Richard Agee

Deuteronomy 26: Messianic significance of the third-year tithe

Remember that the number three is a Messianic reference. This third-year tithe is a reference to the Messiah: His sacrifice, God’s acceptance of the Messiah’s sacrifice and, from that point, God will make those who accept the Messiah’s sacrifice into His people.

Speaker’s note: I accidentally skipped Deuteronomy 26.

What does the Bible really say about tithing?

Tithing, or setting aside for God (i.e., giving to a church) a 10th of your income, is becoming a more common fixture in Christian denominations and congregations. However, it is largely misunderstood because a major purpose for the “Old Testament” commandment about tithe is ignored as an obsolete Old Testament teaching. Daniel Agee addresses common questions about tithe by exploring what the Bible actually says about it. [read more]

The chapter starts off telling us that the people of Israel should “go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name” (Deut. 26:2), which is in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). Israel is to set aside these special offerings until the time of one of the pilgrimage appointed times, i.e. Pesakh (Passover), Shavu’ot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles/Booths) (Ex. 23:14–17).

These “first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land” (Deut. 26:2) are not highly perishable produce such as tomatoes or bananas. It refers to grain such as barley, wheat, corn, etc. When the first of these grains come up, you are to store the first basket of it and set them aside until the nearest pilgrimage feast and give it to the Lord.

These commandments were made to the leaders of the tribes, amounting to either 12 or 70 baskets. So the instruction wasn’t for hundreds or thousands or baskets, as though each household had to present a basket of grain to the Lord. 

If the items are perishable, you can sell it and set aside the money instead to present to the Lord at the feast. 

The priests take these baskets and the people were to say to the Lord (Deut. 26:5):

“My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation.” 

Some of the English translations render אֲרַמִּי  ’arammi (Strong’s lexicon No. H761) as “Syrian.” But that is not the core meaning of the word. 

Gen. 25:20; 38:5 give us additional insight into who these people were. Abraham was not an Aramean, but Sarah and Rebecca were. The root meaning of the word is “exalted.” The Bible tells us that God exalted Abraham, Yitzkhak (Isaac) and Ya’akov (Jacob). So when the people are to say that they were the descendants of a “wandering Aramean,” this is not an insult but a complement. 

Since we live in a society that functions on money and not on agriculture, we may misunderstand the application of these tithes and offerings. We may assume these tithe rules all deal with salaries and cash, but that is not what Scripture says. 

The tithes were on a three-year cycle. In the seventh year — the sabbatical year — Israel would have no tithe at all, because the people were not to pick or gather any crops in the seventh year. In the third year of the seven-year cycle, Israel was to share this tithe in their gates with Levites, foreigners, widows and orphans. 

There are different cycles of tithes, although some dispute whether the pattern of the third year was repeated in the sixth year.

It is in the third year that the people would say to the Lord (Deut. 26:13–15):

“I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments. I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. I have listened to the voice of the Lord my God; I have done according to all that You have commanded me. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers.” 

God replied that in that third year (Deut. 26:16–19):

“This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have today declared the Lord to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken.”

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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