Article Index

 

Discussions about tithing frequently include a focus on Malachi 3.  Let's take a look at that chapter but before we do, here is a bit of historical background on Malachi:

Malachi was a prophet who lived in the fifth century BCE. By this time the Jews had become disillusioned and apathetic [after their return to the Land of Israel from their captivity in Babylon]. Things were not as good as they had hoped. Drought and crop failures along with opposition from various enemies had made life difficult. They were neglecting the things of G-d and offering imperfect sacrifices as well as failing to give their tithes. The priests were lax and did not encourage them. Mixed marriages and divorce had become common.1

 

Those who require tithing today often try to use Malachi 3:8-10 to justify their position:

"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." (Malachi 3:8-10)

 

However, those few verses do not convey the clear meaning of this passage.  Let's get some context by starting at the beginning of the chapter:

"Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the Lord of hosts. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me," says the Lord of hosts. "For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

"From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the Lord of hosts. "But you say, 'How shall we return?' 

Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." (Malachi 3:1-10)

 

Now, let's answer some questions:

  • To whom is G-d speaking?
    • (verse 6) The descendants of Jacob: Israel. Those who are in covenant relationship with Him

  • Of what were they robbing G-d?
    • (verse 8) Tithes and offerings... i.e. the produce of the land... grain, fruit, and cattle

  • When was this happening?
    • Circa 450 BCE after to the Babylonian captivity

  • Where was this occurring?
    • In the Land of Israel

  • Why was this happening?
    • Israel had been unfaithful to the covenant through which they had been "wed" to the Lord (see Jeremiah 31:32).


These verses paint a picture for us: Israel has been unfaithful in her relationship with her "husband", the Lord.  He is patient and does not vent his anger but seeks only justice (verse 5).  G-d desires that they repent and return to Him (verse 7).  He even tells his wayward bride how she can return: honor the covenant between them including the tithe (verse 10) so that "offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years" (verse 4).

What made the offerings from previous years acceptable? Israel made them according to the instructions in the Law of Moshe. If Israel returns to faithfully living within the context of covenant relationship defined by G-d, then He will open "the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."

There is not a single word in Scripture that is unimportant or carelessly used.  One word that jumps out from this passage is in verse 10: now. G-d tells Israel through the prophet Malachi to take action "now."  That "now" was in the 5th century BCE.

Does this passage apply to anyone in the 21st century? If so, how does it apply? Can we return to the covenant and tithe to G-d and receive the blessings He promises? We examine the covenants of Scripture in a separate series of articles. For now, let it suffice to say that without a physical Temple and a Levitical priesthood serving in the Temple there is no need for the first tithe.

Have pastors, priests, or ministers taken the place of the Levitical priesthood in today's world?  Are they entitled to receive a tithe?  There is no Scriptural basis for such a claim.  In fact, Revelation 1:6 and Revelation 5:10 tell us that all believers are made into a kingdom of priests.  If so, then are all believers owed a tithe from one another? Such a claim appears to be (at best) speculation and (at worst) heresy.

As long as there are widows and orphans, however, there will always be a need to provide for them.

Let's continue with the remainder of Scripture and what it tells us.

 

Footnotes

1. The Prophets of Israel and Judah at http://www.bible-history.com/resource/r_proph.htm [back]

Torah Portion

unknown.

 

 

or view this week's triennial cycle reading.

Today is

Yom Rishon, 21 Tishrei, 5780 - Hoshana Rabbah

Sunday, October 20, 2019

 

Learn more about this date in history.