A tenth, the proportion of a man's income devoted to sacred purposes from time immemorial, Ge 14:20; 28:22. This was prescribed in the Mosaic law, Nu 31:31. A twofold tithe was required of each Jewish citizen. The first consisted of one-tenth of the produce of his fields, trees, flocks, and herds, to be given to God as the sovereign Proprietor of all things and as the king of the Jews, Le 27:30-32; 1Sa 8:15,17. The proceeds of this tax were devoted to the maintenance of the Levites in their respective cities, Nu 18:21-24. A person might pay this tax in money, adding one-fifth to its estimated value. The Levites paid a tenth part of what they received to the priests, Nu 18:26-28. The second tithe required of each landholder was one-tenth of the nine parts of his produce remaining after the first tithe, to be expended at the tabernacle or temple in entertaining the Levites, his own family, etc., changing it first into money, if on account of his remoteness he chose to do so, De 12:17-19,22-29; 14:22-27. Every third year a special provision was made for the poor, either out of this second tithe or in addition to it, De 14:28-29. These tithes were not burdensome; but the pious Israelite found himself the richer for their payment, though it does not seem to have been enforced by any legal penalties. The system of tithes was renewed both before and after the captivity, 2Ch 31:5-6,12; Ne 10:37; 12:44; 13:5; but they were not always regularly paid, and hence the divine blessing was withheld, Mal 3:8-12. The Pharisees were scrupulously exemplary in paying their tithes, but neglected the more important duties of love to God and man, Mt 23:23.
The principle of the ancient tithes, namely, that ministers of the gospel and objects of benevolence should be provided for by the whole people of God, according to their means, is fully recognized in Scripture as applicable to the followers of Christ. He sent his servants forth, two and two, without provisions or purses, to receive their support from the people, since "the laborer is worthy of his hire," Mt 10:9-14; Lu 10:4-8,16. Paul also reasons in the same way, 1Co 9:13-14; Ga 6:6. For purpose of piety and beneficence, he directed the Corinthians, and virtually all Christians, to lay aside from their income, on the first day of the week, as the Lord had prospered them, 1Co 16:2. There is no reason to doubt that the early Christians gave more freely of their substance than did the ancient Jews, Ac 4:34-36; 2Co 8:1-4.
a tenth of the produce of the earth consecrated and set apart for special purposes. The dedication of a tenth to God was recognized as a duty before the time of Moses. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Ge 14:20; Heb 7:6); and Jacob vowed unto the Lord and said, "Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee."
The first Mosaic law on this subject is recorded in Le 27:30-32. Subsequent legislation regulated the destination of the tithes (Nu 18:21-24,26-28; De 12:5-6,11,17; 14:22-23). The paying of the tithes was an important part of the Jewish religious worship. In the days of Hezekiah one of the first results of the reformation of religion was the eagerness with which the people brought in their tithes (2Ch 31:5-6). The neglect of this duty was sternly rebuked by the prophets (Am 4:4; Mal 3:8-10). It cannot be affirmed that the Old Testament law of tithes is binding on the Christian Church, nevertheless the principle of this law remains, and is incorporated in the gospel (1Co 9:13-14); and if, as is the case, the motive that ought to prompt to liberality in the cause of religion and of the service of God be greater now than in Old Testament times, then Christians outght to go beyond the ancient Hebrew in consecrating both themselves and their substance to God.
Every Jew was required by the Levitical law to pay three tithes of his property (1) one tithe for the Levites; (2) one for the use of the temple and the great feasts; and (3) one for the poor of the land.