Before we dig into the tithing laws as compared to monetary ‘tithing,’ I would like to lay a foundation first by sharing the the historical background leading up to the tithing laws.
I believe that one of the reasons why religious leaders are able to persuade people with misinformation about tithing, is because many people do not know the historical background behind the tithing laws. And when we lack knowledge about something, that makes us susceptible to misinformation.
This lack of knowledge enables religious leaders to lift passages out of their historical context and weave them together to promote a man-made form of ‘tithing’ as a “commandment of God.”
To guard against this Scripture-twisting and misinformation about tithing, we must know the historical background leading up to the tithing laws. I believe that this information is requisite to understanding the tithing laws and how tithing was carried out during the Old Covenant.
Some of you may already know this background information, and it may seem repetitive. But if you continue in this series, you will see how this background information provides a historical context to the tithing laws and paints a clearer picture of how tithing was carried out during the Old Covenant.
The Promised Land
The first historical point is that the Biblical tithe had to come from within the promised land (the holy land of Israel), so we will begin there.
In Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abraham out of his native country “to a land” that He would show him. This land was the promised land (the holy land of Israel).
Just a few verses down in Genesis 12:7, the Lord told Abraham that He would give this promised land to his descendants. These descendants were the Twelve Tribes of Israel whom God delivered from slavery in Egypt.
In Exodus 3, the Lord spoke to Moses from a burning bush and told him that He came down to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt and bring them into the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
In Joshua chapters 3-5, the children of Israel finally entered the promised land, and for the first time “the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.” (Joshua 5:12)
This was the land that God commanded the children of Israel to tithe from. As we study the tithing laws and you see the word “land”, you will know that God was referring to the promised land (the holy land of Israel).
The Old Covenant
The second historical point is that the tithing laws were a part of the Old Covenant, which included blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.
After God delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, He brought them to Mount Horeb and made a covenant with them. This covenant was the Old Covenant.
The Old Covenant is also called the book of the law of Moses, the book of the covenant, and the law of Moses. Many Believers also refer to the Old Covenant as the Mosaic Covenant, the Mosaic Law, and the Sinaitic Covenant.
The Old Covenant contained many instructions and stipulations. The children of Israel had to keep ALL of its laws to be blessed. But if they broke even ONE law, they broke the entire covenant and received curses (Deuteronomy 28).
The tithing laws were a part of the Old Covenant, and as such, they had to be fully obeyed to the letter for the children of Israel to receive God’s blessings. A failure to tithe properly as God instructed resulted in a curse (as we see in Malachi 3:8-9).
The Tribe of Levi (The Levitical Priests & Their Levite-Assistants)
The third historical point is that the tithing laws required the Tribe of Levi (the Levitical priests and their Levite-assistants).
The Tribe of Levi descended from Levi, one of the twelve sons of Israel. The Tribe of Levi were also called Levites.
Moses and his older brother Aaron were Levites. Aaron was the firstborn son in their family.
Since Aaron was the firstborn son in his family, God set him and his sons apart from the rest of the children of Israel to minister as priests (Exodus 28-29). From this point on during the Old Covenant, Aaron and his male descendants were the only ones who were allowed to come near God to serve as priests. Together, the sons of Aaron composed the Levitical priesthood.
What about the Levite-assistants?
In Exodus 32 during the false worship of the golden calf, the Tribe of Levi were the only ones who didn’t participate in the idolatry.
When Moses came down the mountain and saw the rebellion, he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted “All of you who are on the Lord’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him.” (Exodus 32:25-26)
Moses told the Levites that God said to take their swords and kill everyone who committed idolatry by worshiping the golden calf. “The Levites obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day. Then Moses told the Levites, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.” (Exodus 32:28-29)
Since they remained faithful to God during the rebellion and obeyed Him when He said to kill the idolaters, the Levites ordained themselves for service unto God. Through this act, they became assistants to the Levitical priests.
So, to recap. . . Aaron and his male descendants were the Levitical priests. And the rest of the male Levites were assistants to the priests.
Both the Levitical priests and their Levite-assistants played an integral role in Israel’s tithing system. It is not possible to keep the tithing laws without them.
In the next article, we’re going to dig into the tithing laws and compare them to the monetary ‘tithe.’
Click here for the next article in this series.