The question of what number of tithes were required in the Old Testament of the bible can be irrefutably demonstrated by a detailed examination of the scriptures (and not man's illegitimately inserted assumptions) and by looking at the numerical outcomes each position (Single Tithe only or Multiple Tithes) produces....
One is fair, reasonable, sensible, logical, equitable and just.... and the other 'obscenely unreasonable' and only a vested interest would even consider that it is a possible interpretation.
Firstly however it is necessary to determine the number of Levites and the proportion they represented of the population of Israel
They were one of the twelve tribes of Israel BUT only a very small one. Many assume that they were 1/12 of the population of Israel and that receiving a 10% tithe every year would be reasonably fair.....this is demonstrably WRONG! (The bible gives us the 'numbers' but very few theologians or bible teachers or believers ever to investigate this)
ie There were 22,000 Levite males over the age of 1 month (Num 3:39)
There were 603,550 Israelite males over 20 and able to serve (Num 2:32) and this total also excluded the Levites (vs 33)
Doing the maths can only be approximate but is still very revealing and sufficiently accurate
ie we will assume that a 30% loading should apply to adjust for boys between 1 month and 20 year of age (they often had large families)
ie we will assume a further 25% loading for old men who were too unable to serve (ie say over 60 years of age - they lived long lives)
= 22,000 Levites / (603,550 x 1.3 (30% loading for kids) x 1.25 (25% loading for the elderly) plus 22,000 Levites)
= 22,000 / 1,002,768
LEVITES = 2.20% (best guess) of Total population of Israel
(Numbers 31:28-30 confirms this because it shows the Levites share of tribute was to be 1/500th + 1/50th....ie 2.2% of the spoils.
Numbers 26 gives a later census...and the proportions remain very similar. God put the details in 3 places in the bible so that HIS people could check and KNOW for sure that the Levites were only a very small tribe and that they were NOT to be beneficiaries of "Multiple Tithes"
This confirms that 2.2% is the correct proportion of Levites to the total population of Israel (not 8-10% as many carelessly surmise)
God's stated purpose for the tithe was to compensate the Levites for not getting an inheritance in the Land (ie their 2.2% proportion) and so that they could be free to serve at the temple (Num 18:21-24). This was only required to be for 1 week in a 24 week roster at the temple and certainly not intended to make them far more wealthy than their brethren. (2 Chron 24-26)
The Levites were guaranteed a lifetime of food which was grown BY OTHERS for them on the land they had forfeited in return for their service. This was a wonderfully equitable plan and was secured by God's covenant with Levi. (Mal 2:4 and 8)
The Single Tithe averaged annual proportions given to the Levites would be as follows:-
3.33% ie the tithe in the third year only (ie the Year of the Tithe) ..10% over 3years
(Deut 14:28 and Deut 26:12) (this was brought to stores in the cities for the Levites to take from)
(0.33% of which was given to priests (Num 18:26) but they were also numbered as part of the tribe of Levi)
Less 1.33% (a rounded off allowance for orphans, widows, etc who were also to share in the 3rdyears Tithe)
Plus 0.2% (ie provision of food for Levites also made in years 1 and 2 in Deut 14:22-27) (say 0.3% pa x 2 years/out of 3)
LEVITES = 2.2% (best guess) of Total Annual Food production of the whole of Israel
ie 2.2% Levites get EQUAL the food that everyone else got
(Run your own Numbers if you disagree but as you will see they will result in an equitable trade off for the 2.2% of land inheritance they had forfeited and the one week every 24 weeks for temple service they were to do..... far more so than the 'Multiple Tithes' alternate which follows. This is also a position which would not have been controversial....and aligns with the fact that the Levites were often named as those who should be remembered along with the POOR)
Proponents of the multiple tithe doctrine generally have no reasonable answer to justify the grossly inequitable consequences of their interpretation/position. (If you believe I am wrong then please let me know your justification for this)
God's stated purpose for the tithe was to compensate the Levites for not getting an inheritance in the Land (ie their 2.2% proportion) and so that they could be free to serve at the temple (Num 18:21-24). This was only required to be for 1 week in a 24 week roster at the temple and certainly not intended to make them far more wealthy than their brethren.
The multiple tithe doctrine requires that the Levites were to get the following proportion of the nations food supplies ....in return for forfeiting their 2.2% share of the inheritance in the promised land:-
10% "Levites" tithe (Num 18:21-23)
(1% of which was given to priests (Num 18:26) who were also of tribe of Levi)
Plus 3.33% “poor” tithe in the third year (ie the Year of the Tithe (10% over 3years) ...this is wrongly and misleadingly named as the bible states that the LEVITES are the primary recipients (Deut 14:28 and Deut 26:12) (this was brought to stores in the cities)
Less 1.33% (as rounded off allowance for orphans, widows, etc who also shared in the 3rdyear tithe)
Plus 0.2% (ie provision of food for Levites also made in years 1 and 2 in Deut 14:27) (say 0.3% pa x 2/3)
LEVITES = 12.2% (best guess) of Total annual production food for the whole of the nation of Israel
ie 2.2% Levites would then get 5.5 times the food share that everyone else had???
(Run your own Numbers if you disagree but as you will see they will result in a grossly inequitable trade off for the 2.2% of land inheritance they had forfeited and the one week every 24 weeks for temple service they were to do..... unlike the 'Single Tithe' alternate which preceded. This is also a position which would have been EXTREMELY controversial....and denies the fact that the Levites were often named as those who should be remembered along with the POOR)
God COMMANDS that the Levites were to have EQUAL portions to EAT ( Deut 18:8) ..NOT more than 5 times what others got!
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ? NKJV
Ex 16:16 (regarding Manna which God provided for Israel in the desert)
16 This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: 'Let every man gather it according to each one's need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.'" NKJV
2 Cor 8:13-14
13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack — that there may be equality . NKJV
God is clearly into EQUALITY and not gross inequity. God's plan was not to burden the rest of the Israelites in favor of the Levites.
(Please note that the tithe of the Old Testament was PRIMARILY a matter of FOOD supply)
The Tithe giving Cycle (Deut 14:22-29 and Deut 26:12-13)
Brethren the tithe was 10% each year....not 23.3% as some greedy Rabbis and false teachers have in the past and continue to claim in an attempt to justify demanding a higher level of giving from church members.
2) The bible never uses any other description of the tithe than ‘the tenth’ or ‘the tithe’
The bible warns us NOT to add or subtract from the Law as given by Moses in Deuteronomy (Deut 4:1-2...Mat 5:18-19)
The ONLY terms the bible uses are ...Lev 27:30 ‘the tithe of the land’ and ‘the entire tithe’ or Numbers 18:21 ‘all the tithes’ to the Levites, Deut 14 and 26 ‘a tithe’ and Mat 23:23 ‘a tenth’ Heb 7:4,5,6 ‘a tenth’. There is NO scriptural reference to the ‘Levitical Tithe’ ‘the Festival Tithe’ or the ‘Poor Tithe’ in the bible. (These are terms invented by the greedy rabbin who were proponents of the Multiple Tithe position to justify their confusing interpretations to result in extra burdens. The scriptures certainly are not the author of this confusion)
Words like 'Levites' tithe...'festival' tithe ...and 'poor' tithe are ADDED to misrepresent what God required of Israel under the Law. If these ADDITIONS were not illegitimately inserted into the text by means of margin references or in discussions, no logical person who knows how to read would conclude that 'THE TITHE' of Deut 12, 14 and 26 was actually intended to be 'ANOTHER' tithe!
The scriptures indicate different uses for the tithe but emphatically teach that these are cyclical. They teach that it was a single 'tithe' which was used for different purposes over a 7 year cycle. To assume the requirement for 'multiple tithes' without any legitimate explanation from the scriptures is no more than an assumption CONTRARY to the scripture motivated by a vested interest!
12 "When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year — the year of tithing — and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the LORD your God: 'I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; NKJV
Brethren there CANNOT be another tithe in the Third Year...ALL the tithe of that year was given to the Levites and poor! This scripture alone precludes the possibilty of there being a second tithe...let alone a third one.
....according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten any of it...... I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me.
Brethren, God in this declaration confirms 3 times (this is as EMPHATIC as God ever gets) that the single 'Third Year Tithe' is ALL that HE required the Israelites to give!
There There was NO OTHER seperate 'Levites' tithe..... or 'Festival' tithe..... or THE TITHE in this passage is not ALL that God required in that year!
In this year the Israelites crops would have been blessed abundantly for tithing and they would have brought food to the festivals from their surplus (They were commanded to appear before the Lord 3 times a year....and not to appear empty handed). What they brought was totally up to themselves...it was not required to be 10% or ever called an additional or 'second' 'tithe' by God..
(There is NO SCRIPTURAL reference which in anyway suggests that the different uses for the tithes were to be carried out in the same year rather than over the 7 year cycle as instructed in Deuteronomy 14 and 26 and Lev 25:20-22)
(If you disagree and believe you have such a scripture, please let me know because no one has ever produced this to date)
3) The very name Deuteronomy (in Greek) means ‘Second Law’...and (from Hebrew) 'Words' of the covenant
In Leviticus 27 while Israel were still in the desert , , God specifies WHAT items would be required to be tithed in future....ie produce of the land and increase of animals. God gave them this command up to 40 years prior to their entry into the Promised Land.
In Numbers 18 God tells Aaron WHY the Levites were to receive the tithe ... ie they would have to forfeit their share of the inheritance in the land and be available to serve in the temple for 1 week out of a 24 week roster.
(The Levites tabernacle service commenced in the wilderness (vs 22) but tithes only commenced after they entered the promised land. Crops were not grown and the people ALL survived EQUALLY on God given 'manna')
Deuteronomy however is the FIRST and only place where the rest of the people of Israel, who were to be the givers of the tithe, are commanded as to HOW to tithe, and WHEN to tithe! This book IS the covenant Law as it would apply in the promised land.
This is the Book in which the 'words' of the 'contract' are recorded which the Israelite people agreed to observe in the promised land regarding tithing. The terms they agreed to are a single cyclical 10% tithe and certainly not multiple tithes.
Deut 1 Israel had spent almost 40 years since the Law was first given, wandering in the desert with the whole previous generation passing away and a new generation about to enter the promised land
18 And I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do. NKJV
Tithing on the crops from the land only became relevant after they entered the promised land as they were not farming in the desert. This happened AFTER Deuteronomy when Joshua took them across the Jordan into the land!
"Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. NKJV
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. NKJV
Nearly 40 times in Deuteronomy Moses specifies 'THIS law' as told 'TODAY', 'THIS DAY', THESE commands, etc, to emphasise that what was being agreed to was NOT inclusive of other things that might have been said or done in the past! READ THE BOOK...this matter is not even open to debate scripturally. No Israelite would EVER have consented to an additional 'Levites' tithe because they were never told by Moses that it was required nor did they EVER agreed to do this. (Israel KNEW the 'numbers')
There is no legitimate basis on which one can justifiably assume that references to the detailed administration of the Tithe (chapters 12, 14 & 26) is suggesting ‘another tithe’. Multiple tithe proponents glibly claim that this is 'an additional "Festival" tithe without any scriptural support or appropriate justification for it to be such in the text! God does not say it.....greedy Rabbis chose to try and ADD this into the Law!...in a blatant BREACH of the Law itself. Some bible translators have also falsely inserted this as a margin note. It is NOT there in the original text! Please go and look for yourself.
Deuteronomy’s tithing references provide the fully detailed explanation of ALL of Israelites tithing obligations under the Law as applicable from the time they entered the promised land. This book does NOT describe or institute an additional tithe to ‘theTithe’ referred to in Leviticus and Numbers. It NEVER claims to do this or give any reason for any such additional tithe being required.
We all know that the word TITHE means 10% ...it certainly does not mean "a three tier tithes system totalling 23.3%".
It would be unfounded conjecture on our part that ‘the tithe of the land ’ and ‘the entire tithe of the heard and flock’ referred to in Lev 27:30 and 32 as being ‘holy to the LORD’ is not the same as the ‘Levitical’ tithe of Numbers 18:21 ‘I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance’. So why would we then assume that the references in Deuteronomy should be to 'another' tithe?
Leviticus and Numbers state that tithes, offerings and sacrifices which are 'Holy to the LORD’ are to become the property of the priests and Levites! Clearly the ‘holy tithe’ or ‘sacred portion’ referred to in Deut 26:13 & 14 links to the ‘Offering to the Lord’ reference in Num 18:26. This would mean that the Holy or Sacred tithe is that of the third year which was to be given to the Levites. In years 1 & 2 (and 4&5) as shown in Deut 14:22-28 the tithe was commanded to be eaten by the giver...and even shared with the strangers.
In light of the Numerical inequality exposed (ie the Levites as a proportion of Israels population) and the outcome of 'Multiple Tithes' it is not logical that more than one tithe was intended by God.
Most multiple tithe proponents believe that Number 18:21 proves that an additional separate 'Levites' tithe existed because it says
"Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance NKJV
However it is widely known in theological circles that the word ALL in scriptures is required to be interpreted in regard to its scope according to its context AND in harmony with other scriptures. Detailed scriptures explain the general statements.
ALL the tithes which were given to the Levites in Num 18:21 means all the types of tithes (ie seed and fruit and animals) from all of the people in the ‘THIRD YEAR – THE YEAR OF THE TITHE’ ... as detailed clearly in Deut 14:28-29, Deut 26:12-14. The scope of 'all' in Num18:21 CANNOT include the tithe referred to in Deut 14:22-28 as this is commanded to be EATEN by the giver...nor the Tithes of Deut 14:29 and Deut 26:12-14 as along with Levites, this was also given to widows and fatherless...so the 'Multipe Tithe' interpretation of Num 18:21 categorically contradicts these scriptures from Deuteronomy.
Examples of the scope of ALL being limited
Gen 14:20 And he gave him a tithe of all. NKJV (all here does not include Abrams own possessions....and it was NOT every year...it was a 'one-off' event....and it is spoils only Heb 7:4...Gen 14:16).....so why should we then insist that 'all' in Numbers 18:21 must mean all of everyone's tithes and every year?
Lev 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's. It is holy to the LORD. NKJV (all here does NOT include money earned in the land even though it is not specifically excluded! When we look at all the other scriptures this is confirmed.)
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, NKJV (all here is agreed by most to be 'all' the Levites tithe to the priests as they were the ones being addressed in this passage and not the peoples tithe....and this is still FOOD only and NOT money...as per other all other scriptures...ie that there may be FOOD in my house)
26 And so all Israel will be saved, NKJV (all here does not mean ALL Israel over the ages....it refers to the REMNANT ...in the last days only)
Those who claim that there MUST be a separate full 10% Levites tithe are guilty of applying an inconsistent hermeueutic to the word 'all'...ie all means ALL where it suits my interpretation! (and even if it contradicts other very clear and more detailed passages and is totally illogical)
The supposed 'poor' tithe is specified twice (of Deut 14:28-29 and Deut 26:12-13) to be primarily to be given to the Levites .... and for the SAME reason as the Levites are to receive it as specified in Numbers 18:21...proving that naming this the "poor tithe' is a deliberately misleading title...This is the 'LEVITES' tithe!
The third year is emphatically defined as the YEAR OF THE TITHE! (not of the year of 'three tithes') (Deut 26:12) In this year ALL the tithe of that year is to be given to the Levite....ie there is no other tithe!
There is NO logical explanation for the Levites to be named amongst the poor IF they were always to receive a FULL 10% 'Levites' tithe every year..... or over 4 times the food that other people had! What justification could there then be for the so-called ‘festival’ tithe in year 1 and 2 (and 4 and 5) to also be shared with the Levites in addition to the so-called 'Levites' tithe? And then (if this is not already silly enough) for an additional tithe being the so-called 'poor tithe' to be given primarily to the Levites in years 3 and 6 in lieu of the 'festival'
What the multiple tithe doctrine claims that the Law teaches is nothing short of a greedy absurdity!
Josephus was a historian….not a theologian. There are mentions that his references to the multiple tithes were contrary to the opinions of the historic Rabbin of his day...and the Law . (While multiple tithes are also mentioned in the book of Tobit... an 'apocryphal book' which is NOT part of the bible or the Law, it should be noted that these books are the source of many other heresies!)
There certainly would have been Rabbin of the day who would, out of greed, have supported the multiple tithe doctrine. Jesus rebuked them for 'binding up heavy loads and putting them on mens shoulders' and for being themselves 'full of extortion and self indulgence'. Most churches today still teach a confusing morass of doctrine worldwide in an attempt to justify demanding a seemingly endless stream of money from Gods people! Do not look to find the truth from the opinions of men with vested interests.
The only conclusive position is that which is based on Gods Word. The scriptures do not say that there are various ‘tithes’ which are in addition to each other....this is totally unfounded speculation. God is the consummate communicator and would have communicated this very clearly and specifically to avoid the disputes that would arise due to the ‘inequality’ and ‘inequity’ in favour of the Levites. NONE IS EVER MENTIONED. The tithe was compensation for not getting an ‘inheritance in the land’ (This would not justify getting 5.5 times the food share of others which is most certainly not equitable compensation. This would have been clearly confirmed many times in the scriptures if this was what was intended by God rather than relying on convoluted interpretations and adding titles like 'Levites' and 'Festival' and 'Poor' to THE TITHE)
6) Three Witnesses (‘In the mouth of 2 witnesses or 3 let every word be confirmed’)
28 "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow
12 "When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year — the year of tithing — and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow,
4 Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:
(Note that some versions read 'tithes after three days'. This also makes sense as the Lord was rebuking them for their over zealous 'religiosity' and saying that even if they made the annual sacrifice every day....and brought the third year tithe every three days ...the Lord would not be turned from their coming judgment)
Answers to supposed problems
- ‘The Levites would have starved in intermediate years’
The food in Egypt was stored in the storehouses for 7 years and more during the great famine (Gen 41..400 years prior) proving that the Levites would have had the storage skills to manage 3 years supply
It included fruit and that would not have lasted - preservation techniques have existed for many millenium…. ie pickle it, make jam of it, dry it, etc
They also got ‘top-ups’ from the year 1 and year 2 tithes (Deut 14:22-27) and shared the first-fruits and offerings of all the crops each year (Deut 26:1-11)
They had heaps of time to work during their ‘off duty’ periods (they were on roster for only 1 week in 24) and there was NO restriction on them to work or have businesses or supplementary incomes. They would have bought fresh food out of their INCOMES.
(Please note that in the sixth year God provided a bumper crop for all Israel which ensured that crops sufficed for the sabbatical year festivals when no food was grown….so it was clear that storage of food was common practice by everyone)
2 ‘What food would have been eaten at the festivals by people during the third year…the Year of the Tithe’?
The people would know in advance that they had to provide additionally in that year and would budget for it….. ie lay aside extra for that purpose. AND as they were under the Old Covenant and were tithing ...Mal 3:10 would apply and God said … 'I will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing!’
20 'And if you say, "What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?" 21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. 22 And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest. NKJV
(this was clearly stored for up to 3 years)
NOTE There would have been no tithe of the harvest in year 7 as they did not plant crops …..but they possibly still tithed on the natural increase in flocks and herds which would have continued to reproduce. The bible is silent here.
The Principle is Equality……not one group favoured over another
2 Cor 8:13-15
13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack — that there may be equality . 15 As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack." NKJV
Graeme Carle' - Eating Sacred Cows - Tithing
Bible study tools - Bakers Evangelical Dictionary