Deuteronomy 14: On Tithing, Levites, and the Poor

Rather than bore you with some more information about what you can and cannot eat, I’d like to jump into the second half of Deuteronomy 14 because it was decidedly un-boring.

I’m telling you all, if you can plow through the slower parts of the Bible, you will find gold. GOLD!!!


In chapter 14, Moses commands the Israelites to set aside a tithe, 10% of their crops, each year. Now, I was expecting an offering of some kind. I thought Moses was going to say, “Bring the tithe to the place he will choose as a dwelling for his name and offer it as a burnt offering, an odor pleasing to the LORD.”

And that would have been a good guess. But it would be wrong.

Do you know what they are supposed to do with their tithe?

Eat it.

So you set aside 10% to . . . eat. Ok . . .

But you can’t eat it just anywhere, no. You must eat it wherever God chooses to dwell. Wherever the Tabernacle finally settles. If you live far away, you make a pilgrimage to that place so you can eat your food.

And if you are too far to carry your food, you can sell your food for money, then come to God’s dwelling place, buy some more food, and eat it.

You just eat it in the presence of God.

I would never have guessed that!

Bon Appetite!

Levites and the Poor

But every three years, you bring your tithe to the storehouse of your town. That way, the Levites, who have no land of their own with which to grow food, can eat.

But they are not the only ones sticking their hands in the cookie jar.

Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.

Resident aliens, widows, and orphans.

These are the people that, by law, are to be fed by the Israelites. Laws requiring people to sacrifice on behalf of the poor and marginalized in society. This goes way beyond personal charity. This is the law, dawg.

So there’s that. And . . .

The Levites are a part of that group. They are part of a group of people who need to be fed. At the dinner table, there is no difference between Levites, foreigners, widows, and orphans.

This is very important.

Levites are the priestly class. They take care of the Tabernacle. If there is one tribe that is “closest to God,” whatever that means, it is them.

And God wants them to associate with the poor.

God’s people take care of the poor. If they don’t eat with them, then they sacrifice their own food to feed them.

There aren’t any other options.

5 responses

  1. Kind of blows some holes in what I have heard most of my life that the Church is supposed to do with the tithe (if Christians are supposed to tithe to their local church). I have heard that we should tithe just like they did in the OT.

  2. Let’s apply this to our current political climate, shall we? What are the implications with regards to, say, illegal immigrants? I’m usually politically conservative, but I believe there are higher laws regarding compassion, basic human dignity, etc. that come into play. Such as “If you’ve done into the least of these, my brethren, you’ve done it unto me.” Let “Caesar” worry about defending the border; my job is to render aid, offer that cup of water, show the love of Jesus.

    • Working with college students, I have recently become aware of issues surrounding undocumented students. And I feel super convicted that the levites identified with the poor. I think it is time to make some adjustments with who I hang out with.

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