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1 Deut. xxvi. 2-11.
and the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: and we cried unto the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression : and the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders : and He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground, which Thou, O Lord, hast given me.”
The firstfruits thus dedicated, the offerer would worship before Jehovah, in gratitude and acknowledgment of all the good given to him, his family, the Levite, and the stranger.'
This beautiful form was provided for yearly use, whilst every third year, a third tenth having been set apart for the local poor, our pious Israelite would solemnly declare before God :
“I have put away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Thy commandment which Thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed any of Thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them : I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I put away thereof, being unclean, nor given thereof for the dead: I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God, I have done according to all that Thou hast commanded me. Look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel, and the ground which Thou hast given us, as Thou swarest unto our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey."
Having now collected various pieces of information concerning Mosaic tithes and offerings, we
Deut. xxvi. 13-15.
do well to notice the nature of the evidence thus brought together. Professor Driver, in his commentary on Deuteronomy,' would have us to believe 1 p. 172. that “the data at our disposal do not enable us to write a history of the Hebrew tithe.” But this is no sufficient reason why we should not make the most of the information we have, remembering, however, that the evidence is not primary, direct, and complete, so much as subsidiary, indirect, and fragmentary.
We have not, for instance, throughout the Pentateuch so much as a single chapter, or even a long paragraph, dealing with tithe as a whole. We have had to collect our information mainly from three short passages in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, these passages being there introduced not so much for their own sakes as for their bearing upon other things.
Thus the first authoritative statement in the generally received order of the books) of the great foundation principle that a tenth of the produce of the land and of beasts belongs to Jehovah, is not ushered in, as we might expect, with the solemn preamble, “ The Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto the children of Israel,” etc. ; but we see this great truth specifically mentioned for the first time at the end of Leviticus, in a supplementary chapter regulating the making of vows and determining how far things or animals devoted to God might be redeemed. Here the subject of the tithe comes in, quite incidentally and without explanation ; and then it is spoken of, not for the purpose of
enjoining it as something new, or as though it were not already in use, but in order to exclude the tithe portion from vows, and to prescribe how
far and under what conditions, like vows, tithe Lange's Com- might be redeemed."
So again, in Numbers xviii., after the rebellion of Korah, when several laws are being given concerning the priests and Levites, this first tithe is again introduced, not so much, seemingly, for its own sake, as to show how the Levites, though having no inheritance among the tribes, are to be repaid for their labour by its appropriation to their benefit.
Once more, when we come to Deuteronomy xiv. we have a chapter regulating what may be eaten and what may not be eaten, of beasts, fishes, and fowls; and then follow directions concerning eating before God of the second tithe at an appointed place of worship.
Furthermore, what we are told about tithes is not only fragmentary, but it is also incomplete. The Mosaic law, for instance, does not define particularly what seeds, fruits, or animals are to be tithed; nor does the legislator give directions “whether the tenth is to be paid of all newly born animals; whether it includes those newly purchased or exchanged; whether it is payable if a man have less than ten cattle, or at what age of the animals the tithe becomes due." % Nor, as already observed, does the law say whether each tithe is to be computed in reference to the whole, or out of what remains after previous tithes have been deducted ; nor, again, is it clear whether
the second tithe includes a second tenth of all animals. *
The law concerning tithe, then, in general has in one respect a close resemblance to the law concerning the Sabbath. When Jehovah promulgated the Decalogue as a statute or written law, He said, "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy,” thereby implying that the commandment was already in existence or had been enjoined before ; and the same might be said of other commandments which were laws of God and rules of life for man, and for keeping of which Abraham is praised, and for the non-observance of which punishment is recorded, long before Jehovah's laws were published on Sinai.' 1 See p. 20.
So, with regard to Mosaic tithes and offerings, it has been shown elsewhere that before the descendants of Jacob left Palestine it was a well-established custom in Egypt to make regular offerings to the gods and to pay to the temples firstfruits of the harvest, so that with these customs, at any rate, 2 See Sacred the Israelites, on leaving Egypt, would be familiar. They would likewise remember that two-tenths,
Tenth p. 3•
* By way of illustration we may observe, as a somewhat parallel case, the importation of the word “fasting” into the Book of Common Prayer. In the prefatory matter is “A Table of the Fasts and Days of Abstinence,” also a list of the days of fasting ; and in the Communion Service the curate is directed to declare what fasting days are to be observed. But nothing is said as to who is to fast, nor in what fasting consists, where it should be observed, or with what accessories, nor why or how, but only when. Just, then, as these minutiæ, when the first English Prayer Book was issued, were well known and understood, and were taken so to be ; so, presumably, the less needed to be said by the writer of the Pentateuch about the particulars connected with tithing, because the people were familiar with the custom as descended from their forefathers.
1 Gen. xxviii. 22.
or a double tithe, of increase was paid by the Egyptians to Pharaoh, who supported the priests, and that, by virtue of the legislation of their own ancestor, Joseph, whose bones they were taking up for burial in the land of Canaan at the very time their own law was given ; whilst as for tithes, how could the Israelites forget the observance of this custom by their great ancestor Abraham, or fail to remember the vow of his grandson Israel, “Of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee ” ? 1
These things, presumably, must have been to them as household words, and hence there can be little doubt that the inspired legislator adopted the already existing practice of tithe-paying, and inserted it in the statute law of the divine code, because he found that, with some modification, this ancient payment might be made a proper stipend for the servants and officers of the theocracy, and also that second and third tithes might furnish the means of promoting regular worship at the national sanctuary, and foster social intercourse and good feeling between rich and poor. *
We have thus reached, as already intimated, a higher platform than any upon which we have yet stood. We have emerged from the clouds of probability and conjecture concerning the origin of tithe-paying, to see the custom recognized, regulated, and embodied in what has been generally accepted as a most ancient code of written laws. It is claimed for this code that it was written by
* See McClintock and Strong's Encyclopædia, x. p. 436.