The History of Tithes
Leviticus 27:30-33
And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's: it is holy to the LORD.…


1. Antecedent to the Mosaic legislation. The principle of dedicating a tenth to God was recognised in the act of Abraham, who paid tithes of his spoils to Melchizedek in his sacerdotal rather than his sovereign capacity (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:6). Later, in Jacob's vow (Genesis 28:22), the dedication of a "tenth" presupposes a sacred enactment, or' a custom in existence which fixed that proportion rather than any other proportion, such as a seventh or twelfth.

2. The Mosaic statutes. These given in this section lay claim in God's name to the tenth of produce and cattle. An after enactment fixed that these tithes were to be paid to the Levites for their services (Numbers 18:21-24), who were to give a tithe of what they received to the priests (vers. 26-28). The sacred festivals were later made occasion for a further tithe (Deuteronomy 12:5, 6, 11, 17; Deuteronomy 14:22, 23); which was allowed to come in money value rather than in kind (Deuteronomy 14:24-26).

3. Hezekiah's reformation. This was signalised by the eagerness with which the people came with their tithes (2 Chronicles 31:5, 6).

4. After the Captivity. Nehemiah made marked and emphatic arrangements concerning the tithing (Nehemiah 10:37; Nehemiah 12:44).

5. Prophet's teachings. Both Amos (Amos 4:4) and Malachi (Malachi 3:10) enforce this as a duty, by severely rebuking the nation for its neglect-as robbing God.

6. In Christ's day. Our Lord exposed and denounced the ostentatious punctiliousness of the Pharisees over their tithing (Matthew 23. 23).

7. Teaching of the New Testament. The fact of the existence of ministers as a distinct Mass, assumes provision made for their maintenance. The necessity for such provision, and the right on which it is founded, are recognised in such texts as Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; Romans 15:27; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14.


1. The Fathers urged the obligation of tithing on the earliest Christians. The "Apostolical Canons," the "Apostolical Constitutions," St. Cyprian on "The Unity of the Church," and the writings of , , , and other Fathers of both divisions of the early Church, abound with allusions to this as a duty; and the response was made, not in enforced tithing, but by voluntary offerings.

2. The legislation of the first Christian emperors recognised the obligation of maintaining the ministers of Christ. But while they assigned lands and other property to their support, they enacted no general payment of the tenth of the produce of the lands.

3. Ancient Church councils favoured tithings of land and produce, e.g., the Councils of Tours, A.D. 567; the second Council of Macon, A.D. 585; the Council of Rouen, A.D. 650; of Nantes, A.D. 660; of Metz, .

4. Its first imperial enactment. (king of the Franks, A.D. 768-814, and Roman Emperor, A.D. 800-814) originated the enactment of tithes as a public law, and by his capitularies formally established the practice over the Roman Empire which his rule swayed. From this start it extended itself over Western Christendom; and it became general for a tenth to be paid to the Church.

5. Introduction of tithes into England. , king of Mercia, is credited with its assertion here, at the close of the eighth century. It spread over other divisions of Saxon England, until Ethelwulf made it a law for the whole English realm. It remained optional with those who were compelled to pay tithes to determine to what Church they should be devoted, until Innocent III. addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 1200, a decretal requiring tithes to be paid to the clergy of the parish to which payees belonged. About this time also, tithes, which had originally been confined to those called praedial, or the fruits of the earth, was extended to every species of profit and to the wages of every kind of labour.

6. The great and small tithe. The great tithe was made upon the main products of. the soil, corn, hay, wood, &c.; the small on the less important growths. To the rector the great tithes of a parish are assigned, and to the vicar the small.

7. Tithes paid "in kind." These claim the tenth portion of the product itself (vers. 30-33). This is varied by a payment of an annual valuation; or an average taken over seven years; or by a composition, which, in a bulk sum, redeems the land from all future impost, rendering it henceforth "tithe flee."

(W. H. Jellie.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.

WEB: "'All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is Yahweh's. It is holy to Yahweh.

Giving to God
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