Old Covenant Scriptures
used to justify today’s income tithe.
There are only a few specific Old Covenant scriptures that are used repeatedly for tithe promoting purposes. You have undoubtedly heard versions of all of them. There are actually only three that even mention tithe at all, outside of those scriptures directly connected with the Mosaic/Levitical paradigm. Those three scriptures are:
The story of Abraham (Genesis 14:20) and Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:22), both occurring long before Levi was born.
The third is Samuel (8:15-18) which, though it occurred during the time that the legitimate Levitical tithe was in existence, is instead referring to a different tithe; one taken by oppressive kings, not by Levites.|
Samuel however is regularly ignored or misapplied, because of its anti-modern-tithe significance, and we covered that earlier in this study.
The most prevalent concept used to justify a modern tithe is simply “Because we say so.” and the assertion that “This is how it has always been done.”
The Law-teaching factions of tithe promoters hinge their theory on the idea that God had Laws for man to live by since Adam. It is claimed that Moses simply put into writing this set of basic Laws of morality, and added to it the establishment of an entirely new sacrificial system. This system included the priesthood, the tabernacle/temple and all of the ritual procedures that went with it: the regulations for sacrifices, penalties for sin, et cetera.
According to the pro-tithers, this group of religious penal ordinances are “that which was added” (Gal 3:17) and later nullified with the New Covenant. All the rest of God’s Old Covenant Laws which applied to daily life of the commo
Jacob’s Vow to Tithe (Gen 28:22)
Genesis 28:22 is a very popular talking point with pro-tithe preachers. They make an assumption, but then present it as fact that this scripture is one of the proofs of commonplace tithing to God in the days before Moses wrote a tithe into the Law.
This scripture tells us that after an experience with God in a dream, Jacob made a vow to God that he would give ten percent if God provided the certain blessings that He said He would. Although God’s unilateral promises and blessings to Jacob also extended to his descendants, there is no indication that Jacob’s personal oath was binding upon those descendants.
The scripture itself, Genesis 28:20-22, is very basic:“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”
The fact is that Jacob promised to tithe. This story says that Jacob made a vow. A “vow” is defined in Deuteronomy 23:21-23 as an offering; something that is not normally required, but optional, and only under certain circumstances. This is unlike the compelled tithe described in God’s Law, which was a continual obligation on those who had an agricultural increase.
It appears that Jacob made a very conditional and strictly personal obligation. He would tithe only after he received the blessings promised. If Jacob’s deal really was a precedent for us to tithe today the way they say it is, at the very least it would totally negate any of these tithe on faith (tithing now, to receive prosperity later) promotions that so many preachers use to bait the hook, such as the various prosperity gospel promotions.
This category of false ideas also includes the simplistic and anti-Christian “the Kingdom will get here when everyone starts tithing” schpiel. It also negates the
In other words, some of the tithe promoters want you to over-tithe, which is a usurping of God’s Law. In effect they say that if you want to double your income, then double your tithe now, and the double income will eventually get here. The prosperity will come to you if you have faith.”preachers’ claims that you should not tempt God by waiting for Him to make you prosperous before you tithe on your desired prosperity.
So if that is the case, and faith is the issue, then why do these preachers want their prosperity now (through your over-tithe) instead of waiting until later like everyone else? What, do they have no faith?
According to the “If you do this then I’ll do this” basis of Jacob’s vow, he had nothing to lose, but that was his deal with God, not ours. It hardly qualifies as a basis for promoting a modern tithe, being a very special situation and a special promise that resulted in Jacob’s making of a special offering.
Jacob’s promise = No tithe law.
Instead of being construed as a pro-tithe scripture, the story of Jacob should more likely serve as an indication to us that there was no common law of the tithe at that time.
First off, “if” means “if”. It’s a conditional word that indicates that Jacob would not be doing any tithing if God’s promises were not fulfilled. If they were fulfilled however, then Jacob said he would tithe. This indicates that tithing was not something that he ordinarily did.
If tithing was a Law at that time, then how many other Laws of God do you know of where the person subject to the Law declares to the Lawgiver what the terms of that law will be?
Secondly, since God was doing something special for Jacob by conferring this blessing, you would think Jacob would honor that by doing something special in return, not something ordinary. If tithing was a required common practice at the time as today’s income-tithers want you to believe it was, why would Jacob
make this covenant to do something that he was supposedly already bound to do by God’s Law, whether he was singularly blessed or not? That would not make sense. It would be more logical to conclude that Jacob was offering to do something extraordinary, something that would not have normally been expected of him. Something that the surrounding cultures of the time considered to be a means of showing honor and appreciation.
So, though the story of Jacob involved the magic number of 10%, the similarity between that incident and any other tithe in the Bible ended there. It, like Abraham’s tithe to Melchizadek, was a one-of-a-kind event, made under unique circumstances.
Although God’s blessing and promise to Abraham has much to do with us today, there is nothing to indicate that Jacob’s personal, special offer has any modern binding effect, any more than the personal vow of Jephtah (Judges 11:30-40) is a precedent or obligation for all of us today to kill our daughters.
There are tithe-taking preachers that say Jacob’s promise “a tenth of all” is proof not only that a tithe must be paid by Christians today, but also that the tithe must be paid on all sources of income.
Their position violates a basic rule of intelligent comprehension, which is to read things in context. It is apparent that words like all, everyone, always, and never, though absolute in their definition, are often used casually. Usually, as in the case of Jacob, it is obvious that they are confined to the parameters of what was previously discussed.
Without observing the context of Jacob’s statement, it could be construed that Jacob would owe God a tenth of the entire universe if “all” is literally taken to mean “all” as the tithe promoters say it does. This is also true in Abraham’s case with phrase “tithes of all” (next chapter). The concept of a tenth of the universe is no more absurd than the concept of a tenth of the income of all of Jacob’s descendents forever, once the context of the statement has been ignored the way the tithe promoters have done.
Aside from being a demonstration of how the pro-tithers misrepresent what scripture says, I don’t know that this point is worth taking up too much more
time, since this was a vow to tithe which by definition was a special contract. The “all” was whatever Jacob had in mind at the time of making the vow; it has nothing to do with us.
To boil it down:
- Jacob made a vow to tithe.
- A vow is an offering (Deut 23:21-23).
- An offering such as this (peace offering) is free-will and voluntary (Lev 19:5).
- It is not a tithe in the Levitical sense of it being a required act.
- It would make no sense at all to make a vow to offer something that you were already obligated to pay no matter what, such as a tithe tax.
- Therefore Jacob was offering to do something extra-ordinary.
- There is no Biblical precedent for anyone to be obligated to pay for a vow that someone else has made.
We can very reasonably conclude from the evidence of this passage that there was no known scriptural custom or law requiring anyone to pay tithes on increase to Yahweh God in the days of Jacob, because if there was, Jacob’s offer would have been ludicrous.
Remember: God did not tell Jacob to tithe; Jacob offered it. It appears that Jacob intended to do something special to honor God, and he simply borrowed what was a somewhat cosmopolitan custom of the time, and volunteered to God the prospect of a tithe, based on the tradition of the surrounding cultures and the land where he lived.
There is no reason to conclude that we today are obligated to pay a tithe based on Jacob’s personal promise made under very extraordinary circumstances.
people, such as food laws, agricultural instructions, health and sanitation, for examples, were there right along, and never meant to be changed or abolished. Tithe promoters claim that a tithe was not part of the new temple/Levitical
sacrificial system that Moses established, and therefore not a law that was added and later nullified. Instead they say that today’s tithe was part of the Law that existed before the Mosaic Covenant basing their claim on two very short pre-Mosaic scriptures: The story of Abraham and Melchisadek in Genesis 14:20; and the story of Jacob’s vow to tithe in Genesis 28:19-22.
These two scriptures involve the word “tithe”, and thus provide the only excuse needed to create false conclusions from which an entire doctrine is inflated to the size of a parade-float-sized Snoopy.
Their pro-tithe hypothesis is highly debatable, if they would only allow an honest debate to take place. As with many other historical fallacies, pro-tithe views continue to exist because of intense and widespread repetition of false information, while maintaining a suppression of opposing evidence. Mis-held beliefs like the tithe doctrine (and it is only one of many) can very quickly be discovered when exposed to verifiable facts. We will see how quickly their evidence dissolves as we proceed in examining the pro-tithe arguments.