Did people tithe before Moses?

Author: BibleAsk Team


The practice of tithing, commonly understood as giving a tenth of one’s income or produce, has deep roots in biblical history and continues to hold significance in Christian stewardship today. While the Mosaic law provided specific instructions regarding tithing, evidence suggests that the practice predates the era of Moses, with examples of tithing found in the patriarchal narratives and early Hebrew traditions. In this exploration, we delve into the biblical evidence for tithing before Moses, drawing upon references from the Bible and examining key passages that illuminate this ancient practice and its enduring relevance.

Tithing in the Patriarchal Period:

Evidence from the patriarchal narratives suggests that tithing was practiced before the establishment of the Mosaic law, indicating its antiquity and significance within early Hebrew culture.

The Bible tells us that Abraham and Jacob both understood and practiced the offering of tithes. Abram, later known as Abraham, gave his tithe to Melchizedek king of Salem who was the priest of God the Most High (Genesis 14:18-20).

The fact that Abraham paid tithe shows that this institution did not occur at a later time, but that it was a divinely instituted practice from the earliest of times. Abraham, of whom God testified that he had kept His commandments, statutes, and laws (Genesis 26:5), carried out all his religious duties faithfully. One of them was to return to God a tenth of his increase. In this act, the father of the faithful set an example for all who want to serve God and share His blessing.

Jacob also paid tithe according to Genesis 28:22. Jacob vowed faithfully to pay a tenth, not to earn the favor of God but as a grateful recognition of the forgiveness and favor of God. When people are faithful to God, He pours special blessings on them. God greatly blessed Jacob in his later years. For Jacob left Canaan a poor and fugitive man with nothing but a staff in his hand, and he returned 20 years later with much cattle, flocks, servants, and a big family.

We can learn from Jacob’s experience this vital truth of giving to God. In time of danger and trouble, we should consider whether heavenly blessings have perhaps been withheld because of unfaithfulness in tithe paying (Haggai 1:6–11).
As in days of old, God’s promises for faithfulness in tithe paying are still valid today.

References:

  • Genesis 14:18-20 (NKJV) – Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High, and his payment of a tithe of spoils from battle.
  • Genesis 28:20-22 (NKJV) – Jacob’s vow to give a tenth of all that God blesses him with, indicating a practice of tithing as an expression of gratitude and devotion.

Tithing in Hebrew Tradition:

The book of Leviticus outlines specific regulations concerning tithing under the Mosaic law, suggesting that tithing was already a recognized practice within Hebrew society prior to its codification.

References:

  • Leviticus 27:30-34 (NKJV) – The commandment to tithe a tenth of the produce of the land, whether from seed or fruit, as holy to the Lord.
  • Numbers 18:21-32 (NKJV) – The allocation of tithes to support the Levitical priesthood and the maintenance of the tabernacle, indicating an established system of tithing within Israelite worship.

Spiritual and Practical Dimensions of Tithing:

Tithing serves both spiritual and practical purposes within the biblical narrative, symbolizing one’s acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and provision, as well as supporting the religious institutions and social welfare programs of ancient Israel.

References:

  • Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (NKJV) – Instructions regarding the tithing of produce and livestock, with provisions for a festival tithe to be shared with the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows.
  • Nehemiah 10:37-39 (NKJV) – The restoration of tithing practices following the exile, with provisions for the support of the priests and Levites, the upkeep of the temple, and the provision of grain offerings.

Tithing as a Covenantal Obligation:

Tithing is depicted as a covenantal obligation between God and His people, reflecting the reciprocal relationship of trust and obedience between the giver and the receiver of tithes.

God promised, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

References:

  • Malachi 3:8-12 (NKJV) – The prophet Malachi’s rebuke of Israel for withholding tithes and offerings, with promises of blessings for those who faithfully tithe and curses for those who neglect this covenantal duty.
  • Matthew 23:23 (NKJV) – Jesus’ affirmation of tithing as a valid practice within the context of fulfilling the weightier matters of the law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

The Principle of Firstfruits:

Alongside tithing, the principle of firstfruits emphasizes the importance of dedicating the first and best of one’s produce or income to God, acknowledging His sovereignty and provision.

References:

  • Exodus 23:19 (NKJV) – The commandment to bring the firstfruits of the harvest to the house of the Lord.
  • Proverbs 3:9-10 (NKJV) – The exhortation to honor the Lord with one’s possessions and the promise of abundance through faithful giving of firstfruits.

Conclusion:

Embracing the Practice of Tithing In conclusion, the biblical evidence suggests that tithing was practiced before the time of Moses, with examples found in the patriarchal narratives and early Hebrew traditions. The underlying principles of acknowledging God’s sovereignty, provision, and covenantal relationship with His people remain constant. As believers, we are called to embrace the practice of tithing as a spiritual discipline and act of faithful stewardship, trusting in God’s promises of blessings and provision as we honor Him with our resources.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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