The Tithe of YHWH
The Cost of the Covenant
A written Version of the Audio Teaching
By Jame Scott Trimm
So you are excited about Torah. So you are ready to say “we will hear and do”. Not so fast… there is a disclosure to be made first.
In Rabbinic Judaism Gentiles seeking conversion are discouraged. Gentiles seeking conversion are turned away three times. Then after being turned away three times it is required to make a full disclosure of the financial obligations of the Covenant. It is said that few Gentiles would willingly enter the Covenant once they know the cost.
To begin with we must understand that EVERYTHING belongs to YHWH (Ex. 9:29; 2Kn. 19:15; Is. 66:1-2; Jer. 27:5; Job 12:9-10; Ps. 89:11; 95:3-5; Dan. 4:7; Neh. 9:16; 1Chron. 29:13-14). He owns this universe, all of its resources, all of its energy, and he owns YOU. YHWH is entitled to ask for 100%. In His CHESED, in His undue favor, He allows us to keep 90%.
Now one might ask: Where in the Mosaic Torah is the commandment “Thou shalt tithe?”. The answer is, nowhere. When Moshe went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he did NOT receive a commandment to tithe. Nowhere in the Mosaic Torah is there the Tithe instituted. Instead the very first mention of the tithe in the Mosaic Covenant is not until the end of Leviticus where we read:
30 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 unto YHWH.
31 And if a man will redeem aught of his tithe, he shall add unto it, the fifth part thereof.
32 And all the tithe of the herd, or the flock, whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth
shall be Set-Apart unto YHWH.
33 He shall not inquire whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it. And if he
change it at all, then both it, and that for which it is changed, shall be Set-Apart; it shall
not be redeemed.
34 These are the commandments, which YHWH commanded Moshe for the children of
Yisra’el in mount Sinai.
Notice that this first mention of the “tithe” does not initiate the tithe, it simply recognizes the fact of the tithe saying “it is Set-Apart unto YHWH”. Notice also this first passage says nothing about Levites or Priests. It does not say that the tithe belongs to the Levites, but rather to YHWH.
When next we read on the Tithe in the Mosaic Torah is in the book of 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.
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, for their service in the Tabernacle (later Temple). The tithe was not directly paid to the Levites, it was paid to YHWH and from that “fund” the Levites were paid. This was so that the Levites could devote themselves to full time Torah Study (2Chron. 31:4-5) so that they could in turn teach Torah to the people of Israel (Deut. 14:22-23; Ezek. 44:23-24).
Nowhere are we told to pay the Tithe to the Levitical priesthood. We are told only that the Tithe is paid to YHWH and YHWH gave the Levites payment from the Tithe “for their service.”
THE SECOND AND THIRD TITHES
Now before moving on from the Mosaic Torah we should also cover the second and third tithes. Some lump these together as “the second tithe” because they are never paid on the same year.
There are actually two tithes in the Mosaic Covenant which were tied to the seven year cycle of the Land. The first tithe (Masserot) is due every year.
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 used this second tithe (some all this third year tithe as a "third tithe") to feed the needy and local Levites (Deut. 14:28-29). Thus the Mosaic tithing schedule goes like this:
1. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
2. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
3. First Tithe: Levites; Third Tithe: Feeds the needy and Levites
4. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
5. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
6. First Tithe: Levites; Third Tithe: Feeds the needy and Levites
7. The Sabbath of the land, only the First Tithe was paid on any volunteer crop and on other non-planted produce.
(The first tithe could only be converted into money by paying a 20% penalty (Lev. 27:31) however the second tithe was generally converted to money as a matter of course (Deut. 14:25).)
The three Tithes are laid out in the book of Tobit as follows:
6 And I went to Yerushulayim at the appointed times as it is written in the Torah of YHWH concerning Yisrael in firstfruits and tithes and firstlings.
7 To the priests, sons of Aharon and new wine and fat and labors and pomegranates and from all fruits of the ground to the sons of Levi, ministers before, the presence of YHWH in Yerushalayim, and the second tithe. (8) And the third tithe to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow. And I would go in every year with all these, to Yerushalayim by the commandments of YHWH and according to that duty upon me, Devorah mother of my Father.
(Tovi (Tobit) 1:6-7 HRV – From our ongoing work :-) )
Now as we have shown, the Tithe was not initiated in the Mosaic Torah. Instead the first mention of the Tithe in the Mosaic Covenant only acknowledges that the Tithe is YHWH’s. 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.
18 And MalkiTzadek, king of Shalem, brought forth bread and wine, and he was a cohen
of El Elyon.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Avram, of El Elyon--Maker of heaven and
20 And blessed be El Elyon, who has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he
gave him a tenth (tithe) of all.
(Gen. 14:18-20 HRV)
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.
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;
Thus Abraham paid the tithe to Shem because Shem had been his personal Torah teacher. (If you do the "Bible Math" you will find that Noach and Shem died AFTER Avraham was born, a point that surprises some people.)
Note that Abraham's tithe in Gen. 14 was not being made on agricultural produce but on “all” (Gen. 14:20) and specifically in this case the "spoils of his enemies" (Jasher 16:12; also Hebrews 7:4). This dispels the theory taught by some, that the Tithe is only paid on agricultural produce.
Now some have taught that the tithe Melchizadek paid was not the same Tithe mentioned in the Mosaic Torah from which the Levites were paid. This is also not true, as Paul argues in the book of Hebrews:
4 Consider and see his greatness, which also Avraham our father, gave to him a tenth
from the spoil.
5 And also the sons of L'vi collect for the priesthood, having received a commandment
to collect the tithe from the people, according to the decree of the Torah. And this is of
their brothers, although having come from the loins of Avraham.
6 Truly he who is not from their tribe, has received the tithe from Avraham, and blessed
those, who are blessed, to him.
7 And behold, this no one disputes: that the lesser is blessed by the greater.
8 Behold here, sons of man which die, receive tithes: but sleep received he of whom it is
said that He lives.
9 For so to say, that to he who was accustomed to take the tithe, he also tithes through
10 For He was yet in the loins of the Father, when He met, he who was called Malki-
(Heb. 7:4-10 HRV)
The whole logic of Paul’s argument here is based in the fact that the tithe that Avram paid to Melchizadek was EXACTLY the same tithe that the Levites were paid from.
Another example of the pre-Mosaic tithe is the vow Jacob made to tithe saying to Elohim "and of all that you shall give me I will surely give the tenth onto you" (Gen. 28:22). Note that Jacob tithed on all that Elohim had given him and not simply on agricultural produce. In fact Jacob even tithed from his sons. In the Midrash Rabbab there is an important story related to Jacob's tithe told by Rabbi Joshua of Sikaan in the name of his teacher Rabbi Levi:
A certain Curthean (Samaritan) attempted to trap Rabbi Mier
in a question concerning Jacob's vow to HaShem to give a
"tithe of all."
You Jews teach that Jacob gave a tenth of all to HaShem;
yet Jacob had twelve sons: Jacob also said, 'Ephraim and Manasseh are mine.' That makes fourteen sons of Jacob, yet Jacob gave only one son to HaShem and that was Levi," spoke the Curthean, implying that Jacob the Jew had broken his vow to HaShem.
"How," continued the Curthean, "can only one of fourteen sons
be reconciled as a tithe of fourteen sons?"
Rabbi Mier replied, "How many matriarchs of Jacob's sons were there?"
"Four," answered the Curthean," Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah."
'True," answered Rabbi Mier. "Then how many were sanctified by Pid-yon-ha Ben or the Redemption of the Firstborn?
"Four," responded the Curthean.
"True," responded Rabbi Mier. "And what is redeemed as holy
need not be sanctified again. Therefore, since there were four
firstborn sons sanctified by the redemption of the firstborn,
they need not be sanctified by the tithe of Jacob's sons.
Hence, Levi, who was not the firstborn of Leah; was given
by Jacob of his nine remaining sons: Jacob gave more than
one ninth, he gave one tenth of his sons, more than fulfilling
his vow to "give a tenth of all."
(Midrash Rabbab, 70:7-8, page 640)
YESHUA UPHELD THE TITHE
Yeshua also upheld the principle of Tithing:
Woe to you, scribes and P'rushim; hypocrites--who tithe mint, and rue, and cumin,
and have neglected those things which are weightiest in the Torah: judgment,
lovingkindness, and trust. Those things ought you to have done, neither to have
(Matt. 23:23 HRV)
When Yeshua says "neither to have rejected these" he is speaking in part of tithing even on produce of garden herbs.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2