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Melchizedek, for instance, is the first man in the Bible called a priest; Amraphel of Shinar is the first man called a king, and Abram the first called a 1 Gen. xiv. I. prophet. But when these three lived, men had been on the earth for a great many years; and are we to suppose that mankind had lived century after century without priests, kings, and prophets ?
Again, Noah is the first who is expressly called a righteous man,” and Abram is the first who is said to have “believed in God”; yet we know that before these, Abel and Enoch were both righteous, and also believed in God. Once more : the human race had been on the earth, according to the received chronology, about a thousand years before we read of musical instruments;s and it was a thousand years 2 Gen. iv. 21. later still when Abraham weighed shekels of silver as payment. But he would be a bold man who would affirm that before these dates, respectively, mankind possessed neither music nor money!
The mere omission, therefore, of the definite mention of a law concerning tithe-giving, in the less than a dozen chapters given to us in Genesis concerning the early history of the world, is no proof or presumption whatever that such a law did not exist.
As another objection to our hypothesis, it has been suggested that the pagan nations of antiquity may have learned the practice of tithe-paying from the Jews. But can this suggestion be supported by one tittle of evidence ? Can a single passage
be adduced from any Greek or Roman classic to confirm such an idea ? Is there the remotest reason
to suppose that the Greeks before the Trojan war, or the Romans in the days of Romulus, knew anything about the Jews, or, even if they did, that they thought of them otherwise than with contempt?
Nor does the suggestion much help us that the Phænicians of Tyre might have learned tithe-giving from Abram before they colonized Carthage, because it has been all but demonstrated that tithes were paid in Babylonia before Abram was born, so that for the origin of the practice we are sent further back, seemingly, than 2000 B.C.
In face, therefore, of the overwhelming probability that a tenth was the proportion of increase originally required by God from man, I, for one, prefer to believe that sacrifice and tithe-paying existed and continued from the beginning, and, as men dispersed, were taken throughout the ancient world.
How far the practice afterwards became modified among pagan nations it is not my purpose to inquire here, but rather to follow up tithe-paying as brought out of Babylonia by Abram, as observed by his grandson Jacob, and afterwards adopted amongst Jacob's descendants, the children of Israel.
ISRAEL'S THREE TITHES
Tithe-paying expressly enjoined in the Pentateuch, 24.—The first
tithe, and observations thereon, 24.-Given by God to the Levites,
which suggests a change of venue, or, at all events, the looking at our subject from a different standpoint.
Thus far we have heard of the custom of tithepaying throughout the ancient world, and have argued, from the universality of the observance, that there was probably some primitive law which enjoined it. What that law was, who enjoined it, or when, neither secular literature nor ancient monuments inform us ; nor does the book of Genesis make these points clear to demonstration.
If, however, we may assume that God directed from the first that a tenth of man's increase would be a fitting proportion to render to Himself, as the great Lord of all, then, not only do we find nothing
1 ch. xxvii. 30-33.
in Genesis to conflict with a theory of this kind, but, on the contrary, we
see several passages connected with patriarchal religion that seem to confirm such an idea, and to make the assumption highly probable. When, moreover,
come to other books of the Pentateuch, we are brought face to face with written laws which distinctly deal with tithe payments, not indeed as a new institution, but as regulated and adapted to a new form of government on which was based the Jewish polity.
Thus we read in Leviticus : 1
“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. And if a man will redeem aught of his tithe, he shall add unto it the fifth part thereof. And all the tithe of the herd or the flock, whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and that for which it is changed shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed."
From this passage we learn :
That a tenth of the produce of the land, whether of seed or fruit, was claimed by God, and was to be regarded as holy (or set apart) for Him.
That if the offerer wished to retain this tenth of seed or fruit, he might do so by paying its value, and adding thereto one-fifth.
That every tenth calf and lamb also (that is, increase of the herd or flock) was to be set apart for Jehovah.
That this form of animal tithe might not be
redeemed, nor the animals exchanged: but if an owner, notwithstanding, presumed to change a tithe animal, then both the tithe animal * and that for which it was exchanged were to be forfeited, and set apart for Jehovah.
From the book of Numbers ? we learn that the 1 ch. xviii. 21-4. tithe just mentioned, though claimed by Jehovah Himself, was given by Him to the Levites.
“And unto the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the tent of meeting. And henceforth the children of Israel shall not come nigh the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity : it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, and among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a heave offering unto the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance."
Hence this first, or Lord's tithe, is known also as the Levites' tithe, concerning which it may be convenient here to notice :
* The manner of tithing, as described by Maimonides, was this: "He [the owner) gathers all the lambs and all the calves into a field, and makes a little door to it, so that two cannot go out at once ; and he places their dams without, and they bleat, so that the lambs hear their voice, and go out of the fold to meet them, as it is said, whatsoever passeth under the rod : for it must pass of itself, and not be brought out by his hand ; and when they go out of the fold, one after another, he begins and counts them with the rod : one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and the tenth that goes out, whether male or female, whether perfect or blemished, he marks it with a red mark, and says, “This is the tithe.'” (Hilchot Becorot, c. 6, sect. I ; from Gill's Exposition, on Lev. xxvii. 32.)