The Tithe of
The Cost of the
By James Scott
So you are excited about Torah. So you are ready to say “we will
hear and do”. Not so fast… there is a disclosure to be made
In Rabbinic Judaism Gentiles seeking conversion are discouraged.
Gentiles seeking conversion are turned away three times. Then after
being turned away three times it is required to make a full
disclosure of the financial obligations of the Covenant. It is said
that few Gentiles would willingly enter the Covenant once they know
To begin with we must understand that EVERYTHING belongs to YHWH
(Ex. 9:29; 2Kn. 19:15; Is. 66:1-2; Jer. 27:5; Job 12:9-10; Ps.
89:11; 95:3-5; Dan. 4:7; Neh. 9:16; 1Chron. 29:13-14). He owns this
universe, all of its resources, all of its energy, and he owns YOU.
YHWH is entitled to ask for 100%. In His CHESED, in His undue
favor, He allows us to keep 90%.
Now one might ask: Where in the Mosaic Torah is the commandment
“Thou shalt tithe?”. The answer is, nowhere. When Moshe went up on
Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he did NOT receive a commandment
to tithe. Nowhere in the Mosaic Torah is there the Tithe
instituted. Instead the very first mention of the tithe in the
Mosaic Covenant is not until the end of Leviticus where we
30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land,
or of the fruit of the tree,
is YHWH’s: it is Set-Apart unto YHWH.
31 And if a man will redeem aught of his tithe, he shall add unto
it, the fifth part thereof.
32 And all the tithe of the herd, or the flock, whatsoever passes
under the rod, the tenth
shall be Set-Apart unto YHWH.
33 He shall not inquire whether it be good or bad, neither shall he
change it. And if he
change it at all, then both it, and that for which it is changed,
shall be Set-Apart; it shall
not be redeemed.
34 These are the commandments, which YHWH commanded Moshe for the
Yisra’el in mount Sinai.
Notice that this first mention of the “tithe” does not initiate the
tithe, it simply recognizes the fact of the tithe saying “it is
Set-Apart unto YHWH”. Notice also this first passage says nothing
about Levites or Priests. It does not say that the tithe belongs to
the Levites, but rather to YHWH.
When next we read on the Tithe in the Mosaic Torah is in the book
And unto the children of Levi, behold,
I have given all the tithe in Yirae’el for an inheritance,
in return for their service which they serve,
even the service of the tent of meeting.
Notice that these are two different precepts of Torah. Lev. 27:30
recognizes that the Tithe belongs to YHWH, while a separate
commandment in Num. 18:21 tells us that the Levites were to be paid
out of the tithe, for their service in the Tabernacle (later
Temple). The tithe was not directly paid to the Levites, it was
paid to YHWH and from that “fund” the Levites were paid. This was
so that the Levites could devote themselves to full time Torah
Study (2Chron. 31:4-5) so that they could in turn teach Torah to
the people of Israel (Deut. 14:22-23; Ezek. 44:23-24).
Nowhere are we told to pay the Tithe to the Levitical priesthood.
We are told only that the Tithe is paid to YHWH and YHWH gave the
Levites payment from the Tithe “for their service.”
THE SECOND AND THIRD TITHES
Now before moving on from the Mosaic Torah we should also cover the
second and third tithes. Some lump these together as “the second
tithe” because they are never paid on the same year.
There are actually two tithes in the Mosaic Covenant which were
tied to the seven year cycle of the Land. The first tithe
(Masserot) is due every year.
The second tithe (Maaser Sheni) was converted to money and used to
make a personal pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The "pilgrim" could spend
this money however he liked on the pilgrimage but was expected to
treat the Levites to a feast as well upon his arrival and any
surplus was given to the Levites (Deut. 14:22-27). Every third year
however the tither used this second tithe (some all this third year
tithe as a "third tithe") to feed the needy and local Levites
(Deut. 14:28-29). Thus the Mosaic tithing schedule goes like
1. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
2. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
3. First Tithe: Levites; Third Tithe: Feeds the needy and
4. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
5. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
6. First Tithe: Levites; Third Tithe: Feeds the needy and
7. The Sabbath of the land, only the First Tithe was paid on any
volunteer crop and on other non-planted produce.
(The first tithe could only be converted into money by paying a 20%
penalty (Lev. 27:31) however the second tithe was generally
converted to money as a matter of course (Deut. 14:25).)
The three Tithes are laid out in the book of Tobit as follows:
6 And I went to Yerushulayim at the appointed times as it is
written in the Torah of YHWH concerning Yisrael in firstfruits and
tithes and firstlings.
7 To the priests, sons of Aharon and new wine and fat and labors
and pomegranates and from all fruits of the ground to the sons of
Levi, ministers before, the presence of YHWH in Yerushalayim, and
the second tithe. (8) And the third tithe to the stranger, to the
orphan and to the widow. And I would go in every year with all
these, to Yerushalayim by the commandments of YHWH and according to
that duty upon me, Devorah mother of my Father.
(Tovi (Tobit) 1:6-7 HRV – From our ongoing work :-) )
Now as we have shown, the Tithe was not initiated in the Mosaic
Torah. Instead the first mention of the Tithe in the Mosaic
Covenant only acknowledges that the Tithe is YHWH’s. The principle
of tithing did not originate in the Mosaic Covenant. Avraham tithed
in Genesis 14 long before the Mosaic Covenant (or even the
Abrahamic Covenent) was entered into.
Lets examine Gen. 14 and see what the Torah tells us about this
18 And MalkiTzadek, king of Shalem, brought forth bread and wine,
and he was a cohen
of El Elyon.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Avram, of El
Elyon--Maker of heaven and
20 And blessed be El Elyon, who has delivered your enemies into
your hand. And he
gave him a tenth (tithe) of all.
(Gen. 14:18-20 HRV)
Who was this Melchizedek and why did Abraham pay the tithe to him?
The answer may be found in the Book of Jasher also known as Midrash
Sefer HaYashar. The Book of Jasher contains this same account but
with some important additional information:
And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem,
went out with his men to meet Abram and his people,
with bread and wine, and they remained together
in the valley of Melech.
And Adonizedek blessed Abram, and Abram gave him
a tenth from all that he had brought from the spoil of
his enemies, for Adonizedek was a priest before God.
Now according to the Book of Jasher Abraham tithed to Melchizadek
(or Adonizadek) because he was a "priest". How is it that
Melchizadek is called a "priest"? Although Melchizadek was not a
Levite (there were not yet any Levites) we do have a clue in Jasher
as to why he is called a "priest". Jasher reveals the identity of
"the same is Shem" (this identity of Melchizadek is also recorded
in the Talmud in b.Ned. 32). Now this is very important because the
Book of Jasher also records the fact that Shem had been Abraham's
And when Avram came out from the cave, he went to Noach and his son
Shem, and he remained with them to learn the instruction of YHWH
and his ways, and no man knew where Avram was, and Avram served
Noach and Shem his son for a long time.
And Avram was in Noach's house thirty-nine years,
and Abram knew YHWH from three years old, and he went in the ways
of YHWH until the day of his death, as Noach and his son Shem had
Thus Abraham paid the tithe to Shem because Shem had been his
personal Torah teacher. (If you do the "Bible Math" you will find
that Noach and Shem died AFTER Avraham was born, a point that
surprises some people.)
Note that Abraham's tithe in Gen. 14 was not being made on
agricultural produce but on “all” (Gen. 14:20) and specifically in
this case the "spoils of his enemies" (Jasher 16:12; also Hebrews
7:4). This dispels the theory taught by some, that the Tithe is
only paid on agricultural produce.
Now some have taught that the tithe Melchizadek paid was not the
same Tithe mentioned in the Mosaic Torah from which the Levites
were paid. This is also not true, as Paul argues in the book of
4 Consider and see his greatness, which also Avraham our father,
gave to him a tenth
from the spoil.
5 And also the sons of L'vi collect for the priesthood, having
received a commandment
to collect the tithe from the people, according to the decree of
the Torah. And this is of
their brothers, although having come from the loins of Avraham.
6 Truly he who is not from their tribe, has received the tithe from
Avraham, and blessed
those, who are blessed, to him.
7 And behold, this no one disputes: that the lesser is blessed by
8 Behold here, sons of man which die, receive tithes: but sleep
received he of whom it is
said that He lives.
9 For so to say, that to he who was accustomed to take the tithe,
he also tithes through
10 For He was yet in the loins of the Father, when He met, he who
was called Malki-
(Heb. 7:4-10 HRV)
The whole logic of Paul’s argument here is based in the fact that
the tithe that Avram paid to Melchizadek was EXACTLY the same tithe
that the Levites were paid from.
Another example of the pre-Mosaic tithe is the vow Jacob made to
tithe saying to Elohim "and of all that you shall give me I will
surely give the tenth onto you" (Gen. 28:22). Note that Jacob
tithed on all that Elohim had given him and not simply on
agricultural produce. In fact Jacob even tithed from his sons. In
the Midrash Rabbab there is an important story related to Jacob's
tithe told by Rabbi Joshua of Sikaan in the name of his teacher
A certain Curthean (Samaritan) attempted to trap Rabbi Mier
in a question concerning Jacob's vow to HaShem to give a
"tithe of all."
You Jews teach that Jacob gave a tenth of all to HaShem;
yet Jacob had twelve sons: Jacob also said, 'Ephraim and Manasseh
are mine.' That makes fourteen sons of Jacob, yet Jacob gave only
one son to HaShem and that was Levi," spoke the Curthean, implying
that Jacob the Jew had broken his vow to HaShem.
"How," continued the Curthean, "can only one of fourteen sons
be reconciled as a tithe of fourteen sons?"
Rabbi Mier replied, "How many matriarchs of Jacob's sons were
"Four," answered the Curthean," Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and
'True," answered Rabbi Mier. "Then how many were sanctified by
Pid-yon-ha Ben or the Redemption of the Firstborn?
"Four," responded the Curthean.
"True," responded Rabbi Mier. "And what is redeemed as holy
need not be sanctified again. Therefore, since there were four
firstborn sons sanctified by the redemption of the firstborn,
they need not be sanctified by the tithe of Jacob's sons.
Hence, Levi, who was not the firstborn of Leah; was given
by Jacob of his nine remaining sons: Jacob gave more than
one ninth, he gave one tenth of his sons, more than fulfilling
his vow to "give a tenth of all."
(Midrash Rabbab, 70:7-8, page 640)
YESHUA UPHELD THE TITHE
Yeshua also upheld the principle of Tithing:
Woe to you, scribes and P'rushim; hypocrites--who tithe mint, and
rue, and cumin,
and have neglected those things which are weightiest in the Torah:
lovingkindness, and trust. Those things ought you to have done,
neither to have
(Matt. 23:23 HRV)
When Yeshua says "neither to have rejected these" he is speaking in
part of tithing even on produce of garden herbs.
THE LABORER IS WORTHY OF HIS WAGE
But let us look to see what the Scriptures say about this very
important matter. The prophet Malachi writes:
1 Behold, I send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before
Me; and the Adon, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple,
and the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in, behold, he
comes, says YHWH Tzva’ot.
2 But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when
he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers'
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he
shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver;
and there shall be they that shall offer unto YHWH offerings in
4 Then shall the offering of Y’hudah and Yerushalayim be pleasant
unto YHWH, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years.
5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift
witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and
against false swearers; and against those that oppress the hireling
in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside
the stranger from his right, and fear not Me, says YHWH
6 For I YHWH change not; and you, O sons of Ya’akov, are not
7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My
ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto Me, and I will
return unto you, says YHWH Tzva’ot. But you say: 'Wherein shall we
8 Will a man rob Elohim? Yet you rob Me. But you say: 'Wherein have
we robbed You?' In tithes and heave-offerings.
9 You are cursed with the curse, yet you rob Me, even this whole
10 Bring you the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may
be food in My house, and try Me now herewith, says YHWH Tzva’ot, if
I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a
blessing, that there shall be more than sufficiency.
Now it is very clear that this is speaking of the last days
judgment “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a
swift witness” (Mal. 3:5). In this context, YHWH calls the Body to
return to keeping Torah, and the Body says “Wherein shall we
return” (3:7) in other words “But YHWH, we HAVE been keeping
Torah.” Then YHWH informs them to their surprise that they have
failed to keep his Torah because they have failed to tithe, though
they did not even realize that they were not tithing (3:8). The
context here is clear, why would YHWH rebuke his last days people
for not tithing, if there is not obligation to tithe in these last
We also get a reminder here. We do not GIVE the Tithe to YHWH, it
was already His. He GIVES the 90% to us. When we do not tithe, we
are not simply choosing not to give, we are actually stealing from
Tithing is not restricted to the Mosaic covenant. Those who labor
in the Word and teach the community, are entitled to be supported
by the tithes and offerings of the community. In these last days
YHWH says to his people “Return to my Torah”. The people say “But
we are Torah observant.” YHWH responds, “Then why are you stealing
from Me?”. The people say “what do you mean, stealing from You?”
and YHWH says “You have been stealing My tithe”.
These are people in the last days who think they are Torah
Observant because they have convinced themselves that they do not
need to tithe. They are keeping the 612 commandments.
But to the contrary, they are oppressing the laborer in His Word,
denying him his wage, when the laborer is worthy of his wage.
Now lets look at the phase “against those that oppress the hireling
in his wages” (3:5).
What does this mean?
for nothing you have received,
for nothing you will give.
Sadly for years this passage has been quoted out of context and
misused by many to "prove" that those in the ministry should not
receive community support for our efforts.
In fact the verse in question is, in context, saying exactly the
opposite of what these people represent it as saying.
Actually, Yeshua in the next few verses following this statement
instructs his talmidim to request and subsist on community
Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor lesser coin in
your belts. Pack not for the journey, either two coats, or sandals,
or a staff, for the laborer is worthy of his food. And into
whatever city or town you will enter, enquire who in it is
honorable, and there abide until you go out from there."
Some light on this text may be acquired by examining a statement by
Josephus concerning the first century Essene
sect of Judaism:
...and if any of their sect come from other places,
what they have lies open for them, just as if it were their
and they go into such as they never knew before,
as if they had been ever so long acquainted with them.
For which reason they carry nothing with them
when they travel into remote parts,
though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of
thieves. Accordingly there is, in every city where they live,
one appointed particularly to take care of strangers,
and provide garments and other necessaries for them.
(Josephus; Wars 2:8:4)
Yeshua's talmidim had for the most part, come from an Essene back
ground. It would appear that they were therefore able to travel
within Essene circles from town to town without having to carry
additional supplies. Yeshua felt that his twelve were entitled to
be supported by the community.
Yeshua drives the point home saying "the laborer is worthy of his
food." A saying which Paul later cites to prove that "those who
labor in the word and its teaching" are worthy of "double honor"
which in context seems to indicate that they have the right, like
any other laborer, to expect to be paid for their work in the
ministry. In fact he even quoted this statement by Yeshua (Mt.
10:10) to support the point:
Those elders who conduct themselves well
should be esteemed worthy of double honor,
especially those who labor in the word and
in teaching, For the Scripture says that
`you should not muzzle the ox, while threshing,' (Deut. 25:4)
and `the laborer is worthy of his wage." (Mt. 10:10)
Paul also expands on this thought in 1Cor. 9:6-14:
Also, I only, and Bar Nabba, have we not the power not to work?
Who is this who labors in the service (ministry) by the expanse of
Or who is he who plants a vineyard and from its fruit does not
Or who is he who tends the flock and from the milk of his flock
does not eat?
Do I say these [things] as a son of man?
Behold, the Torah also said these [things]. For it is written in
the Torah of Moshe,
`You shall not muzzle the ox that threshes.' (Deut. 25:4)
It is a concern to Eloah about oxen? But, it is known that because
of us he
said [it] and because of us it was written, because it is a need
[that] the plowman plow unto hope and he who threshes, unto the
hope of the harvest. If we have sown spiritual [things] among you,
is it a great [thing] if we reap [things] of the flesh from you? …
those who labor [in] the Beit Kodesh [the Temple] are sustained
from the Beit Kodesh and those who labor for the alter have a
portion with the alter?
So also, our Adon commanded that those who are proclaiming his
goodnews should live from his goodnews."
Certainly the context of Yeshua's statement "for nothing you have
received, for nothing you will give." (Mt. 10:8) was that of a
society in which all things were held in common and each person's
needs were taken care of by that community (Mt. 10:9-11 and Acts
2:44 & 4:32) but we do not live in such a society, and so
citing Mt. 10:8 to those in the ministry today, is akin to asking
us to make bricks without straw.
To the contrary Paul quotes the verse shortly afterward (10:10) to
reach a principle by which those who are proclaiming his goodnews
should be supported for doing so, just as those who labor in the
Temple and for the alter are supported for doing so. In other
words, Paul draws a midrash from the fact that Levites and Priests
received tithes and offerings to teach a principle that "those who
labor in the word and teach" should be supported with tithes and
POURING OUT A BLESSING
“Bring you the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be
food in My house, and try Me now herewith, says YHWH Tzva’ot, if I
will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a
blessing, that there shall be more than sufficiency.”
Nazarenes need to get serious. Nazarenes need to ask themselves if
the cost of the covenant is more than they are willing to pay.
Others have paid with their lives, just read 2nd and 4th Maccabees.
They were tortured and killed..
Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is comparable to a man that is a
good pearls: Who, when he had found one precious pearl, went and
sold all that he had and bought it.
Is the cost of the covenant to high for you?
Nazarenes need to be as serious about tithing as about the Sabbath
and eating kosher.
Bring you the whole tithe into the store-house,
that there may be food in YHWH's house.
In a generous spirit pay homage to YHWH,
Spare not freewill gifts.
With each contribution show a cheerful countenance,
and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy.
(Sira 35:8-9 HRV)