Friday, November 18, 2011

Was Money Used Before Tithing Became a Law in Israel?

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about tithing in the Old Testament. I explained that tithing was always food to be consumed before the LORD, during a time of celebration known as the Harvest each year. My friend quickly interjected and said, "They tithed 'food' because they didn't use or have money back then!" I had to break it to her that the use of money was indeed, commonplace in the civilized ancient world. As I was pondering what she said, I thought, "I wonder how many other people don't know that the use of money was widespread way back then?" So, thanks to my friend, I have a new topic to pick at. 

Let us investigate this matter in Scripture a little closer. The first time 'money' is mentioned in the Bible shows up in Genesis 17:12. Here the LORD appears unto Abram when he was ninety nine years old and tells him that he will be the father of many nations, etc,...In verse 11 God reveals to Abe what circumcision is all about. Verse 12 reads, "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed."

Now, this happened two chapters after an event called, "the Slaughter of the kings", where, after this event, Abram met the king/priest of Salem, Melchizedek and gave him tithes of all of the spoils. These spoils could have been anything; even money and treasures. The Probability that these spoils could have included money is no evidence that the Hebrew law on tithing, given by God to Moses some 400 years later, was money. God made it perfectly clear that the tithe was to be "consumed before the LORD" and it was from the 'seed' of the ground or livestock (Deuteronomy 14:22-26). 

If the tithe was from the 'seed' then we have all of the evidence that we will ever need that the tithe was never money. Why? Because money doesn't grow on trees! Seeds are living, and organic. Money is not alive. If it is not alive, we can't grow it. If it's not grown, we don't eat it. It can't be consumed before God in the way God wished the tithe to be eaten. If the tithe were money, and He commanded everyone to "consume" the tithe in silver or gold, then He'd have a whole lot of sick people on His hands! How many times have you seen or heard of a little child swallow a coin? What's the first thing we do as parents? If it's our first born, we panic! If you're an experienced parent, you take it in stride; but we know coins do not belong in the belly of people. 

In an earlier lesson entitled, 'Was the Tithe Ever Money?' I pointed out that the only time money was used, in any remote way regarding the tithe, is when the tithe was too large to travel with to a far community God ordered the tithe to be celebrated in. At that time, the tither would sell all or a portion of his tithe (produce, oil, grains, etc) and convert it into money. He would then carry that money with him (vs 25) and when he arrived in the town to celebrate the tithe, he had to spend all of that money on whatsoever he desired and consume it there, with his family and guests before the LORD (vs 26). The real point if this is, money was used during the time of the inception of the law. The use of money was already well established before then. But there's more!

Money was also used to redeem firstborn male children and unclean, firstling beasts every year. Numbers 18:15-16 tells us that the amount of five shekels was to be used to redeem these firstborn (vs 16). To "redeem" a firstborn Hebrew male each year was a 'token', not a tithe. A shekel was also called, twenty gerahs (vs 16). A shekel was a stamped ingot of silver of a certain weight and measure. It was intrinsic money that had actual worth. It was spent easily because it was extremely light weight and easy to carry. It was the 'Dollar' of that day. But make no mistake. It was currency used in commerce.

Numbers 18 was written before the book of Deuteronomy, and it clearly shows God specifically chose the sons of Aaron to be separated from the rest of the tribes to become priests and servants to the tabernacle. Along with that was the command to receive tithes of Israel, food to be consumed and sacrificed. They were to get the best of the best. That's what a "heave offering" was: the best thereof. But it wasn't the best of the 'money'. Let's face it, one shekel is just as good as the next.

There are several other references to the use of money before the tithe became a law for Israel. In Genesis 13:2, Abraham was rich "in cattle, in silver, and in gold." When circumcision was introduced for Abraham, God sighted servants purchased with silver money in Genesis 17:12,13, 23 & 27. A king named Abimelech gave Abraham "a thousand pieces of silver " to recompense him for taking Sarah from him in Genesis 20:16. Abraham looked to buy a burial cave for Sarah when she died "for as much [silver] money as it is worth."- Genesis 23:9 and eventually paid "400 shekels of silver" in Genesis 23:15-16. If you think about it, Abraham was using a shekel way before Jacob (Israel) was even born! In other words, the shekel pre-dates the nation of Israel altogether. Actually, the word 'shekel' shows up twenty-seven times in the first five books of the Law alone. The word 'shekels' makes an appearance forty-nine times in the Law. To say that money wasn't used for the tithe because it didn't exist at the time of the Law, is a contradiction in the most elementary sense. That argument carries only the weight of how much egg a person can carry on his or her face when they spew such nonsense.

Other pre-law references to the wide use of money are found in Genesis 24:35; 24:53; 31:15; 33:19; 37:28; 42:25; 44:8; 45:22; and even Joseph relieved the hunger of Egypt during the famine by using a barter system because "the money failed" in Genesis 47. These are only references from the book of Genesis! Throughout their history Israel used money as a form of exchange. Even in the New Testament the Jews still tithed of only crops and agricultural Products.1 Money was never used for the tithe except when the size of the load made it impossible to transport the tithe to a far away festival site.

Also, it might interest us to know that money goes back even farther in history. Pre-Flood history! Job is a book in the Bible that is widely regarded as a book written before the Great Flood of Noah's day. Job 31:39a says, "I have eaten the fruits thereof without money,..." Job 42:11b attests, "...:every man also gave him (Job) a piece of money, and everyone an earring of gold." So, from the evidence recorded in Scripture, we can clearly see that money was a part of the culture of that day, and the days before. The law on tithing, for the Israeli, was meant to be "consumed" before the LORD. In other words, it was food. The Hebrews did not eat money! But, money was in wide circulation even back then.

My last question should say it all about today's tithing practice. If money was in use, even before tithing became a law in Israel, then why didn't the Hebrew tithe money then like so many Christians in 'Church' do today?

1 'Freedom To Give~The Biblical Truth About Tithing' by Daniel Mynyk

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