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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 4

A commentary on the fourth speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 14-16. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 3

Israel’s Law of the Tithe

Deut. 14:22-29 speaks of the tithe that the Israelites were supposed to pay in order to support their government. This too is part of the way of life for the sons of God. The sons of God support the government of the Kingdom and learn to give to the poor as well. Moses had spoken of this law briefly in his third speech (Deut. 12:17-19), limiting his remarks to the location that the tithe was to be brought. But now, in his fourth speech, he treats this topic more fully.

22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.

The tithe is the ten percent tax on all that man produces from nature. God requires a ten percent return on His labor, which is to be used in support of divine government.

The Fruit of Labor

Not every source of income is taxable, of course, but only that which is derived from God’s labor. We read in Lev. 27:30,

30 Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.

When God labored for six days to create the heavens and the earth, He was the Owner of that which He created. As its owner, He has covenanted with man to bring forth fruit. God creates; man subdues the earth and organizes the production in vineyards, fields, and orchards.

Fruit is due from each one’s labor. Man receives 90 percent of what is produced on account of his labor, and God receives a tenth for His labor in creating the materials. Giving Him a tithe, then, is an act of recognition that God is indeed the Creator and Owner of the land from which we derive our subsistence.

Tithes to Melchizedek

Hebrews 7 speaks of the tithes that Abraham gave to Melchizedek in Gen. 14:20. His point was to show that Melchizedek was “greater” than Abraham, for we read in Hebrews 7:6 and 7,

6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them [i.e., from Melchizedek] collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater.

In other words, Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek because he recognized Melchizedek’s authority over him. Melchizedek was actually Shem, the builder of Jerusalem, the “City of Salem,” and he held the Birthright which had been passed down from Adam. Shem was thus the true King-Priest of the earth, the one holding the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:26. At that time Nimrod had already usurped most of the dominion of Shem by setting up his kingdom in Babylon. But Abraham recognized Shem as the rightful ruler of the earth.

The point is that tithing gives recognition that this person (or institution) is an heir of the Melchizedek Order and functions as the legitimate divine government in the earth. Hebrews 7 shows that the alternative priesthood of Levi was a temporary governmental order that was to function until the Melchizedek Order returned to its rightful claim under the New Covenant.

Under the Old Covenant, the tithes were given to the Levitical Order of priests. Under the New Covenant, the tithes are given to the Melchizedek Order. Many claim to be of that new Order, but most do not do the works of Melchizedek or of Christ, and many have no real understanding of how this functions today.

Perhaps a little background would be helpful.

Shem was the original Melchizedek, the builder of Jerusalem. After his death, the Birthright, including the right to rule the earth, passed to Isaac, son of Abraham. (Shem outlived Abraham.) Isaac was 110 years old when Shem died. Jacob was fifty. So Isaac was the heir of the title, Melchizedek, but for an unknown reason, he never took the throne in Jerusalem.

The Melchizedek Order ruling from Jerusalem was replaced by usurpers in the years between Abraham and Joshua. The Bible does not give us this history. We know only that when Joshua arrived in Canaan, Jerusalem was being ruled by Adonizedek (Joshua 10:1). History shows this is just an alternative title having the same meaning as Melchizedek. Adonizedek means Lord of Righteousness, while the other means King of Righteousness. History equates both titles.

How different Adonizedek is from Melchizedek! If one is a type of Christ, the other is a type of antichrist. By extension, this necessarily involves Jerusalem, and here we see how Adonizedek rules the earthly city, while Melchizedek rules the heavenly city.

Likewise, this involves priesthood, because Melchizedek was a king-priest, and Adonizedek was likewise a king-priest who usurped the place of Christ. Some centuries later the high priest of Baal in Tyre overthrew King Pheles and became a king-priest over that city. His name was Ethbaal, and he was the father of Jezebel, wife of Ahab.

In the New Testament, when the chief priests usurped the scepter of Jesus Christ, they set up in Jerusalem the same type of antichrist system that Adonizedek and Ethbaal had done centuries earlier. They desired not only the priesthood but also the scepter. Today the same group of people desire the Birthright as well.

Tithes, therefore, ought to be given to those who are part of the Melchizedek Order, as men see fit. They should not be given to the Levitical Order, which was replaced by Melchizedek on account of corruption and their rejection of the Messiah. Neither should tithes be given to usurpers of the Adonizedek Order.

To know the difference, one must know the Scriptures and be led by the Spirit according to one’s conscience.

Paying Tithe to Babylon

In the days of Jeremiah and Daniel, God raised up Babylon to bring divine judgment upon Judah. After Babylon came a series of “beast” empires, to whom God gave authority in the earth. None of these recognized Jesus Christ as the Heir of all nations, except in brief moments when God intervened in their histories.

These “beast” governments have claimed the tithe (and more) for the establishment of their own kingdoms, without recognizing the right of Jesus Christ to rule as the high priest of the Order of Melchizedek. Yet at the same time, we must recognize that God gave His people into the hands of those rebellious governments, on account of the sin of Israel and Judah.

Meanwhile, it is our duty before God to remember His law and to study the mechanisms of divine government, so that when Babylon’s governments are brought into judgment, there will be people on earth who know how to replace these usurpers with true government under Jesus Christ.

God’s Eminent Domain

It is ironic that so many churches put away the law, but retain the tithe. Their hypocrisy is exceeded only by their self-interest, for not only do they demand tithe, but they demand that all income be tithed. In this way they turn voluntary offerings into mandatory tithes. Scripture limits the tithe to a return on God’s labor at creation.

Man is given land as an inheritance, but God claims eminent domain over all the land, saying in Leviticus 25:23,

23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.

 Many years later, God removed Judah from the land because they broke His covenant with them and used their land for unlawful purposes. In Jeremiah 27:5 God says,

5 I have made the earth… and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant…

Because the people of Judah, like Israel, had refused to be God’s servants in the way they used God’s land, God removed them and gave the land to Babylon. After Babylon, the land was given to Medo-Persia, then Greece, Rome, and its prophetic extensions. We are now living at the end of the final extension, and we expect to see the Stone Kingdom established shortly.

Because God owns the land—and the whole earth—we are responsible to utilize it in a lawful manner. The rules are written in Scripture, beginning with Moses. As long as we live under the authority of “beast” empires, such as today’s Mystery Babylon, we are required to practice unjust tax laws. It is important to study a godly tax system, so that when our captivity ends, we know how to do it God’s way.

Just and Unjust Taxes

Tithe is due to God on all production from any source of wealth that is derived from God’s labor at creation. This includes agriculture and ranching, as well as mining, lumbering, fishing, electrical power, solar and nuclear power. This is not an unjust tax, for it is merely a return on God’s labor. He provides the land, the sun, the rain, the air, electro-magnetism, and all the things necessary to bring forth fruit. He thus expects a return on His labor.

In Medieval times, a lord normally required thirty percent of the produce from the peasants who worked his land. Such a requirement was very unjust by God’s standard. The high taxes today that the Babylonian nations impose upon the people are likewise unjust.

But this injustice ought to be viewed in light of the divine judgment upon us for the rebellion and lawlessness of our fathers. The Israelites thought that God’s law was too harsh, so they desired the laws of men instead. So God gave them their desire, in order to show them by real life experience how unjust the laws of men were. If we will not be governed by the righteous laws of God, we will be ruled by the unjust laws of men.

The unjust laws of modern nations are generally based upon the principle of the value-added tax. A lumberman cuts down trees and sells them. He makes some money on the sale and is taxed on his income. The lumber mill shapes the lumber into boards and sells them to carpenters and contractors. Because the mill has added value to the wood by means of labor, it makes a profit—which is taxed again.

The carpenters build furniture, adding more value to the wood. They sell it to a broker at a higher price that reflects the value of their labor—and their income is again taxed. The broker provides a distribution service to various stores, and the profit that he receives from his labor is taxed. The store sells to the public at a retail price, and their labor (service) is again taxed.

When the customer finally purchases the furniture, then he is usually required to pay a sales tax on top of all the previous taxes. Because of each tax along the way, the cost rises, because each tax is passed on to the consumer in order to retain one’s profit. No one would provide such labor unless he could make a living. This causes the price of goods to be inflated far beyond the cost of the actual labor that has gone into production and distribution.

This is how Babylonian governments require people to pay far more than the mere ten percent that God’s law requires. Under God’s system, the original lumberman must give God’s government one tree out of ten that he cuts down. There is no further tax as the lumber goes to market, for all other labor is their own and is not directly derived from God’s labor at creation.

The only caveat here is that if a lumberman wants to keep the tenth tree, he may do so by paying an extra fifth of its value (Lev. 27:31). That is, he may tithe the tree itself or keep it and pay twelve percent tithe. The same is true if he wishes to redeem the tenth animal from his flock (Lev. 27:32).

Land Inheritance

We should also point out that God’s system is land-based, while Babylon’s system is city-based. In God’s system, every family has a land inheritance. Under Babylon, people can be disenfranchised from the land, because men assume the right to buy and sell God’s land. God forbids men to sell their land in perpetuity (Lev. 25:23), allowing them only to lease it until the next Year of Jubilee.

Some even lose their land because they cannot pay the high taxes on the land. God does not impose a tax on the land, but only requires a tithe on what it produces. If the land lies fallow, no tax is due.

The Babylonian laws create a tendency for people to lose their land inheritance and to gravitate toward larger and larger cities. City life brings about a certain culture that is more easily corrupted, and hence we see how big cities become more and more violent as people are uprooted and separated from their God-given land inheritance.

When God brought the Israelites into their inheritance in Canaan, He gave each family a portion of land (Joshua 14-19). The prophet Isaiah said that God planted a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7). The people were supposed to be like trees or grape vines, having roots in the land and producing fruit that God could enjoy.

While not everyone is called to farm the land, every family should include some farmers, according to their calling. Everyone should have a house and property in the land allotted to his family. No one should be disenfranchised. No one should be homeless. Every citizen of the Kingdom ought to have a refuge among his family, even if he has decided to travel or to work in another location.

The Babylonian system does not provide for this. It refuses to recognize God’s ownership of the land, and so land is bought and sold by those who can afford it, while homelessness remains a problem.

Supporting Kingdom Government

Kingdom government requires very low taxes, because it does not allow non-Christian people to become citizens. Further, the law demands that men love their neighbors as themselves, and when this rule is broken, the law demands restitution to restore what was lost.

The law of the tithe will not be sufficient to support government unless the rest of the law is followed. God’s inexpensive government depends upon the people being rooted in the land, and it emphasizes the family relationship that land inheritance supports. This is also the key to maintaining a very low crime rate.

By contrast, Babylon’s government seeks power, and to increase its power, it seeks to increase the crime rate by destroying marriage and the family unit. The more crime there is, the more excuse there is to pass restrictive laws and thereby increase government control and power. Babylon feeds men’s carnality to make them more selfish and unruly, so that the people themselves demand a police state that enslaves all of its citizens.

The tithe is God’s main way of supporting Kingdom government. Because such government is small, due to the low crime rate, the tax burden on the citizens is very light. Most of the tithe in ancient Israel went toward the support of the local government, the town clerks, magistrates, or judges. A tenth of the tithe was sent to the national government. Num. 18:26-28 says,

26 Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, “When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. 28 So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest.

God’s government has two distinct branches that are subject to the divine law—priestly and political. Aaron was the high priest, Moses was the civil leader. During the time of the judges, the priestly government functioned continuously, while the judges themselves were raised up temporarily as national political leaders when they were needed to deliver the nation from captivity.

In other words, in time of peace, local government was sufficient. National government was an innovation in time of emergency, because it was primarily a military establishment to provide national defense.

In the full development of Israel’s government, they were given a king. Although they demanded a king too soon and received Saul, it was always part of the divine plan that they would have a king (Deut. 17:15).

The ultimate government, of course, merged the office of high priest with the king. This was known as the Melchizedek Order, of which was David (Psalm 110:4), though he did not actually replace the high priest in his time. It remained for Jesus to take the reins of government from the high priest of the Levitical Order and merge them with the throne of David.

This is the government to which all men owe the biblical tithe. While we do not yet see this government established in the political realm on earth, we can now only fulfill the law of the tithe in a partial manner. Yet we study the word so that when Babylon falls, we will understand the law and know how to rebuild the Kingdom of God that is prophesied in Scripture.

Tithes Funded the Holidays

There was more than one tithe in Scripture. Deut. 14:22 and 23 speaks of the main tithe which was to be used to support the family’s trip to keep the feast days:

22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23 And you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the first-born of your herd and your flock, in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.

This tithe includes a tenth of the crops, but includes only “the first-born of your herd and your flock.” In other words, it seems to focus upon the first-born among the flocks and herds. A cow, ewe, or goat gave birth to its first-born only once in a life time. Hence, most of the offspring were not first-born. The first-born was dedicated to God, but the rest of the animals born each year were counted and tithed.

The way this law is worded seems to indicate that the trips to Shiloh (later to Jerusalem) were to be funded by tithes of grain and the first-born of the flocks and herds. This provided bread, meat, and wine for their trip, and they were to share their meals with the priests, a detail given in Deut. 12:18.

Furthermore, this was a tithe that was applicable “every year.” As we saw in Deut. 12:17, this tithe was to be consumed on the trip only and was not to be eaten at home, or “within your gates.” It was primarily used as a practical support so that families could keep the feast days, which in those days involved a trip to the specific location where God had established His name.

Presumably, the rest of the tithe of all the newborn flocks and herds was given to the Levites living in a nearby Levite town (Lev. 27:32). In choosing which animal was to be given, the people were to herd them through a funnel and mark the tenth animal to pass through, thus leaving it to God to decide the order in which the animals should pass.

Under the Old Covenant, God had chosen a specific location for His presence, and the people were expected to meet Him there. But this location might be too far for some to travel, especially for the elderly and the young. So verses 24 and 25 give an alternative,

24 And if the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the Lord your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses.

In those days Shiloh (or later, Jerusalem) may have been too far away to appear before the Lord three times a year for the feasts (Exodus 34:23). In such cases, they were to “exchange it for money” and add a fifth of its valuation (Lev. 27:31), and spend it at an alternate location that was closer to home. In such cases, they were to be led by the Spirit.

Of course, under the New Covenant, where God has chosen to reside within us, we no longer have this problem.

Wine and Strong Drink

Moses also says in verse 26,

26 And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine [yayin], or strong drink [shekar], or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

So whether an Israelite went to Jerusalem or to a place closer to home, it is clear that this tithe was to be spent on personal expenses. It was not just for practical trip expenses, but also to “rejoice” and have a good time. Today, we might call it a family vacation. God is not all business; He makes provision for personal happiness as well. If they want steak dinners (“oxen”) or leg of lamb (“sheep”), they may have it. If they want grape juice or fermented wine, they may have that, too.

The Hebrew word yayin can mean either grape juice or wine as we know it. It is a general word that includes both types. However, shekar is the fermented variety, making it clear that the law does not forbid alcoholic beverages. The New Testament merely cautions us to be moderate in all things and not to get drunk (Eph. 5:18).

In more recent years, the “Temperance Movement” was established in the mid-1800’s, which sought to obtain pledges from Catholic priests and other Christians to abstain from drinking wine (except for communion). This movement was founded by Father Charles Chiniquy in order to address a serious problem with alcoholism that had devastated many families and priests. He wrote of this in his 1886 book, Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, written nearly three decades after he left the priesthood.

His movement became popular in the early 1900’s during the Pentecostal revival, and so when Pentecost was denominationalized around 1910-1912, many of them incorporated a ban on drinking alcohol, along with other legalisms such as wearing jewelry and lipstick, and also imposing various dress codes deemed to be modest.

However, the law did not ban strong drink, and so any such bans should be considered to be “traditions of men.” A tradition can be good, but it should not become a law or a test of one’s righteousness.

Moses continues in Deut. 14:27,

27 Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.

And so, whether they traveled to Jerusalem or to a place closer to home to observe a feast, they were reminded to “not neglect the Levite.” This was a voluntary offering out of the tithe being used for trip expenses.

The Third-Year Tithe

Moses then speaks briefly about the third-year tithe, saying,

28 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. 29 And 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.

This third-year tithe is treated in greater detail in Deuteronomy 26, where verse 12 calls this year “the year of tithing.” Since tithes were given on all production from the land, it is plain that tithe was due every year. So why is this third-year tithe called “the year of tithing?” How is it to be distinguished from every other year?

First, it was understood or presumed by the rabbis in the past that the year of tithing included both the third and the sixth year of the Sabbatic cycle. In other words, it occurred every third year, which was twice each Sabbatic cycle. This tithe in these years was not brought to the temple but remained at one’s home town and was given to the poor and to the Levites.

The third-year tithe is part of God’s welfare system, along with the gleanings each year (Deut. 24:19-22). The farmers were not to harvest the corners of their field, as these were left for the poor of the land to glean for themselves. Vineyards were not to be clean-gleaned, but some were left for the poor. Likewise, they were not to beat their olive trees a second time, for the gleanings were to be given to the poor.

The law is unclear as to whether the third-year tithe was given in addition to the regular tithe, or if the tithe of that year was to be diverted to the poor. Unfortunately, those who have most to gain or lose (rabbis, priests, ministers) have been the ones to interpret the law, and because of this, the law has usually been applied as a second tithe in the same year. Some day we will need to obtain an official Supreme Court ruling on this from the divine court.

Whatever the case, in Deuteronomy 14 Moses limits his comments to the use of the tithes other than the third-year tithe.

Moses says nothing about this being a second tithe. In fact, it says that “all the tithe” was to be brought to the town in the third year. This suggests that the entire tithe of that year was to be given to the Levites, and this was for the benefit of orphans, widows, and those who had no land inheritance—including Levites. This was probably designed to help the poor, not only with their personal needs, but also to help pay their trip expenses to attend the feasts.

God’s Covering

Keep in mind, however, that the Levites had flocks and herds that had been given to them as tithes and offerings. They had houses in towns and could graze their herds in the “suburbs” within 2,000 cubits on all sides of the town. They were not destitute, but their income was limited. The tithes that they received were to pay for their government services, and those services included assisting those in need.

In the broader picture, widows and orphans were under God’s direct covering, because they had no earthly covering to defend them. Such came under God’s special covering, and so the third-year (and sixth-year) tithes were partly for their benefit. The government, administered by the Levites, represented God in such cases.

We see references to God’s direct covering in passages such as Exodus 22:21-24,

21 And you shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Aliens, widows, and orphans had no “redeemer of blood” (Num. 34:24) to cover them and to protect them from injustice. In such cases, God became their direct covering, and the Levites represented God in this. The redeemer of blood was mistranslated “revenger of blood” in the KJV. The Hebrew phrase is ga’al, “redeemer” and dam, “blood.” The “blood” in this case is most likely a reference to bloodline, which is the equivalent of a kinsman; hence, it is a kinsman redeemer.

From Exodus 22:21 (above), we see that resident aliens were also covered by God, who acted as their kinsman redeemer. The resident aliens in the land, who had joined themselves to the Covenant with Israel, but who came too late to receive a family inheritance, might also receive provision from this tithe. It was understood that in such cases, they had left their families behind in foreign lands and were therefore at some disadvantage in the land of Israel. For this reason, God took them under His direct covering, along with the widows, orphans, and Levites.

It is often assumed today that to be a true Christian, one must join a particular family, known as a denomination. They say that everyone must have a “covering,” and if they do not, then they are criticized for being “in rebellion.” But the law of God speaks into this situation, for it recognizes that many do not have a covering. They are the widows, orphans, aliens, and even the beasts of the field. God provides direct cover for all of them and makes provision for them in various ways. Never does God criticize anyone for having no earthly covering, for if they are not covered by men, they are covered by God Himself.

For this reason, they may receive government assistance from the tithes that are given in the third and sixth year. In addition to that, of course, they may glean in the fields of grain (as did Ruth), and also receive the gleanings from the olive trees (Deut. 24:20) and from the vineyards (Lev. 19:10).

The sons of God are natural givers.