When Did Tithing Begin?
While we see detailed instructions on tithing introduced after the covenant was established with Israel, we should not assume this was when tithing began. Both Cain and Abel felt compelled to return a portion of what God had given them. We read:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door . . . (Gen. 4:3–7).
Why was God displeased with Cain? For one thing Cain and Abel did not originate the idea of giving to God. Cain was faulted by God for what he failed to give. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). There is no sin without law (Rom. 4:15; 3:20; 5:13). Cain had violated a law God had set in motion at the very beginning. Cain was guilty of sin. The time for giving to God followed the harvest season. At this time tithes were given, with offerings as an added gift. Did Cain bring what was required? The Septuagint translates verse seven as, "Hast thou not sinned if thou hast brought it rightly, but not rightly divided. . . ?" What the Septuagint points out is that Cain failed to rightly divide his produce. But how? The Bible does not say. We can only conclude that he withheld a portion of what was due God either in tithes or in first fruits. What is clear is that the sin occurred because Cain did not give God what was required. Genesis 4:7 implies that a tithing law was set in motion at the time man was created. We know from both the examples of Abraham and Jacob that tithing did not begin with Moses on Mount Sinai. Paul mentions Cain's sin in Hebrews 11:4. He said Abel gave a more "excellent" sacrifice than Cain. The word "excellent" means "abundant," that is, greater in quantity proportionally than Cain. What is clearly inferred is that Cain sinned when he held back a portion of what was due God. He did not rightly divide his increase. The Bible warns us about the "way of Cain" (Jude 11).
Next: Abraham's Example
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