12. The Tithe during the Inter-testamental period

The Tithe?

12.  The Inter-Testamental Period
(Please read all previous articles on tithing first)

There were 400 years between the writings of Malachi and the entrance of the period of the New Testament. These dark years are more commonly known as the inter-testamental period, which shaped the world into which Jesus was born. During this time, not one prophet spoke on behalf of God.

The Collapse of the Persian and Rise of the Grecian Empires

The Persian Empire collapsed in 330 B.C. with the fierce attacks of the Macedonians, under Alexander the Great. Alexander had conquered the known world for the Greek Empire and the rise of hellenization had taken over, which included a cultural and language change to Greek and the worship of Greek gods. In part, Israel was greatly affected by that change. Josephus, the Jewish historian, spoke of Alexander going to Jerusalem, which by then was under Greek rule, and offered sacrifice to the Greek gods in the Jewish temple, desecrating it away from Judaism. Although Alexander treated the Jews well, it leads one to believe that Jewish worship was compromised to some degree, which would include the tithe. The Alexandrian period lasted only three year - until Alexander’s death - and then the Grecian Empire was ruled by five of his prominent generals. Each took over a territory, and the king of Syria was designated by one to oversee Israel. As recorded in the book of the Maccabees and writings of Josephus, the Seleucid kings of Syria attempted to force the Jews to adopt the Grecian ways, purposing to do away with Judaism. This led to a series of Jewish wars.

Up to 167 B.C., the office of high priest had been hereditary, coming down from the lineage of Aaron. It was a life-time position. In the course of time, however, the high-priest's office became the object of Jewish ambition and aroused the darkest desires in human nature - that of power and wealth. This eventually brought on the defiling of the temple, and Jerusalem, in part, laid waste. Heavy fines were imposed by Greek powers on the people and persecution followed, lasting many years.

The Period from the Hasmonean Dynasty to Roman Rule

A revolt of several uprisings against Syrian rulers occurred in 167 B.C., which led to the beginnings of a family dynasty of Jewish rulers who took over power in Israel. Led by Judas Macabeus, these revolters wanted their freedom to worship the “one” God of their faith, insisting on strict observance of Jewish ritual laws, which included the tithing laws of the land. They were willing to fight to the death for their beliefs. Judas appointed his brother Simon to the office of high priest. Simon, however, did not follow in the blood line of Aaron, but he was faithful to the Laws of Moses. When Simon died, and his son John Hycanus succeeded, it signaling the beginning of the Hasmonean dynasty. In order to maintain that dynasty, however, there was continuous warfare.

As wars continued, Judas Macabeus began to entreat with the rising power of Rome. The very idea of an alliance with heathen powers was abhorrent to most Jews. There was a group of men within the Hasmoneans who did not want to be a part of the fighting and wars any longer. They separated themselves away from the Hasmoneans and formed a group called the Pharisees. They wanted religious freedom and peace, but no longer could to be a part of the continual strife that it took to maintain this new dynasty. The Pharisees, which means “separated ones,” separated themselves away from the Hasmoneans to study and interpret the Law of Moses. They were also concerned about strict interpretations and keeping the law on all matters including the Sabbath and divorce, and had a special commitment to keeping the laws of Levitical tithing and ritual purity. They even took tithing to an extreme to where they meticulously paid tithes - even the smallest herbs planted in their gardens. The Pharisee party continued to grow over the next several decades. In 63 B. C. the Romans sent the famous Italian general Pompey to end the Hasmonean rule and establish Roman authority in Jerusalem. Thus ended the Hasmonean dynasty; however, the Pharisees continued on.

Phariseeism expanded into various sects over the decades and they controlled the synagogues, exercising great control over the general populous of the Jews. Along with the Sadducees, the Pharisees, in all likelihood, were responsible for the transformation of Judaism from a religion of sacrifice to one of law. By the end of the inter-testamental period, just before the coming of Jesus, the laws of Judaism had multiplied further among the Jews.

To continue on to chapter 13 on tithing, click here

Written by Pastor Joyce A. Erickson

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