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1 2 Chron. xxxv.
substance 3,000 bullocks and 30,000 sheep, lambs, and kids. Three rulers of the house of God gave to the priests, for Passover offerings, 2,600 small cattle and 300 oxen.
Several chiefs of the Levites gave also to the Levites, for Passover offerings, 5,000 small cattle and 500 oxen, all being done as it is written in the law of Moses."
Notwithstanding, the Lord turned not from the fierceness of His great wrath”: but said, “I will remove Judah also out of My sight,” , which was 2 Kings xxiii. done by their being taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, about 588 B.C.
This closes the period of decline under the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel.
We now pass to the re-settlement of Palestine by the captives returned from Babylon. During the period passed by the Jews in captivity they doubtless became lax in some of their religious observances; but about 536 B.C. Cyrus proclaimed that he was “charged” to build Jehovah a house at Jerusalem, and he offered facilities for the Jews to return.
Accordingly, when the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, prepared to leave, those remaining in Babylon “strengthened their hands with” gifts. Cyrus himself gave back the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple, "all the vessels of gold and silver being 5,400";8 so that 8 Exa i, 6-11. when the offerings of the king, his counsellors, and his lords, and all Israel present, were weighed for the house of God at Jerusalem, the treasure amounted to “650 talents of silver, 100 talents of
3 Ezra viii. 35.
silver vessels, 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold
of 1,000 darics, and two vessels of fine copper 1 Ezra viii. 26-7. precious as gold.” 1
On their arrival in Jerusalem, “some of the chiefs of the fathers . . . offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place. They gave after
their ability ...61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 pound 2 Ezra iii. 68-9. of silver, and 100 priests' robes.” We read also of
a subsequent burnt offering, by returned captives,
When the seventh month was come, the people
as well for the feasts, as for“ every one that willingly 4 Ezra ii. 3-5. offered a freewill offering unto the Lord.””
The rebuilding of the temple having been stopped for some years, the work was again favoured by king Darius, who ordered that of the king's goods expenses should be given to the builders :
“And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail : that they may offer sacrifices
of sweet savour unto the God of heaven, and pray for the 5 Ezra vi. 8-10. life of the king, and of his sons.” 5
The house, accordingly, was finished, and the dedication kept with joy, the people offering at the dedication 100 bullocks, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and, for a sin offering, 12 he-goats; after which, “they
set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, as it is written in the book of
1 Ezra vi. 16-18.
2 Mal. i. 7-8; iv. 4.
So much, then, for information from the book of Ezra, which represents the worship of Jehovah restored, and the priests and Levites settled in their offices; but no mention is made as to how they were to be permanently supported. We read again of tithes, however, in the book of Nehemiah and in the prophecy of Malachi, who, by some, is thought to have been Nehemiah's contemporary and assistant in the work of reformation.
The prophet Malachi rebukes his contemporaries sharply for their defection from the law. He charges the priests with despising God's name in offering polluted bread upon the altar, and the blind, the lame, and the sick for sacrifice.”
Furthermore, in reference to tithes, the prophet's words are still more drastic; and he calls the people “robbers” for withholding them :
“ Will a man rob God ? yet ye rob Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with the curse; for ye rob Me, even this whole nation. Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." 3
And almost the last words of Malachi are: “Remember
ye the law of Moses my servant.” 4 In view of these exhortations, it is satisfactory to observe that Nehemiah himself gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basons, and 530
8 Mal. iii. 8-10.
4 Mal. iv. 4.
robes. Heads of fathers' houses gave 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 pound of silver ;
whilst the rest of the people gave 20,000 darics of 1 Neh. vii. 70-2. gold, 2,000 pound of silver, and 67 priests' robes."
Later on we have that remarkable gathering when the children of Israel “ assembled fasting, and with sackcloth and earth upon them,” at the conclusion of which they “entered into a curse, and into an oath to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God.” The principal features of the oath were, not to marry heathens, nor purchase on the sabbath ; to leave the land to rest in the seventh year, and not to enforce debts :
“ Also .. we made ordinances for us to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God. ... And we cast lots ... for the wood offering to burn upon the altar . and to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all manner of trees, year by year, unto the house of the Lord; also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle ... and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks ... and the firstfruits of our dough, and our heave offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, the vintage and the oil, unto the priests . .
and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites ... and the Levites shall bring
up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God ... 2 Neh. X. 29-39. and we will not forsake the house of our God.” 2
Once more we read, that when the city wall was to be dedicated, the Levites were brought to Jerusalem, where they "offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced":
“ And on that day were men appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the heave offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them,
according to the fields of the cities, the portions appointed by the law for the priests and Levites : for Judah rejoiced
1 Neh. xii. 27, for the priests and for the Levites that waited.” 1
How far, then, do these passages from the Old Testament illustrate the Mosaic law concerning tithes and offerings ?
We may notice, in the first place, that, after the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan, the divine law was speedily put in force as a working institution. This included the rules for the devotion of tithes and offerings; and various intimations imply that the obligation of such tithes and offerings was actually and strictly recognized.
A central place of worship was established and sustained, whither the tribes went up to the feasts, in connection with which we read of priests and Levites by tens of thousands; or (if we add their families) by hundreds of thousands. These included not only those who waited about the altar, but the educational or teaching staff of the nation, as well as judicial officers, represented by judges and magistrates.
To these persons were given several cities and their suburbs wherein to live; but their appointed means of support was a tithe of the increase of the land and of cattle, with other offerings of the people. No other opportunity of obtaining a livelihood remained to them; for the tribe of Levi was not reckoned when the land was divided. Regard, therefore, for the maintenance of the law, such as we have seen exemplified from time to time by the whole nation, to say nothing of civil advantages
% 1 Chron. xxiii. 4; Ezra viii. 25.