HomeDailyWednesday: Second Tithing    


Wednesday: Second Tithing — 21 Comments

  1. I wrote this article last year and have copied it here as it provides some explanation to the Israelite tithing system.

    A discussion of tithing would be incomplete without looking at the verses in books of Moses that discuss tithing and attempting to understand their detail. The main references are:

    Numbers 18: 21-32
    Leviticus 27:31-33
    Deuteronomy 14: 22-29
    There are other verses that also relate to tithe, but these are the references with the greatest detail. Further, I have elected not to discuss some of the other offerings, such as the heave offering, just to keep the information simple. The subject can be quite confusing, so I will give you a couple of pegs to hang the information on.

    When the Israelites occupied Canaan, each tribe was given an allotment of land as their inheritance, except for the tribe of Levi. They were given the task of looking after the temple. The sons of Aaron (also Levites) were designated as priests (known as Kohen or Cohen).

    The tithing cycle was based on a seven-year cycle with the seventh year being a rest year. This is described in Ex 23: 10-11, Lev 25: 1-7, 20-22, Deut 15: 1-6. Essentially this year was set aside as a rest year and no crops were to be sown. Whatever grew naturally belonged to everyone.

    It may be assumed that if this plan had been followed, there would have been no tithe returned in the seventh year, since there was no increase to the farmer.

    There is little evidence either in the Bible or other Jewish writings to suggest that the Sabbath Year was ever kept in its agricultural intent. Certainly, famers understood the necessity for leaving land fallow, but it was done on a crop rotational basis and not as a seventh-year event.

    Numbers 18:21-32

    This passage sets out the tithe to support the Levites. The Levites were to be given the tithe from the Children of Israel. In turn the Levites were to take one tenth of that tithe and give that to the priests. This tithe to the priests had to be the best of what they, the Levites, had been given. Once they had given their tithe to the priests, the Levites could do what they liked with the rest. They could eat it anywhere, as it was considered their wages. The tithe that was passed on to the priests was regarded as sacred and could be eaten only be the priests when they were ritually clean.

    It specifies that when the Levite passed on their 10%, it counted as though the Levites had offered the grain of the threshing floor and the fullness of the wine press.

    In Jewish literature this is known as the first tithe or Maaser Rishon.

    Leviticus 27:31-33

    Two tithes are described here:
    1) The tithe of the land, seeds and fruit. This tithe belongs to the Lord but may be redeemed for 20% more than its value.
    2) The other is a tithe on the herds and flocks. A key feature of this tithe is that there should be no discrimination of quality. Every tenth animal belonged to the Lord. Substitution and redemption was not allowed on animal tithe.

    I think this is also primarily describing the first tithe or Maaser Rishon.

    Deuteronomy 14:22-29

    This describes what are known as the second and third tithes (Maasar Sheni and Maasar Ani).

    This tithe specified setting aside one-tenth of the crops and herds to be taken to “the place in which He shall choose to place his name” (i.e. Jerusalem). If the distance was too great, then they could set aside the value of the tithe in money and take that to Jerusalem. This money could be spent on anything they liked, providing they shared some of it with the Levites.

    In years 3 and 6 of the seven-year cycle, a tithe was to be set aside for the Levite, the foreigner, the widow and the fatherless who is “within your gates. It became known as the “Poor Tithe” or Maasar Ani.

    Some Observations

    The tithing system in Israel was more complex than is sometimes presented in tithing studies. The original descriptions were given during the time of the exodus and preparatory to the settlement of Canaan. In those circumstances most people were involved in some form of subsistence farming, and trading was based essentially on an exchange of goods and services rather than the use of money. This explains why the examples of tithing given in these passages is primarily in terms of crops and herds.

    The first tithe was to support the Levites which, in turn, included support for the priests. The second tithe is more difficult to understand. My first guess is that the second tithe was used primarily to provide for the feast days in Jerusalem, seeing it was essentially marked for purchasing or providing food items in Jerusalem. The third tithe was a welfare tithe to support the poor and needy.


    While it is possible to argue over the specifics, I believe it is more helpful to take a broader view and attempt to understand the principle behind tithing. In Deuteronomy 8 Moses gives the Israelites a bit of a pep talk about how to behave when they get to the promised land. He reminds them that they have been led by God for the past 40 years in the wilderness and that God has looked after them. Their food was supplied, and their feet did not swell. He goes on to say that when they are settled in the promised land, they shouldn't get big-headed and boast how they had overcome all the obstacles by themselves. Be humble and acknowledge God as the source of your wealth.

    Tithing for the Israelites and the current Seventh-day Adventist Church may not have the same detail, but in principle it is one of the mechanisms whereby we can acknowledge God as the source of our wealth, health and well-being and contribute to the community of believers. Understanding the principle may go far towards dissipating the feeling of coercion that some people have about the tithe and replacing it with a spirit of thankfulness.

    • Can you show one reference suggesting that the regular years' tithe was shared with the priest or Levite? The tither was to eat it- that's clear. I can't find a text that says he shared it.
      "in regular years, this portion of the harvest was to be brought to the sanctuary and shared from there" this is quoted from this lesson study but where is the Biblical reference?

      • Numbers 18: 21-24 seems pretty clear:

        “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, so that the people of Israel do not come near 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 perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”

        Maybe I am missing the point you are trying to make.

      • Please brother Williams can you help me to understand this verse when God says about wine and strong drinks ??

        Deuteronomy 14 : 26

        And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

        • Wow Lebon! This was very interesting to me. According to the SDA Bible commentaries, it was of course alcohol. The explanation in the commentaries, is that God was being patient with these people who were still learning more about God but could not handle all the truth all at once. For example God was patient with the slave owners in both the New and Old Testaments even though slavery was wrong. Another example is polygamy. Also Jesus explained how Moses let people get divorced because their hearts were hardened. Basically the explanation is God was waiting for them to digest what truth they could until He could give them more. For example God gave the children of Israel during this time the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth mentality because that is what they could relate to at the time. Later though Jesus showed an even better way of forgiveness and praying for your enemies rather than eye for an eye, because by then He expected His people to progress over time. Thus it was with the alcohol. There is a lot longer explanation in the SDA Bible commentaries if you want to look it up, but that is the crux of it the way I understand it. Thanks for asking!

        • I'm not William, but I know that numerous articles have been written regarding the words translated wine (yayin) and strong drink (shekar).

          I believe it is fairly well understood that "yayin" may be fresh or fermented grape juice/wine - kind of like cider, which comes as fresh cider and "hard" (fermented) cider.

          There is less agreement regarding "shekar." Many believe it meant fermented wine, in which case the "yayin" would certainly be fresh juice. Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon mentions an intoxicating drink made from barley or distilled from honey or dates. Sometimes it means wine (fresh or fermented?) mingled with spices.

          Some conservative scholars argue that the "strong drink" refers to a syrupy drink made from honey or dates and is not necessarily fermented. It could be produced any time of the year without fermentation.

          The bottom line is that we do not know for sure, and we know that Bible warns against wine that "moveth" as fermented wine would do. (See Prov 23:31)

          We know that ancient people were able to keep wine unfermented for long periods of time. However, realistically, it is likely that some of the wine they drank was lightly fermented. The distillation methods that make today's "strong drink" were not available to ancient people. Thus, even if they drank fermented products, the alcohol content was likely considerably less than in today's beverages.

          I believe it is fair to say that the Lord indicated that he wants His people to be clear-headed and happy, rather than intoxicated in false "happiness." But it also seems evident to me that the issue of drinking an occasional lightly fermented beverage was not intended to be a test of fellowship.

          (Just to clarify: We drink no kind of alcoholic beverages in our house. We believe God intended us to be clear-headed to enjoy His blessings and to make godly decisions in everyday life. Jesus wouldn't even take the permitted alcoholic potion on the cross to help deaden the pain!)

      • I am struggling to understand the concept of tithing in context of the 2nd tithe. It is to help take care of the upkeep of the church and assist with the needs of members in the church. However, to my understanding when this is given a percentage goes to the conference and a percentage stays with the local church. But no sooner someone has a need and ask for help, it's still that local church that has to come together again to help out the various situations. The conference isn't able to assist but always direct them to the local churches. I am not making this point to stir up any problem but I think we are not practicing what the word outlines in helping the needy of our churches & local communities. I am cognizant that the needs are great but I'm also of the opinion that sometimes funds go into unnecessary activities, trips, events & some unnecessary training. I returned faithfully and have no question in returning. However, I am concerned about how these funds are used. Additionally, the 1st tithe to pay Pastor, lay workers, evangelist,education & hospitals(not sure abt hospitals) and yet our schools are always in begging mode. The Levites & Priests didnt have any inheritance and the 10th was given to them. In our modern day culture who are the Levites & Priests? I read somewhere here that the Levites give a 10th to the Priest.
        In our modern settings the Pastors don't or shouldn't have any other job other than taking care of the flock and visiting members etc. Some don't have time to do visitations or be involved in the community because they are pastoring 4 or more churches or busy getting a 2nd or 3rd degree(Law degree or Phd. to be addressed as Dr. so & so).We know that our pastors aren't heftily paid as other denominations. However, in my culture I've seen majority of them marries to persons that are working to make up for this.
        Are we truly following the mandate as it should? I am sorry for being lengthy!

        • I think you quite rightly ask the question about how our tithe is used and in the past sometimes our church administration has not been as transparent as it could be about how our tithe is used. To be fair, we do need to take an interest in our conference constituency meetings. They are open and you do not need to be a delegate to attend (although most churches are glad to sponsor you as a delegate if you are interested). Conference accounting is usually reported at these meetings and that is the time to ask questions. It is our church and does not belong to the administrators. It is our responsibility to see that the administration is open and transparent.

          Regarding minister's wages and what they are used for. We need to bear in mind that in most families these days both the husband and wife work (at least in our culture). The world has changed in my life-time so that women typically enjoy fulfilling careers of their own, so it is not surprising to find that ministers wives work as well. Likewise, for many of us, further education is a necessity these days. I did not do a Ph.D. to be called "Dr". I got it because I needed it to retain my job. (you can still call me Maurice)

          My original comment about the tithing system should shed some light on how the second and third tithes were designated in Israel. It is worth looking at the Israelite practice and thinking about how we can apply it today. They were intended for welfare support and also for providing for national celebration. How do we apply that today?

          • Bro. Maurice,

            Thank you for that explanation and suggestion. I will certainly act on it. I know you are not into seeking recognition by alluding to the alphabetical fragmentation:)
            I always enjoy your comments and the others who provide clarity as well.

            God bless you all!

    • John because it not explained often many don’t understand about the tithes and offerings. William did explain some but I think people should understand it more fully.
      Our tithe is used for missionary work and evangelism. ( spreading the gospel and feeding the flock spiritually). The tithe goes to the conference and is used for the purpose stated. Part of this goes for pastors’ salaries in the conference. ( they are feeding the flock and do missionary work in their community).
      The offering is given to the church budget or specific things the giver designates. It is important to note that the fellowship (church home) you attend needs offerings to keep the church programs, pay building expenses and building upkeep. Without offerings the church fellowships cannot run.
      It is wise for all church members to go to their church budget meetings every year.

  2. 28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

    When I was living in India, our house had one of the best drinking well water.
    The springs in summer coming through the rocks would look crystal clear and best taste of water.
    People living all around the neighborhood would come and take water from our well.
    There would be a long line and people would constantly draw water night and day in our house.
    When we sold the house and came to USA, the person who bought the house built a wall and prevented people from coming to draw the well water with in years the well water became salty and eventually dried up.
    However, I see how God has blessed our family.
    I don't deserve to be where I am today except by the grace of God I am who I am today.
    Psalms 34
    9 Fear the LORD, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing. 10 Young lions go lacking and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

    Proverbs 11:24-26 New International Version (NIV)
    24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
    another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

    25 A generous person will prosper;
    whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

    26 People curse the one who hoards grain,
    but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.

    It is God who provides, do not withhold what belongs to Him.

  3. According to the Bible, the Levites were not supposed to have any inheritance, neither they were not supposed to have a paying job so the tithes supposed then. In modern times we don’t have Levites, as well as all People ( strangers, biblical poor, orphans, widows) have inheritance. Can we discuss the origin of modern day returning of tithes when the SDA church was formed?

  4. Greetings
    Deuteronomy 26:12 states that the TITHE goes for social services...

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

    Where are the texts specifying a specific and regular offering percentage. The Lord would call for special offerings (example building the wilderness tabernacle) but I have yet to read a text that specifies a percentage of increase. Please provide text references. Thanks.

    • The tithe *is* a percentage, and it almost seems as though there was more than one tithe.
      That said, a percentage is not a specific "commandment" for us, but a very good and practical example. We cannot outgive the Lord, and it was Jesus who said, "Givr and it shall be given unto you." (Luke 6:38)

    • There are numerous electronic technologies available for tithes and offerings. Typically these are organised at the local conference level. Ask your local conference what they offer. In my conference, you can use an App or you can set up direct debiting with your bank.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and preferably significantly shorter than the post on which you are commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.