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The next time we find the Hebrew word ma'aser in Scripture involves another Patriarch: Ya'akov. He also tithed before the giving of the Law; however, his story is not recounted as frequently as Avram's. Genesis Chapter 28 provides us with the record of his tithe.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If G-d will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my G-d. "This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be G-d's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You." (Genesis 28:20-22)


To paraphrase what Ya'akov is saying with particular emphasis: he is telling G-d "IF You will be with me and IF You will keep me and IF You will give me food and IF You will give me garments and IF I return to my father's house in safety THEN You will be my G-d ... and... I will surely give a tenth to You".

Ya'akov makes a conditional promise to tithe IF G-d does five things for him. Notice this is a voluntary act binding only upon Ya'akov. He had not left the land of his forefathers yet, nor married, nor had any children. This promise was his alone. G-d did not command Ya'akov to make this agreement. Even so, Ya'akov was committed to tithe because G-d met his conditions.

Although Scripture is silent on the topic, Ya'akov very likely honored his word and tithed as he pledged to do. However, we are left with additional questions if we consider these verses in a practical manner: where does Ya'akov take his tithes?  There is no mention of Melchizedek (to whom Avram tithed).  There is no storehouse, no Temple, and no priesthood to receive his gift.  Although there is no specific Scriptural mention of the manner in which Ya'akov tithed, here are a few of the possible ways he did it:

  • A burnt offering - offerings dedicated to the Lord and completely destroyed by fire (as in Leviticus 1:9)
  • Eating and rejoicing before the Lord (as in Deuteronomy 12:6-7)
  • Giving to the foreigners, orphans, and widows (as per Deuteronomy 14:28-29)

Let's summarize-

Ya'akov's tenth was:

  • Taken from his personal belongings
  • Given in an undefined and unexplained manner
  • Not commanded but a freewill offering
  • Possibly an ongoing act since G-d's provision to Ya'akov was continuing


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Yom Sheni, 24 Adar I, 5784

Monday, March 04, 2024


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