh. 10:38) were also given to the priest. The best of the sacrifices – namely the breast and the right shoulder (Lev. 7:30-34), and the normal slaughtering, namely the foreleg, cheek and stomach (Deut. 18:3) – were given to the priests. Psalm 30 accompanies the first-fruits. The establishment of the priest class as a wealthy aristocracy was contributed to by the constant interpretation of these tithing laws in favour of the priest, who then became the subject of distrust by the people. The Scribes’ adherence to the traditions of interpretation contributed to this growth in wealth and power that finally undermined the system (see Schürer, Vol. II, pp. 257ff.).
The maintenance of the House of God was not confined to Jerusalem. We have seen from the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013) that there were Temples maintained in Egypt at both Elephantine and Leontopolis, with the sanction of God under prophecy. Elephantine even helped the Temple at Jerusalem get started again by donation (see the Aramaic Letters referred to in paper No. 13). The Levites were supported by the tithe money in the Diaspora and in Galilee and elsewhere during the period of the Temple up until the time of Christ. Thus, the tithe has nothing to do with the existence of the Temple at Jerusalem; it was not directed there other than under legislation concerning the tithe of the tithe, the laws of first-fruits and through the offerings from second tithe. This occurred from the restoration under Nehemiah until perhaps as late as the compilation of the Mishnah (ca. 200 CE), by which time it may have perhaps lapsed into theory, with the practice becoming something different.
The Jews in the Diaspora were faced with an interpretation of the tithe laws, and in the dispersion the laws were deemed applicable only to the Holy Land. Thus, the laws regarding the land systems were negated by the priests. Another thing that happened is that the Jubilee system was deliberately lost (or distorted) so that they did not have to keep it, because it resulted in a reduction of income every seven years. That was condoned by the priests because they did not want to do away with the income every seven years either. The situation is vague about the exact administration, but Schürer holds that the system was upheld (in its bastardised form) by many in the Diaspora and many sent funds to Jerusalem. The Levites were by-passed and the administration was centralised under the priesthood, who seized administration of the tithes; these were consumed by the priests, their relatives and their household, including slaves. Only the ‘most holy’ offerings were consumed by the priests alone (see Schürer, Vol. II, pp. 260-261,270). In reality, the tithes were not handed over to the Levites (Schürer, ibid., p. 270). The Mishnah, however, takes it for granted that the priest and the Levites each received their respective share from the owner (mM.Sh. 5:6; cf. Schürer, fn. 46 to p. 270). This continues the practice enforced under Nehemiah (Neh. 10:38-39).
However, the practice had been perverted from the time of Christ (Josephus Vita 12 (63); 15 (80); Ant. xx 8,8 (181); 9,2 (206-207); cf. Schürer, ibid., noting also Wellhausen, Ritter, Belkin and Baron). The Terumah offerings by the time of Christ were distinct from the first-fruits, which came to be symbolic, and these best of the fruits of field and tree came to be measured in terms of a personal income. One-fiftieth was the average to be given, with one-fortieth considered generous, and one-sixtieth considered mean (Schürer, Vol. II, p. 263). The Terumah were seen as first-fruits. However, they are in fact related to the Prince’s Levy and approximate the barley harvest at 2%. The priests have no other basis for the levy of the Terumah. The Oral law or tradition had deliberately been used to undermine the scriptural Law, and in effect destroyed the power and freedom of the Law of God in order to enrich the priesthood. The system has more balance if used as a guide to the first-fruits’ levy for the priesthood, and the first tithe is Levitical with the priests receiving only the tithe of the tithe.
This whole tithe system was deliberately undermined before Christ (and after Nehemiah) by the priests, and the rabbinical system was centralised for purposes of power. This was the reason they were sent into captivity – nothing could be done with them.
The Temple Tax
The next element of the tithe system was the Temple tax. This specific levy is mentioned for Atonement. Exodus 30 deals with the establishment of the altar, its sanctification and the Atonement of Israel. Israel may only be numbered by census at this time and the levy is to be made according to the number of people twenty years and over. The levy is fixed at half a shekel (at twenty gerahs to the shekel). No one is allowed to give more or less when the Lord’s tax is taken for the Tent of Meeting.
Exodus 30:11-16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 12When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. 13This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. 14Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. 15The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. 16And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. (KJV)
This levy is a tax, and not an offering. Atonement is the only time that Israel may be numbered, and it is for spiritual purposes and not for defence purposes. Thus, an offering at Atonement is specifically forbidden and strikes at the very heart of the adequacy of the atoning sacrifice of Messiah.
The Temple Tax and the Prince’s Levy
Confusion seems to exist over the half-shekel (or didrachma) Temple tax and the levy for the provision of sacrifices for public worship as administered by the prince. Schürer seems to hold that this tax was a post-exilic levy in replacement of the part tithe in Ezekiel. When listing the priest’s dues as they came to be levied by tradition rather than the law, he says that:
All the dues listed so far constituted the priest’s personal income. From these must now be distinguished imposts directly intended for the maintenance of public worship. The most important was the half-shekel or didrachma tax. A levy of this sort did not exist before the exile because until then the expenses of public service were defrayed by the king (Ezek. 45:17 ff, LXX 46:13-15). But it was paid already in the time of Nehemiah, though it then amounted to a third of a shekel (Neh. 10:33-4). The increase to half a shekel can only have been increased after Nehemiah. The relevant passage in the Pentateuch in which the half shekel valuation tax is prescribed (Exod. 30:11-16) should therefore be regarded as a later addition to the Priestly Code. The actual payment of this tax in the time of Jesus is reliably attested (Schürer, ibid., pp. 270-271).
This statement by Schürer is most extraordinary. It rests entirely on the assumption of the Priestly Code argument, which divides the authorship of the Torah and rests on the premise that Exodus and Numbers were written after Deuteronomy, Ezekiel and Nehemiah (see esp. p. 258). It assumes that the later practice in accordance with Exodus 30:11-16 is evidence that the text in Exodus was not in existence at the time of Nehemiah. This is incorrect reasoning. The restoration of Nehemiah was to restore the Laws as found in the Pentateuch. The text in Exodus specifies the weight at twenty gerahs to the shekel. The Babylonian system appears to have been based on divisions of sixty (or thirty gerahs to the shekel) – hence the deliberate specification in Exodus.
That system extended to the Medo-Persians, and would make twenty gerahs, two-thirds of a Medo-Persian shekel. Rather than indicating the non-existence of Exodus 30:11-16 in the Pentateuch at the time of Nehemiah, it would appear to make Nehemiah’s restoration absolute and literal. When Judah regained its independence, it was no longer tied to the Medo-Persian system of weights and measures but rather could implement its own. The alternative case is that under Nehemiah the third shekel reduction was instituted to alleviate hardship, but that would have involved an alteration to the Law which Nehemiah was restoring and must be rejected on that ground. Whichever is the case, however, there seems little evidence for Schürer’s assumption.
The Prince’s Levy in Ezekiel is for the specific purpose of providing the offerings at the Feasts, New Moons and the Sabbaths.
These offerings and the following quote indicate that at the time under Ezekiel it was regarded as mandatory to keep the Feasts, the New Moons and the Sabbath and that they were days of worship and Holy Days.
Ezekiel 45:13-17 "This is the offering which you shall make: one sixth of an ephah from each homer of wheat, and one sixth of an ephah from each homer of barley, 14and as the fixed portion of oil, one tenth of a bath from each cor (the cor, like the homer, contains ten baths); 15and one sheep from every flock of two hundred, from the families of Israel. This is the offering for cereal offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement for them, says the Lord GOD. 16All the people of the land shall give this offering to the prince in Israel. 17It shall be the prince's duty to furnish the burnt offerings, cereal offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, cereal offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement for the house of Israel. (RSV)
This levy is given to the prince and not to the Levites and it was not superseded by the tax. The priesthood held them to be one and the same because they became the sole rulership of Judah, and the kingship was removed. This levy was tied in to the system of worship we see in Ezekiel 46:1-3. The east gate of the court was to be opened on each Sabbath and New Moon and the ruler had to ensure that the offerings were made. Thus the leadership responsibility of Israel extended to the implementation of the Sabbath and the New Moons, both of which were days of worship and sacrifice.
This supplementary tithe was approximately two percent of barley, one percent of oil and half a percent of the flocks. The conversion into monetary terms must be by percentages of income. The relativity was in relationship to the productivity of the numbers. The flocks produced less and had to be maintained. The barley and oil were direct harvests. Barley carried the greatest levy because it is a yearly grain that yielded more bountifully than oil groves. The levy would thus be tied to net increase at slightly less than two percent. When we examine the levy of the Terumah we find that it was approximately one fiftieth or 2% of personal income, as mentioned above.
From this levy the Sabbath, New Moon and Feast public offerings were made.
This brings us to the next phase of the tithe system: the individual offerings. Weekly collections at church are against God’s Laws. The collection referred to on the first day of the week, or Sunday, ordered by Paul was not an endorsement of either Sunday worship or of weekly offerings (1Cor. 16:2-4).
This collection was for the Jerusalem Church, which was hard pressed. The time-frame of this collection related to the third tithe system – it being a third tithe year – and was established on the first day of the week (which began at dark on Saturday evening) so that the Sabbath could be kept unblemished, not so that Sunday could become a day of worship (see the papers The Sabbath (No. 031) and Ingathering (No. 139)).
By Law, the offerings are to be made three times a year only – not on each Holy Day. Also, the collection is to be taken up on the first evening of each Feast; it cannot be left to the morning. There are good reasons for this: the poor and the Levites had to eat and the preparations were done before the Feast. Messiah will enforce this system under the Millennium, but it is part of God’s Law now.
The three Feast periods and their duration are listed in Deuteronomy 16:1-15. The Lord establishes the offering from verse 16.
Deuteronomy 16:16-17 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: 17Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee. (KJV)
The Feast of Trumpets is not mentioned in Deuteronomy 16. Similarly, it is strictly forbidden to give an offering on the Day of Atonement. Thus, three times is what is said and what is meant. The relationship is tied to the three harvests of God: Messiah as Wave Sheaf; the elect of the First Resurrection (the wheat harvest at Pentecost); and the general harvest of the world at Tabernacles.
The legislation regarding the collection is found at Exodus 23:17-19.
Exodus 23:17-19 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD. 18Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. 19The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk. (KJV)
Thus the collection must be made on the first evenings of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Hence, more than three offerings is also precluded. The 'fat of the sacrifice not remaining until morning' is found in conjunction with the Ingathering text (see the paper Ingathering (No. 139)). The RSV says:
Exodus 23:17-19 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD. 18"You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning. 19"The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk. (RSV)
The continuation of the text is in the context that the fat is the offerings of the Feast. It does not mean that fat as prohibited under the Law can be consumed (cf. Lev. 3:17). The same term is found in Genesis 45:18 and Nehemiah 8:10.
Nehemiah 8:9-10 And Nehemi'ah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (RSV)
Thus the offering is to be gathered on arrival at the Feast at its very commencement and at each of the three Feasts.
There is another reason in terms of this misallocation of Nehemiah and Ezra into the reign of Artaxerxes I, because this seventh year of the time cycle can be isolated in the reign of Artaxerxes II and is a second witness with Ezekiel 1:1 to establish the Jubilee system. That’s why they changed the whole thing and misallocated the seventy weeks of years of Daniel 9:25-27 and misallocated the commencement and Nehemiah’s reign with Ezra into the reign of Artaxerxes I, instead of Artaxerxes II, as the ancient Jewish texts so clearly say. The ancient Jewish texts make Ezra’s reign contemporaneous with Alexander the Great. It proves absolutely we are dealing with the reign of Artaxerxes II and not Artaxerxes I and that we are dealing with the end of Ezra in 323 BCE and not a hundred years earlier. That is the second witness to the restoration of the Calendar.
The Sabbath Year
The Sabbath year requires the land to be rested from commercial cropping. The legislation of Leviticus 25:1-7 forbids the planting of the fields or pruning of vineyards or olive orchards (Ex. 23:10). The produce of the fields and the grapes of the undressed vines are not to be gathered in the seventh year of the cycle. That which grows of itself in the 7th year is to be used for food by the owners, the household and the poor or sojourner in the land. The land is thus freed from being worked and will in fact produce whatever grows of itself.
Debts are also forgiven in the Sabbath and Jubilee years (Deut. 15:1-3). Lands are restored in the Jubilee. In the Sabbath year the Law is read on each day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 31:9-13; Neh. 7:73; 8:1-18). As part of the tithe system, the Sabbath year is fundamental to the understanding of the Law.
The Sabbath year allows each person to be freed from the legal obligation implicit in the Fourth Commandment to labour on a weekly basis throughout the year, with the exception of the Feasts and Holy Days and the occasional leave from labour granted for the normal day-to-day functioning of the society. People may use the Sabbath year for the study they have chosen to undertake and, in particular, biblical studies that might confer no economic benefit. In a normal year, if a man decided simply to take the year off and do nothing, he would legally be in breach of the Fourth Commandment.
The requirement to refrain from commercial exploitation of the land and the annual cropping during this year absolves each person from producing an annual tithable income by regular labour. It is a matter of fact that not all people are farmers and relatively few are dependent upon the produce of the land. Within today’s society the majority of people work on a regular basis and only the very, very few are privileged enough to be given paid Sabbatical leave. However, that does not limit the application of the Law or its interpretation for the rights and entitlements of the individual under the Law. It is a matter of choice as to whether an individual works and earns income from labour other than commercial cropping.
God promised that we would be given a treble harvest in the years preceding the Sabbath and the Jubilee years. This was to ensure that enough tithe and produce and tithable income would be available to enable us to keep the Sabbath and Jubilee years. This follows each normal Sabbath cycle where the Sabbath year is enabled by the grace of God in the Sixth year or sometimes even from the Fifth year.
With the greater degree of freedom extended to the individual in the Sabbath year, the tithe system is made freer than would otherwise be experienced. Thus the individual is allowed to determine the combination of his/her harvests as being what grows of itself and what is actual earned income. This then places an onus on the individual to determine what constitutes tithable income.
We are also free to provide for the Church, its work, and its ministry and the poor in its charge on an offering basis. It is up to the individual to determine what has been set aside from the second tithe income of the previous six years and what is available in the Seventh year. In Sabbath years all moneys payable to the Church are classed as offerings.
We are required to determine the offerings that we give to the Church taking into account what we have earned, what we have taken by windfall, and what funds we have drawn from the savings of the Second Tithe from previous years. We may labour or we may not, and we are free to determine our income and expenditure and the amounts that we provide to the Church for its operations.
The major reason behind the non-application of the Sabbatical system by Diaspora Jews to the Holy Land was so that they did not have to rest their fields in the Sabbatical year. The priests condoned this for increased revenue. That has also been the motivation in modern society and the Church. Failure to obey this legislation has seen God intervene and send Israel into captivity to achieve the desired rest for the land.
Year of Release
God has issued a specific law concerning debts and the release in the Sabbath year, which is called the “year of release” (Deut. 15:1-11). We are all required to forgive debt in the Sabbath year if we are asked for release. Simply because the Sabbath is approaching, we are not allowed to harden our hearts and not give to our brothers.
Under the Law we are permitted to lend to other nations, but we should not borrow from them. The Law of God sanctions us lending to foreign nations due to the blessings God has given us. However, we are not permitted to charge usury or interest on those debts. God has said in Psalm 15:5 that this person shall stand in the congregation of the Lord: “He that does not put his hand out to usury, nor takes reward against the innocent. He that does these things shall never be moved.” Thus we can lend but not charge interest.
In our society it is almost impossible to be righteous. To build a house now (when the entire world is in debt slavery) requires the payment of interest on loans in order for people to survive in their own homes. This practice is immoral.
The English-speaking people became consolidated over the centuries and interest was not charged on loans. Foreigners and Jews owned the banking system and misused the Law of God under improper distinctions regarding neighbours and Hebrews (Deut. 15:1-11) and those against slavery (v. 12). The British monarchy established the banking system in order to fund and support its wars. This system is contrary to God’s Law and will be abolished by the Jubilee of the Messianic system.
The way the world has been set up in the twentieth century in its corporate structure is unsustainable. It will collapse under its own weight with the inequitable system it has created. God will allow the collapse and He will restore His system under His Laws at the end of the trouble.
Without usury and with God’s Laws we can create wealth and live securely. If we work contrary to that system we will create inequity. The Law of God and His system work on a theory of obligation, and not one of rights.
Removal of the Levitical Authority
The priesthood that preceded and succeeded the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood was that of Melchisedek (see the paper Melchisedek (No. 128)). Abraham tithed to Melchisedek (Gen. 14:18-20) and hence David and Messiah tithed to Melchisedek, being in the loins of Abraham (Heb. 7:5-9).
Hebrews 7:5-9 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: 6But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. 7And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. 8And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. (KJV)
We see here also that the Levites paid tithes and that their priesthood is inferior to that of Melchisedek, as fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Ps. 110:4). The appointment of the seventy[-two] by Christ in Luke 10:1,17 was the transfer of authority from the Sanhedrin to the Church. Thus the tithe now rests in the Melchisedek priesthood and not the Levitical priesthood. The Church and its local establishment is the beneficiary of the first tithe, while the central administration is entitled to the tithe of the tithe.
Early Church Understanding of the Transfer of Authority
The text of the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians deals with the responsibility of the Church in relation to appointments and also to the tithe. Clement was a disciple of the Church who wrote well after the death of Paul. Chapter XIII is an exhortation to humility and ends with the words: “For the Holy Word saith, ‘On whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembleth at My words?’” (Isa. 66:2).
Clement upholds the Laws of God in the Torah regarding the offerings and the priesthood, and directly transfers that authority to the Church.
Clement says at chapter XL (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p.16):
"These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behoves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom he desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him. Those therefore who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the Laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is assigned to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to the layman.”
Thus he establishes the Laws of God in the Church pertaining to the offerings of God. He establishes the Bible Calendar and its appointed times of worship. This text has nothing to do with 1Corinthians 16:1,2; it refers to the Torah. He establishes the bounds and order of the ministry and tells those appointed not to go beyond the bounds assigned to him by those who appointed him.
In chapter XLI he says:
"Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place brethren are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace offerings or the sin offerings, and the trespass offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the Temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Therefore, those who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will are punished with death. Ye see brethren the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us the greater the danger to which we are exposed."
In chapter XLII he transfers the authority of the priesthood to the ministry of Christ in this authority of the tithes and offerings of God. He also refers to the “first-fruits” in relation to those added to the Church and says:
"The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments were made in an orderly way according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the Word of God with the full assurance of the Holy Spirit they went forth proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities they appointed the first fruits [of their labours] having first proved them by the Spirit to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, 'I will appoint their bishops (overseers) in righteousness and their deacons (servants) in faith (taken from Isa. 60:17 of the LXX but altered by Clement here as the LXX says “I will give thy rulers in peace and thy overseers in righteousness”).
Thus Clement clearly laid the laws of the tithe and the offerings at the feet of the Church of God and its appointed ministry. He does that in accordance with the Bible Calendar regarding the appointed times.
The Church continued in unity until Anicetus made the Easter declaration ca. 154 CE. Victorinus caused the schism in 192; hence, what happened after 154 in the Roman Church was heretical to the Church of God.
It is also asserted that Irenaeus (writing ca. 195, after the schism) preaches against the tithe in Book IV, but he does no such thing. In Book IV (ch. VIII, 3) he speaks of the Law and the Sabbath and that it did not forbid those who were hungry on the Sabbath days to take food lying ready at hand. He goes on to proclaim that David was appointed a priest by God although Saul persecuted him. “For all the righteous possess the sacerdotal rank and all the apostles of the Lord are priests” (ibid., cf. 1Pet. 2:5,9 quoting also Moses at Deut. 33:9). He says that God requires obedience rather than sacrifice and holocausts. Irenaeus quotes Paul and holds the ministry to be priests of the Lord who, when hungry, may lawfully eat of the ears of corn. He held that the priests in the Temple profaned the Sabbath and were blameless because they were not engaged in secular affairs. In this he upheld the Sabbath and the actions of the ministry as priests of the Lord who had a right to eat of the inheritance of Levi, which is the tithes and offerings of the Laws of God.
Irenaeus says in chapter XVIII, 1: “We are bound therefore to offer to God the first-fruits of His creation, as Moses also says, ‘Thou shalt not appear in the presence of the Lord thy God empty’ [i.e. empty handed; cf. Deut. 16:16]; so that man being accounted as grateful, by those things in which he has shown his gratitude, may receive that honour which flows from him.”
This text is a clear reference to the tithe and the three Feast seasons of the Bible. He goes on in XVIII, 2 to say:
“And the class of oblations in general has not been set aside for there were both oblations there [among the Jews], and there are oblations here [among the Christians]. Sacrifices there were among the people; sacrifices there are, too, in the Church: but the species alone has been changed inasmuch as the offering is now made, not by slaves but by freemen. For the Lord is [ever] one and the same; but the character of a servile oblation is peculiar [to itself], as is also that of freemen, in order that by the very oblations, the indication of liberty may be set forth. For with him there is nothing purposeless, nor without signification, nor without design. And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God” (cf. Lk. 21:4).
Irenaeus here is saying that the Jews tithed as required by the Law of God but we of Christ in the Church give all we have as oblations before God in the Church. How could anyone with any understanding construe this as eliminating the Laws of God regarding tithing? It is elevating the laws regarding the first-fruits and the tithe to one of total sacrifice for the Church.
Irenaeus is often quoted out of context from the text in Book. 4, ch. XIII in relation to tithing where he says:
“… and instead of the Law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share all our possessions with the poor.”
This statement amplifies the rest of his views where the laws of the tithe were not eliminated but amplified. Most ignore that sentiment.
Irenaeus says in Book 4, ch. XIII, 1 that Christ “did not teach us things as being opposed to the law but as fulfilling the law, and implanting in us the varied righteousness of the law. That would have been contrary to the law, if he had commanded his disciples to do anything that the law had prohibited” (ibid., vol. 1, p. 477).
Thus we have the authority granted to us by Christ and the Apostles in the Church when it was transferred from Levi to the order of Melchisedek, of which order we are. We have appointed deacons and tested them in the Faith and they are measured by the Holy Spirit and judged. To whom much is given much is expected, and the danger of their position is great.
Be thankful that the Church in normal circumstances has not placed any burden on itself other than the tithes of God and whatever the individual chooses to offer. Give thanks that the Church is not as it was in Jerusalem and in dire need of holding all goods in common. In such a situation Ananias and his wife were killed, just as some of these who teach against the Laws of God have been spiritually killed.
The explanation of the tithes concerns productive increase. It is of the increase of the fields and the herds, etc. It does not involve dead animals, or those that are torn and taken by wild beasts, or the stillborn, or the gleanings or the unpicked fruit of the seed, or the fodder eaten by the animals while ploughing or treading the grain. “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain” (Deut. 25:4). Thus the tithe is a net tithe and not a gross tithe. Translated into today’s terms, that is an after-tax tithe, or net wage free of costs, and not a before-tax or gross tithe. The determination of the costs involved rest with the individual – it is according to the relationship that the individual has with God.
Withholding tithes is tantamount to robbing God. The tithe system is identified by God as being integral to the Covenant of God. God deals with the issue of His Covenant through the prophet Malachi. The nexus between tithes and the Covenant is established at Malachi 3, where the Messiah is identified with the elect, and the condition of entry to the system he established is mentioned. God orders His people to return to Him and He will return to them. He gives explicit instruction as to the method of return and part of the sign of that return is the tithe system.
We have to return to God in tithes before He returns to us.
Malachi 3:6-18 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, `How shall we return?' 8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, `How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. 10Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. 11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. 13"Your words have been stout against me, says the LORD. Yet you say, `How have we spoken against thee?' 14You have said, `It is vain to serve God. What is the good of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? 15Henceforth we deem the arrogant blessed; evildoers not only prosper but when they put God to the test they escape.'" 16Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another; the LORD heeded and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and thought on his name. 17"They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (RSV)
It is thus seen that tithing is part of the Covenant relationship between God and Israel. No man can make decisions that alter the Laws of God applying to tithing within this Covenant. No person can be part of the elect and not comply with the tithe laws. It is a sign of the return to God in restoration.
The first tithe is thus collected and administered on a local or area basis. The central administration of the Church is supported by the tithe of the tithe. The second tithe is used in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth years of the Sabbatical cycle. The ‘third tithe’ is actually the normal second tithe of the third year of the cycle converted to the ‘tithe of the third year’ and given to the priesthood (now the Church) for assistance to the poor. The sixth year of the cycle is used by the Jews as a third tithe year also by tradition, but there is no express direction on this matter. The Sabbatical or seven-year cycle – making seven seven-year cycles or forty-nine years, with the fiftieth year being the Jubilee – is the means of determining the years. The legislation governing the Jubilee is found in Leviticus 25:9-54 and 27:17-24. The Jubilee is established in years 27 and 77 of the centuries of the current era (from Ezek. 1:1-2). God has established the basis of His Calendar and it cannot be lost (see the papers God’s Calendar (No. 156) and The Meaning of Ezekiel’s Vision (No. 108)).
No tithes of any description can be collected in the Seventh year or in the Jubilee year. All moneys in these years are freewill offerings and are paid into the first- and third-tithe funds.
As we see, the second tithe is converted to the third tithe and given to the poor in the third year of the Sabbatical cycle. Feast expenditure is from savings other than second tithe. All second tithe in this year was given to the poor and Levites and, in the normal years, offerings to the poor and the Levites were made from the individual’s second tithe. The sixth year is kept as a third tithe year according to the Oral traditions. The effect in the Jubilee system would be to appropriate a double second tithe to the priesthood (and the Church). This was purely an administrative decision by the Jews with no biblical basis. Modern income patterns require monetary offerings to the first and third tithe funds.
The last Jubilee year was 1977. The next cycle had or will have Sabbath years in 1984, 1991, 1998, 2005, 2012, 2019 and 2026. The cycle until the Sabbath year 2012 is thus:
· 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 were or will be normal first and second tithe years.
· 1994, 2001, 2008, 2012 etc. were third tithe years when the second tithe is given to the poor for attendance at Feasts.
· 2019 is the next Sabbath year and no tithes are payable. All moneys are paid as first tithe and tithe of the third year offerings. The Law is read at Tabernacles in this year.
2027 is the next Jubilee year, with Sabbath years falling in 2019 and 2026.
No person can establish a system which limits the system that God has established in any way. The reason why the Jubilees were not re-established in the Churches of God in the twentieth century appears to be based on plain greed, in that this system would have limited the Churches’ income. In fact, a system was established which bore no resemblance to the true tithe system and which placed hardship on untold numbers of people. Failure to establish the true system under God’s Laws is the same as withholding the truth in unrighteousness and is condemned by Paul.
Romans 1:18-19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (RSV)
No church can lawfully establish a system contrary to the legislation outlined above. When that occurs, the system has to be destroyed.
The individual has an obligation to participate in the Covenant relationship as established by God. Tithing is part of that Covenant relationship and a sign that the person has turned to God; he then becomes part of God’s Law-order and system of government as a priest and king. Failing to tithe is not only robbing God but also it determines whether or not the individual is part of the Covenant, and whether that person and their family in fact share in the Covenant promise of the election. Withholding tithes is effectively stripping oneself of the inheritance and de-sanctifying one’s family.
Tithing in the Sabbath Year
The Sabbath Year has a number of applications that in effect alter the Law in relation to its function in normal years. One of the things that seems to confuse some people is the application of the tithe legislation in relation to the Sabbath Year.
The normal function of the Fourth Commandment is to enjoin on all the faithful a requirement to not only observe the Sabbath Day but to labour for the other six days per week. Thus the commandment encompasses a large number of concepts. Like all the Commandments of God they are based on the Two Great Commandments, which are extended to the Ten, and which are then extended to the entire body of the Law of God (see paper The Law of God (L1)).
The Sabbath Year however allows each person to be freed from the legal obligation to labour on a weekly basis throughout the year, with the exception of the Feasts and Holy Days and the occasional leave from labour granted for the normal day-to-day functioning of the society.
The Sabbath Year requires the land to be rested from commercial cropping and for it to be used for the rest and enjoyment of the poor and the needy. This requirement has actually seen God intervene and send Israel into captivity to achieve the required rest for the land and its Sabbaths. In the year 2019 we have seen many sins develop and the nations are becoming sinful and so much so that God has sent us into drought and soon will force us into war and then when He deems it appropriate He will send the Two Witnesses to deal with us and prepare us for the coming of the Messiah. From the time they arrive it will not rain until mankind repents under the Messiah before the Treble Harvest Year before the Jubilee (cf. Wars of the End Part I: Wars of Amalek (No. 141C); Wars of the End Part II: 1260 Days of the Witnesses (No. 141D) and Wars of the End Part III: Armageddon and the Vials of the Wrath of God (No. 141E)). It is our task to pray and fast for the repentance of our people such that we do not go into captivity before the coming of the Messiah no matter where we are.
By the requirement to refrain from commercial exploitation of the land and the annual cropping during this year, each person is absolved from the requirement to produce by regular labour an annual tithable income. This year is set aside for the education of the individual in the Laws of God and in the endeavours that the individual has set aside for himself relating to the regulation of the society and the implementation of the Laws of God and its social structure. In practice, the individual is able to set aside the Sabbath Year for the study of a subject within his or her sphere of endeavour within the society. This practice is employed by universities to this day and is called Sabbatical leave or Sabbatical studies.
It is a matter of fact that not all people are farmers and not all people are dependent upon the produce of the land. Within today’s society the majority of people work on a regular basis and only the very, very, few are privileged enough to be given paid Sabbatical leave. That does not however, limit the application of the Law or its interpretation for the purposes of interpretation of the rights and entitlements of the individual under the Law.
In the biblical society ruled under the Laws of God, the person is entitled to cease from normal labour in this year and to pursue the studies of the Laws of God in particular. It is a matter of the individual’s choice as to whether he or she labours and earns income from labour other than commercial cropping.
The land is thus freed and it will in fact produce whatever grows of itself. This places an onus on the individual that involves a determination as to what constitutes tithable income. There are also a number of ordinances that involve firstlings, and other ordinances that follow from the normal husbandry of the flocks. The fact is that most people in today’s society experience no such firstling problems because we do not regulate the society as it is set out in the Bible.
The promise was given to us by God that we would be given a treble harvest in the year preceding the Sabbath and the Jubilee Years. This was to ensure that enough tithe and produce and tithe income was available to enable us to keep the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year. This follows each normal Sabbath cycle where the Sabbath Year is enabled by the grace of God in the Sixth Year or, sometimes, even from the Fifth Year.
There is thus a greater degree of freedom extended to the individual in the Sabbath Year than there would otherwise be under the Law for each year within the cycle other than the Sabbath Year. Accordingly, the tithe system for the Sabbath Year is made freer than would otherwise be experienced. In the Sabbath Year the individual is allowed to determine the combination of their harvests as being what grows of itself and what is actual earned income.
In each year the Church allows the individual the freedom to determine the net tithable income. Many Churches of God operating under the tithe system do not follow this practice. Some insist that the tithe payable is on gross income before costs. Businesses do not and cannot operate on this process. This is, of itself, a complicated argument in determining the proper procedure for the determination of the actual tithable profit.
The Church has left it to the individual to work out their net tithable income in normal years. In Sabbath Years it says that all moneys payable to the Church are classed as offerings and it is up to the individual to determine what they believe to be responsible income, free of costs, payable to the Church. In the Sabbath Year the individual does not need to labour on a weekly basis in accordance with the Fourth Commandment. In a normal year, if a man decided simply to take the year off and do nothing, he would legally be in breach of the Fourth Commandment. Every person, even the disabled, is required to do what they can do for the furtherance and the benefit of the society in which they live. In the Sabbath Year they are freed from this obligation and they may use the year for the study they have chosen to undertake.
Thus, they are also free to provide for the Church, its work, and its ministry and the poor in its charge on an offering basis. It is up to the individual to determine what has been set aside from the Second Tithe income of the previous six years and that which is available in the Seventh Year. The Church has not and will not involve itself in the ordering of payments and the limiting of the accumulation of Second Tithe income for expenditure in the Sabbath Year.
Many people of the Churches of God have difficulty with this concept. Many in other churches have been ordered to send all excess Second Tithe to the church each year. Many have been ordered to send a Third Tithe every three years to the church headquarters and that this tithe is in addition to the Second Tithe, which it is not. The Third Tithe is a misnomer for the Second Tithe of the Third Year of the Sabbath Cycle. Every Third Year of the cycle, the Second Tithe is to be paid into the Church for the poor funds (Third Year Funds) to enable the attendance at feasts of the poor and less fortunate.
One of the most deceitful games we have seen played is the attack on sections of the tithing legislation and its implementation by people purporting to be members of the Churches of God and some even coming to and/or trying to become members of CCG when they are in fact Antinomians. They do not in fact support much or any of the Law of God. We have had to dismiss people because of this pretext and viewpoint when their views have finally emerged. If you do not agree with us, do not come to us professing to want to join us. You are being dishonest.
We make no apology for the freedoms and responsibility we place on the individual for the determination of their support and assistance to the Church.
Each of us is required to support the Church, and the poor of the Church, and subsequently the society in which we live. In the Sabbath Year you are required to determine the offerings that you give to the Church taking into account that which you have earned, that which you have taken by windfall, and that which you have taken from funds drawn from the savings of the Second Tithe of previous years. The Church has stated that these funds are offerings. Thus, you may labour or you may not, and you are free to determine your income and expenditure and the amounts that you provide to the Church for its operations. You are thus free in that sense to form your own judgment as to the correct or incorrect determination of the balance of your earnings and tithing obligations
The Church has the power under the Law to make such determinations, and each of us should be grateful that we have no greater burden placed on us. This Sabbath year limitation must be born in mind by church groups requesting assistance of the World Conference in aid.
Give as you are able and give as you have determined to give. Fulfil your vows. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Do not take issue with your brothers because they have different views than you regarding their obligations and responsibilities. Be thankful that each of us is able to walk in the faith, as we are able. More importantly, do not neglect your brothers and the Church of God in the execution of their tasks and responsibilities in the Law of God and the promulgation of the Faith.
The tithe legislation is another aspect of the love of God and the love of one another. Show you love God by a demonstration of how you love one another, who are the Church of God.