before the Law
methods claiming that the command to tithe was established before the
Law, our initial investigation and search for answers begins with a
consideration of all the examples of Scriptures in the time before
the giving of the Law.
tithe originate with Moses? No, Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils of
his victory to Melchisedec (sic), and Jacob promised God a tenth for
His blessings, and these men lived 300-400 years before Moses and the
Law. (from an article entitled Should Christians Tithe?, www.letgodbetrue.com/bible/practical/tithing.htm)
truth is that tithing predates the law by nearly 600 years. In
Genesis 14:20, Abraham gave the priest Melchizedek a tenth of all his
goods after a daring rescue of his nephew Lot. (Hilarious Giving:
Debunking Five Tithing Myths, www.lifeway.com)
examination of Scriptures will see whether these claims hold up.
(formerly called Abram)
14:11-24 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah
and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off
Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.
13 One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew.
Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a
brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called
out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as
far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them
and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.
16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and
his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with
him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh
(that is, the King's Valley). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem
brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he
blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who
delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a
tenth of everything.
king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the
goods for yourself." 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom,
"I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of
heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23 that I will accept
nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal,
so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.' 24 I will
accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs
to the men who went with me--to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have
of conclusions may be arrived at from a brief analysis of this
primary passage regarding the actions of Abraham.
This was a
spontaneous act of gratitude by Abraham. It cannot be considered an
act of obedience since there was no command to do so by God or by Melchizedek.
did not command or desire it of anyone else in his household or
company, not even of Lot who had now received everything back.
gave only of the goods he had extraordinarily acquired in this one
rescue mission, all of which he had already vowed -- of his own
choice -- not to keep (Genesis 14:23). Abraham is never shown as
having gone back home and then return to give of his own possessions
that God had blessed him with.
gave to one who appears to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus (a
Christophany: see Appendix D). In the least,
it was to a priest (and priesthood) that was directly established by God.
giving of a tithe was a one-time event in Abraham's life. We never
hear of Abraham or his son ever returning to give another ten
percent, nor being commanded to.
foundational question arises from what we have considered, so far, in
regards to this one-time event in Abraham's life.
(grandson of Abraham)
28:20-22 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me
and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me
food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my
father's house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I
have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give
me I will give you a tenth."
used as another pre-Law example of tithing, typically second only to
Abraham. Some merely reference Jacob in passing while others closely
associate his act with that of Abraham.
(Genesis 14:20; 28:22): The earliest reports of tithing have nothing
to do with the law. Once Abraham and Jacob realized the
mercies of God, thankful giving of the tithe seemed natural and
necessary. (Emphasis ours. Tract: Ten Biblical Images of The Tithe,
American Baptist Churches USA, 1993)
specifically single out Jacob's act, though often using similar terms...
gratitude, Jacob also promised a tenth of his possessions to the Lord
in Genesis 28:22. (Hilarious Giving: Debunking Five Tithing Myths,
www.lifeway.com -- the publishing arm of the Southern Baptists)
analyze this brief passage regarding Abraham's grandson, Jacob, we
must keep in mind the claimed "gratitude" and professed
similarity to Abraham's spontaneous action.
bargained with God: If you'll do for me, I'll do this for you! This
actually opposes what God has commanded, that we are not to put Him
to test (see Matthew 4:7). This appears to be the act of a rebellious
individual who had not yet learned to trust God. His example is far
removed from the spontaneous gratitude and actions of his grandfather
Abraham. Nowhere do we see Abraham making such a bargain with God.
not acting out of gratitude at this time. His bargain only implied
that he would feel gratitude if God did this for him. In fact,
Jacob made his intent to follow God contingent on God first doing
something for him: "If God will be with me ... and will give me
food to eat and clothes to wear..." Sadly it is at this level
that many people today want to serve God.
We are not
even told in Scriptures if Jacob ever did give his bargained-for
tithe. We do know that he offered sacrifices, which were consumed by
those in attendance, and poured out a drink offering on the ground
(Genesis 31:54, 35:1,7,14). But sacrifices are a completely different
subject than tithing.
that the first part of Jacob's bargain, "and this stone that I
have set up as a pillar will be God's house", didn't come true.
Jacob had even brazenly named the place Bethel, meaning "the
house of God" (Genesis 29:19). Yet, God's house ultimately went
to Jerusalem. Bethel by the time of the later prophets was being
referred to as Beth Aven, meaning "the house of wickedness"
(Hosea 4:15, 10:5), as it was home to an abominable calf-idol merely
called Jehovah. It seems God doesn't respond to well to one-sided
presumptuous bargains imposed by men.
obscure event in Jacob's life actually leaves us with more questions
Jacob's example, yet use Abraham's: If one is valid, why shouldn't
both one time experiences be equally valid as examples? To be fair,
some actually use Jacob's encounter indirectly to say that it proves
the tithe was common, or commanded in Jacob's day, but they make this
argument from the silence of Scriptures.
was going to actually give his tithe, presupposing that give
had to mean to another person, to whom was he going to give it? There
was not yet a temple and priests (or church and pastors).
the type of example we would want believers to following? Is
bargaining with God acceptable in regards to obtaining a blessing
from a tithe?
examples from before the Law
problem. The multitudes of other pre-law examples that we're often
assured are (or should be) there, all seem to be missing!
Where are any
examples from the lives of all the other righteous individuals who
lived before the Law in regards to giving a tithe? If this practice
was a widespread norm, before or after Abraham, where is the biblical
evidence in support of it?
the two isolated and very different occurrences above, only examples
of sacrifices are shown as being common from the fall to the giving
of the Law. Sacrifices are a completely different subject and they
were clearly commanded by God prior to the Law. It was God who
actually sacrificed the first animal as a covering for Adam and Eve
(Genesis 3:21). The Law later built upon the early establishment of
sacrifices, giving more details to how they were to be practiced and
showing more of the symbolism that would later be fulfilled in Jesus.
sacrifices are no longer required in the New Testament church
(Hebrews 9:26-28, 10:1-14) as these pre-Law ordinances and subsequent
portions of the Law were all fulfilled in Jesus.
drink offering was mentioned in regards to Jacob, it should be noted
that there were a number of offerings before and during the time of
the Law. The many types of Old Testament offerings can be divided
into the following classifications: (1) propitiatory (expiatory
atonement): sin offering, guilt offering; (2) dedicatory
(consecratory): burnt offering, grain offering, drink offering; (3)
communal (fellowship): peace offering, wave offering, thanksgiving
offering, vow, freewill offering. Only the "freewill" and
"vow" offerings of the communal category were not mandatory
-- until the giver had freely committed to give them. Overall, the
offerings of the Law were directly tied to, and intertwined with, the
entire sacrificial system.
is our atonement, the one who consecrates us for His use, and who is
our peace bringing us into fellowship with God, He fulfilled all need
of the offerings of the Law in His perfect sacrifice and offering