Nazarene Space

Dispelling Popular Myths about the Tithe

The tithe was for the age of Law but we are in the age of grace.

TRUTH: The Torah is for all generations forever.

MYTH: The tithe was instituted as part of the Mosaic Torah.

TRUTH: The first mention of the Torah after the Torah is given on Mt. Sinai is found in Lev. 27:30 which does not institute a tithe, but simply acknowledges that the tithe belongs to YHWH. This passage simply mentions the tithe that already existed.

MYTH: The tithe was only to be paid to the priests and the Temple.

The Torah says:

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land,
or of the fruit of the tree, is YHWH’s; it is set-apart onto
(Lev. 27:30)

Notice that this statement in Torah is not a commandment to tithe, it
simply informs us that the Tithe belongs to YHWH. There was no
need to command the people to tithe, because the tithe was already in

Next we read about the tithe in Numbers:

And unto the children of Levi, behold,
I have given all the tithe in Yirae’el for an inheritance,
in return for their service which they serve,
even the service of the tent of meeting.
(Num. 18:21)

Notice that these are two different precepts of Torah. Lev. 27:30 recognizes that the Tithe belongs to YHWH, while a separate commandment in Num. 18:21 tells us that the Levites were to be paid out of the tithe. The tithe was not directly paid to the Levites, it was paid to YHWH and from that “fund” the Levites were paid.

Now that the Temple is no longer standing, and the Levites are no
longer working, whom should the tithe go to support? The solution to
this enigma is answered for us in the Ketuvim Netzarim:

Those elders who conduct themselves well should be esteemed
worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the
word and in teaching, For the Scripture says that `you should
not muzzle the ox, while threshing,' (Deut. 25:4) and `the
laborer is worthy of his wage." (Mt. 10:10)
(1Tim. 5:17-18)

Paul also expands on this thought in 1Cor. 9:6-14:
Also, I only, and Bar Nabba, have we not the power not to
work? Who is this who labors in the service (ministry) by the
expanse of his nefesh? Or who is he who plants a vineyard and
from its fruit does not eat? Or who is he who tends the flock
and from the milk of his flock does not eat? Do I say these
[things] as a son of man? Behold, the Torah also said these
[things]. For it is written in the Torah of Moshe, `You shall not
muzzle the ox that threshes.' (Deut. 25:4) I is a concern to
Eloah about oxen? But, it is known that because of us he said
[it] and because of us it was written, because it is a need [that]
the plowman plow unto hope and he who threshes, unto the
hope of the harvest. If we have sown spiritual [things] among
you, is it a great [thing] if we reap [things] of the flesh from
you? … those who labor [in] the Beit Kodesh [the Temple]
are sustained from the Beit Kodesh and those who labor for
the alter have a portion with the alter? So also, our Adon
commanded that those who are proclaiming his goodnews
should live from his goodnews."
(1Cor. 9:6-14)

Paul tells us that those who “labor in the Word and in teaching” “who
are proclaiming the goodnews” are entitled to the same support as
“those who labor in the Temple… who labor for the alter”.

The Levites are no longer laboring in the Temple and are not eligible
to receive be paid for their labor from the Tithe, but Paul tells us that
“those who labor in the Word and in teaching” are eligible for the
same support. With the Levites no longer laboring in the Temple,
those who “labor in the Word and teaching” remain eligible to be paid
from the Tithe. This is exactly the Tithe Melchizadek received from
Abraham before the Temple stood.

MYTH: The tithe is paid to widows and orphans.

Actually a second tithe was to be paid to widows and orphans

There are actually two tithes in the Mosaic Covenant, the second one
was tied to the seven year cycle of the Land. When the Temple stood
the first tithe was used for the maintenance of the Levites in exchange
for their work in the Temple (Num. 18:21) who then gave a tenth of
the tithe to the High Priest (apparently to be distributed to the Ahronic
Priests (Numb. 18:23-32).

The second tithe (Maaser Sheni) was converted to money and used to
make a personal pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The "pilgrim" could spend
this money however he liked on the pilgrimage but was expected to
treat the Levites to a feast as well upon his arrival and any surplus was
given to the Levites (Deut. 14:22-27). Every third year however the
tither stayed home and used this second tithe to feed the needy and
local Levites (Deut. 14:28-29).

MYTH: Abraham’s tithe to Melchizadek was a different tithe from the tithe in the Mosaic Torah.

TRUTH: The tithe Abraham paid to Melchizadek was the same tithe paid to the Levites. This is the whole point to the logic of Hebrews 7:4-10 is that they were the very same tithe.

The principle of tithing did not originate in the Mosaic Covenant.
Avraham tithed in Genesis 14 long before the Mosaic Covenant (or
even the Abrahamic Covenent) was entered into. Lets examine Gen.
14 and see what the Torah tells us about this pre-Mosaic tithe.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine:
and he was the priest of the most high God.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram
of El Elyon, possessor of heaven and earth:
And blessed be El Elyon, which hath delivered
thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
(Gen. 14:18-20)

The word translated “tithes” here is actually singular in the Hebrew, so
that the verse might better read “And he gave him the Tithe from all”.

Who was this Melchizedek and why did Abraham pay the tithe to him?
The answer may be found in the Book of Jasher also known as
Midrash Sefer HaYashar. The Book of Jasher contains this same
account but with some important additional information:

And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem,
went out with his men to meet Abram and his people,
with bread and wine, and they remained together
in the valley of Melech.
And Adonizedek blessed Abram, and Abram gave him
a tenth from all that he had brought from the spoil of
his enemies, for Adonizedek was a priest before God.
(Jasher 16:11-12)

Now according to the Book of Jasher Abraham tithed to Melchizadek
(or Adonizadek) because he was a "priest". How is it that Melchizadek
is called a "priest"? Although Melchizadek was not a Levite (there
were not yet any Levites) we do have a clue in Jasher as to why he is
called a "priest". Jasher reveals the identity of Melchizadek saying
"the same is Shem" (this identity of Melchizadek is also recorded in
the Talmud in b.Ned. 32). Now this is very important because the
Book of Jasher also records the fact that Shem had been Abraham's
Torah teacher:

And when Avram came out from the cave, he went to Noach
and his son Shem, and he remained with them to learn the
instruction of YHWH and his ways, and no man knew where
Avram was, and Avram served Noach and Shem his son for a
long time. And Avram was in Noach's house thirty-nine years,
and Abram knew YHWH from three years old, and he went in
the ways of YHWH until the day of his death, as Noach and his
son Shem had taught him;
(Jasher 9:5-6)

(If you do the "Bible Math" you will find that Noach and Shem died
AFTER Avraham was born, a point that surprises some people.)

Thus Abraham paid the tithe to Shem because Shem had been his
personal Torah teacher.

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James Trimm
Worldwide Nazarene Assembly of Elohim

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