The Second Tithe

The concept of stewardship began at Eden where God defined the responsibility for human beings by using the Hebrew word radah (Gen. 1:26-30). This Word, translated as dominion, means to take

care of, to direct, to manage. In the New Testament, the Greek word that describes similar responsibility for some to direct, manage or be in charge of the house of his master is oikonomía.

Israel’s system of tithes and offerings designed by God included three components: the first and second tithe and the offerings. The first tithe was to be used for

the maintenance of the Levites and was administered by the Levites. The second

tithe was intended to support the annual feasts and personal charity and was

administered by the Hebrew family.

Third, the offerings were part of the worship and support of the

operation of the sanctuary. When the people of Israel gathered at Mount

Sinai to receive instructions regarding

civil, social, economic and religious issues, unlike today, there was no

social security system.

Such laws applied to the first six years of the seven-year cycle during which crops were grown…”

Geoffrey Wigoder, editor, The Encyclopedia of Judaism, p.707

The destruction of the temple

in Jerusalem by the Roman imperial army during the Christian era, affected the

religious practices of Judaism. Prior to the destruction of the temple, the

Jewish people dedicated a first tithe for the support of the Levites (Lev.

27:30-34; Num. 18:19-28). They also dedicated a second tithe for charity and

the annual feasts in Jerusalem (Deut. 14:22-29). “Such laws applied to the

first six years of the seven-year cycle during which crops were grown…”

(Geoffrey Wigoder, editor, The

Encyclopedia of Judaism,
p.707). Due to the Roman influence, various

laws were no longer observed by Jews after the destruction of the second

temple. The second tithe showed that generous consideration had to be given to

the less fortunate.

The purpose of the second tithe

as practiced in Old Testament times is explained by E.G. White in a discussion

of “God’s Care for the Poor.” She draws attention to our responsibility to take care of

the poor, the fatherless, the widow and the stranger just as Moses had instructed

the Hebrew people.

“To promote the assembling of

the people for religious service, as well as to provide for the poor, a second

tithe of all the increase was required. Concerning the first tithe, the Lord

had declared, ‘I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel.’

Numbers 18:21. But in regard to the second He commanded, ‘Thou shalt eat before

the Lord thy God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there,

the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy

herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God

always.’ Deuteronomy 14:23, 29; 16:11-14. This tithe, or its equivalent in

money, they were for two years to bring to the place where the sanctuary was

established.” (Patriarchs and Prophets,

p. 530).

The second tithe was a

blessing because it cultivated a noble spirit of benevolence. This is the very

principle on which the offering system was founded.   While there is no biblical support requiring a second

tithe in the New Testament, the principle of benevolence can and should be

adopted and adapted to our time.  

Mario Niño

Associate Director,

GC Stewardship Ministries