Seventh-Day Adventists/2 Chronicles 31 and Tithing
You say in your last post on tithing that the Israelites didn't bring the whole tithe to the temple. Yet all Israel did bring tithe to the temple in 2 Chronicles 31. Please look at this passage and let me know what you think.
Dear Sister Sarah:
Before I deal with the text a little background may be helpful. Israel had suffered through a long period of being ruled by foreign nations and being ruled by bad kings. The king just before the reforming Hezekiah was Ahaz.
"Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and also made idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree" (2 Chronicles 28:1-4 NIV).
Ahaz even completely closed down the temple. "Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and cut them in pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 28:24 NIV). It was under these awful conditions the Hezekiah succeeded his evil father Ahaz (cf. 2 Chronicles 28:27). He was very unlike his father and began very quickly to reverse the abominations of his father.
"In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east. He said to them, 'Listen to me, Levites! Sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and carry out the filth from the holy place'" (2 Chronicles 29:3-5 NRSV).
So as we look at the events of 2 Chronicles 31 let's keep in mind that God's people had been through an extended period of time when the Torah was not taught, false gods had been worshipped, and the temple services had ceased. With that before him, the righteous Hezekiah in attempting to reverse these egregious errors may not get everything right as we shall see.
The reforms of King Hezekiah proceeded along quickly. Once he had the temple purified and services reestablished he called the inhabitants of Jerusalem together to speak to them as recorded in 2 Chronicles 31:4-5.
"He commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, so that they might devote themselves to the law of the Lord. As soon as the word spread, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything" (NRSV).
If the people did bring the tithe directly to the storehouse of the temple then they were correct in following the king's command, but King Hezekiah was wrong in issuing such a command. It does appear from the text that the people did bring the whole tithe directly to the temple storehouse. However, notice that the people were obeying a command from the king not from God. God's way for the tithe was for all Israelite farmers and those with herds or flocks on the Promised Land to give a tithe directly to the Levites and then the Levites were to give a tithe of that tithe directly to the storehouse of the temple for the priests.
"Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord" (Leviticus 27:30-32 NASB).
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest'" (Numbers 18:25-28 NASB).
The people were supposed to only bring free-will, first fruits, and first born offerings directly to the temple never tithes.
"We obligate ourselves to bring the first fruits of our soil and the first fruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our livestock, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks; and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our soil, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our rural towns. And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and where the priests that minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers are. We will not neglect the house of our God" (Nehemiah 10:35-39 NRSV).
Therefore, if the people did bring their whole tithe to the temple storehouse it was an aberration. Perhaps due to tithing having been neglected for so long the details of the Law had been forgotten. For whatever reason, Hezekiah commanding the people to bring the whole tithe to the temple was wrong. It was not the way God had set forth in His Law as noted above.
You stated that all Israel did bring tithes to the temple. This is not so. It was only those living in Jerusalem that were commanded to bring tithes to the temple. "He commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, so that they might devote themselves to the law of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 31:4 NRSV). Some of the surrounding cities upon hearing of the king's command to Jerusalem's population, in their zeal for God & His Law also brought in tithes. "The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been consecrated to the Lord their God, and laid them in heaps" (2 Chronicles 31:6 NRSV). It appears that although the tithes had been incorrectly brought to Jerusalem that they were distributed correctly to the Levitical cities.
"Kore son of Imnah the Levite, keeper of the east gate, was in charge of the freewill offerings to God, to apportion the contribution reserved for the Lord and the most holy offerings. Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah were faithfully assisting him in the cities of the priests, to distribute the portions to their kindred, old and young alike, by divisions, except those enrolled by genealogy, males from three years old and upwards, all who entered the house of the Lord as the duty of each day required, for their service according to their offices, by their divisions. The enrollment of the priests was according to their ancestral houses; that of the Levites from twenty years old and upwards was according to their offices, by their divisions. The priests were enrolled with all their little children, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, the whole multitude; for they were faithful in keeping themselves holy. And for the descendants of Aaron, the priests, who were in the fields of common land belonging to their towns, town by town, the people designated by name were to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to everyone among the Levites who was enrolled" (2 Chronicles 31:14-19 NRSV).
In conclusion, probably due to the neglect of the Law King Hezekiah did err in having the people bring the tithes directly to the temple. His reinstituting temple services, tithing, and distributing the tithes to the Levitical cities was correct. His having the tithes brought to the temple was incorrect. However, he may have felt it necessary due to how long the Law had been neglected.
Let's review the biblical tithe. It was an Old Covenant law. Israelite farmers, and those with herds or flocks on the Promised Land gave a tithe to the Levites who had no land inheritance. The Levites in turn gave a tithe of the tithe they received to the priests.
“To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting... Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest" (Numbers 18:21, 25-28 NASB).
The temple was never meant to hold all the tithes of Israel. It was only meant to hold a tenth of the tithes of all Israel. The remainder of the tithes went to the Levitical cities where the majority of the Levites lived. The biblical tithing system does not and cannot apply to the Church. One must completely ignore the biblical tithing requirements in order to apply it to the Church today.
Thank you for bringing up this interesting passage for our review.
Two resources very helpful to me in my personal study of tithing that may be helpful to others are
1. Dr. Russell Kelly's book "Should the Church Teach Tithing?". This book and the website of Dr Kelly are highly recommended. Http://tithing-russkelly.com/
. His book is online and may be purchase by going to the website or Amazon.com. He also has another book "Exposing Seventh-day Adventism". Dr. Kelly's website is a must for all who wish to research the tithing issue.
2. Provident Planning. The website is http//www.providentplan.com. This site contains valuable info on Christian giving.
Please check out these resources for more info on tithing and the Christian.
God Bless You,