Click to donate today!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(מִעֲשֵׂר, maaser; Sept. and New Test. δεκάτη, occasionally δέκατον or ἐπιδέκατον; Vulg. decimae; plur. מִעִשְּׂרוֹת; αἱ δέκαται; decimae; from עֵשֵׂר, "ten;" Targum מעשרא, תד מן עסרא ), the tenth part both of the produce of the land and of the increase of the flock, enjoined in the Mosaic law to be devoted by every Israelite to the servants of the sanctuary, and to the hospitable meals provided on the festivals for the poor and needy (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21-32; Deuteronomy 12:5-18; Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Deuteronomy 26:12-14). (The following treatment of the subject relates to Jewish tithes from Biblical and Rabbinical sources.
I. The Mosaic Law respecting Tithes. — The first enactment respecting tithes ordains that the tenth of all produce and of all animals is to be devoted to the Lord; that the predial or vegetable tithe may be redeemed if one fifth is added to its value; and that the mixed or animal tithe, which is unredeemable, is to be taken as it comes, without any selection, and without attempting to effect any change, else the original animal and the one substituted for it are both forfeited to the sanctuary (Leviticus 27:30-33). In the second mention of the tithe it is enacted that it is to be given to the Levites of the respective districts as a remuneration for their services in the sanctuary, since they were excluded from sharing in the division of the land of Canaan; that they are allowed to consume the tithe wherever they please (בְּכָלאּמָקוֹם ), and that from the tithe thus received they are to give a tenth to the Aaronites or priests (Numbers 18:21-32). In the third legislation on this point it is further commanded that the Israelites are to tithe the produce of the soil every year; that this vegetable tithe, together with the firstlings of the flock and herd, is to constitute the social and festive repast in the place of the sanctuary; that in case the sanctuary is too far off, the tithal produce is to be converted into money, which is to be taken to the metropolis, and there laid out in food for this entertainment, and that the Levite is to share with the family in this social meal. It is, moreover, ordained that at the end of every third year this vegetable tithe ( מִעֲשִׂר תַּבוּאָה ) is not to be taken to the metropolis, but is to constitute hospitable and charitable meals at home, to which the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow are to be invited (Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 14:22-29). The triennial conversion of the second or vegetable tithe into entertainments for the poor is again enjoined in Deuteronomy 26:12-15, where it is also ordered that every Israelite shall make an exculpatory declaration that he has conscientiously performed the tithal command.
It will be seen that the book, of Deuteronomy only mentions the second or vegetable tithe as well as its triennial conversion into the poor tithe, omitting altogether the first or Levitical tithe; while the books of Leviticus and Numbers, which discuss the Levitical tithe, pass over in silence the second or feast tithe This has given rise to various theories among modern critics. Thus Ewald will have it that the Deuteronomist, writing during the period of the Jewish monarchy, when the Levitical tithe, as enacted in Leviticus and. Numbers, could no longer be continued as a regular rate in consequence of the new taxes imposed b the sovereigns, endeavored to bring the tithe back to its original form of a voluntary offering. (Die Alterthiimer les Volkes Israel, p. 346). Knobel (Comment. on Leviticus p. 419, 590) regards Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Deuteronomy 26:12, as proceeding from the later Jehovistic legislator who lived towards the end of the kingdom of Judah, and who substituted for the older Elohistic annual vegetable and animal tithe, which was no longer practicable, the triennial vegetable tithe which was to be devoted to the hospitable meals, whereunto the Levites, together with the stranger, widow, orphans, and poor, were to be invited. Bishop Colenso (The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua Critically Exanmmiied, 3, 476), who also regards the enactments in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy as referring to one and the same tithe, finds "the most complete contradiction between the two sets of laws." Against these theories, however, is to be urged that
a. The tithal enactment in Deuteronomy has nothing whatever to do with the one in Leviticus and Numbers, and is therefore neither intended to contravene nor supersede it.
b. The Deuteronomist presupposes the existence and force of the Levitical tithe as the fixed income of the ministers of the sanctuary, and designs the second tithe to be in force by its side. This is evident from the fact that the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 12:19; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 14:29), like the books of Leviticus and Numbers, legislates upon the basis of Levitical poverty, and frequently refers to the care to be taken of the Levites. Now if, according to the above-named hypothesis, we are to regard the triennial tithe as substituted in the place of the original Levitical tithe, we are shut up to the preposterous conclusion that the only provision made by the Deuteronomist for the Levites is an ample meal once in three years.
c. The mention of the second tithe by the Deuteronomist alone is owing to the fact that it is connected with the fixing of the central sanctuary, the rites and regulations of which he alone discusses.
d. The post-exilian practice of the Jews shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that the nation for whom these tithal laws were passed understood the enactment in Deuteronomy to mean a second tithe as in force side by side with the first or Levitical tithe enjoined in Leviticus and Numbers (Tobit 1, 7; Josephus, An. 4:8, 8, 22; Mishna, Maaser Sheni). This also sets aside the objection urged by some that a double tithe would be too heavy and unbearable a tax. For if the Jews did not find it so in later times, when under the rule of foreign sovereigns, and paying heavy rates to them, surely they could not have found the double tithe too grinding an oppression during the independence of the State, especially when it is remembered that the second tithe was devoted to festive repasts of the respective families at which the Levites, the strangers, the widows, orphans, etc., were simply guests.
From all this we gather:
1. That one tenth of the whole produce of the soil was to be assigned for the maintenance of the Levites.
2. That out of this the Levites were to dedicate a tenth to God for the use of the high-priest.
3. That a tithe, in all probability a second tithe, was to be applied to festival purposes.
4. That in every third year either this festival tithe or a third tenth was to be eaten in company with the poor and the Levites.
The question thus arises, were there three tithes taken in this third year, or is the third tithe only the second under a different description? That there were two yearly tithes seems clear, both from the general tenor of the directions and from the Sept. rendering of Deuteronomy 26:12. But it must be allowed that the third tithe is not without support.
a. Josephus distinctly says that one tenth was to be given to the priests and Levites, one tenth was to be applied to feasts in the metropolis, and that a tenth besides these (τρίτην πρὸς αὐταῖς ) was every third year to be given to the poor (Ant. 4:8, 8, 22).
b. Tobit says he gave one tenth to the priests, one tenth he sold and spent at Jerusalem, i.e. commuted according to Deuteronomy 14:24-25, and another tenth he gave away (Tobit 1:7-8).
c. Jerome says one tenth was given to the Levites, out of which they gave one tenth to the priests (δευτεροδεκάτη ); a second tithe was applied to festival purposes, and a third was given to the poor (πτωχοδεκάτη ) (Corm. on Ezekiel 45:1, 565). Spencer thinks there were three tithes. Jennings, with Mede, thinks there were only two complete tithes, but that in the third year an addition of some sort was made (Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. p. 727; Jennings, Jewish Ant. p. 183). On the other hand, Maimonides says the third and sixth years second tithe was shared between the poor and the Levites, i.e. that there was no third tithe (De Jur. Paup. 6:4). Selden and Michaelis remark that the burden of three tithes, besides the first-fruits, would be excessive. Selden thinks that the third year's tithe denotes only a different application of the second, or festival, tithe, and Michaelis that it meant a surplus after the consumption of the festival tithe (Selden, On Tithes, 2, 13; Michaelis, Lawus of Moses, § 192, 3, 143, ed. Smith). Against a third tithe may be added Reland, Ant. Hebr. p. 359i Jahn, Ant. § 389; Godwyn, Moses and Aaron, p. 136, and Carpzov, p. 621,622; Keil, Bibl. Arch. § 71, 1, 337; Saalschü tz, Hebr. Arch. 1, 70; Winer, Realwö rterb. s.v. "Zehnte."
Of these opinions, that which maintains three separate and complete tithings seems improbable as imposing an excessive burden on the land, and not easily reconcilable with the other directions; yet there seems no reason for rejecting the notion of two yearly tithes when we recollect the especial promise of fertility to the soil conditional on observance of the commands of the law (Deuteronomy 28). There would thus be, (1) a yearly tithe for the Levites; (2) a second tithe for the festivals, which last would, every third year, be shared by the Levites with the poor. It is this poor man's tithe which Michaelis thinks is spoken of as likely to be converted to the king's use under the regal dynasty (1 Samuel 8:15; 1 Samuel 8:17; Michaelis, Laws of Moses, 1, 299). Ewald thinks that under the kings the ecclesiastical tithe system reverted to what he supposes to have been its original free-will character.
II. Classification of and Later Legislation upon the Tithes. — It will be seen from the above description that the tithes are divisible into four classes. As the anxiety to pay them properly called forth more minute definitions and further expansions of the Pentateuchal enactments, we shall give the most important practices which obtained during the second Temple in connection with each of these four classes of tithes.
1. The Levitical, or first, tithe (מִעֲשֵׂר רַאשׁוֹן ). This tithe was paid after both the first-fruit (בַּבּוּרַים ) and the priestly heave-offering (תְּרוּמָה ) had been separated, the amount of which, though not fixed in the Mosaic law, was generally one fiftieth of the produce (comp. Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 26:1, etc., with Mishna, Bikkurim; Numbers 18:8; Deuteronomy 18:4, with Mishna, Terumoth, 3, 7; 4:3; Maimonides, Iad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Alathanuth Anjim, 6:2). As the Mosaic law does not define what things are subject to this tithe, but simply says that it is to consist of both vegetables and animals (Leviticus 27:30 sq.), the Jewish canons enacted that as to the produce of the land "whatsoever is esculent, though still kept in the field, and derives its growth from the soil, is tithable; or whatsoever may be eaten from the commencement to the completion of its growth, though left in the field: to increase in size, is tithable, whether small or great; and whatsoever cannot be eaten at the beginning, but can only be eaten at the end of its growth, is not tithable till it is ripe for food" (Mishna, Maaseroth, 1, 1). It will be seen that this definition embraces even the smallest kitchen herbs and aromatic plants; and that it explains the remark of our Savior that tithe was paid of mint, dill, and cummin, which he, however, did not condemn, but, on the contrary, said, "These ought ye to have done" (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42; comp. Mishna, Maaseroth, 1, 2-8).. The animals subject to this ‘ Levitical tithe are still more indefinitely described in the Pentateuchal statute, which simply says, "As to all the tithe of herds and flocks, whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord" (Leviticus 27:32).
It will be seen; that this law does not say whether the tenth is to be paid of the newly born animals, whether it includes those newly purchased or exchanged, whether it is payable if a man has less than ten cattle, or at what age of the animals the tithe becomes due. The spiritual heads of the people had therefore most minutely to define these points so as to make the tithal law practicable. Hence the following canons obtained: All animals are tithable except those which are born of heterogeneous copulation (comp. Deuteronomy 22:9), which are damaged, which have come into the world irregularly, or which are bereaved of their mother; which have been purchased or received as presents. They are only tithable when there are ten newly born of the same kind, so that the offspring of oxen and small cattle must not be put together to make up the requisite number, nor are even those to be put together which are born in different years, though they belong to the same kind. Sheep and goats may be tithed together, provided they have all been born in the same season (Mishna, Bekoroth, 9:3, 4). The tithing is to take place three times in the year, about fifteen days before each of the three great festivals-viz. (a) on the first of Nisan, being fifteen days before Passover; (b) on the first of Sivan, being only five days before Pentecost, because the small number of animals born between these two festivals could not suffice for the celebration of Pentecost if the second tithe term were to be fifteen days before this festival; and (c) on the twenty-ninth of Elul instead of the first of Tisri, which is, properly speaking, fifteen days before Tabernacles, because the first of Tisri is the Feast of Trumpets, or New Year. (See FESTIVAL).
Those which were born in the month of Elul were tithed by themselves (ibid. Rosh hash-Shanah, 1, 51 with Bekoroth, 9:5,6). On each of the three occasions the herds of every owner extending over a pasture- ground not exceeding sixteen Roman miles were collected together into one fold, while those beyond the prescribed limits formed a separate lot. In the pen wherein the herd was thus gathered a small door was made which only admitted of one animal going out at a time, and the owner placed himself at this narrow opening, holding a rod or staff in his hand wherewith he counted each animal as it made its exit from the fold till be came to the tenth, which he marked with red color, saying, "This is the tithe" (ibid. Bekoroth, 10:7). The command "whatsoever passeth under the rod" (Leviticus 27:32) was thus literally carried out.
2. The priestly tithe, also called tithe of the tithe (הִמִּעֲשֵׂר מִעֲשֵׂר הִמִּעֲשֵׂר
מִעֲשֵׂר מַן, Numbers 18:26); the heave-offering of the tithe (תְּרוּמִת מִעֲשֵׂר ), ἀπαρχῆς ἀπαρχή; (Philo, De Nom. Mut.), or δευτεροδεκάται (Jerome, on Ezekiel 45). This tithe had to be separated by the Levite from the tenth he had received from the Israelite. It had to be given to the priests in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 10:38) before the Levite could use the rate paid to him. It had, moreover, to be a tenth part of the very tithe which the Levites received, and was therefore subject to the same laws and regulations to which the Levitical tithe was subject. After the Babylonian captivity, when the Levitical tithe was divided (see below), this so-called tithe of tithes necessarily ceased. Hence the priests, instead of receiving a tenth of the Levitical tithe as heretofore, took their share directly from the people (Hebrews 7:5). (See SCRIBE).
3. The second tithe (מִעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנַי, δευτεροδεκάτη ). This festival tithe could not be sold, nor given or received as a pledge, nor used as weight, nor exchanged, but might be given away as a present (Mishna, Maaser Sheni, 1, 1). If the distance to the national sanctuary was so great as to preclude the possibility of conveying it in kind, it might be converted into specie, and the money could only be expended in the metropolis in ordinary articles of food, drink, and ointment for the festival meals or festival sacrifices which were eaten at these social repasts (זַבְחֵי שְלֹמַים, ibid. 1, 7; 3, 2; Chagigth, 1, 3). There were storehouses (אוֹצָרוֹת לָשְׁכוֹת ) in. one part of the Temple, under the superintendence of priests and Levites, in which the tithe was kept (2 Chronicles 31:11-14; Nehemiah 10:38-39; Nehemiah 12:44; Nehemiah 13:12; Josephus, Ant. 20:8,8). The triennial, or poor, tithe (עָנַי
מִעֲשֵׂר, πτωχοδεκάται ), also called the third tithe (מִעֲשֵׂר שְׁלַיישַׁי, ἡ τρίτη δεκάτη, Tobit 1:7; Josephus, Ant. 4:8,22), and the second tithe (δεύτερον ἐπιδἐκατον, Sept., Deuteronomy 26:12), because it was properly the second tithe converted into the poor tithe, to be given to and consumed by the poor at home, instead of conveying it to the metropolis to be eaten by the owner. As every seventh year was a fallow year not yielding a regular harvest, it was enacted that the second tithe should be eaten in Jerusalem by the owner thereof and his guests in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of the septennial cycle, and be given to the poor in the third and seventh years.
It will thus be seen that the whole series of taxes reached its completion at the end of every third and seventh year, or on the eve of Passover of the fourth and seventh y-ears. Hence it is that the third year is denominated the year of tithe (שְׁנִת הִמִּעֲשֵׂר ) i e. when all the tithes had taken their rounds (Deuteronomy 26:12), and not because, as some critics will have it, the annual tithe of the earlier legislator, was afterwards changed by the Deuteronomist into a triennial tithe Hence, too, the spiritual heads of the Jewish people in and before the time of Christ constituted and denominated the Preparation Day of Passover of the fourth and seventh years a day of searching and removal (בעור ) in accordance with Deuteronomy 26:12 (Mishna, Maaser Sheni, 5, 6), when every Israelite had to separate all the tithes which he ought to have paid in the course of the three years, but which, either through negligence or through some untoward circumstances, he had failed to do. At the evening sacrifice on the last day of Passover, every pilgrim, before preparing to return home, had to offer a prayer of confession, in accordance with Deuteronomy 26:13. As this confession (ודוי ) is an expansion and traditional exposition of Deuteronomy 26:13-15,which accounts for the Chaldee and other versions of the passage in question, we give it entire: "I have removed the hallowed things from the house" (i.e. the second tithe and the quadrennial fruit [Leviticus 19:23, etc.]);'" have given it to the Levite" (i.e. the Levitical tithe); "and-also given it" (i.e. the priestly offering and the priestly tithe) "to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow" (i.e. the poor tithe)... "from the house" (i.e. from the dough [comp. Numbers 15:17, etc.]) "according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me" (i.e. not given the second tithe before the first). "I have not transgressed thy commandments" (i.e. not paid one kind for the other, the cut for the standing, the standing for the cut, the new for the old, nor the old for the new). "I have not forgotten" (i.e. to thank thee and to remember thy name thereby). I have not eaten thereof in my mourning; I have not given thereof to the dead" (i.e. for coffins, shrouds, or..mourners). "I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God" (i.e. have taken it to the chosen sanctuary). "I have done all that thou hast commanded me" (i.e. have rejoiced and caused others to rejoice therewith), etc. (Mishna, Maaser Sheni, 5, 10-13). In the two years of the septennial cycle, when the second tithe was converted into the poor tithe, there was no additional second tithe, inasmuch as the poor tithe took its place (Maimonides, Iad ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Mathanuth Anjin, 6:4).
The poor could go into a field where the poor tithe was lying and demand of the owner to satisfy their wants. The minimum quantity to be given to them was defined as follows : If the tithe be of wheat, I cab; barley, 1 cab; spelt; 1 cab; lenten-figs, 1 cab; cake-figs, the, weight of 25 sicli; wine, I log; oil, log; rice, cab; olives, 1 pound; pulse, 3 cabs; nuts, 10 nuts; peaches, 5 peaches; pomegranates, 2; citrons, 1; and if. of any other fruit, it shall not be less than may be sold for such a sum as will buy food sufficient for two meals. If the owner's means are slender and the poor so numerous that he is unable to give to each the specified measure, he is to produce the whole tithe and place it before them so that they may divide it among themselves. The owner may only give one half of the tithe to his own poor relatives, and the other he must distribute among the poor generally. If a man and woman apply together, the woman is to be satisfied first. No debts are allowed to be paid out of the poor tithe, nor a recompense to be made for benefits, nor captives redeemed, nor is it to be devoted to nuptial feasts or alms, nor is it to be taken out of Palestine into a foreign land (Maimonides, ibid. 6:7-17). Though no tithes were paid in Palestine in the sabbatical year, when all was in common, (See SABBATICAL YEAR), yet the land of Egypt, Ammon, and Moab had to pay them for the support of the poor of Israel, because, the Sabbath of the soil was not observed in these countries, while the Babylonians had to pay the second tithe (Mishna, Yadaim, 4:3; Maimonides, Iad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Mathanuth Anjim, 6:5).
III. Oriyin and Observance of the Tithal Law. — With out inquiring into the reason for which the number ten (q.v.) has so frequently been preferred as a number of selection in the cases of tribute-offerings (Philo derives δέκα from δέχεσθαι [De X. Orac. 2, 184]), both sacred and secular, voluntary and compulsory, we must remark that the practice of paying tithes obtained among different nations from the remotest antiquity. Thus the ancient Phoenicians and the Carthaginians sent tithes annually to the Tyrian Hercules (Diod. Sic. 20:14; Justin, 18:7); the southern Arabians could not dispose of their incense before paying a tenth thereof to the priests at Sabota in. honor of their god Sabis (Pliny, Hist. iat. 12:32); the ancient Pelasgians paid a tithe of the produce of the soil and the increase of their herds to their deities (Dionys. Halic. 1, 19, 23, etc.); and the Hellenes consecrated to their deities a tenth of their annual produce of the soil (Xenoph. Hellen. 1, 7, 10), of their business profits (Herod. 4:152), of confiscated estates (Xenoph. Hellen. 1, 7, 10), of their spoils (Herod. 5, 77; 9:81; Xenoph. A nab. 5, 3, 4; Hellen. 1.5 3, 21; Diod. Sic. 11:33; Pausan. 3, 18, 5; 5, 10, 4; 10:10, 1; τὰς δεκάτας τῶν περιγινομένων τοῖς θεοῖς καθιεροῦν; Harpocration, s.v. Δεκατεύειν; and Knobel, Comment. on Leviticus 27:30). Among other passages the following may be cited: 1 Macc. 11, 35; Herod. 1, 89; 7:132; Diod. Sic. 5, 421 Pausan. 5, 10, 2; Justin, 20:3; Arist. (Econ. 2, 2; Livy, 5, 21; Polyb. 9:39; Cicero, Veirr. 2, 3, 6, and 7 (here tithes of wine, oil, and "minutse fruges" are mentioned); Pro Leg. Manil. 6; Plnt. Ages. ch. 19:p. 389; Pliny, Hist. Nat. 12:14; Macrob. Sat. 3, 6; Rose, Inscr. Gr. p. 215; Gibbon, 3, 301, ed. Smith; and a remarkable instance of fruits tithed and offered to a deity, and a feast made, of which the people of the district partool, in Xenoph. A nab. 5, 3; 9, answering thus to the Hebrew poor man's tithe feast mentioned above.
In Biblical history the two prominent instances of early occurrence are: 1. Abram presenting the tenth of all his property, according to the Syriac and Arabic versions of Hebrews 7 :and Bashi in his. Commentary, but, as the passages themselves appear to show, of the spoils of his victory, to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2; Hebrews 7:6; Josephus, Ant 1, 10, 2; Selden, On Tithes, ch. 1). 2. Jacob, after his vision at Luz, devoting a tenth of all his property to God in case he should return home in safety (Genesis 28:22). These instances bear witness to the antiquity of tithes in some shape or other previous to the Mosaic tithe system. There can therefore be no doubt that, like many other Pentateuchal ordinances, the inspired legislator adopted the tithal law into the divine code because he found that, with some modifications, this primarily voluntary tax was a proper stipend for the servants of the sanctuary, and that it would, at the same time, be a means of promoting pilgrimage to the national sanctuary on the great festivals, and social intercourse between the rich and the poor.
During the monarchy, the payment of tithes was neglected, and it seems that the kings claimed them for themselves (1 Samuel 8:14-15; 1 Samuel 8:17; with 1 Macc. : 35). It was, however, re-established at the restoration of religion by the pious Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 31:5-6; 2 Chronicles 31:12), until after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity (Nehemiah 10:38; Nehemiah 12:44; Nehemiah 13:5; Nehemiah 13:12), when material alterations and modifications were made in the tithal law owing to the altered state of the commonwealth and to the disproportion of the Levites and laymen. Only 341 or 360 Levites returned at first from the Babylonian captivity, with about 37,319 laymen; while with Ezra only 38 Levites came back, with 1496 laymen; and there can be but little doubt that the same disproportion continued among those who returned afterwards, as well as in the gradual and natural increase of the nation. There were thus 97 laymen to 1 Levite, while the tithe of 9 laymen amounted to as much as was left for each private family; and if we take 10 laymen to 1 Levite, as the latter had to pay a tenth to the priest, the tithe when duly paid by all the people yielded ten times as much as the Levites required. On the other hand, there were in Judaea, after the return from Babylon, a disproportionately large ‘ number of priests, since, exclusive of those who had no register (Ezra 2:62), 4289 of them came with Zerubbabel-i.e. twelve or thirteen times more than Levites-and two whole families, besides separate individuals, came with Ezra. These could not possibly have subsisted upon the legal dues (Nehemiah 10:36-39). In addition to the miserably provided priests, there were the 612 Nethinim who came back with Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 2:58; Ezra 8:20; Nehemiah 7:60), for whom no provision whatever existed. Ezra had therefore to take the superabundant tithe from the Levites for the support of the priests and the Nethinim. Hence Josephus distinctly tells us that the priests received tithes in later times (Life, 15; Ant. 11:5, 8; 20:8, 8; 9, 2; Apion, 1, 22).
It is this distribution of the Levitical tithe between the priests and the Levites which is evidently alluded to when the Talmud says that Ezra transferred the tithes from the Levites to the priests as a punishment for their tardiness in returning from exile (Kethuboth, 26 a; Cholin, 131 b; Yebamnoth, 86 b; Sotah, 47 b), for it could not possibly mean that he took the whole tithe away from the Levites, since that would be at variance with other records (comp. Ezra 10:38-39; Nehemiah 13:10; Nehemiah 13:13; Tobit 1, 7,-with Tossephoth oi Kethuboth, 26 a), and would leave the Levites wholly unprovided for, and visit the good Levites who did return with the punishment deserved by those who remained behind. It is, moreover, owing to this distribution of the Levitical tithe effected by Ezra that the tithe was afterwards divided into three portions, one of which was given by the owner to his friends the priests and Levites, the other was taken to the Temple storehouse, and the third portion was distributed in Jerusalem among the poor and the needy chaberim (חברים ) =doctors of the law (Jerusalem Sotah, 9:11; Jerusalem Maaser Shemni, 5, 15; Babylon Yebamoth,86 b).
The board appointed to watch over the tithes, as well as the storehouses, which already existed in the time of Hezekiah for the reception of the tithes (2 Chronicles 31:11-14), were now better organized than ever. To achieve the purpose intended by Ezra in the new division of the tithe, it was absolutely necessary that the collection and the distribution thereof should take place under the careful superintendence of a body consisting of both priests and Levites. Such a board was therefore duly appointed, and it was ordained that at least one portion of the tithes should be taken to Jerusalem for the support of the ministering Levites.
During the period of sacerdotal degeneracy and Grecian ascendancy in Palestine, the tithes were again discontinued; but at the rise of the Pharisees the strict payment of a tenth was made one of the two essential conditions exacted from every individual who desired to become a chaber (חבר )=member of this association. The reason for this is given in the article PHARISEE (See PHARISEE)
IV. Literature. — Mishna, tractates Maaseroth, Maaser Sheni, aind Bekoroth. 9:1-8; and the Gemaras on these Mishnas; Maimonides, Iad Ha- Chezaka, Hilchoth Mathanuth Anjim, 6:1-17; Hilchoth Maaser and M1aaser Sheni; Selden, The History of Tithes (1618); Hottinger, De Decimis Judaeorum (L. B. 1713); and other monographs cited by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 170; Spencer, De Legibus Hebraeorum (Cantabrigie, 1727), lib. 3, c. 10; 2, 720, etc.; Michaelis, Commentaries on the Laws of Moses. (Engl. transl. London, 1814), art. 110, 102, 3, 141, etc.; Herzfeld, Gesch. des Volkes Israel (Nordhausen, 1855), 1, 62 sq., 138 sq.
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Tithe'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/t/tithe.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.