Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

2 See p. 67.

brought to the people by the Levites, forbid us to think that the people, under ordinary circumstances, defrauded the Levites of the portion assigned them by God.

We may further observe that the law of Moses not only proved practicable, but, so far as tithes and religious offerings are concerned, we do not find it complained of as burdensome or oppressive—not

even when, to pay Persian tribute, the people had 1 Neh. V. 34 mortgaged their lands.

Nor do we read, during all the centuries in which tithe-paying was observed as a working institution, of any request being made that the tithe should be repealed or lessened. Even the heretical Jeroboam (if we rightly understand the words of Amos) does not appear to have abolished the payment of tithes for religious purposes.

Later on, when the people fell away to the worship of false gods, or were oppressed under a foreign yoke, we see how, in their times of humiliation, they took upon themselves afresh to observe the law of Moses, including tithes, always reverting to the Pentateuch as their standard of right living, but never questioning their obligation as to religious payments in general, or the proportion prescribed. It seems clear, indeed, that some of the people did not come up to the required standard during the reign of the wicked Ahaz, nor about the time of the return from captivity, when Malachi reproved such defaulters as "robbers of God.”

robbers of God.” But these episodes seem to have been exceptions, and not the general rule.

Putting together, therefore, what we have thus far learned of our subject, we conclude that as secular history tells of other nations, such as the Babylonians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans, dedicating a tenth of their income and spoils to their gods, so the people of Israel, from their settlement in Canaan to the end of the period covered by the Old Testament, did likewise; the proportion payable by the Israelite, being a tenth applied to the use of the ministers of the sanctuary, and other tenths and offerings as prescribed by the law of the Pentateuch.

CHAPTER VII

TITHING IN THE APOCRYPHA

Apocryphal books illustrative of Jewish antiquities, 78.-Tobit

pays three tithes, 79.– Judith dedicates spoils of war, 79. — Offerings by Demetrius, Heliodorus, King Seleucus, and Judas Maccabeus, 80.—Liberality and tithe-paying urged in Tobit and Ecclesiasticus, 82.-Summary of evidence from Apocrypha, 85.

WE

E now proceed (in the next three chapters)

to the study of tithe-paying and religious beneficence as taught and practised in Palestine during the period between the Old and New Testaments; taking as our sources of information the Apocrypha and the Talmud.

Whatever may be thought, theologically, of the doctrinal authority of the books of the Apocrypha, their antiquity and oriental authorship make them valuable as illustrating the ideas and customs of the period of which they are historical documents. Bearing this in mind, we proceed to search therein for passages concerning tithes, firstfruits, and religious offerings, as well as for examples of, and exhortations to, private beneficence generally. The books giving us most information on our subject are Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiasticus, and Maccabees.

& Tobit i. 7-8.

The book of Tobit is especially useful in showing that it was thought right for a good man, as already observed, to pay three tithes ; that is to say, an 1 See p. 32. annual tenth for the Levites, a second tenth for the yearly festivals, and, triennially, a tenth for the poor."

Tobit himself is represented as a liberal giver. To Gabael, who had accompanied Tobias, the son of Tobit, to Nineveh, and faithfully brought him back with goods, servants, cattle, and money, both father and son thought it not too much to give a half of what had been brought, which represented ample wages and something more. Also we read & Tobit xii. 1-2 of Tobit that he did many almsdeeds to his brethren and his nation, for in the days of Shalmaneser he gave his bread to the hungry and his garments to the naked, and if he saw any of the race of Israel dead and cast forth on the wall of Nineveh, he buried him."

Passing now to the book of Judith, we find recorded an instance of the world-wide practice of vows and offerings made in prospect of war, followed by presentation of spoils after victory. Thus :

* Joakim the high priest . . . offered the continual burnt offering, and the vows and free gifts of the people : and they had ashes on their mitres, and they cried unto the Lord with all their power, that He would look upon the house of Israel for good.” 5

Further, when Judith had cut off the head of Holofernes, we read that the people offered their whole burnt offerings, freewill offerings, and their

4 Tobit i. 3-16.

5 Judith iv. 14. 15.

19.

gifts, and that Judith dedicated all the stuff of Holofernes which the people had given her, and

gave the canopy, which she had taken for herself, 1. Judith xvi. 18- out of his bedchamber, for a gift unto the Lord.'

Some regard the books of Tobit and of Judith not as real histories, but as pious and instructive stories only. But even if this be so, the stories may be presumed to reflect the manners and customs of their age; and for our purpose they harmonize with the statements of the first book of the Maccabees, which is certainly, in the main, historical. Thus, on the cleansing of the Temple by Judas

Maccabeus, we read they "offered sacrifice according 2 1 Macc. iv. 53. to the law, upon the new altar of burnt offerings ” ;*

and in the same chapter it is related that among the promises made by Demetrius to secure the support of the Jews, one was that Ptolemais and its lands

should be given to the Temple at Jerusalem, for the 3 1 Macc. iv. 39. expenses that befit the sanctuary.

Furthermore, in the second book of the Maccabees it is stated that the kings of the Gentiles glorified the Temple with the noblest presents, and that Seleucus, the king of Asia, of his own revenues

bore all the costs belonging to the service of the 42 Macc. iii. 3. sacrifices.“

Likewise, in the case of Heliodorus, chancellor of the governor of Colo-Syria, we have a Gentile officer who, being struck with a loathsome disease, was prayed for by Onias, the high-priest ; whereupon, on recovery, Heliodorus offered a sacrifice unto

Jehovah, and vowed great vows unto Him that had 5 2 Macc. iii. 35. saved his life.5

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »