Spend Tithes on Self?

tithes-1

Q. Deut 14 says: “Eat the tithe of your grain (v 23) … Use the silver to buy whatever you like, … or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice (v 26).” Why does it asks us to enjoy ourselves with the tithes which are for God?

A. Some readers might be confused by two phrases in this passage – buy whatever you like, anything you wish. To understand what it really said we have to first look at the text, which I copied from NASB & pasted below in italics, with brief comments:

Deut 14:22-29
22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.

• Tithe = 1/10; all the produce i.e. income in an agricultural society, not principal
23 You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
• As in the case of fellowship offerings (Lev 3, 7:11-21), the offerer eats a communal meal when he brings his tithes. The rest of the tithes belong to the Levites. The purpose is that the Israelites learn everything comes from God, & also to provide for the Levites who serve God & do not receive land as an inheritance.
24 If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you,
25 then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.

• Because of God’s care for the Israelites, He provided a temporary exchange for their convenience, in order that they don’t have to carry produce or live stock over long distances, because travel was typically on foot in those days.
26 You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
• Upon arrival at Jerusalem, the offerer may buy whatever he desires to offer, including produce or live stock, or donate the money as is, out of which he enjoys a communal meal with his family, and gives the rest to God.
27 Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.
• The tithes are provisions for the Levites.
28 At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town.
29 The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

• Every third year the beneficiaries of the tithe extend beyond the Levites to the foreigners & the poor. Other commentators believe it’s an additional tithe, not just dividing the one tithe over more recipients. I myself hold this view.

These instructions are actually already given in the preceding context, Deut 12:5-7, 11-12, & 17-19:
5 But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.
6 There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.

• The Israelites are to seek God at the place God chooses i.e. Jerusalem, not any place they choose & bring their offerings & tithes there.
7 There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.
• The offerer’s family shares in a communal meal.
11 then it shall come about that the place in which the LORD your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the LORD.
12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.

The offerer’s household enjoys a meal as the tithes are offered, which will be used to provide for the Levites who have no inheritance like other tribes.
17 You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand.
18 But you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all your undertakings.
19 Be careful that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land.

The communal meal is to include the whole household and the Levites.

So Deut 12 and 14 are consistent. The exchange into money is only for the offerers’ convenience to easily carry while traveling to Jerusalem, not to spend it all on themselves. They only share in a fellowship meal, not the entire tithe which are for the Levites’ maintenance.

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Was Uzzah’s Punishment too Harsh? (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

Now let’s return to Uzzah’s case. Who carried the ark, and how?
2 Sam 6:2-3 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim. They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart.

Some assumed that Uzzah was a Levite, based on Josephus (Ant. 6.1, section 4), but the Bible does not state this explicitly. There is no biblical genealogy to prove this. He lived in Baale-judah, another name for Kiriath-jearim (see NASB footnote), also called Baalah (Josh 15:9, 1 Chron 13:6):
1 Chron 13:6 David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim, which belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, the LORD who is enthroned above the cherubim, where His name is called.
Kiriath-jearim was in Judah (Judg 18:12, 1 Chron 13:6), but was not one of the 23 cities (Josh 21:4-5) given to the Kohathites by the other tribes (Josh 21:9-26; 1 Chron 6:54-61, 66-70). It is possible that Uzzah was a Kohathite not living in a city given to them, but there is no evidence to support this claim. If he was not a Kohathite at all, then he had no business escorting the ark.

Furthermore, they placed the ark on a new cart drawn by oxen, which is definitely against God’s instructions. God’s work must be done God’s way.
1 Chron 13:7, 9-10 They carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. … When they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, because the oxen nearly upset it. The anger of the LORD burned against Uzza, so He struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.

Some believe that Uzzah (Uzza) reached out his hand to steady the ark as a natural reflex, but that’s an assumption, eisegesis and not exegesis. The text said God struck him down for his irreverence (2 Sam 6:7). A more likely explanation is that the ark remained at Abinadab’s house for twenty years, and familiarity breeds contempt:

1 Sam 7:1-2 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the ark of the LORD and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

Uzzah no longer considered the ark as the most holy object, and treated it as common. The ark was only nearly upset. Uzzah probably thought if it fell, it might be damaged or soiled by the ground, but did not realize the hand of a disrespectful sinner was more defiling than the dirt, and God struck him down for his irreverence. This punishment was clearly spelled out and had overwhelming precedents. He had no one to blame but himself.

One last point is the distinction between justice and mercy. God was just in punishing Uzzah for what he deserved. The punishment fits the crime. We don’t know Uzzah’s heart, expected God to show mercy, and are dismayed when He did not. But mercy is always voluntary and cannot be expected:
Rom 9:15 I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.
God saw Uzzah’s heart and judged it to be irreverence. He had not treated God as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel (Num 21:12), therefore God gave him justice. Never complain to God “that’s not fair! I want justice!” If God had dealt justly with us we would have died many times over, because the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Beg for His mercy, which we don’t deserve. Never stand in judgment of God.

Was Uzzah’s Punishment too Harsh? (1 of 2)

Uzzah 11

Q. Was God’s punishment of Uzzah too severe for the crime?

A. Uzzah’s incident is in 2 Sam 6:6-7:

But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

Some felt this was grossly unfair. The oxen nearly upset the ark of the covenant and Uzzah out of the goodness of his heart tried to steady it, yet God immediately struck him dead. Didn’t God over-react? What’s the big deal? He was only trying to help. Why kill a man for such a small thing? Before you decide a case based on your feelings, let’s review what the law says.

First, who should carry the ark?
Deut 10:8 At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day.
• Num 4:4 This is the work of the descendants of Kohath in the tent of meeting, concerning the most holy things.
• Num 4:15 When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they will not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.
• Num 4:18-20 Do not let the tribe of the families of the Kohathites be cut off from among the Levites. But do this to them that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy objects: Aaron and his sons shall go in and assign each of them to his work and to his load; but they shall not go in to see the holy objects even for a moment, or they will die.

God had chosen the tribe of Levi, in particular the families of Kohathites, to carry the ark of the covenant, the most holy object in the most holy place (holy of holies). No one unauthorized may look at the objects and live.

Second, how should the ark be carried?
Ex 25:14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.
• Ex 37:5 He put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry it.

The ark should be carried by poles through the rings on its sides, on the shoulders of the Kohathites.

Third, are there any precedents of what happens when the rules are violated? Yes:
1 Sam 6:19 He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter.
Beth-shemesh was at the Judah-Philistines border. The men of Beth-shemesh were Israelites. God struck down 50,070 of them for looking into the ark. He meant what He said.

(To be continued)