Pre-Kingdom Tithing

As Joshua takes command of the Hebrews and leads them into the promised land, he follows Moses’ words and examples to renew the covenant and their commitment to God through circumcision of their children. Joshua gathers them all and circumcises them to submit themselves and their future generation to God’s promises for the Israelites (Joshua 5). The removal of the flesh would serve to separate the Hebrews once again from the people that they would encounter. He follows this in Ch. 8 with an altar of unhewn stones and burnt offerings and peace offerings as well to remind them of the offerings and tithes that were due to God. With this and the reading of the Law to all the people we know that Joshua did not let them forget the rules nor the blessings that should come to them in this land with obedience. Joshua divides the land to each of the tribes as instructed leaving the Levites out of this as they received their portion apart from the rest. Later, in Joshua 21:2, the Levites request land and cities in order to receive the tithes and offerings of the Israelite people and to live on the land with their families. Because of the quantity of offerings and tithes promised to them, they inherited forty-eight towns in total from different tribes which was portioned out to specific descendants within the tribe of Levites. The Hebrew people won and fought many battles during Joshua’s time, following the Lord’s laws and fulfilling their part of the covenant. As he was nearing the end of his life, he called the leadership together, elders, leaders, judges, and officials, and told them to keep their covenant with God, because He would protect them and bless them. He tells them directly that if they serve other gods that they will perish from the land given to them.

Following in Judges, as the generations that had known Joshua and had known the works of the Lord died off, the Israelites began to worship and follow other gods, with the hand of the Lord against them (Judges 2:10-15). Throughout Judges, chapter by chapter, each of them are tested in their faith. Their obedience directly affects their victories and defeats as the Israelites turn away from God and are killed by the tens of thousands in battles.  Throughout the book of Judges, we see a clear cycle of Sin bringing suffering, which led to crying God, to deliverance leading to peace, followed by more sin. Idolatry caused a vast majority of their falling away from God. Judges 17, for example, tells how Micah made images to worship, making his son a priest over it, knowing he was not a Levite as all priests were to be. So he paid a passing Levite from Bethlehem to stay with them and to serve as priest over the image, knowing that that was what God would prefer from them. The Bible states that in this time men did what they saw as best because they did not have a King to lead them.

While some were keeping the traditions more on a thanksgiving or requesting basis (Judges 2:2-5, Judges 11:31, Judges 13:16, etc) We have confirmation in Judges 21:19 and again in 1 Samuel 1:21 that the annual festivals and tithes were continuing to be paid by at least some of the Hebrews. While the priests were still inheriting their portions of the offerings and tithes, they took to their own rules of skimming from the animals offered in contempt for the Lord’s offerings (1 Samuel 2:12-17). At the time of Eli and his sons, there were accusations of them taking too much and making themselves fat from the offering. In 1 Samuel 4:21, the Ark of the Covenant is taken by the Philistines because the Glory of Israel had also been lost. The Ark inflicted sickness upon the Philistines because they did not take care of it according to His instructions and sent it back to the Israelites with a guilt offering to atone for their theft. Even as the Israelites welcomed it back, another seventy of them died because they looked upon it. It was Samuel who interceded with the Lord with offerings and prayers on the behalf of Israel who brought protection back to them. (1 Samuel 6:19; 7:8-11). Again we see that blessings and protection for the Hebrews came with a complete devotion to God with recognition and dedication to all the promises and the covenant between them, including the removal of their idolatry. Tithes and offerings, alongside reverence of the Lord as the one and only God, were given to God since he always fulfilled his side of the covenant.

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