"Learning to Give - by Faith"



"Learning to Give - by Faith"

Old Testament Teaching




Resource Sheet 3

What does the Old Testament say about Giving?



The following are some of the key Scriptures that appear in the Old Testament about giving and tithing:



Cain & Abel


Gen 4:2-5 Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.

•  This is actually a good starting point because it emphasizes that there are obviously two different ways of bringing things to God because Cain's offering was rejected by God while Abel's was accepted.
•  What is intriguing about this is that at the end of chapter 3 they have been put outside of the Garden and are separated from God's presence. Even more we are not informed that God told them to bring these offerings – yet they did.
•  In trying to distinguish between the two offerings, there does seem to be a slight sense of casualness in Cain's offering in the phrase, ‘ some of the fruits'. Nothing special about that, but when we look at Abel's offering the word ‘some' is there but the ‘some' refers to the ‘firstborn' of his flock, i.e. his very first special animal he breeds is given back to God. It implies that attitude is all-important when it comes to giving.


Abram & Melchizedek


Gen 14:18-20 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”


•  Melchizedek was the king of Jeru salem and also priest of God. He is a strange, mysterious character in Scripture, a priest in the land before the Hebrews (Abram and his descendants) became the people of God with their own priests.
•  The writer to the Hebrews takes this strangeness to identify him as a ‘type' of Jesus who was a priest by God's choosing but not according to the Law.
•  Melchizedek thus reveals a twofold ministry: as king he brings natural provisions, as priest he is more of a Spirit-led person who brings the spiritual blessing of God on Abram, and as a result receives gifts from Abram.
•  No indication is given as to why Abram gave a tenth. It is either a natural response thing or it may have been in accordance with local practice. Later God was to warn Israel that having a king meant he would take a tenth of what they had (see 1 Sam 815,17). The latter would have been according to local etiquette (rules of convention), the former a heart or spirit response. Both are probable.




Gen 28:20,21 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” 


•  This was Jacob still in bargaining mode, years before he wrestled with God and surrendered to Him.
•  In this he is a type of all believers who try to bargain with God and ‘get him on their side'.
•  Not a heart response, but an intellectual scheming act.


The Levites & Priesthood


Lev 27:30-32 A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock--every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod--will be holy to the LORD.


•  Thus a tenth of everything that grew belonged to God


Num 18:21,23,24 I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting…. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD.


•  This tithe the Lord passed on to the Levites to provide for them as they had no property of their own.
•  It is also to be seen as payment for them for service with the Tabernacle 


Num 18:25,26 The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Levites and say to them: `When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering.


•  The Levites in turn were to offer a tenth back to the Lord


Deut 14:28,29 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands


Deut 26:12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.


•  The tithe of every three years was also used to provide for the poor.


Some Concluding Comments


•  Sacrifices & offerings take up considerable more space in the Law.

•  These together with tithes passed out of usage with the destruction of the Temple in AD70

•  While Israel were a nation in the Promised Land, tithes were:

•  a continual reminder that this was God's land and they were His people,

•  a provision for the Levites & Priests,

•  a provision for the poor.



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