The Third Tithe!
Our modern day tithe teachers are leaving an indelible impression in the minds of their followers that the ancient Jews tithed only 10% of their gross income and demand that Christians must also tithe 10% of their gross income to their local Churches.
However, to make such an assumption is totally false and contrary to the scriptures.
There were multiple tithes prescribed in the Mosaic law contrary to popular opinion. Let us focus on the 3rd tithe in this article.
Definition of the 3rd tithe:
After the Sabbatical year, on every third and sixth year the farm owning Israelites must keep the increase of their produce within their gates and distribute it to the Levites, the widows, the poor and the strangers.
The 3rd tithe is also known as:
The Charity tithe / Tithe for the poor / Welfare tithe
Some of the distinct things about the 3rd tithe were, little to no traveling and transportation involved and this is the only tithe for which God promises to bless the works of the giver. No promises were given for the givers of the 1st and 2nd tithes in the Mosaic law. Also after paying the 3rd tithe the tithers were required to offer a specific declaration and a prayer as prescribed in Deuteronomy 26:13-15. There are no instructions in the Mosaic law to offer any specific prayer after paying the 1st or 2nd tithes.
Proof from the law of Moses (Scriptures about the 3rd tithe):
“At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town.”
“The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”
Deuteronomy 26:12 – 15
“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.”
Questions and Answers about the third tithe:
1. What was tithable as the third tithe?
* One tenth of the increase in the produce. Money (Shekel) is not mentioned and the cattle are not mentioned either.
2. Who were the recipients?
* The Levites, the widows, the poor and the strangers (aliens) were the recipients and the final owners of this tithe.
3. Where should they bring the tithes?
* Within their gates and within the boundaries of their town.
4. What was the purpose?
* In order that the Lord God of Israel may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
5. How often it should be paid?
* Every third year, that was on the 3rd and 6th year from the Sabbatical year.
6. Was it redeemable?
* No, it could not be redeemed. It must be given out and no redemption option was specified in the Mosiac law. The third tithe must not be converted into money.
7. When it was paid?
* At the END of the 3rd year.
8. Were livestock involved?
* No, animals were not part of the 3rd tithe.
9. What was the difference between the third tithe and the other two tithes?
* First tithe should be brought to the nearest Levite cities and the second tithe should be brought to Jerusalem.
* The purpose of the first tithe was to compensate the Levites for their loss of inheritance amongst the rest of the 11 tribes.
The purpose of the second tithe was to teach the fear of the Lord to the Jews.
* Levites become the final owners of the first tithe, the tithers themselves become the owners of the second tithes.
* Only the members of the tribe of Levi were the recipients of the first tithe. The tithers themselves consumed the second tithe with their household.
* First tithes could be eaten anywhere by the Levites and the 2nd tithes could be eaten only in Jerusalem.
* First tithes must be paid yearly and the second tithes must also be paid yearly but only during festival times which included the first born animal.
* For the first tithe, if the tither wants to redeem the tithes from the land they must add 20% of the monetary value as a fine and give it to the Levites. However the livestock were not redeemable.
For the second tithe, no redemption option was specified. The second tithes might be converted into money however in Jerusalem they must use the same money to buy oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever their heart desired. No penalty was applicable if the 2nd tithe was converted into money.
* Levites got the Livestock (tenth animal that passed under the rod) and the first born male animals were part of feasts and participated the 2nd tithes.
* All other tribes traveled an average distance depending upon the location of the Levitical towns to deliver the first tithes. No river crossing involved.
For the 2nd tithe, the Northern tribes like Asher, Naphtali, Zebulen and Issachar traveled the longest distance to Jerusalem. The trans-Jordan tribes had to cross the Jordan river and obviously boats were involved in transportation.
* No promise (to bless the giver) associated with the 1st and 2nd tithes in the Law. The promise in Malachi 3 was specific to those who have returned from the exile when they were rediscovering their culture, religion and language.
* Scriptures for 1st tithe: Leviticus 27:30 – 33 & Scriptures for the 2nd tithe: Deuteronomy 12:5 – 7 & Deuteronomy 14:22 – 26
10. Is there proof outside the scriptures?
Yes, there are 2 important proofs outside the 66 books of the Bible.
a) Famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who lived in the first century:
Antiquities of the Jews – Book 4, Chapter 8 and verse 22
“Besides those two tithes, which I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year a third tithe to be distributed to those that want; to women also that are widows, and to children that are orphans.”
b) The Apocryphal book of Tobit:
Tobit the son of Tobiel, son of Ananiel, son of Aduel, son of Gabael, of the descendants of Asiel and the tribe of Naphtali in his own words.
Tobit 1:6 – But I alone went often to Jerusalem for the feasts, as it is ordained for all Israel by an everlasting decree.
Taking the first fruits and the tithes of my produce and the first shearings, I would give these to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar.
Tobit 1:7 – Of all my produce I would give a tenth to the sons of Levi who ministered at Jerusalem; a second tenth I would sell, and I would go and spend the proceeds each year at Jerusalem;
Tobit 1:8 – the third tenth I would give to those to whom it was my duty, as Deborah my father’s mother had commanded me, for I was left an orphan by my father.
11. Are there any objections about the 3rd tithe?
Yes, there are.
a) The 12 century Jewish Halachic arbitrator Moses ben-Maimon called Maimonides also known as HaRambam
Maimonides: “On the third and sixth years from the sabbatical year, after they have separated the first tithe, they separate from what remains another tithe, and give it to the poor, and it is called the poor’s tithe; and not on those two years is the second tithe, but the poor’s tithe.” — Gill on Deuteronomy 14:28; Maimonides, Hilchot Mattanot Anayim, c. 6, sect. 4. See also Speaker’s Commentary on Deuteronomy 14:28-29, and McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopaedia, vol. 10. p. 433.]
b) Selden and Michaelis also argue in the same direction, saying that a third tithe should be an excessive demand upon the income of a man who had already expended two-tenths of his increase (McClintock and Strongs Cyclopaedia, vol. 10, p. 434).
c) Peake likewise says: “It may be urged that it is not probable that a double tribute should be exacted from the crops.” And again: “Nor is it probable that a tax of nearly one-fifth of the whole produce should be imposed on the farmers.” (Article “Tithe,” in Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, I, p. 780.)
d) Jewish Talmud (Mishna & Gemmarah)
12. So did the Jews pay only the welfare tithe (which we call as the 3rd tithe) on the 3rd and 6th years instead of the 1st and/or 2nd tithes?
Here are the answers to the objections:
a) Deuteronomy 26:12 mentions about “the year of tithing” because years 3 and 6 were the most expensive year for the Jews.
b) If the 3rd tithe had replaced the 1st tithe how did the Levites survive for those 2 years because they paid this tithes only at the end of the 3rd and 6th years
c) If the 3rd tithe had replaced the 2nd tithe did the Jews not celebrate the 3 pilgrimage festivals during the 3rd and 6th years or did they celebrate the 3 pilgrimage festivals without bringing any food to Jerusalem?
d) The Levites needed to survive during the sabbatical year. Therefore they got tithes twice during years 3 and 6, especially on year 6.
e) There is no verse in the Old Testament which says (as its primary subject) that the 3rd tithe should be replaced by 1st and/or 2nd tithes during the 3rd and 6th years.
f) Christians do not believe in the Jewish concept of the oral law. Post-exile Jewish Rabbis added a lot of man made laws and interpretations into their lives. Therefore the 39 books of the Old testament is enough to justify that there was a 3rd tithe apart from the first two. We need not rely upon the interpretations of HaRambam and Rashi.
g) Even though Jewish commentators overwhelmingly agree with Maimonides’ interpretation of the 3rd tithe, Abraham Ibn Ezra, a contemporary of Maimonides who was also a great Jewish commentator recognized that the 3rd tithe was distinct from the other two.
13. Did the Christian Church Fathers write about the 3rd tithe?
* Yes, a few of them wrote about the 3rd tithe.
a) Jerome who included the book of Tobit in the Latin Bible (Vulgate)
Jerome says one tithe was given to the Levites, out of which they gave a tenth to the priests; a second tithe was applied to festival purposes, and a third was given to the poor (Commentary on Ezekiel 45:1, 565. quoted in McClintock and Strong, 10, 434).
b) John Chrysostom who was Archbishop of Constantinople (349–407 A.D) and a contemporary of Jerome believed that multiple tithes existed:
Homily 64 on Matthew 19:27 section 4
And how much did they bestow in alms? One may ask. For this very thing, I am minded to say now, that they who do not give may be roused to give, and they that give may not pride themselves, but may make increase of their gifts. What then did they give? A tenth of all their possessions, and again another tenth, and after this a third, so that they almost gave away the third part, for three-tenths put together make up this. And together with these, first fruits, and first born, and other things besides, as, for instance, the offerings for sins, those for purification, those at feasts, those in the jubilee, those by the canceling of debts, and the dismissals of servants, and the lendings that were clear of usury. But if he who gave the third part of his goods, or rather the half (for those being put together with these are the half), if then he who is giving the half, achieves no great thing, he who does not bestow so much as the tenth, of what shall he be worthy? With reason He said, “There are few that be saved.”
Hebrew words used regarding the 3rd tithe:
al-maw-naw’ – Widow
ger – alien, stranger, immigrants, sojourner
yaw-thome’ – orphan
teb-oo-aw’ – Produce, revenue, gain
NASB Word Usage
crop (4), crops (6), gain (1), harvest (4), income (4), increase (3), produce (10), product (3), revenue (2), yield (5), yield may increase (1).
We have been taught by our modern day word of faith preachers that tithing is a “law of prosperity” and they demand tithes from widows, orphans and aliens contrary to what the Israelites practiced. If widows, poor, aliens and orphans were the recipients of the tithe, then how would their “law of prosperity” become applicable to windows, orphans, poor and aliens? In fact many mammon loving preaches live a luxurious life using tithes from widows who live from their social security/pension. They misuse Malachi 3:10 where it says “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…” but totally ignore about this important triennial tithe which actually promises ” in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” – Deuteronomy 14:29b.
In many Churches tithing is a requirement for membership. Why don’t they deny membership to those who refuse to tithe to the widows, orphans, poor and strangers? How can they deny membership to widows and poor who cannot afford to tithe especially if they have huge medical bills to pay as in the case of Loretta Davis. Please read how Loretta was kicked out of the Church for not paying tithes.
A 65-year-old wheelchair-bound woman with congestive heart failure was kicked out of her church because she was not paying her tithe, NBC 4 reported. Loretta Davis told NBC 4’s Mike Bowersock she was shocked when she received a letter saying she was no longer considered a member of her church, The Living Word Tabernacle. Davis made an agreement with the church that she would give 10 percent of her income. Then she became ill and stopped making payments, so the church revoked her membership. “Since Jan. 5, I’ve been in the hospital 15 times,” Davis said. “I’ve suffered with cellulites since I’ve had the open heart (surgery).” Davis is no longer paying the church $60 per month from her $592 per month Social Security check, Bowersock reported. “I have my tithes that I was supposed to pay, but I have not paid them since this has went on,” Davis said. “In the time of (Davis’) need, they should be caring, supporting, asking what she needs — help her if she needed help,” said Teresa Meeks, who is Davis’ daughter. “I was so hurt on what they did to her.” The church moved out of its building in Waverly earlier this year and Davis’ dismissal has become the talk of the town, Bowersock reported. In a letter to the editor of the local paper, the former pastor said it is true that Davis lost her membership for not paying her tithes. In the same letter, he said Davis was not kicked out of the church for not paying her tithes. The Rev. Paul McClurg, who started the church, said Davis is still welcome to attend church but is not allowed to be a member. The issue upset Davis’ 83-year-old mother so much that she quit the church. The members have been holding services in a Lion’s Club hall while waiting to build a new church. There are at least two former members who will not be attending with them.”
Only for the 3rd tithe a return blessing is promised in the Mosaic law unlike the first 2 tithes. Why this principle is ignored by the prosperity preachers today? Testing God in Malachi 3:10 was specific to the Jews who returned from the Babylonian captivity and not to the Christian Church!
Tithe teachers gleefully quote Jerome and Chrysostom as tithe proponents in the early Christianity but hide the fact those 2 men also believed in multiple tithes.
Christians, please understand, how tithing was practiced in the Old Testament period and be on guard against the mammon loving wolves.