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Bible Dictionaries

Morrish Bible Dictionary


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The giving of a tenth to God, or to His representatives, was practised long before the law enforced it. Abraham gave tithes of the spoils to Melchizedek, and Jacob vowed that he would give to God the tenth of all that God might give to him. Genesis 14:20; Genesis 28:22; Hebrews 7:2-9 . There is evidence that heathen nations devoted tithes to sacred and fiscal uses, consecrating them to their gods or to victorious generals, or as a permanent source of income to their sovereign.

The tithes under the law were

1. Those given to the Levites: they embraced a tenth of all produce. Every tenth animal as it passed under the rod was to be given, whether it was good or bad: if changed, both had to be given: if either animal or vegetable produce were redeemed, a fifth had to be added thereto. Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21-24; Nehemiah 10:37,38 . Again a tenth of the tithe given to the Levites was a portion for the priests. Numbers 18:26-28 .

2. On coming into the land a second tenth of all produce was to be taken to Jerusalem, or, if the distance was too great, it could be turned into money, and when the offerer arrived at Jerusalem he could purchase any thing that he desired, which was to be eaten there by himself, his children, his servants, and any Levites that might be there at the time. Deuteronomy 12:6-12,17,18; Deuteronomy 14:22-27 .

3. Every third year (called 'the year of tithing') a third tenth was given according to Josephus (Ant. iv. 8,22: cf. Tobit 1:7,8 ), or, what is more probable, a variation was made in that year respecting the second tenth: it was not to be carried to Jerusalem, but to be laid up 'within the gates,' and there shared by "the Levites . . . . and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow." Deuteronomy 14:28,29; Amos 4:4 .

At the end of 'the year of tithing,' the offerer was to make a solemn declaration before the Lord that he had fully performed the commandment of the Lord, and had withheld for his own use nothing of the tithe. And on this ground he was to pray for the divine blessing on Israel. One of the charges brought against Israel at the end of the O.T. was that they had robbed God, because they had withholden the tithes and offerings; and therefore the whole nation was "cursed with a curse." But if they would bring the tithes into God's storehouse, and prove Him, there would be a blessing beyond their capacity to receive it. Malachi 3:8-12 .

In New Testament times many were punctilious in paying tithes of small things, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law — judgement, mercy, and faith. Matthew 23:23 . A definite tenth or fifth is not enforced in the N.T., but liberality is enjoined. "God loveth a cheerful giver:" he that soweth sparingly will reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully will reap bountifully: "he that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord." Paul told the saints to lay by for the special collection he was making for the poor 'as God had prospered' each. God required of them according to what they had, and not according to what they had not. The poor widow who cast in the two mites cast in more than the rich, for it was her whole living. At the commencement of the church many gave up their possessions and the saints had 'all things common;' but failure soon came in, and we may learn from the general tenour of the epistles that such a state of things would not continue, though the principle abides that we do not call any of the things we possess our own.

God has ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel. He that is taught in the word is to communicate in all good things to him who teaches. Galatians 6:6 .

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Tithes'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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