The Confusion of the Tithe and the Firstfruits
by Don Costello 4/30/2008 / Bible Studies
1. Harper's Bible Commentary, p.230. Deuteronomy 26: "In the context of Deuteronomy, these firstfruits must be taken to be the same as the annual tithe (Deuteronomy 12:17-18; 14:22-27) brought to the central sanctuary and enjoyed by all."
2. Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, p273, Deuteronomy 26: "The relation between this offering and that of tithes is not clear; the fact that verses 1-11, like the law on tithes (14:22), is followed by the requirements for the triennial tithes (compare Deuteronomy 26:12-15 with 14:28), suggest a connection."
3. Collegeville Bible Commentary, p223, Deuteronomy 26: "Verses 1-11 deal with the annual tithe of agricultural products made by the grateful Israelite".
4. John Avanzini, "Financing the End Time Harvest, God's Way", p.102: Many people will pay all of their bills, and then, after all of the bills are distributed, they will tithe to God out of the remaining money. That may be a common practice, but child of God, it is not what the Bible teaches in Deuteronomy 26:2, 10, 12aThe process of bringing the First Fruits (before the bills) to God is called the tithe."
A. Scripture clearly teaches that the tithe and the firstfruits were two completely different offerings. In the section A2, above, the passage Numbers 18:21-24 determines the destination of the tithe as the Levites. The passages below will deal with the firstfruits. The first passage listed is Numbers 18:8-19 where the LORD determines the destination of the offering of the Firstfruits, which went to the priesthood. The second passage listed is Deuteronomy 26:1-11, that determines how they were to offer the firstfruits.
1. Numbers 18:8-19 "And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.
This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, and every meat offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and thy sons.
In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.
And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them to unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.
All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THEM WHICH THEY SHALL OFFER UNTO THE LORD, THEM HAVE I GIVEN THEE.
And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it.
Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.
Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man, shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.
And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.
But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for a offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.
All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee."
a. Notice carefully that the firstfruits were to go to the priesthood, but the tithe is not in the list.
2. Deuteronomy 26:1-11 "And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein;
That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there.
And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto the LORD they God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us.
And the priest shall take the basket out of thine and, an set it down before the altar of the of thy God.
And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage.
And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression:
And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt sset it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God:
And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you."
a. The first reason to believe this passage is specifically referring to the firstfruits, is because two verses specifically mention the firstfruits. Verse 2 says, "thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit", and verse 10 says, "And now, behold I have brought the firstfruits of the land"
b. The second reason is the destination of the offering: In verse 3 it says, "Thou shalt go unto the priest" Verse 4 says, "the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand"
d. It is very clear from the passages above that because the tithe goes to the Levite and the firstfruits go to the priesthood, that they are two separate offerings.
B. Another witness to the different regulations regarding the tithe and the firstfruits is given in Nehemiah 10:35-37. And in agreement with the passages in Numbers, the following witness says the tithe went to the Levites and the firstfruits were to go the the priesthood.
1. Nehemiah 10:35-37 "And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruit of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD:
Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage."
C. Many of the topics, persons and institutions of the Old Covenant as important as they were then and are now, are merely shadows of not only the New Covenant but also the millennial reign of Jesus Christ and beyond.
1. Hebrews 10:1 "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things,"
2. Colossians 2:16,17 "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:
Which are a shodow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
a. The Temple in Jerusalem was ordained by God to be the center piece of Jewish worship: Deuteronomy 12:5. Yet it was a shadow of Jesus and us.: 1 Corinthians 3:16.
b. The Priesthood of the Old Covenant was a shadow of the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ Hebrews 3:1; and the universal priesthood of the New Testament believer: 1 Peter 2:5.
3. Likewise, the firstfruits of the Old Covenant were shadows of images in the New Covenant.
a. The firstfruits of the Spirit: Romans 8:29
b. The first people saved in an area: Romans 16:5.
c. "Christ the firstfruits" referring to the order of his resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:23.
d. "The firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb", in Revelation 14:4, refer to the 144,000 of Revelation 14:1.
e. In James 1:18 it says, speaking of us, that "we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
D. Conclusion: Scripture is clear. The tithe went to the Levites, and the firstfruits went to the priests. Deuteronomy 26:1-11 does not refer to the Old Covenant practice of tithing. It is referring to the Old Covenant practice of offering the firstfruits. To say that it is about tithing is sloppy scholarship.
1. Kenneth E. Hagin, in his book, The Midas Touch, A Balanced Approach to Biblical Prosperity, said this about the firstfruits. "Making a New Testament application of Old Testament technicalities violates every principle of Bible interpretation, especially when there isn't a single New Testament usage of the word "firstfruits" in the context in which it is being preached by some ministers. The concept of firstfruits is not used in the New Testament in reference to financial giving. There is not even the vaguest hint of it by any New Testament writer in reference to money or the support of ministers."
My name is Don Costello. Ever since I received Christ in November of 1976 I have had a passion to study and know God's word.My wife Melissa and I have 5 children.