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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Nation of Israel > The Tithe


The tenth part of the year’s harvest was to be given to God by the people (Lev. 27:30); this was accomplished by giving it to the Levites as their inheritance for the work they performed at the Tabernacle (Num. 18:21-24) and later at the Temple. The tithe of the produce and flocks was not to be eaten by the people in their towns but in the presence of the Lord at the place He chose. It was to be eaten with the Levites; the people were to share with the Levites the tithe of “your grain or your new wine (tirosh) or your oil” and the firstborn of the herds and flocks (Deut. 12:17).

If the place was too far and the tithe could not be carried, then the tithe was to be exchanged for silver and the silver “taken to the place which the Lord your God chooses” (Deut. 14:25). Upon arriving at the place God chose, the silver was to be used to buy “whatever your heart desires, for oxen or sheep, for wine (yayin) or strong drink (shekar), for whatever your heart desires” (v. 26). Twice God says: “whatever your heart desires,” and He suggests “wine” or “strong drink.”

For the modern abstainer this is shocking and unsettling; God Himself is encouraging winebibbing, even suggesting possibilities. And He suggests not only wine (yayin) but also strong drink (shekar).

After the purchase, the Israelites were to eat and drink with the Levites “before the Lord your God”; and then they were to leave the remainder of the wine and food with the Levites (Deut. 12:26-27).

So wine and strong drink were proposed by God, were acceptable for sacrifice, were to be enjoyed by the people with their religious leaders (just like the Lutheran pastor and his people in Israel; see Preface), and then left with their religious leaders. Such truth and practices are enough to give a total abstainer an acute myocardial infarction.

The Levites were to take a tithe of the tithes that had been given to them and give it to Aaron the priest—everyone was commanded to give to the Lord. The offering of the Levites became for them as though it were “the grain offering of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress” (Num. 18:27). In other words, the offering given by the Levites to Aaron served as the tithe of the Levites who gave it. Every third year the tithe was to be stored in the towns for the Levites, aliens, fatherless, and widows (Deut. 14:28-29).

He who hears the Shema, drinks the shekar.
Jewish Saying

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