Post-Captivity Tithing: Part One (Ezra’s Efforts)

Following the 70 years of exile from their lands, the Jews were granted permission by Cyrus, king of the Persians, to return to their land and rebuild their temple and walls. Their cities and land had been destroyed when they were taken away by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and then overtaken by the Persians as well, dispersing the people of Judah and Israel. The book of Ezra opens by telling us that in order for Jeremiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled, the Lord stirred the spirit of Cyrus to rebuild His Temple. He calls for all those willing to go and for others to contribute to the cause of their brethren. The  Jews give willingly and freely to Ezra and to the people who will be returning with Cyrus’ blessing as they re-realize their faith and return to God. These people had a burden to restore not just a sense of nationalism but also the worship and godliness that had been lost, causing their situation in the first place. All in all, a force of 42,360 people return alongside Ezra and Joshua the High Priest.

Fulfilling the words of Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets, Joshua as High Priest had great influence and support during the reconstruction of the Temple because of his position. It began the return of the order of the High Priest to the promised land. With Ezra acting as the politician to keep favor up for their efforts in the King’s court and Joshua as the spiritual leader, they began to rebuild the Altar and started laying the foundation for the new Temple. Their first step in restoration was to separate out the Levites of true heritage to work there and to set up the offerings upon the altar.

In fear of the hostile countries around them, the Jews offered up burnt offerings morning and evening. They kept also the feast of the tabernacles as it is written and offered daily burnt-offerings by number according to custom as the duty of every day required. Afterward they offered the continual burnt offering both of the new moons and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, everyone willingly gave the freewill offering,” (Ex 23:16/Lev 23:33-43/Num 29:12). The people then gathered to keep the Passover for the first time since diaspora. In celebration of the Lord changing the attitude of the King of Assyria towards them, they feasted for seven days as the Assyrians came to help them build the Temple. Once more, as they restored themselves to God, He extended blessings and protections over His people.

When Ezra comes to join them, following his time in the King’s court, he brings even more people with him but finds the people there continuing to break the laws set forth by God through Moses and reinstated by Joshua the High Priest. Ezra finds the people having issues though following some of the ordinances and has to call for a time of confession. The people had failed to fully separate themselves from the neighboring nations and had once again taken wives from them, so they are forced to confess and separate themselves once again.

The Jews had been restored to their land by the efforts of Ezra and Joshua and began to rebuild the Temple and their walls with God’s protections over them. They began again the long journey to restoring the covenant between them that marks them as the chosen people, through festivals, offerings, and obedience to God’s laws, with the Levites again tending to the Temple. Though they sinned again and again, God forgave them and gave them another chance to restore their land and their covenant as they followed his laws and commands.

Exile from the Promised Land

As the kings of both kingdoms turn away from God taking their nations with them, they fell into the captivity and the reign of neighboring nations. The northern kingdom of Israel was taken by the Assyrians around 740 BCE after strong resistance. The southern kingdom of Judah remained until around 600 BCE, at which time it was overtaken by the Babylonians. In both situations, the conquering forces took the educated and skilled families from the Jews and left behind the poor laborers. Part of the assimilation of the Judeans was to feed and educate this next generation of advisors in a particular manner, there were some that chose not to follow those rules. Daniel 1:1-7. Through the simple act of not defiling themselves with the diet chosen by the king or worshipping the idols, God blesses Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and gives them wisdom and favor beyond anyone else in this program. Because of their obedience here, and in the situation of the Golden Image, they were saved from burning in front of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. When the king sees this miracle, he decrees that no one is to speak against their God (Daniel 3:29).

Just as He had done during their wandering in the wilderness, they would find blessings from God through obedience to Him and his statutes.  We all know the story of Daniel, who like his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, his faith was questioned and tested, and he prevailed, earning the protection of the Lord.  Esther and her cousin, Mordecai, later encounter prosecution for their Jewish faith, despite the success and favor with the King, and only through their good faith and dedication do they earn protection for the Jewish people in his lands.

These accounts are there to show us that although the Kingdoms had fallen due to apostasy that God was still there for his people. By a simple act of obedience or prayer, these people could be in contact with their Jehovah in the midst of a heathen nation. There were many Prophets speaking out and calling the people back to proper worship of the one true God and their responsibility as a community of godly people. The disobedience had to be punished and brought to an end, to show that it was not okay, but God never once left his people without an answer. He required them to show their faith through their actions, to love no other god but Him, and we find no real mention of yearly tithing or the offerings that were previously given to the Temple. Those that found favor with God and were blessed and protected by Him had only to give their love and faith, without any monetary or animal payments towards Him.

The Exile would come to an end as it had been foretold along with their exile from the promised land. The children of Judah knew that God would not leave them, and their land would be restored. While the prophets foretold their exile for disobedience, they also told that God would forgive them and keep watch over them in spite of their sins (Hosea 14).

Kingdom Tithing: Part Two

            In the years of Jehoiada, in 2 Chron 22-24, following the takeover of the Kingdom of Judah by Athaliah and the murders of the royal family, he makes a covenant with the commanders to gather the Levites from among the Israelites and the heads of households. He took the Levites to protect and serve the Temple of the Lord first, observing all restrictions of who may enter and how to care for it, following the covenant with the Lord from the time of Moses. They put Athaliah to death, being careful to keep the murder outside of the Temple and then in a covenant with all of the Israelites, he proclaims that their people will be the Lord’s people again. In this, they destroy all of the altars and idols and the priest of Baal to destroy the god that was separating them from the Lord’s protection and blessings. Ahaziah and Athaliah had done evil in the eyes of the Lord and led them astray, for idols of Baal and following the house of Ahab were disobedience to the Lord. It is after the new covenant is made that Jehoiada collects up an annual tithe from all of Israel to repair the temple (2 Chron 24:5).

         Following Jehoiada’s death, each king fails the Lord in his own way (2 Chron 25:7-8; 26:18; 27:2; 28:2-3). After Ahaz, the final king of 2 Chron 25-28, his son, Hezekiah, takes the throne and immediately turns back to God and caring for the Temple. His first act is to purify the temple as a rededication, assigning Levites and priests to serve the needs of the temple according to the law. He then calls for a celebration of Passover, which had not been possible due to the small number of priests. This causes them to destroy the idols to other gods. Finally, Hezekiah sends out a  collection of all tithes of the Israelites in 2 Chron 31:4-12 that support the Levites as their inheritance in their work for the Temple. This rededication of the Temple and of His people to the covenant of the Lord and the promises and duties of the Israelites is to put them back in good standing with the Lord, not just in fearful obedience but in celebration and praise of His glory in their lives. Hezekiah and his reign are then marked by prosperity, because he sought to do everything precisely to God’s instructions and to obey Him faithfully (2 Chron 31:21). In the closing of Chronicles, we see the fulfillment of God’s promise in the establishment of a king over Israel, that all will be good if they and their king follow the Lord. However, the many kings who do evil in the eyes of the Lord set His hand against them (1 Sam 12:13-15).  The kings of Israel and their people fail the Lord so horribly, that they lose their kingdom as we will see in the next section following exile from their lands (2 Chron 36:14-23, 2 Kings 25, Jeremiah 39).

          Each time that we see the mention of tithes during the kings, the disobedience of the Israelites is called out. The people worship other gods, neglect their responsibilities to the Levites and the Temple, and marry and bear children with women of other nations, neglecting the unique heritage that God had given them. He turns away from His people only after they have turned away from Him. The use of tithing and offerings is a way of keeping their attention to God and sacrifices to Him that are given willingly and freely. The grains and animals serve to support the Levites which supports the Temple which houses the Lord, as Mosaic law dictated. Any failure of the Israelites to give of their harvest, which was blessed first by God, undermines the appreciation of what He has done for them and promises to do, if only they obey Him.

Kingdom Tithing: Part One

Having grown up with Eli as a mentor, Samuel begins to speak for the Lord to all of Israel but doesn’t speak against Eli or his children. Samuel is well respected and listened to during his ministry, but as Samuel reaches old age, he appoints his two sons to stand as judges over Israel. They accepted bribes and corrupted their power as Eli’s sons had before them, forcing the people to cry out that they needed a king to rule and lead them. Samuel is told by God to inform them that a king over them will take a tenth of their grain and their vintage and a tenth of their flocks, among many other things (1 Sam 11-17). This carries the same tenths that were required of the Israelites, of their animals and of their fields, because God was to be their king, and they are rejecting Him as well (1 Sam 8:7-8). Samuel then finds and anoints Saul to be their king, explaining all of his rights and duties and placing him over Israel. Samuel then warns the Israelites that if they and their king serve and obey the Lord then they will be taken care of, but if they rebel or do not obey his commands, God will be against them. It is their disobedience and their rebelling against God that loses His favor and works against them during the Kingdom of Israel.

We know that in the time of the Kings of Israel there were annual tithes collected with some kind of consistency, because in 1 Sam 20:6, David is able to use the annual sacrifice of his people when speaking to Jonathan. David uses this custom of the Israelites as an excuse for his absence in the presence of King Saul, because it would be known at the time that they Israelites had to travel to the temple for this tithe to be submitted and the celebration to follow. Additionally, we know that during the reign of King David, he vows to repair the Temple of the Lord using the riches of the kingdom. This is collected in large part from offerings and from offerings of David’s own personal treasures (1 Chron 29). Throughout both Saul and David’s reign, we see burnt and peace offerings given to the Lord according to required law, especially following great battles with the riches gained therein. When Saul wins the battle against the Amalekites and their king, Agag, he destroys them and takes their best sheep and cattle to sacrifice this to God. But, Samuel tells him that the Lord would much rather have his obedience than the fat of their sacrifices. He calls rebellion the sin of divination and arrogance like idolatry, saying that the Lord hates these sins much more than he likes a sacrifice made to Him (1 Sam 15:22-26).

Even during the time of kings, God makes it very clear, both to Saul through Samuel at the start and to the later kings through his protection over Israel and His people, that obedience and faithfulness to him determines whether he will care for them and defend them from their enemies. The tithes and offerings come and go with acknowledgement of His laws and inclusion in their lives throughout battles and harvests when they turn to the Lord for blessings. It is the fulfillment of their covenant of obedience to him, however, that continually shows direct improvements in the lives of the Israelites.

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.

Mosaic Tithing: Part Two

The Bible consistently makes a distinction between tithes and offerings. In the Abrahamic lessons, we discussed different types of offerings and tithes, showing thankfulness or marking a covenant, though these were exclusively voluntary and never mandated by God. These were given of a willing nature in response to God’s fulfillment of the Covenant between Him and Abraham’s family. As the covenant was being fulfilled with Israel as a full fledged nation and moving towards the promised land, law was instituted. This law formed a new relationship between God and his Chosen people. As God separated the tribes of Israel, He gave the Levites to Aaron with special purpose to fulfill the duties of the tabernacle and priesthood in service of the tent of meeting.

The law stated first and foremost in Leviticus 27:30 that a tithe of everything from the land and the herds and flocks belonged to the Lord. In Numbers 18, the Israelites are ordered to also redeem the first offspring of every human and unclean animal and sacrifice the clean animals at the tent of meeting, because all of these belonged to Him. These are “redeemed” to Him, meaning that they are traded out for their monetary equivalents to the priests in place of offering up the child, paying to keep them from God’s service.

It is important to note that eleven of the twelve tribes paid the tithes; the Levites were exempt from having inherited no part of the land or the animals in order to make a living for themselves and their families. The tithes which the Israelites give to Him are to be given entirely over to Aaron and the Levites as their wages to support them and their families for their work in the tent of meeting. In exchange, the priests were not allowed to work the land, raise animals, or serve the community or themselves for any other compensation. To serve the Lord in their priestly duties was their portion. From the tithes given to them, the priests were also required to pay a tithe themselves to the Lord. This meant that for their service they were allowed to keep 9/10 of the tithes paid by the other tribes to support themselves and their families.

There are two other primary tithes described in Deuteronomy 14:22-29: the Festival Tithe and the Poor Tithe. The Festival Tithe was the annual collection of a tenth of the produce of the fields and the firstborns of their flocks and herds and to eat them in celebration and rejoicing in the Lord. They were to eat and celebrate like this in the presence of God in order to learn to revere Him. This tithe could also be redeemed, given in coin instead of goods, but this had to be spent on something the individual would still be able to enjoy at the festival with the others. The Poor Tithe was the tenth collected every three years and stored in the towns, for the Levites, the fatherless, the foreigners, and the widows. This was to ensure that they too had food in order to share God’s blessings even with the less fortunate.

There are two very different interpretations to these three tithes in how they were enacted by the Hebrews. One school of thought is that these tithes were a singular tithe that was given to a different use each year, cycling every three years.. In this theory, the annual tithe could have supported the celebrations and still had more than enough to support the Levites year-round alongside the firstborns and the offerings and their portions. The Festival Tithe and the Poor Tithe would have interchanged in order to follow the cycle as needed, giving up celebrations in favor of caring for those who were likely struggling every third year. This would infer a constant 10th given by eleven tribes with different purposes annually.

The other main interpretation of these scriptures argues that they didn’t replace one another but stacked. This means that the Levitical and Festival tax were both levied yearly, totalling 20%. The poor tithe would be added to that for a total 30% tithe paid out on every third year. This is the position held by Jewish scholars and historians like Josephus and many others. However, it is not pronounced as such in the scripture directly. The tithes during the era of Levitical law serve to support either the priesthood or the community’s less fortunate. These funds and gifts to God as required by the law maintained the dwelling of the Lord among them and maintained the people of Israel in a manner that God asked of them, in fulfillment of His covenant with them.

Mosaic Tithing: Part One

As Israel’s children became a nation under God, He fulfilled His promise and covenant to bless them and make them numerous and fruitful. God’s people grew and expanded in the land of Egypt, under the ruling of pharaoh until they became so numerous a new pharaoh felt threatened and began to afflict them, fulfilling what God had told Abraham. The line of Abraham and their descendants were enslaved there for many generations, until God heard the cries of the Israelites and sent Moses to free them.  Once free of Egypt they continued to multiply, exceeding Moses and Aaron’s governing abilities as just two people, even with God’s help. So the Law became the provision of God’s covenant to them as a nation. God gave instructions for His people through Moses which they are to obey fully, demonstrating his power and support. Among them there are 603,550 men in the census required by God, distinguishing the twelve tribes, each with their own duties from the Lord. These laws are to be the ultimate authority and direction of the Israelites in their lives, to govern all of their decisions, sins, atonements, offerings, and judicial rulings.

Immediately following the well-known Ten Commandments, God breaks down every detail of the laws that the Israelites must follow to live under God and with God among them in the Ark of the Covenant. In order to keep the ark holy and clean for God’s presence, he required burnt offerings be made morning and evening to him and for all the people. They had to remain clean enough to come before Him and live around Him. There are several chapters dedicated to cleanliness, whether unclean through animals eaten, bodily discharges, or coming into contact with a carcass. All of these things make them unclean to be in the presence of the Lord, because He is Holy beyond their understanding and they had tobe separate from the unclean world. There were five primary types of offerings given to the Lord and his priests to be redeemed: Burnt Offering, Grain Offering, Peace Offering, Sin Offering, and Trespass Offering. The burnt, grain, and peace offerings were given voluntarily and willingly to God to both mark the days in recognition of him to express their devotion, and to atone for unintentional sins. The Grain Offering and Peace Offering (which included the vow offering, wave offering, and heave offering) were an expression of thankfulness to the goodwill and livelihood that God provided.

The mandatory offerings to God consisted of the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering. Any sin which went against the laws of God that compose primarily Exodus 20 through the end of Leviticus in Chapter 27, with additional laws in Numbers and Deuteronomy, must be paid for or atoned according to the specific instructions that God required therein. God’s commandments for the Israelites at this time number 613, which outline almost every part of daily life. Many of these included rituals and sacrifices made at the Tent of Meeting and led by Aaron and his sons as priests and servants of God who were clean and set aside for this duty. God gives the Levites to Aaron in Numbers 3 to assist him in the extensive duties of preparation and maintenance of the Tent of Meeting. All of these offerings which the Israelites agreed to as their half of the covenant with God were given according to his instruction and wholly separate from any tithe or monetary commitment. These were the Mosaic laws that structured their daily lives and the devotion that they gave to Him as His chosen people.

Abrahamic Tithing: Part Four

Abraham’s covenant begins in Genesis 12, asking him as Abram to take his wife and to move to the land that God is promising to him and his children. His obedience began a long line of blessings and protection for all the generations that were to come. His promise to them was simply this: I will bless you and your children, I will give you lands, and I will make you fruitful and numerous beyond the stars (Gen 12, 15, 17, 26, 28, 35, 49-50). Obedience to God and the practice of circumcision added later on were required of the his line to continue the blessings. Even when they disobey God and sin, He continues to provide for them, fulfilling his end of the bargain, in no way limiting their wealth or growth or demanding anything extra from them.

The last direct descendant of Abraham’s line that we see partake of the same covenant is Joseph, the great grandson of Abraham. Joseph serves as a translator for the interpretation of dreams through God and serves an Egyptian captain of the guard by the name of Potiphar, managing his entire household. God gave Joseph success in whatever he did, especially in managing the prison he was kept in and the Pharaoh’s own palace. He had all the wealth of the Pharaoh’s Kingdom in his hands and lived comfortably as second in command over all of Egypt. He recognizes the Lord in all of his success, as Abraham’s line was asked to do, with no offerings or tithes required.  In managing the Pharaoh’s land and country, Joseph has the power to trick and then save his family, moving them all into Egypt with him, where he can protect them. When all the Egyptians have given everything over to Pharaoh for Joseph’s leadership and protection, Joseph gives their land back to them and yields a 20% tax on all the crops grown there, to supply for the Pharaoh and the country.

God promised the line of Abraham to be numerous and fruitful, to bless them in all things, and to take care of them as long as they were obedient to Him and circumcised their children on the 8th day of their birth. They had been promised land and were true to it, Jacob and Joseph making sure to be buried there, rather than Egypt where they had died. When they were unable to have children, they prayed to God, and He cared for them, fulfilling his promise each time. The descendants of Abraham worshipped, erected pillars and altars, and recognized God’s power in all the great acts that they could do. This covenant between them and God is fulfilled in the obedience and faith that they give to Him, and they are blessed immeasurably. When we pick up next week, we will be exploring the beginning of the Mosaic law and how that brought about changes in their relationship. As we move forward, remember this: scripturally, there is no basis for tithing in Abraham’s covenant with God.

Abrahamic Tithing: Part Three

Following Abraham’s line, everything is based on lineage and inheritance, of faith and of God’s blessings, based on the covenant between Abraham and God. Jacob grows up knowing that he is the second son and has no guarantee of the blessings of God and will watch his stronger older brother inherit everything. To get around this, Jacob takes the first opportunity he can to break this line, because he wants to be blessed too. We watch in Genesis 25:27-34, as Jacob makes Esau promise his birthright to him for a single meal. Esau agrees, thinking that one measly agreement won’t change his rightful status as the first born son.

When Isaac knows that he is old in age and will likely die soon, he asks Esau to bring him a fresh and perfect meal which must be hunted as Esau could only do. For this, Isaac will give him the Lord’s blessing and the inheritance which is owed to him. Rebekah and Jacob trick a blind and aging Isaac into blessing the wrong son, while Esau is away. However, this blessing which has been rightfully passed down among Abraham’s line continues to Jacob knowing that Jacob has sinned. Isaac finds out, and God knows the whole time. Yet, Jacob is indeed blessed and rewarded for his sin.

Isaac at this moment, knowing that the blessing has been passed down to the wrong son, even ensures that Jacob knows how to use that blessing to protect himself. He sends him away to Rebekah’s brother, Laban, in order to save him from Esau and tells him to have all of the blessings of Abraham’s line. God later sends him a vision, not to condemn Jacob for his trickery and theft but to confirm his blessing. Jacob sets up a pillar and pours oil over it, vowing that only if God was with him and protects him, returning him to his father’s house, that then he will give God one-tenth of what he was provided.

Laban too is a deceiver and and changed Jacob’s wages ten times, trying to cheat him out of money of which Jacob was owed. Instead, God protects him from the theft against him by marking the sheep that he is entitled to for wages with spots and other markings. In this, Jacob’s wealth grows to the point that Laban’s children begin to have issue with how rich Jacob is getting. God’s blessing of Jacob with wealth is through Jacob stealing the animals that God says he is entitled to from Laban. God gives him children and cattle and blesses him thoroughly, with no tenth being yet paid to God.

Laban feels that Jacob has stolen his daughters and their children from him when Jacob runs away, taking his animals as well. However, Laban knows that he can not fight to keep his children, he agrees that there will be no war between the two men and they make an agreement. They offer up a sacrifice, each of them to their own God to complete the agreement.  Jacob had years of God’s protection promised to him and fulfilled, but still he was fearful of rumors that Esau was coming with a band of 400 men. He separates himself from his household, sending them ahead, in case of a fight. That night wrestles with a man, demanding after the struggle that he will not let the man go unless he blesses him. The man injures Jacob’s hip to mark him and tells him that he is to be named Israel because he has overcome both God and man.

Esau welcomes Jacob as family and tries to refuse the offers of cattle from Jacob in accepting him back. Jacob gives thanks to God for protecting from him from a potential fight with his brother and builds an altar to God to praise him.  Jacob is later called out for his stubbornness in not using the name that God has given him of Israel and for idols and false gods in his lands. Jacob makes another promise and another altar, receiving blessings and promises of land and fruitful offspring with God’s continued help to the line of Abraham, saying kings will come from his line.

From Abraham to Isaac, we have two of the most faithful and obedient men in the Old Testament to model after, and Jacob undercuts all of it. Jacob cheats his way into blessings, steals what is owed to him, and fights God for his blessings, when God has only asked for faith to bless Abraham’s lineage. Even following his promises, being protected by God away from his family and land, Jacob never pays the tenth to God that he trades for protection. Jacob was taken care of as completely as Isaac and Abraham, but no payment was ever issued to God. God cared for him and protected him without a single tithe, because when he said he would bless Jacob, his word was enough.

Abrahamic Tithing: Part Two

Isaac is just as essential to the study of tithing as Abraham, because there isn’t a single scripture to show he paid tithes. My own pastor used Abraham over and over for lessons in tithing, while leaving out Isaac’s complete lack of tithing and the specifics of why Abraham’s line never had to “pay” for their blessings, except in obedience.

“What would a man take tithings for, if he had any…If he never was born, and never will die, and was from beginning to end, and—and never had no father or mother or descent, and owned the whole Heavens and earth and all in it, why would he take tithe? Why would he ask Abraham to pay tithes? You see what a strict thing it is to pay tithes? Tithing is right. Every Christian is duty bound to pay tithe. That’s right. Never has been changed.”

  57-0915E – William Marrion Branham

Lessons from Isaac’s life are more about his warring children or the servant’s journey to bring him Rebekah. Yet when he took over his father’s house, he was so like Abraham in bearing and running his affairs that kings asked for the same peace with him as they had with his father (Gen 26:26-33). It’s no surprise that God reaffirms his covenant with a man who followed the teachings of Abraham so closely. God is even clear as to why: obedience to every law, every statute, every commandment. If tithing were included, it would be here.

Isaac must have grown up hearing the stories of his miraculous conception. He would have known the issues behind the expulsion of his step brother Ishmael, and every other step sibling as Abraham would not allow any of them to share in the blessing with his heir (Gen 25:5-6). Isaac was taught of Abraham’s blessings and to obey God in every aspect, to reap the blessings offered to them. In Abraham’s eyes there was nothing else as dear to him as the fulfillment of God’s word. Isaac was born only through that covenant that Abraham shared with God.

Abraham was given a promise from God himself, and he made sure to remember it. He knew it would take care of his children and all those who would come after. Abraham’s covenant required action of himself and his line, to separate themselves from others with a mark. Abraham made sure Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day, so in Chapter 26 of Genesis, God confirms to Isaac that the covenant will continue to bless and protect his line. Abraham gave willingly of a merry heart for celebration, and it ends there. God is consistent and follows through (Numbers 23:19) and will always prefer the obedience of a willing heart over the giving of worldly things (I Samuel 15:22).

Isaac was known for his unfailing faith in God’s plan for his family (Heb 11:20). Abraham and Isaac both followed His will when it was most painful to them. Because God’s will always came first, Isaac was spared. When Isaac married Rebekah, they were unable to have children, just as his parents, Abram and Sarai, were. He begged the Lord for a child as his father had, and she was able to bear twins.  The Lord promised him, “Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham” (Gen 26:3). Isaac followed in his father’s footsteps, every step of the way, continuing his very successful and wealthy line, with God’s blessings and protection. If we take Abraham and his son, Isaac, for examples in tithing, all we pay to God is our obedience.