Working of tithe laws during two period -- I. Under Joshua and Judges -- The law established under Joshua -- Lawlessness under Judges -- Returns to Jehovah under Jephthah, Eli, and Samuel -- II. Under the monarchies -- Saul's offerings of spoils -- David anointed king -- Ark brought to Jerusalem, and Levites reorganized -- David's accumulated offerings -- Solomon's dedication of the temple, and his offerings -- Tithes under Israel's monarchs.
HAVING studied the laws of the Pentateuch concerning tithes and offerings, we proceed to inquire what further light may be obtained upon tithe-paying from the working of these laws during the period covered by the rest of the Old Testament, taking the books in the generally received order. This period may be conveniently divided into four parts, beginning with the settlement of Canaan under Joshua and the Judges, and taking next the monarchy under Saul, David, and Solomon. A third era begins with the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel, which may be followed by the re-settlement of the land after the Babylonian captivity.
As in previous chapters, let us search diligently for passages concerning firstfruits, presents, and dues to priests; for sacrifices, and instances of the offering of material things to God; as well as for examples of private beneficence in general, so that, in the absence of actual mention of tithes, we may see what can be inferred respecting them, as also concerning religious giving, and non-prescribed benevolence generally.
After crossing the Jordan, Joshua at once put in force the laws concerning circumcision and the observance of the Passover, Joshua 5. Also, on coming to Mount Ebal, he built an altar unto Jehovah, offered burnt offerings, sacrificed peace offerings, Joshua 8:30-32, and wrote on the stones, in the presence of the people, a copy of the law of Moses. "There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them," Joshua 8:35.
Joshua read therefore all that was commanded about tithes; and, seeing that the only means of support of many thousands of Levites with their families was dependent on these contributions, we can not suppose that this item of the law was permitted to remain a dead letter. Nor, indeed, were the Levites slow to claim their rights, for they came to Joshua at Shiloh, saying: "The Lord commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle," Joshua 21:1-2; I Chronicles 6:57, etc., and if they thus put in their claim for places to dwell in, which was allowed to the extent of forty-eight cities, it is not likely they would have failed, had there been need, to ask for their tithes also.
As for other kinds of offerings, when Joshua was directed to divide the land, it is expressly mentioned that "only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the offerings of the Lord, the God of Israel, made by fire are his inheritance," Joshua 13:7-14.
Under the Judges we have an unsettled time, both politically and religiously. "There was not king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes," Judges 17:6. The priesthood no doubt suffered in common with others from this lawlessness, as indicated, perhaps, by the young Levite departing from Bethlehem-Judah to sojourn where he could find a place, and on coming to Mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, was content to remain there for food, clothing, and shelter, coupled with the annual pittance of ten shekels of silver, Judges 17:8, etc.
Again, the foul treatment, at Gibeah, of a Levite and his concubine shows the men of Benjamin to have sunk at this period to a very degraded condition. Nevertheless, we observe indications both here and throughout the book of Judges, that the worship of Jehovah was still maintained; for when an angel came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and reproved the Israelites for not throwing down the altars of the inhabitants of the land, we read that the people wept and sacrificed to Jehovah, Judges 2:2-5.
Also, when, under the oppression of the Midianites, some of the people fell away to Amorite gods, we find Gideon building an altar, calling it Jehovah-Shalom, and offering thereon the bullock of the altar of Baal, Judges 6:10, 28.
Next we have Jephthah delivering Israel, after making a vow to his God that whatever might come forth out of the doors of his house to meet him on his return from victory, should devoted to Jehovah, and offered as a burnt offering, Judges 11:31.
So, too, when Israel was oppressed by the Philistines, and Samson was to be raised up from the house of Manoah, it was to Jehovah that Manoah presented his burnt offering, Judges 13:16, just as when Samson, having fallen into the enemy's hands, the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice, and to rejoice before their god Dagon, Judges 16:23.
Further, when Israel was collected from Dan even to Beersheba to punish the Benjamites for their wrongdoing at Gibeah, to the Levite and his concubine, the people gathered as one man before Jehovah in Mizpeh; the tribes presented themselves, we read, in the assembly of the people of God, Judges 20:1-2. And when the punitive force sent against Gibeah was twice repulsed, the people came to the house of God, wept, fasted, offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and inquired of Jehovah before the Ark of the Covenant, by Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, who stood before it in those days, Judges 20:26-27.
Once more, when Gibeah had fallen, and wives were lacking to the surviving Benjamites, the people rose early, came to the house of God, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, whilst the closing scene of the book of Judges show us, that, even at that time, there was held in Shiloh a yearly feast to Jehovah.
When we come to the days of Eli, religious affairs seem to be more settled. Shiloh is still the appointed place of worship whither Elkanah and all his house went up yearly to offer his sacrifice and his vow, I Samuel 1:21. We learn, too, that it had become the priests custom with the people, that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was boiling, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand, and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or cauldron, or pot; all that the flesh-hook brought up the priest took for himself, I Samuel 2:13-14.
This was done to all the Israelites who came to Shiloh; and since Eli and his sons were reproached for "making themselves fat" with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel, it would seem to hint that the number of offerings and the multitude of people attending the feasts were large.
Under Samuel the Ark was for some months in possession of the Philistines, who sent it to Beth-shemesh with a trespass offering of golden tumors and mice, giving glory to the God of Israel, I Samuel 6:4-5. At Beth-shemesh the Ark was taken form the cart by the Levites, and the wood of the cart, and the oxen that drew it, were offered as a burnt sacrifice, besides which the people of Beth-shemesh offered on that day burnt offerings and sacrifices, I Samuel 6:15. The Ark was then taken to Kirjath-jearim, where Eleazar, the son of Abinadab, was appointed to keep it, and where it remained for twenty years, the people meanwhile falling away to the worship of Baalim and Ashtaroth, but at the same time lamenting after Jehovah, I Samuel 7:2-3.
Accordingly, Samuel gathered all Israel to Mizpeh, took a sucking-lamb, and offered it for a whole burnt offering, and cried unto the Lord for Israel, after which Samuel returned to Ramah, where was his house, and where he built an altar unto the Lord, I Samuel 7:9-17.
Whilst, therefore, the period from Joshua to Samuel was one of religious unrest, of oppression by foreigners, and occasional and partial defection to strange gods, we see sufficient indications to show that the Ark was set up, that the worship of Jehovah was retained as the established religion of the people, and in accordance with this we may conclude that the claims of the Levites were more or less recognized and the tithes paid.
We come next to the period of the Israelitish monarchy, beginning with Saul, who is introduced to us whilst seeking his father's asses, and who is advised to ask direction of Samuel. Saul recognizes the standing custom that an offering must be made to the man of God, I Samuel 9:7, to which end his servant proposes to give a quarter of a shekel of silver; and there happened to be a sacrifice that day on the high place to which Samuel had been invited, I Samuel 9:12.
Soon after, at Gilgal, they made Saul king before the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings, rejoicing before the Lord, I Samuel 11:15.
But we do not learn much concerning divine offerings from the annals of this unsatisfactory monarch, though it is stated that some at least of his spoils won in battle he dedicated to repair the house of the Lord. Samuel had so done before, as afterwards did Abner and Joab, the generals of Saul and David, I Chronicles 26:27-28.
This bears upon our subject to some extent, because these Israelitish warriors at this early date were only doing as did their forefather Abram. They were carrying out a custom that extended far beyond the confines of Palestine, for we have now reached the supposed era of the Trojan war, when the Argives, as we are told, having subdued the Mycenians, are said to have consecrated a tenth of their goods to their god (see Sacred Tenth, p. 22). The Philistines also, it may be remarked, were actuated apparently by similar motives on the downfall of Saul, by stripping his body and putting his armor in the house of the Ashtaroth, I Samuel 31:10.
In David, we have a monarch who was anointed king at a religious sacrifice or feast, I Samuel 16:5, and the excuse which Jonathan made one day to account for David's absence from Saul's table, suggests that in Jesse's household, as with Elkanah's, there was a yearly sacrifice for all the family, I Samuel 20:6-29.
Moreover, David's first trophy taken in war -- the sword of Goliath -- we hear of subsequently as wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod, under the care of Ahimelech the priest, I Samuel 21:9, whilst toward the end of David's reign, so great had become the number of spoils taken in war, that they were placed under the charge of Shelomith and his brethren, to whose care also were entrusted all the treasures of the dedicated things which David, the chief fathers, and captains of the host, had dedicated out of the spoils taken in battles, I Chronicles 26:26-27.
On becoming king over all Israel, David lost no time in bringing the Ark of God to Jerusalem. When those that bare it had marched six paces, the king sacrificed oxen and fatlings, II Samuel 6:13. The Levites also, on being helped by God, offered seven bullocks and seven rams; and when the Ark was brought into the tent prepared for it, David further offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God, I Chronicles 15:26; 16:1-2, after which he blessed the people in the name of Jehovah, and dealt to every man and woman a loaf of bread, a portion of flesh, and a cake of raisins, I Chronicles 16:3.
After this, David appointed a large number of priests and Levites to perform daily service before the high place at Gibeon, to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord upon the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the law of the Lord, I Chronicles 16:37-40.
Then David consulted Nathan about building a temple, for which the king began to collect materials, dedicating thereto the silver and the gold that he took from all the nations: from Edom, from Moab, and from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines, from Amalek, and the spoil of Hadadezer, I Chronicles 18:11; II Samuel 13:11-12, which strongly reminds us of the way in which the Egyptian and Babylonian kings dedicated their spoils to their gods.
Later on we see the royal penitent purchasing the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite for six hundred shekels of gold, because he would not offer burnt offering without cost; and building thereon an altar because he was afraid to go before the tabernacle in the high place at Gibeon, I Chronicles 21:24-25, 29.
Then began David's active preparation of materials for the temple, comprising three thousand talents of gold, seven thousand talents of silver, also brass, iron, wood, marble, costly stones, and onyx and other gems, I Chronicles 29:2-4. This example was followed by the princes to the extent of five thousand talents, and then thousand drams, of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of brass, one hundred thousand talents of iron, as well as costly stones; the king and people rejoicing for that they offered willingly, I Chronicles 29:6-9. After this they killed, as burnt offerings, one thousand bullocks, one thousand of rams, one thousand lambs with their drink offerings, and sacrifices for all Israel, who ate and drank before the Lord with great gladness, I Chronicles 29:21-22.
Moreover, David appointed the services for the priests and Levites, the number of Levites above thirty years of age alone being thirty-eight thousand (which, with their families, would probably mean nearly two hundred thousand persons), I Chronicles 23:3-5, in addition to whom there were appointed several courses of priests, I Chronicles 24.
We now come to the days of Solomon, who, at the beginning of his reign, offered one thousand burnt offerings at Gibeon, I Kings 3:4; II Chronicles 1:6, and after his dream, offered before the Ark at Jerusalem burnt and peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.
When the time came for the dedication of the temple, the Ark was brought to its place, with sacrifices innumerable of sheep and oxen, I Kings 8:5, after which Solomon and the people offered to the Lord twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep, holding a feast for all Israel during fourteen days, I Kings 8:63, 65; II Chronicles 5:6, 7:3-10.
After this we find Solomon, "after a certain rate every day offering, according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year," II Chronicles 8:12-16; I Kings 9:25.
We may now, therefore, consider the worship of Jehovah fully established and carried out according to the law of the Pentateuch. But from the entrance of the people into Canaan to the reign of Solomon -- a space of nearly five hundred years -- we have found nothing specifically mentioned about tithes. Samuel came very near to the word when, the Israelites having asked for a king, the prophet warned them "he will take the tenth of your seed, . . . he will take the tenth of your sheep, and ye shall be his servants," I Samuel 8:15-17.
Hence, certain writers have imagined that some of the kings took for themselves the Levites' tithes. But the scripture does not say so. Solomon indeed raised a levy out of all Israel of two hundred and sixteen thousand men who were foreigners and not of the children of Israel, I Kings 5:13-18; II Chronicles 2:2, 17, 8:9, and if for the support of these two hundred and sixteen thousand workmen an extra tenth were imposed, in addition to the Mosaic tenths that would undoubtedly be claimed by the two hundred thousand Levitical persons, we can understand the people coming to Solomon's son and saying, "Thy father made our yoke grievous," I Kings 12:4.
But we never read that the payment of Mosaic tithes and offerings was an undue burden. On the contrary, and speaking generally, we may say that the more closely God's law was kept the more prosperous were the people.
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