God instructs Israel to tithe of their increase to Him as the Provider of all things, and verse 23 gives the reason: "that you may learn to fear [reverence] the LORD your God always." He also mentions "eat[ing] before the LORD . . . in the place where He chooses to make His name abide." We know from Leviticus 23:34-43 that He is addressing the period of the Feast of Tabernacles. At first, it seems this has little to do with the previous verses.
Using the tithe for attending and enjoying the Feast is only a part of the entire tithing process, which also involves giving back to God (first tithe) and taking care of the less fortunate (third tithe). Taken as a whole, however, these tithing instructions are an integral part of the total equation of this chapter: taking care of God's chosen people. These verses have expanded the principle outside the personal to include others of God's people and even God Himself.
Whatever Your Heart Desires
Does God command three separate tithes, or one tithe merely split into three different uses? God says in Numbers 18:21, "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacles of meeting." The Hebrew term for "all," kol, means "the entire amount," "the totality," "the whole" of the tithe, not a percentage or part.
Moses uses the same word in Deuteronomy 14:22-23, regarding the festival tithe:
You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstlings of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
Just a few verses later, he shows another use for ALL the tithe!
At the end of every third year you shall bring out [kol; see KJV?"all"] the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 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. (verses 28-29)
Here, a third tithe is given for a separate use. It was not to be given to maintain the Tabernacle (church) or spent on oneself at a festival. It was to be stored, implying a use over a period of time for the poor, widows, orphans, etc. Since this third tithe occurred only on the third and sixth years of the seven-year cycle, it had to be stored for the special purpose intended.
For each of the three tithes, God specifies all, or the entire tenth, should be used for the stated purposes. If on the third and sixth years we kept all the tithe for the poor, we would have no money for festival use! Yet the feasts were kept every year as a memorial (Exodus 13:10). This clarifies that all of the three tithes are referred to rather than a splitting of one tithe.
Common Tithing Questions
Moses addresses Deuteronomy 12 to Israel on the east side of the Jordan River. He tells them that, instead of having altars and high places throughout the country, they should bring their required and free-will offerings, other sacrifices, firstlings, and tithes (plural in verses 6, 11) to the place where God put His name. There, the people were to eat before Him.
The second tithe here is in addition to the tithe commanded in Numbers 18. It was to be eaten by the individual Israelite, but not at home ("not . . . within your gates," Deuteronomy 12:17). This tithe was not to come out of the first tithe, because the latter was the Levites' inheritance. The Levites lived off the first tithe in all their cities throughout the year. Therefore, the first tithe that they normally lived on cannot have been the second tithe that God forbids all to eat in their homes. The Bible nowhere states that the Levite had to bring a special tithe to eat at the feasts (such as the Feast of Tabernacles). The people were to bring it. Verse 18 specifically states that the Levite should also eat of the second tithe where the Lord chose to place His name (see Numbers 18:21-24).
In Deuteronomy 12:11, the plural usage shows that Moses distinctly refers to more than one tithe. Deuteronomy 14:23 uses "tithe" in the singular because the passage describes only the specific tithe that we are to consume where God places His name.
Martin G. Collins
Tithing: Second Tithe
God commands us to keep the Feast 1) to enjoy the fruits of our labor and His blessing and 2) to learn. This emphasis on learning is why the Feast is not a vacation, though it is a pleasant interlude in our annual calendar. Learning takes effort, and depending on our intensity, it can be wearying. At the same time, it can also be fulfilling and rewarding because accomplishment produces a sense of well-being.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast
Instructions for the second tithe are found in this passage. Included here is the command to "truly [fully] tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year" (verse 22). This is the tithe we are to save for ourselves for use during God's Feasts throughout the year, not the same tithe that was given to the Levites.
Note here that a full tithe is to be set aside for this purpose only. Over the years some have invested their second tithe in projects that have failed; this is a wrong use of this money. It is not to be set aside as venture capital, but as money to be used to enjoy God's festivals.
Some have erroneously thought that if they saved just enough to attend the Feast, they were fulfilling God's requirement. Again, this is not correct, for God wants us to save a full tithe to "spend on whatever your heart desires . . . before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household" (verse 26).
Also, spending second tithe for any other purpose than for keeping the Feasts is wrong. It actually harms our relationship with our Creator. We destroy character through disobedience and fail to learn the important lessons contained in the saving and use of this second tithe.
John O. Reid
Tithing: God's Financial System
This is the second tithe. This tithe is to be eaten, or consumed, before the LORD. It is not a tithe that goes to the priest, but it is a tithe for the individual's use at God's feasts, although he is not to forget the Levite.
John O. Reid
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 contains the tithing laws. We are to follow His tithing laws and keep His festivals for the same reason: because we are a special, holy people to Him personally. Faithfulness to Him and the covenant is primarily tied to our personal and intimate relationship with Him—and only secondarily to membership in the Israelite nation or the church of God. Trusting Him is the issue.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (vol. 4, p. 863) lists three tithes. It is amazing to see how many commentaries and dictionaries list the same three tithes with regard to Leviticus 27:30-34 and Deuteronomy 14:22-29:
Jewish tradition and some more recent studies (e.g., Landrell, p. 36) have identified two or three different tithes in these passages. (1) A first tithe consisted of the tithe to the Levites. . .; of this, one tenth was passed on to the priest or to the house of God. (2) A second tithe (from the remaining nine tenths) was set apart and eaten by the household, presumably in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 14:22-26 . . .). Those living far from Jerusalem could change the tithe of the land into money . . . [for] food, drink, or oil. . . . Landsell refers to this tithe as the tithe for the sacred celebration. [This is exactly what it is—the tithe for the sacred celebration!] (3) The third tithe, according to Jewish tradition (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews iv.8.22 [240-243]; cf. also Landsell) was the tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28f), which occurred only in the third year. According to some of these possible scenarios, the tithing rate could run as high as thirty percent! (Emphasis added.)
Eerdmans Family Encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 147), under "Tithing":
Each year a tithe (a tenth of one's produce) was given to God for the upkeep of the priests. A second [tithe] was used for a sacrificial meal, in which the worshipper and his family shared at one of the festivals. A third [tithe] was used to help the poor.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ibid.), under "Tithing: Theological Implications":
No institution in Israel, including tithing, existed merely to carry out a political, economic, or humanitarian function. By giving the tithe, the Israelites were declaring solemnly that they were giving a portion back to the Lord who had prospered them (Deuteronomy 26:10-15). By giving the tithe they also recognized the validity of the priests' and Levites' role as God's representatives and acknowledged their right to receive support for the spiritual service they performed on the people's behalf. The tithe ritual afforded the Israelites an opportunity to remember Yahweh's blessings as He had remembered them, and to imitate their God's care for slaves, the poor, orphans, and widows. The tithe demanded that the Israelites serve their God at a significant cost to themselves. In this amazing system of tithing, Israel's economics became a channel for expressing love to God and love to neighbors the heart of the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Leviticus 19:18).
What are the greatest commandments of the law in Matthew 22:36-40? They are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says that on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. This is what God's tithing law is to do.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia adds: "[T]ithing helped to set Israel apart as Yahweh's people and His alone, a people holy to Him." This is because of their obedience to God. Of course, we know that other signs identifying God's people are keeping God's Sabbath, obeying the laws of clean and unclean meats, keeping the holy days—these are, along with simply obeying God in all He tells us to do, true signs of God's people.
John O. Reid
What Is Second Tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)?
The second tithe is an additional tithe of one's income saved by the individual each year for use in observing God's holy days. Instruction concerning this tithe is found in Deuteronomy 14:22-26:
You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat [of the tithe] before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstlings of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God choses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
God's holy days are outlined in Leviticus 23. The modern church of God observes these feast days somewhat differently than the ancient Israelites kept them because additional meaning has been revealed through the New Testament. For instance, the Israelite economy was primarily agrarian, so tithes often took the form of food: grain, wine, oil, sheep, oxen, etc. Today, most people are paid a salary, and their tithes are in the form of currency. Another difference is the emphasis on spiritual "feasting" (that is, biblical instruction) rather than food and drink. Nevertheless, physical feasting on the holy days is not left out!
The Feast of Tabernacles is held in the fall for eight days at various locations throughout the United States and around the world. This is the one Festival during which the whole church comes together to worship and rejoice before God. The other annual holy days are observed in the local church areas. Most people save the majority of their second tithe to cover their expenses while attending this festival.
Brethren who have more second tithe than they will use for their own expenses at the feasts may wish to give the excess to others who are in need. Or, they may send it to the church office for distribution (it should be clearly labeled as second tithe so that it will be used as intended).
Tithing: God's Financial System
Tithing: Second Tithe
Ending Your Financial Worries
Common Tithing Questions
Are the Sabbath and Holy Days Done Away?
God's Way of Give at the Feast of Tabernacles
Why We Tithe (Part 1)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Deuteronomy 14:22: