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Christians And The Tithe - Part 4

This is the fourth installment in the series on Tithing in the manner in which it is taught in many churches today. Before you read, please note that I have received a few questions in terms of who to give the tithes to now? Whether we should give our tithes to our pastors and leaders or other ministers and ministries also? What is the whole percentage of tithes mentioned in the Bible? and a few more...

My request is for everyone to wait for this whole series to be completed. I am intentionally going slow and trying to fill in as many details as possible to get you a good foundation on this highly controversial topic.

In the previous parts, we have looked at how tithing is addressed before the Law of Moses in Genesis 14:8-24 and Genesis 28:8-22. Later we explored how the Mosaic Law prescribed and implemented tithe in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

You must first read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for better clarity on this subject. Today we will look at how tithing was reinstated as a law by King Hezekiah.

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TITHING UNDER HEZEKIAH

We must understand that the Law of Moses served as the foundation for a large portion of the teachings of the Biblical prophets. They frequently appeared when Israel had departed from the Law, challenging the people to return to God's ways. The major and minor Prophets include literally hundreds of quotes and allusions to just two of the "Law" chapters, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

Throughout Israel's history, the tithing system established by God has been badly disregarded. The impoverished, destitute were left to their own devices. The Levites were neglected, and as a result, they were unable to maintain the priests and the tabernacle. At such moments in Israel's history, God spoke to Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Amos, and Malachi through the prophets.

2 Chronicles 31:2-3 -- Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and Levites to do their assigned tasks – to offer burnt sacrifices and present offerings and to serve, give thanks, and offer praise in the gates of the LORD’s sanctuary. The king contributed some of what he owned for burnt sacrifices, including the morning and evening burnt sacrifices and the burnt sacrifices made on Sabbaths, new moon festivals, and at other appointed times prescribed in the law of the LORD.

When read in conjunction with Nehemiah, this somewhat complex chapter about tithing with Malachi 3:10 provides context for the passage by detailing the usage of tithes and the lifestyle of both priests and Levites outside the temple. 

Between Deuteronomy 26:13 and Second Chronicles 31:5, the term "tithe" is not used. This time is from the Judges to the unified kingdoms of Saul, David, and Solomon's reign of about 800 years until King Hezekiah's attempted reforms shortly before 700 B.C.

When tithe is brought up again, it is ordered, collected, and stored. by the king, who exercised political power and entrusted it to the priesthood. Temple worship, Mosaic Law adherence, and tithe had all deteriorated under many kings before Hezekiah. 

Throughout history, there have been terrible kings who often paid tribute to other countries and frequently worshipped false gods. Hezekiah's father Ahaz had destroyed the items in the temple, closed the temple, and devoted himself to Baal worship.

King Hezekiah had to restart David's practice of selecting priests and Levites and dividing them into 24 courses to serve in the temple for one week at a time.

2 Chronicles 31:2 -- Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and Levites to do their assigned tasks – to offer burnt sacrifices and present offerings and to serve, give thanks, and offer praise in the gates of the LORD’s sanctuary. 

You can also read the whole of First Chronicles, chapter twenty-four to understand this. He also gave up a part of his king's finest, his first tithe-tax. This reference is given in the first book of Samuel.

1 Samuel 8:14-17 -- He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his own servants. He will demand a tenth of your seed and of the produce of your vineyards and give it to his administrators and his servants. He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best cattle and your donkeys, and assign them for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will be his servants.

GIVING A PORTION

2 Chronicles 31:4 -- He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to contribute the portion prescribed for the priests and Levites so they might be obedient to the law of the LORD.

The portion refers to a tenth of Israel's crops and animals going to the Levites, who then paid a tenth of their tenth to the priests.

Numbers 18:21-26 -- See, I have given the Levites all the tithes in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they perform – the service of the tent of meeting. No longer may the Israelites approach the tent of meeting, or else they will bear their sin and die. But the Levites must perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they must bear their iniquity. It will be a perpetual ordinance throughout your generations that among the Israelites the Levites have no inheritance. But I have given to the Levites for an inheritance the tithes of the Israelites that are offered to the LORD as a raised offering. That is why I said to them that among the Israelites they are to have no inheritance.” The LORD spoke to Moses: “You are to speak to the Levites, and you must tell them, ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe that I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you are to offer up from it as a raised offering to the LORD a tenth of the tithe.

HEZEKIAH'S ERROR

Hezekiah erred in ordering the residents at Jerusalem to deliver their tithes straight to the Temple since Jerusalem was not a Levitical priestly city that you can read of ore in Joshua 21:9-19. Tithing may have been ignored for an extended period of time, to the point that this aspect of the Law was forgotten.

2 Chronicles 31:4-12 -- He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to contribute the portion prescribed for the priests and Levites so they might be obedient to the law of the LORD. When the edict was issued, the Israelites freely contributed the initial portion of their grain, wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a tenth of everything, which added up to a huge amount. The Israelites and people of Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also contributed a tenth of their cattle and sheep, as well as a tenth of the holy items consecrated to the LORD their God. They brought them and placed them in many heaps. In the third month they began piling their contributions in heaps and finished in the seventh month. When Hezekiah and the officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and pronounced blessings on his people Israel. When Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps, Azariah, the head priest from the family of Zadok, said to him, “Since the contributions began arriving in the LORD’s temple, we have had plenty to eat and have a large quantity left over. For the LORD has blessed his people, and this large amount remains.” Hezekiah ordered that storerooms be prepared in the LORD’s temple. When this was done, they brought in the contributions, tithes, and consecrated items that had been offered. Konaniah, a Levite, was in charge of all this, assisted by his brother Shimei.

HEZEKIAH'S RULE

Hezekiah's rule is commonly dated between 715 and 687 BC, shortly after the Northern kingdom of Israel succumbed to Assyria in 722 BC. Hezekiah ruled over Judah's southern kingdom, which was not conquered by Babylon until 586 BC. 

Restoring assistance for priests and Levites was just one of many reforms he instituted. These are some things he did before the tithing reform.

BEFORE THE TITHING REFORM

HE HAD PREVIOUSLY CLEANSED THE TEMPLE

2 Chronicles 29:3-19 -- In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the LORD’s temple and repaired them. He brought in the priests and Levites and assembled them in the square on the east side. He said to them: “Listen to me, you Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, so you can consecrate the temple of the LORD God of your ancestors! Remove from the sanctuary what is ceremonially unclean! For our fathers were unfaithful; they did what is evil in the sight of the LORD our God and abandoned him! They turned away from the LORD’s dwelling place and rejected him. They closed the doors of the temple porch and put out the lamps; they did not offer incense or burnt sacrifices in the sanctuary of the God of Israel. The LORD was angry at Judah and Jerusalem and made them an appalling object of horror at which people hiss out their scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. Look, our fathers died violently and our sons, daughters, and wives were carried off because of this. Now I intend to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, so that he may relent from his raging anger. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, to be his ministers, and offer sacrifices.” The following Levites prepared to carry out the king’s orders: From the Kohathites: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah; from the Merarites: Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel; from the Gershonites: Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah; from the descendants of Elizaphan: Shimri and Jeiel; from the descendants of Asaph: Zechariah and Mattaniah; from the descendants of Heman: Jehiel and Shimei; from the descendants of Jeduthun: Shemaiah and Uzziel. They assembled their brothers and consecrated themselves. Then they went in to purify the LORD’s temple, just as the king had ordered, in accordance with the word of the LORD. The priests then entered the LORD’s temple to purify it; they brought out to the courtyard of the LORD’s temple every ceremonially unclean thing they discovered inside. The Levites took them out to the Kidron Valley. On the first day of the first month they began consecrating; by the eighth day of the month they reached the porch of the LORD’s temple. For eight more days they consecrated the LORD’s temple. On the sixteenth day of the first month they were finished. They went to King Hezekiah and said: “We have purified the entire temple of the LORD, including the altar of burnt sacrifice and all its equipment, and the table for the Bread of the Presence and all its equipment. We have prepared and consecrated all the items that King Ahaz removed during his reign when he acted unfaithfully. They are in front of the altar of the LORD.

HE REINSTATED TEMPLE WORSHIP

2 Chronicles 29:20-36 -- Early the next morning King Hezekiah assembled the city officials and went up to the LORD’s temple. They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, the sanctuary, and Judah. The king told the priests, the descendants of Aaron, to offer burnt sacrifices on the altar of the LORD. They slaughtered the bulls, and the priests took the blood and splashed it on the altar. Then they slaughtered the rams and splashed the blood on the altar; next they slaughtered the lambs and splashed the blood on the altar. Finally they brought the goats for the sin offering before the king and the assembly, and they placed their hands on them. Then the priests slaughtered them. They offered their blood as a sin offering on the altar to make atonement for all Israel, because the king had decreed that the burnt sacrifice and sin offering were for all Israel. Hezekiah stationed the Levites in the LORD’s temple with cymbals and stringed instruments, just as David, Gad the king’s prophet, and Nathan the prophet had ordered. (The LORD had actually given these orders through his prophets.) The Levites had David’s musical instruments and the priests had trumpets. Hezekiah ordered the burnt sacrifice to be offered on the altar. As they began to offer the sacrifice, they also began to sing to the LORD, accompanied by the trumpets and the musical instruments of King David of Israel. The entire assembly worshiped, as the singers sang and the trumpeters played. They continued until the burnt sacrifice was completed. When the sacrifices were completed, the king and all who were with him bowed down and worshiped. King Hezekiah and the officials told the Levites to praise the LORD, using the psalms of David and Asaph the prophet. So they joyfully offered praise and bowed down and worshiped. Hezekiah said, “Now you have consecrated yourselves to the LORD. Come and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the LORD’s temple.” So the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and whoever desired to do so brought burnt sacrifices. The assembly brought a total of 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs as burnt sacrifices to the LORD, and 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep were consecrated. But there were not enough priests to skin all the animals, so their brothers, the Levites, helped them until the work was finished and the priests could consecrate themselves. (The Levites had been more conscientious about consecrating themselves than the priests.) There was a large number of burnt sacrifices, as well as fat from the peace offerings and drink offerings that accompanied the burnt sacrifices. So the service of the LORD’s temple was reinstituted. Hezekiah and all the people were happy about what God had done for them, for it had been done quickly.

HE COLLECTED ALL ISRAEL TO OBSERVE THE PASSOVER

2 Chronicles 30:1-2 -- Hezekiah sent messages throughout Israel and Judah; he even wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, summoning them to come to the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem and observe a Passover celebration for the LORD God of Israel. The king, his officials, and the entire assembly in Jerusalem decided to observe the Passover in the second month. 

HE DEMOLISHED IDOLATROUS HIGH PLACES

2 Chronicles 31:1 -- When all this was over, the Israelites who were in the cities of Judah went out and smashed the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah poles, and demolished all the high places and altars throughout Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. Then all the Israelites returned to their own homes in their cities.

HE REAPPOINTED THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES TO THEIR DIVISIONS

2 Chronicles 31:2 -- Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and Levites to do their assigned tasks – to offer burnt sacrifices and present offerings and to serve, give thanks, and offer praise in the gates of the LORD’s sanctuary.

Priests and Levites required public assistance to devote themselves to God's commandments. The people returned to bring their food offerings and tithes of oxen, lambs, and other sacred items under Hezekiah. 

The high priest, Azariah, testified that the priests suddenly had more than enough food and that the Lord was blessing them. The temple's storage rooms were created for offerings, tithes, and devoted items.

King Hezekiah realised too late that the tiny storehouse in Solomon's temple was too small to accommodate the nation's tithe, which accumulated before being re-distributed to the Levitical towns.

The temple structure lacked massive storage facilities capable of storing the whole nation's tithe. In Second Chronicles 31:5-9, King Hezekiah uncovered this and re-distributed the tithes to the Levitical towns, which is true in the verse above.

THE TWO-WAY CONTRIBUTION

2 Chronicles 31:5-6 -- When the edict was issued, the Israelites freely contributed the initial portion of their grain, wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a tenth of everything, which added up to a huge amount. The Israelites and people of Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also contributed a tenth of their cattle and sheep, as well as a tenth of the holy items consecrated to the LORD their God. They brought them and placed them in many heaps.

These verses demonstrate that the common people were following their king and were probably unaware that the Law had diverted these contributions in two ways. While all firstborn, firstfruits, and vow offerings were to be brought to the priests in Jerusalem, the people were to bring all tithes to the Levitical towns for the priests and Levites to gather the required portions for those serving in rotation at the Temple.

TITHES DIRECTLY IN THE TEMPLE?

2 Chronicles 31:7-9 -- In the third month they began piling their contributions in heaps and finished in the seventh month. When Hezekiah and the officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and pronounced blessings on his people Israel. When Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps..."

Something was confusing. Was this not the same Temple that King Solomon had built? How did Solomon dispose of all this food and livestock? How and where did Solomon store them? Was this issue previously encountered? 

The ruler was required to consult with the priests and Levites. Should the king have ordered that the people deliver their tithes to the Temple directly? To the dismay of many who misunderstand Malachi 3:10, one can clearly understand from verses 15-19 that only a tiny portion of the tithes was really carried straight to the Temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah gives us a distinct picture of this.

Nehemiah 10:37-28 -- We will also bring the first of our coarse meal, of our contributions, of the fruit of every tree, of new wine, and of olive oil to the priests at the storerooms of the temple of our God, along with a tenth of the produce of our land to the Levites, for the Levites are the ones who collect the tithes in all the cities where we work. A priest of Aaron’s line will be with the Levites when the Levites collect the tithes, and the Levites will bring up a tenth of the tithes to the temple of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury.

STOREHOUSE FOR TITHES

2 Chronicles 31:10-14 -- Azariah, the head priest from the family of Zadok, said to him, “Since the contributions began arriving in the LORD’s temple, we have had plenty to eat and have a large quantity left over. For the LORD has blessed his people, and this large amount remains.” Hezekiah ordered that storerooms be prepared in the LORD’s temple. When this was done, they brought in the contributions, tithes, and consecrated items that had been offered. Konaniah, a Levite, was in charge of all this, assisted by his brother Shimei. Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismakiah, Mahath, and Benaiah worked under the supervision of Konaniah and his brother Shimei, as directed by King Hezekiah and Azariah, the supervisor of God’s temple. Kore son of Imnah, a Levite and the guard on the east side, was in charge of the voluntary offerings made to God and disbursed the contributions made to the LORD and the consecrated items.

While the king inquired of both priests and Levites about the disposition of the huge heaps of tithes, only the high priest responded. I am curious as to why? Could it be that he was aware that even those residing in Jerusalem were required to send tithes to the Levitical towns, as Nehemiah ordered later in Nehemiah 10:37?

If ALL of the tithes had been delivered to the Jerusalem storehouse, then Hezekiah was incorrect. This would imply that Hezekiah and the high priest, Azariah, did not study the Law as thoroughly as Nehemiah did.

Nehemiah 10:29 -- hereby participate with their colleagues the town leaders and enter into a curse and an oath to adhere to the law of God which was given through Moses the servant of God, and to obey carefully all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, along with his ordinances and his statutes.

Thus, Hezekiah's edict would be an exception and not the norm of the day. The context of the following passages, on the other hand, indicates that the majority of the tithe was NOT carried to the Temple.

Although many tithing teachers prefer to refer to the church as God's storehouse, it was King Hezekiah and Azariah the high priest, NOT God, who first erroneously ordered that (some) tithes be delivered straight to storehouses in Jerusalem. 

One storeroom served as a safe haven for battle spoils and treasures. Another storehouse (or rather, storage chambers) contained firstfruits and the firstborn of herds and cattle, which were eaten on a weekly rotation basis by ministering priests. 

Of course, the Levites serving in the Temple on one-week cycles would also need a place to store their food from the tithes.

Nehemiah 12:44 -- On that day men were appointed over the storerooms for the contributions, first fruits, and tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions prescribed by the law for the priests and the Levites, for the people of Judah took delight in the priests and Levites who were ministering.

Nehemiah 12:47 -- So in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah, all Israel was contributing the portions for the singers and gatekeepers, according to the daily need. They also set aside the portion for the Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron.

Consider this: if King Solomon had constructed food storehouses inside Jerusalem for tithes during his time of plenty, King Hezekiah would have already inherited Solomon's storehouses during his period when there was scarcity.

In the next post, we will at tithing under Prophets Nehemiah and Amos so stay tuned and study this topic seriously.

Feel free to comment or email me. I will try and reply as soon as possible.

Stay safe, healthy, and growing in Christ.

Blessings,

Godwin.


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