A TITHE OF ANIMALS?
It is commonly taught by those discussing the Old Covenant tithing system
that the 12 tribes of Israel also tithed a tenth of their flock and herd.
This confusion has arisen due to the following:
1) 2Chr 31:6; which talks about the 'tithe of oxen and sheep'.
2) Lev 27:32-33; which mentions a 'tithe' or tenth of the herd
and flock being considered holy.
2 CHRONICLES 31:6
2Chr 31:4 Moreover he commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem
to contribute support for the priests and the Levites,
that they might devote themselves to the Law of the LORD.
:5 As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children
of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain
and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the
field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of
:6 And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the
cities of Judah, brought the tithe of oxen and sheep;
also the tithe of holy things which were consecrated
to the LORD their God they laid in heaps.
:7 In the third month they began laying them in heaps, and
they finished in the seventh month.
:8 And when Hezekiah and the leaders came and saw the heaps,
they blessed the LORD and His people Israel.
:9 Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites
concerning the heaps.
When one reads the text of these verses it is quite apparent that neither
live or dead animals would be just placed in a heap. It is also apparent
the context of this text is 'produce of the field', in other words there
is no suggestion animals were being included.
In these verses the reference to 'tithe of oxen and sheep' should actually
read 'tithe of the herd and flock'. The thought being advanced is the tithe
of such products as milk, butter and wool. Products coming from the farmed
animals, which were not the animals themselves.
Some verses which mention these products are:
Deut 18:4 The firstfruits [best fruit] of your grain and your
new wine and your oil, and the first [best] of the
fleece [wool] of your sheep, you shall give him.
Exod 23:19 The first of the firstfruits of your land
you shall bring into the house of the LORD
your God. You shall not boil a young goat
in its mother's milk.
34:26 The first of the firstfruits of your land
you shall bring to the house of the LORD
your God. You shall not boil a young goat
in its mother's milk."
Num 13:27 Then they told him, and said: "We went to the land
where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey,
and this is its fruit.
(Note: 'honey' is mentioned in above in 2Chr 31:5.)
Deut 32:14 Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, ...
1Sam 6:7 Now therefore, make a new cart, take two milk cows
which have never been yoked, ...
Hos 2:9 Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its
time and My new wine in its season, and will take back
My wool and My linen, ...
Lev 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of
the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's.
It is holy to the LORD.
:31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he
shall add one-fifth to it.
:32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of
whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be
holy to the LORD.
:33 He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor
shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all,
then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy;
it shall not be redeemed.
At first this verse seems to be the one verse which clearly confirms the
existence of a tithe of the herd and flock.
It is strange however, that in respect to tithing, the thought 'of your
grain, new wine and oil' is commonly encountered (refer Deut 14:23,
2Chr 31:5, Neh 10:37,39), but only in this verse do we encounter a tithe
of the herd and flock.
The answer lies in the alternate meaning of the
Hebrew for 'rod' (Strong's 7626) which is sometimes
translated 'sceptre', eg Gen 49:10. What Leviticus
27:32 is saying is that when a king ruled over the
children of Israel he would have to 'tithe' upon
the herd and flock he collected through taxation.
We find examples of this occurring in practice:
2Chr 30:24 For Hezekiah king of Judah gave to the assembly
a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep, ...
31:33 The king also appointed a portion of his possessions
for the burnt offerings: for the morning and evening
burnt offerings, the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths
and the New Moons and the set feasts, as it is written
in the Law of the LORD.
35:7 Then Josiah gave the lay people lambs and young goats
from the flock, all for Passover offerings for all who
were present, to the number of thirty thousand, as well
as three thousand cattle; these were from the king's
[ NB: 1) This tithe of animals was received from the king at Passover
and also gradually through the year.
2) Animals were also supplied by the leaders, refer 2Chr 30:24
and 2Chr 35:8. From 2Chr 35:8-9 it is apparent the 'leaders'
mentioned here were those of the priests and Levites. Those
who would have had responsibility over the firstlings! ]
The Law predicted in advance that the children of Israel would request
to have a king over them (refer Deut 17:14-20). God later decreed that
the king would tax them at a rate of 10% (refer 1Sam 8:15-17).
1Sam 8:15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your
vintage, and give it to his officers and
:17 He will take a tenth of your sheep.
From this 10% tax the king was under Leviticus 27:32 required to tithe
10%. Thus one in every hundred new born animals (firstborns excluded)
would be used to meet the offering needs of the tabernacle.
Ezek 45:15 "And one lamb [pushing out horns] shall be given
from a flock [out] of two hundred [horns], from
the rich pastures of Israel. These shall be for
grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace
offerings, to make atonement for them", says the
Since the king also claimed 10% of the produce of the field he was also
required to give to the tabernacle a tithe of this also. By returning 10%
of his tax to the tabernacle for the offerings, the king was effectively
returning back to the people a hundredth of the lands produce.
Neh 5:11 Restore now to them, even this day, their lands,
their vineyards, their olive groves, and their
houses, also a hundredth of the money and the
grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have
charged [lent] them."
Ezek 45:11 The ephah and the bath shall be of the same measure,
so that the bath contains one-tenth of a homer, and
the ephah one-tenth of a homer; their measure shall
be according to the homer.
:13 This is the [heave] offering which you shall offer:
you shall give one-sixth of an ephah from a homer
of wheat, and one-sixth of an ephah from a homer
:14 The ordinance [requirement] concerning oil,
the bath of oil, is one-tenth of a bath from a kor.
A kor is a homer or ten baths, for ten baths are a
(NB: The oil provided by the 'princes of Israel' (verse 9)
was to be 1 part in a hundred, ie 1/10th of a bath
from 10 baths. In respect to the grain the value of
a sixth is not so much a ratio, but a reference to
the 'sixth of an ephah' the prince was to offer every
morning, refer Ezek 46:14.)