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3. (O.T.) The tenth promise of Jacob


The Tithe?

3. Old Testament
The ‘Tenth” Promise of Jacob
(Gen 28:20-22)
(Please read all previous articles on tithing first)

The 28th chapter of Genesis speaks of Jacob’s promise to give God a tenth of what he owned. The word “tithe” is not used, only the word “tenth.” Being the grandson of Abraham, Jacob left his father Isaac’s house in flight and fear of his brother Esau. He was on route to the land of his mother’s relatives in Mesopotamia. A man, now on his own and the head of his own household, intended on taking a wife from his relatives and settle in to raise a family of his own. On route, while still in Canaan, he stopped one night at a certain place called Luz to sleep. There he had a dream of a ladder ascending from earth into heaven. On the ladder were angels of God who were ascending and descending. The LORD stood above the ladder in the clouds and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants who will become as the dust of the earth. Your descendants will stretch from the west to the east and the north to the south and they will be blessed.” God then promised that He would bless Jacob wherever he went and a day would come when he would return to the land of Canaan for Him to fulfill that promise. Upon arising, Jacob, as the priest in his own household, took the stone he had rested his head upon and set it up as a pillar (or altar) and poured oil on top. He renamed that place Bethel instead of Luz and made a vow to God stating: “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, I will come back to my father’s house in peace – then the LORD shall be my God.” “I will then give a “tenth” of everything to You,” he told the LORD. While Jacob did not use the word “tithe,” he did promise to give the Lord a “tenth” of everything he had.

Jacob's Promise to God

Jacob’s promise to God was completely different than the requirement of his grandfather Abraham. While it was the pagan custom (and possible requirement) of the Canaanites to tithe of the spoils of war, Jacob volunteered to give a tenth to the Lord on a certain condition.  His conditional vow was that God must first bless him and then bring him back to his father’s house in peace. Please note that Jacob voluntarily made the vow to give a tenth – God did not ask for it. We know that God fulfilled his promise and brought him back to Canaan in prosperity. In Genesis 38, the Scriptures show that he again arrived back at Bethel, but this time with his family. They stopped at the altar that Jacob made the vow to God. God then re-appeared to Jacob. It was at this point of time that God renamed him, calling him Israel. He told him to be fruitful and multiply and his family would extend to the nations. Jacob, now Israel, set up another pillar of stone and poured a drink offering and oil upon it. There is, however, no mention in Scripture that he gave a tenth of his possessions to God as he had promised. Nor is there any other mention of a regular giving of a tenth to the LORD.

Priests Were the Head of Each Jewish Household

From the time of Adam to the beginning of the Law of Moses, the head of each Jewish household served as his own priest. Abraham was the priest of his family, Isaac followed, and Jacob continued as his fathers before him. A question arises then - if Jacob did fulfill his vow to the LORD, how did he give back a tenth of all of his possessions? Of what possessions did he give back, and who would he have given it to?   Remember, he was his own priest who built altars and made sacrifices on his own to the LORD. It isn’t enough to assume that he physically gave a tenth of all he had to God. God did not reach down from heaven and received a tenth, bringing it up to heaven. Like Abraham, Jacob was surrounded by pagan Canaanite priest-kings who regularly received tithes. If Jacob voluntarily gave a tithe to them, he would be promoting idolatry, child sacrifices, incest and other paganistic practices. We must remember that there was no Levitical priesthood with which to give tithes, for that was yet for a future time. Neither was there a temple of God in Jerusalem, for the small city of Salem (later Jerusalem) in which Melchizedek was king and priest had yet to be conquered by the Jebusites, and later by King David. A time span of 1000 years rested in between. As head of his own household, Jacob, like all patriarchs from Adam until the Law, was a priest himself and did not require a hierarchy of priesthood. He, like his fathers before him built altars to Yahweh and sacrificed on them (Gen 35:1&10). Again, if a tithe was given, who received them? Is it within the realm of possibility that Jacob could have given his “tenth” away to the poor and needy or left it at the altar for poor to come to receive?

This we know, tithing before the Law of Moses originated in pagan priestly worship and was in no way similar to the definition of tithes as given under the Law of Moses. [i]

To continue on to section #4 on tithing, click here


[i] http://home.earthlink.net/~russkellyphd/id25.html

Written by Pastor Joyce A. Erickson

Believers Bible School, Founder https://believersbibleschool.com/