Tithing in the Bible
by Ronald W Robey

Let’s look at what the Bible says concerning tithes, shall we?

The first recorded instance of tithing that we see in the Bible is in Genesis 14:1-23. There, we read how Abraham killed some wicked kings that had taken his nephew and other citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah hostage. Abraham recovered the people and all their possessions. On his way back to Sodom, Abraham met the king of Sodom and the king of Salem at the Valley of the kings.
There, Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils of war to the king of Salem. He then gave the remainder of the spoils back to their rightful owner. Genesis 14 reveals that what Abram tithed was not his own property. He had promised God that he would not take any of the spoils as his own property. Since the text reveals it was war spoils that were tithed, and not Abram’s personal wealth and possessions, one cannot rightly use this passage to say people today are required to tithe their wealth or possessions.
In Genesis 28:12-15,20-22…we find Jacob making a vow to tithe after having a dream in which God promised to give land to Jacob and his descendants.
Leviticus 27:30-33…Tithe ordinance is established. The tithe is to be agricultural crops, flocks and herds. The crops tithe can be redeemed. (bought back) The animal tithe cannot be redeemed. Note in verse 30 that God said that the tithe is “holy” Holy means “set apart.” I believe that God is saying the tithe is set apart due to the vow Jacob made three hundred fifty years earlier. God promised land to Jacob. Jacob vowed to give the tenth of all that God would give him.
Leviticus 27:34…The tithe ordinance was given to the children of Israel. Psalms 147:19-20 reveals that the commands given to Israel were not given to any other nation. This tells us that God did not tell the Gentile nations that they were required to tithe.
Numbers 18:21-28…God said that He gave His tithe to the bloodline descendants of the Patriarch Levi as an inheritance. They were to collect this tithe from the children of Israel. After receiving the tithe from the eleven tribes of Israel, the bloodline descendants gave a tenth of that tithe to the Priests of Israel, who were also bloodline descendants of Levi, but of the Aaronic line of Levites.
Deuteronomy 12:1-11…God again identifies the tithe as being agricultural, and tells the children of Israel that once they enter into Canaan, they will not be able to do what seems right in their own eyes. God said His agricultural tithe is to be taken to a certain location that He (not man) will choose. We later discover that that place that God chooses is the city of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 6:5-6) This tithe is actually a separate tithe from the tithe in Numbers 18. In Numbers 18, the tenth is to be given to the bloodline descendants of Levi. In Deuteronomy 12, the children of Israel are to eat the tithe. Notice the Children of Israel are not to begin tithing until they are in the land of Canaan? This is the very land that God had promised Jacob back in Genesis 28:12-15. God wanted tithes from Canaan…not anywhere else in the world. Why? Because the tenth had been promised to God by Jacob. He was laying claim to the tenth that Jacob’s vow had set apart for Him.
Deuteronomy 12:17…God states that the one giving the tithe is not to eat the tithe in his own city, but is to take the tithe to the location that God has chosen the tithe to be observed. (note that this passage says that the tithe is to be eaten…proving that the tithe is to be agricultural…not money.
Deuteronomy 14:22-27…More is revealed concerning the tithe that the children of Israel are to eat. If the distance to where God chooses for them to eat the tithe is too far, God allows them to sell the tithe for money. They then are to take the money to where God chooses to place His name, (Jerusalem) and purchase food and drink there to eat with their families. They are also to share this agricultural tithe with the bloodline descendants of Levi.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29…This is the third year of tithing. The tithes this year are to be given to bloodline descendants of Levi; widows; fatherless; and strangers in the land of Canaan. This tithe is eaten…once again proving that the tithe is agricultural…not money.
Deuteronomy 26:12-13 is the last instance in the Books of the Law where we find tithes mentioned. Again, this tithe is agricultural. It is to be eaten by the bloodline descendants of Levi; widows; fatherless; and strangers in the land of Canaan. The author tells the reader that this tithe is given the third year, which is the year of tithing.
The year of tithing is an interesting phrase. It implies that, unlike the other years in which the tither partook of the tithe with his family, the third year in Israel, God expected tithes to be given away to four classes of people in Canaan. The one bearing the tithe could not eat of these third year tithes at all
This covers every single instance where we find tithing in the Books of the Law. These same verses from Leviticus 27:30 to Deuteronomy 26:12 govern how tithes were to be observed from the time the children of Israel moved into Canaan until the year AD 70 when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by General Titus and his armies. Any tithes given during those fourteen hundred eighty years was observed in the manner decreed in the commands and statutes of the tithe ordinance.
In Amos 4:4, we find a strange injunction given by the Prophet Amos. Amos tells the children of Israel to bring the tithe every three years to Gilgal and transgress. Why would he say such a thing? I believe it is not that he was telling them to transgress, but that Amos was revealing how they were transgressing. Several times, the children of Israel are told things they are doing wrong. Several times, Amos tells them, “But ye will not return”.
Malachi 3:8-10…contrary to how it is preached in pulpits around the world today, is speaking of the tithe required by Law…an agricultural tithe. Malachi would not tell people to tithe money, as tithing money would be transgressing the Law…which said the tithes were to be agricultural.
Further, a study of the previous two chapters in Malachi will reveal that the instruction to “bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” was given to the Priests of Israel…not to the congregation. Malachi 1:1 reveals God is speaking to Israel. Malachi 1:6-7 reveals the focus is clearly on the Priests who had taken acceptable sacrifices and kept them for themselves. They were offering unacceptable sacrifices on the altar instead. In Malachi 2:1, we find that God has a commandment for the Priests. However, if we read the entirety of the second chapter we discover that no commandment is given.
It is in chapter 3 that we see the commandment…”Return unto Me” God goes on to explain to the Priests that they had robbed Him in tithes and offerings. He then tells them to bring the tithes into the storehouse. Nothing in this verse says that Christians are to tithe money. God was speaking of the agricultural tithe required by Law, and of the storehouse attached to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Even in the oft quoted New Testament Books of Matthew and Luke, the tithe that Jesus said ought to have been done was mint and cummin and anise; rue and all manner of herbs…all agricultural in keeping with the Law.
Jesus was not saying man could tithe money. Nor was He saying man ought to tithe money. He said agricultural tithe ought to have been given. He identifies the tithe as a less weighty matter of the Law.
In Luke 18:9-14, we find Jesus giving an illustration (Luke calls it a parable) of a self-righteous man who thinks his works impress God. They do not. Again, this is an illustration. It isn’t an actual event that happened, only a story to expose the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees. However, Matthew 23:1-3 reveals that the Pharisees were famous for saying they do things but do not do them.
Since the Law said tithes were to be agricultural, and that man could not do what seemed right in his own eyes…it is highly unlikely that the Pharisee in the illustration could have tithed everything he possessed, despite his claim.
In Acts 15, the Apostle James tells the religious leaders that the Mosaic Law is not to be imposed on the Gentile Believers. This would include the command to tithe. He states that the Apostles and the Holy Ghost only required Gentiles to observe four necessary things. Tithing is not listed as one of those necessary things. If tithing were important for people living outside of Canaan, the rest of the New Testament is silent on the matter.
The last place tithes are mentioned in the Bible, Hebrews 7:5-9 reveal that at that time, tithes still belonged to the sons of Levi (not to the New Covenant Church) and that they were still “according to the Law”. (agricultural, and only required of those living in Canaan)
There is absolutely no command in the word of God for money to be tithed. Nor is there command, or instruction, for members of the Body of Christ to tithe.