Tithing is quite a controversial topic. Many different opinions and interpretations exist on this topic. The third year tithe is even more so. In this article, we will give you some background on tithing in general, but more specifically, on this tithe and we will answer the many questions we have received about it. Many people are becoming aware of this and want to know how they are to understand and do it. We want to share our understanding with you. We are new to this too, it will be the second time we give the third tithe, but we believe it to be very important and a test of our faithfulness to YHVH. We will elaborate more on this in the article.
In our previous article about tithing Tithing, give unto YHVH what is due to Him, we have done an overview of tithing. We have looked at Pre-mosaic and Mosaic tithing. We have also looked into the history of tithing of the nations around Israel. So, if you like to learn more about this, you can read that article too. We have also written an article about the third year tithe. However, we will consolidate the information here for you and add what we have learned.
Before we begin, just some background. The word tithe means a tenth part. The Holman treasury of key Bible words describes a tithe as follows:
Some of you may be surprised to learn that there are actually three tithes mentioned in Scripture. The first tithe is for the Levite, the second for going up to Jerusalem for the three Pilgrimage festivals and the third tithe which is to be given every third year. Here is a table with references to all three.
|Tithe||To whom or for what purpose||Frequency||Scripture|
|First tithe||Levite||annually||Num 18:21, Heb 7:5, 2 Chron 31:4-7, 2 Chron 31:4-7|
|Second tithe||for going up to Jerualem for the feasts to be enjoyed by the Israelite||annually||Deut 12:5-7, Deut 12:17-18, Deut 14:22-26|
|Third tithe||Levite, stranger, widow and orphan||Every third year (the third and sixth year of the Sabbatical cycle)||Deut 14:28-29, Deut 26:12, Amos 4:4|
|Giving||To anyone in need||always||Deut 15:7-8|
There are probably more references, and we will add them as we come across them.
How do we calculate our tithe and when are we to give it?
It has always aided in our understanding to know what was done in ancient times. The Israelites were an agricultural society. Each had land allotted to them. This land was used for agriculture and the keeping of herds and flocks. Tithes were given from the increase of this land. The tithes were given annually and were given from the harvest, which is around the time of the three pilgrimage festivals.
22 “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.
The word “produce” was translated as “increase” in the King James translation. Let’s look at how it is defined by a few lexicons. The Dictionary of Biblical languages by Swanson has it as follows:
9311 תְּבוּאָה (teḇû·ʾā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 8393; TWOT 212c—1. LN 3.33–3.46 yield, produce, crops, i.e., what is harvested from plants, whether grain or fruit (Ge 47:24; Dt 22:9); 2. LN 65.1–65.16 gain, income, i.e., what is valuable (Pr 16:8; Ecc 5:9[EB 10]); 3. LN 33.354–33.364 unit: תְּבוּאָה שָׂפָה (teḇû·ʾā(h) śā·p̄ā(h)) harvest of the lips, i.e., the figurative extension of proper, productive speech (Pr 18:20)3
The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the old Testament has it as “what comes in”5
and the Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon has it as follows:
ה f.—(1) produce, as of the earth, Josh. 5:12; of the corn-floor, Num. 18:30; of the winepress, ibid.; of the vineyard, Deut. 22:9.
(2) gain, profits. תְּבוּאַת הָרָשָׁע the profit of the wicked, Prov. 10:16; 15:6; תְּבוּאַת חָכְמָה gain resulting from wisdom, Pro. 3:14; 8:19; Isa. 23:3.
(3) metaph. fruit, result. תְּבוּאַת שְׂפָתָיו the fruit, result of his words, Prov. 18:20. Compare פְּרִי No. 1.6
The tithe was brought after the harvest, we read more about this in the book of 2 Chronicles.
2 Chronicles 31:6
6 The sons of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of sacred gifts which were consecrated to YHVH their Elohim, and placed them in heaps. 7 In the third month they began to make the heaps, and finished them by the seventh month.
This gives us a good understanding as to from what our tithe is to be given. If we were to apply it to our modern situation, we would tithe in accordance to when we receive our increase. We are to give as we earn. If we receive a monthly salary, we are to tithe from that and if we receive a bonus, we tithe from that as well. We also understand our increase to mean what we receive after tax has been deducted, so on our netto income.
Some people say that we already pay taxes that should also be used by the government to care for the poor. Y’shua said to His disciples that they are to give to Ceasar what is due to him and to YHVH what is due to Him.
17 And Y’shua said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to Elohim the things that are Elohim’s.” And they were amazed at Him.
Paying tax does not take the obligation to give to YHVH away.
Are we to tithe in the Sabbatical year?
You may wonder what the relevance is of tithing in the Sabbatical year to the third year tithe. It lies therein that a certain tithing pattern is established. During the Sabbatical year, we are prohibited from sowing and harvesting. There would thus be no increase from the land. However, the herds and flocks would continue to reproduce. Tithing in the Sabbatical year would have been much less, but possible.
There are Scriptures and historical sources that attest to this. The most important being the instructions to read the Torah to all during Sukkot of the Sabbatical year in Jerusalem.
10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before YHVH your Elohim at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.
In order to do this, a person would have to go up to Jerusalem for the feast. The second tithe is used for this and as YHVH promised to give enough in the 6th year to last until the ninth year, there would have been enough to do this.
20 ‘But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 ‘When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.
For those of us who earn a monthly income, it is actually quite easy. We are to give our tithes from our increase. It would therefore be possible for us to tithe in the Sabbatical year also.
Every third year?
Some people understand the third year tithe to only be applicable to the third year of the Sabbatical cycle. However, if you were to look at how it was worded in general and in context, you would understand that it refers to every third year of the sabbatical cycle.
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.
All translations I checked has translated it as “every” third year. The Lexham English Bible has it translated as follows:
28 “At the end of three years you shall bring out all of the tithe of your yield for that year, and you shall store it in your towns.
When you read further to Deut 15:1, you find the same. It is translated as “at the end of seven years” in the Lexham and “every seven years” in the other translations. I do not have enough knowledge of the Hebrew language to explain why it was translated this way, but those who know Hebrew have all translated it this way. Here is a quote from the Jewish Publication Society:
Here is another reference to this third year tithe:
12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
There is a reference to the third year tithe in Amos 4:4. This is from the Young’s literal translation
4 Enter ye Beth-El, and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression, And bring in every morning, your sacrifices, Every third year your tithes.
To support the point that this tithe is brought every three years, here is some historical evidence.
Historical references to the third year tithe
Evidence of how things were done in history may shed some light on this for us. In the apocryphal book of Tobit, which many scholars date to about 200 B.C., the writer states:
“I, for my part, would often make the pilgrimage alone to Jerusalem for the festivals, as is prescribed for all Israel by perpetual decree. Bringing with me the first fruits of the field and the firstlings of the flock, together with a tenth of my income and the first shearings of the sheep, I would hasten to Jerusalem and present them to the priests, Aaron’s sons, at the altar. To the Levites who were doing service in Jerusalem I would give the tithe of the grain, wine, olive oil, pomegranates, figs and other fruits.
“And except for sabbatical years, I used to give a second tithe in money, which each year I would go and disburse in Jerusalem. The third tithe I gave to orphans and widows, and to converts who were living with the Israelites. Every third year I would bring them this offering, and we ate it in keeping with the decree of the Mosaic law and the commands of Deborah, the mother of my father Tobiel; for when my father died, he left me an orphan” (Tobit 1:6-8, New American Bible).
A quote from the “Antiquities of the Jews” by Josephus Flavius, a Jewish historian who lived about the time of Y’shua, documented the understanding of his time regarding the first and second tithe and how it was appropriated. To add to his credibility I must add that he was also from the priestly line.
“Let there be taken out of your fruits a tenth, besides that which you have allotted to give to the priests and Levites. This you may indeed sell in the country, but it is to be used in those feasts and sacrifices that are to be celebrated in the holy city: for it is fit that you should enjoy those fruits of the earth which God gives you to possess” (Antiquities 4:8:8).
It is spoken of two different tithes here given in the same year, namely the tithe for the Levite and the tithe for the feasts. He later on writes about another tithe paid every third year in addition to the other two tithes. Josephus clearly states, about the third tithe, that this tithe collected for the poor was different from the other two:
“Besides those two tithes, which I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year a third tithe to be distributed to those that want [i.e., lack]; to women also that are widows, and to children that are orphans” (Antiquities 4: 8:22).
I have found some information on an early assembly called the Waldenses. They existed in the 1500’s and there are some evidence in a writing of Passagini that they observed the giving of tithes. That was in the 1500’s. I have posted this reference because most people will say that the Temple and Levites are a prerequisite for all tithing. This shows that it was probable that this tithe was still given, even after the destruction of the Temple. It makes perfect sense to me, as the widows and orphans and strangers will always be among us, as Y’shua also said (Matt 26:11).
“The Waldenses recognized that they were the true successors of the apostolic church. They kept the Sabbath and also the yearly Passover.
In about 1200 A.D, under the name of Passagini, we have a very clear picture that these people observed the whole Old Testament law—including the Sabbath and festivals—even though the Catholic Inquisitors zealously burned the records about anyone living God’s way of life at that time! (That’s one thing to be said for the Roman Catholic Church: It is very diligent at certain things. The problem is that it’s in the wrong direction, and we suffer for it.)
The membership paid a three-part division of tithes to God through the ministry of the Waldensian church. Even in the 1500’s, the same division [of tithing] still continued among the Waldensians. In his book, History of the Waldenses, the author (Leonard) quoted George Morel, a Waldensian elder, as saying: “The money given us by the people is carried to the aforesaid general council, and is delivered in the presence of all, and there it is received by the most ancients [that is, the elders], and part thereof is given to those that are wayfaring men, according to their necessities, and part unto the poor.”
So George Morel actually mentions a “second tithe,” apparently for those traveling to and from the festivals; and following it, [he mentions] the “third tithe,” which goes to the poor. Feast goers who had more “second tithe” than they needed shared their excess with those in need at that time as well. So we see there that they had not just a little bit of God’s truth, but quite a bit—probably most of God’s truth, as we have it today.”8
The Rabbinical change
As we have seen above, Josephus gave an account of what was done in the early first century regarding these tithes. When this was compared to the Mishna which was written in the following century, we see a change in interpretation by the rabbis.
Here is the specifics of this:
Here is another source that attests to this:
As noted in Deut. 14:22–26, the Second Tithe—either the produce itself or its monetary equivalent—was to be used only in Jerusalem. The practice is attested in Hellenistic times by the book of Tobit (1:7) and is noted by Jubilees (32:11) and Josephus. These three sources state that the Second Tithe was to be offered each year. Rabbinic literature seems to follow another tradition, whereby the Second Tithe requirement was suspended in the third and sixth years of a sabbatical cycle and replaced by a tithe for the poor; it was to be offered four times every seven years in the sabbatical cycle—on the first, second, fourth, and fifth years. Such a practice may also be alluded to in the Septuagint translation of Deut. 26:12. In the first century C.E., Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai expressed their differences in regard to specific practices in this domain.4
From this we can see that the rabbinic interpretation and observance was changed in the first century CE. Just consider this for a moment. YHVH commanded all Israel to go up to Jerusalem three times a year. He even provided for it in the second tithe. Now, according to this interpretation, that second tithe that is supposed to be used to go up to Jerusalem is given to the poor in the third and sixth year. This may make it impossible for most people to go up for the feasts, thus transgressing the said commandment to go up. It really doesn’t make sense. The Karaites have a similar interpretation, however, they half the second year tithe to accommodate for the third tithe in the third and sixth year.
It really is up to you which interpretation you choose and observe. We are convinced of three different tithes. The first for the Levite, the second for going up to Jerusalem three times a year, if possible and the third tithe for the widow, orphan, stranger and Levite, given in the third and sixth year of the Sabbatical cycle.
Who the third tithe is for
The third tithe is for those without inheritance or inheritance rights. We have written in much more detail about this in the article titled The third year tithe, providing for widows and orphans. Here Scripture details who it is for:
12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
This tithe is generally referred to as the poor tithe and is to be given to those in society who lacks. Widows, orphans, strangers and the Levites were in ancient times those people without land and could therefor not provide for themselves. YHVH has provided for these people through this tithe. This tithe was to be taken to the storehouse in your town and was used to help these people. It would have been enough to supply in their needs for three years, until the next three year tithe was brought. The tithe brought in the sixth year would have been enough to last for four years. This is possible, because YHVH said he would provide enough in the sixth year.
Who should we give it to? There are many people in need in our own societies and elsewhere. Ask YHVH to show you who to give it to. We found a dear lady in Israel who is a widow and takes care of the widows, orphans and the poor. She is 83 years old and has been doing this for over sixty years. We met her when we recently went to Israel. You can read more about her and her work in our next the article “A lady that deserves some of your tithe.”
We also know of another Messianic Torah-observant family that is in the process of adopting an orphan. For this process, they require more funding than they have available. Here is a link to their webpage for more detail http://helpthehirns.com/
Please let us know if you know of other worthy causes. Please, no institutions as we believe most money goes into administration and salaries.
Why do it?
The book of Malachi has a few things to say about tithing. We read this as part of the Torah portion a few weeks ago and it occurred to me that this passage could refer to the third year tithe also. This tithe is probably the most neglected tithe of all. This is not an easy commandment to keep. YHVH wants us to give another ten percent on top of the other two tithes. Is He asking too much? Are we not willing to give it? All we have, He has given us. Can we not give this to show our faithfulness? Abraham was willing to give his only son, but most of us are not willing to give an extra 10% of our income. Are you choosing another interpretation just so you can get out of this? YHVH knows your heart, you can’t hide it from Him. Ananias and Saphira thought they could…
Here is the passage in Malachi, read this and consider what is said here. It is a strong rebuke, but repentance and obedience will result in great blessing.
7 “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says YHVH of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob Elohim? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says YHVH of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. 11 “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says YHVH of hosts. 12 “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says YHVH of hosts.
How often don’t we think in our hearts that it is not really profitable us to be obedient to YHVH. Like when our expectations are not met in the way we envisioned it to be.
13 “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says YHVH. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ 14 “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve Elohim; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before YHVH of hosts? 15 ‘So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test Elohim and escape.’ ”
Are we not doing the same? Saying “why should we do this, what profit is it that we keep his commandments?”
There is another group spoken of, those who feared YHVH.
16 Then those who feared YHVH spoke to one another, and YHVH gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear YHVH and who esteem His name. 17 “They will be Mine,” says YHVH of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” 18 So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves Elohim and one who does not serve Him.
To serve YHVH is to be obedient to Him. To fear Him is to be obedient to Him. Those who fear YHVH and esteem His name will be His and he will spare them… To spare means the following:
2798 חָמַל (ḥā·mǎl): v.; ≡ Str 2550, 2565; TWOT 684c—LN 88.75–88.82 (qal) show mercy on, spare, take pity on, i.e., show kindness to one in an unfavorable, difficult, or dangerous situation, and so help or deliver in some manner, implying in some cases that the one in the distress may deserve the condition (Dt 13:9), note: for another parsing in Eze 16:5, see 28003
Which group do you belong to? The group that finds excuses or different interpretations not to be obedient or the group that fear and obey YHVH? In the rest of the passage we find a description of what will happen to each of these two groups.
1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says YHVH of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” 2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3 “You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says YHVH of hosts. 4 “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. 5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of YHVH. 6 “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
Will you choose to obey or will you justify your way out of this commandment with a different interpretation? Your choice will determine whether you will be secure and blessed or judged and cursed.
Here are a few more verses to ponder on.
33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
27 He who gives to the poor will never want, But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.
9 Honor YHVH from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus.
- Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 191). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Levine, L. I. (2002). Jerusalem: Portrait of the City in the Second Temple Period (538 B.C.E.–70 C.E.) (First edition., p. 138). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.
- Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1999). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., pp. 1678–1679). Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill.
- Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (p. 855). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Jewish Publication Society of America. (1917). Torah Nevi’im u-Khetuvim. The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic text. (Dt 14:28). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society of America.
- Feldman, L. H., & Hata, G. (Eds.). (1987). Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity (p. 38). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Tags: blessing, commandments, faithfulness, Feasts, increase, Levite, obedience, orphan, poor, poor tithe, rob YHVH, Sabbatical year, Second Tithe, sixth year, stranger, tenth, third year, third year tithe, tithe, widow
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