How Many Tithes Were in the Bible?

One of the most often debated topics within the tithing discussions is how many tithes were in the bible. There are multiple viewpoints to how many tithes there were, but i will contrast the two main ones. First, there is a tithing system that was an accumulative of 10% of the total increase, and second, there was a three tithes system, which included a second as well as a third tithe that was every three years totaling up to 23-30%. I agree that there were multiple tithes given throughout the year, so i don’t disagree with a three tithe system. Although i do disagree that the Israelites gave over 10% of their increase. Here are the reasons why i believe Israel only gave 10%, not 23%.

A Tithe Means 10%

Right off the bat, 23% has an uphill battle in its defense. Obviously, 23% is not a tithe. At the very core of the tithing definition, a tithe means 10%. If I gave God 23% of my increase, then i am not tithing, and we cannot call it a tithe. Let’s illustrate this. If you and i were in a business partnership and we had an agreement for each of us to take 10% of the profit, could either one of us take an additional 10% from our profits and still have a valid agreement? The answer is, no. Once we’ve both taken more than 10% of our increase for the year, then we no longer have a tithing agreement.

A Single Tithe is Complex Enough

Regardless of where anyone stands on this subject, most of us agree that the bible is vague about this complex matter in the first place. Now take into account the more complex matter of giving 23%, which involves questionable algorithms. With a three tithe (23%) system there would arise an exponential amount of  ‘fill in the blanks’. For instance…
… How would one go about giving the second or third tithe of his harvest that he’s already stored, sold, or eaten?
… If some of it was stolen or lost in a fire, do you tithe on the original harvest, or on what’s left . . . if anything?

Can you see some of the trouble we’ve run into? We’ve just made a very ambiguous single tithing system ten times worse. Let’s go back to our business illustration. After our business partners have withdrawn the first 10%, and have decided to then withdrawal another 10%; is the second 10% debited off the original value of their increase, or do they debit 10% off the already decreased value (80%)? If we truly believe that they gave 23-30%, then this opens up Pandora’s box and a plethora of additional complexities arise, which are not even remotely addressed in the bible. Something just doesn’t fit when this multifarious task  is extremely disproportionate to the minute amount of details given.

The best way to simplify giving 23-30% and dispersing one-third of it multiple times a year, is to order Israel to separate 30% out immediately when they are harvesting. The problem is that the bible doesn’t tell them to separate 30% of their harvest out. It says the tenth one is holy, and to take only the tenth one out and give it.

One Tithe was Sufficient Enough

I read a book titled, “Eating Sacred Cows” written by Graeme Carle. In this book the author explains through the census records in the bible that the Levites  consisted 7% (some argue less than 4%) of the total population of Israel. How can 7% of the population receive more than 10% of the food?  Because of this numerical imbalance, the Levites would have had 3x-4x more food than they needed if there were multiple tithes. We can take the number of Levites and compare with the rest of Israelite population, and KNOW that one tithe alone should have been sufficient; this is without mentioning firstfruits, offerings,  spoils of war, and also the increase in animals that were born under Levitical possession.

One Tithe was Spread Throughout the Year

A possible explaination of why there is so much confusion about multiple tithes is that some have not taken into account that there were multiple harvests throughout the year, resulting in multiple occasions of tithing. Because most of us are not farmers, we don’t know that figs, barley, wheat, olives, and various other agriculture were not harvested at the exact same time in the year. I found a Jewish calendar that has the times of year that different produce was harvested. Here is a summary

  1. Barley Harvested in 1st & 2nd Months
  2. Wheat harvested in 3rd & 4th months
  3. Grapes, figs, walnuts & olives were harvested  in the 5th month
  4. Vegetables, cotton, & pomegranate’s harvested in 6th month
  5. Rice harvest 8th month
  6. Winter figs & citrus harvested in 11th month
  7. Flax harvested in 12th month.

2 Chronicles 31:7 is an account of the Israelites harvesting for 4 months and storing the tithe which leaves room for three general harvest periods throughout the year. If multiple harvests throughout the year would result in multiple opportunities to tithe, maybe this would clear up confusion about the number of tithes there actually were. This would conclude that a tithe still is 10%, simplify the tithing system, and prevent too much waste.

It doesn’t make sense to reserve a tithe from each harvest period throughout the year to be given as a lump-sum at the end. So, i would disagree with those who say there was only one tithe, once a year.

The Feast of Tabernacles is when Israel brought their tithe to have a celebration in the seventh month, which was prior to the rice, figs, citrus, & flax harvest. These crops still had to be harvested and still had to be tithed upon. so it’s obvious there were multiple tithes in a year.

What is the Year of Tithing / Third Year Tithe?

Deuteronomy 14:28 – At the end of [every] third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store [it] up within your gates.

Most people explain that the third year tithe is an additional 10% added onto the 20% of tithes that are given every year, and is repeated the third and sixth years in-between sabbaticals. There are a few things to be aware of. One, many translations of the bible interpret the phrase “[every] three years” while inserting the word “every” for clarification. The problem is that the word “every” is not in the original Hebrew. In the other 300 instances in the bible, the same Hebrew is not translated “every three years”.

There is one instance in the bible that has the phrase every three years. in 2 Chr. 9:21, “For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish ...” The Hebrew word (echad) is  in 2 Chr. 9:21 and by definition it means ‘each, every’. So the translation in 2 Chr. is correct in implying a three year recurring event.

The second point here is significant in understanding the “Year of Tithing”. Let’s read Leviticus 25:20-22 “And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?” ‘Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat [of] the old [harvest].

Every Seventh year, Israel had a sabbatical where they did not tithe, grow crops, nor tend the field. So, in Leviticus 25, God states he would bless them so much in the sixth year that their increase would last the next three years. Three years is a lot of food and a long time, but if you read closely in Leviticus 25 there was a reason for it. Israel did not eat from their crops again until the ninth year. This means there were two consecutive years (7th and 8th) where they did not tithe because there was nothing to harvest yet. BUT, the third year, which is the year they began tithing again is when God said their produce would come in . This is why it is called the year of tithing.

Most people assume that there was only one year without the agricultural tithe, but there were two years without tithing, which was followed by the third year when they commenced tithing again. Hence the “Year of Tithing”.

It’s a Forty-Nine Year Cycle, Not a Seven Year Cycle

I need to also address another aspect about the year of tithing, that hopefully can be explained clearly.

The conventional thinking is that the ‘year of the tithe’ was the third and sixth year within a seven year period, and this cycle reset and recurred every seven years. The problem is that everyone assumes that the “year(s) of tithing” was reset after the sabbatical year. If we are to interpret the scripture saying that Israel was to tithe every three years, then all indications should point to the fact that they were to tithe every three years within the standard 49 year cycle. There is no scriptural indication that “every three years” is only within the confines of the seven year cycle.  The sabbatical year did not reset the clock for the “year of tithing”. If scripture wanted Israel to give every 3rd and 6th year, then it would not have implied in succession – without being reset.

It comes down to the interpretations of these translations. It’s the difference between saying, “Every three years” and saying, “On the third year”.  The former indicates that the clock doesn’t reset and it is a recurring pattern. The latter indicates that it is a one time event but still allows it to reset.  The year of tithing cannot reset every seven years and also establish itself as a recurring, successive event. There is no scriptural precedence to indicate otherwise. The two train of thoughts here are:|
1. It’s every third year in a seven year period
2.It’s every third year in succession.

The Sabbath comes every seven years in succession. So, if the year of tithing were to simply repeat every three years, it would recur just like the Sabbath – in succession. It wouldn’t only be the 3rd and 6th year. If it told you to give me a $1000 every seven years and then $300 every three years, in what world are you living in that you would assume that you should reset the clock when i want my $300? How do i know it was a 49 year cycle not a cycle that reset every seven years? Because of Leviticus 25:22, “And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

Here is a chart that shows how it would look if the “year of tithing” came in succession, regardless of how the sabbatical fell.

chart of year of tithing and sabbatical


As i stated before, the year of tithing is just the third year after having no harvest for the prior two years. It is definitely different than the other tithes mentioned in the bible. The year of the tithe was laid within the city gates and was for the Levites, poor, and strangers. Normally, the tithe was stored within the Levitical cities and distributed from there. The year of the tithe may have been distributed uniquely because infrastructure of the welfare system may have been over-flooded  due to the desperation being without a harvest for 2 years. That is just speculation since the scripture doesn’t give any reason why it’s unique.

I don’t want to throw in another wrench in the mix of things here, but it could be that the “year of tithing” passage is mistranslated in scripture. The passage could mean that it’s the “third tithe in the year”. Or it could mean “After the third tithe in the year”.

I know i went into the ‘year of tithing’ a little deeply, but it’s important to dig into the details sometimes. Ultimately, i’m not really dogmatic about my observations. It could have been the 3rd and also the 6th year. The only thing that makes sense about having it both the 3rd and 6th year is the opportunity to provide welfare for the poor for an extra year; but then again, it still doesn’t makeup for the other two other years without the extra tithe.

Other Great Points

Here are just some roadblocks that come to mind when i try to defend the three tithes (20% or more) position.

  1. How would a farmer survive for the sabbatical if he were to tithe 30% on the sixth year; as well as give 10% to the king, pay government taxes, give sacrificial offerings, and actually leave parts of their land ungleaned?
  2. There is no reference for Israel to save up 30% the third year
  3. Jewish Rabbis disagree on the number of tithes
  4. In Leviticus 27:32 God said count 1 out of every 10. I’m not sure how that comes out to 30%?
  5. It is called the ‘year’ of the tithe, not ‘years’ (plural) of the tithe. Within a seven year cycle, the ‘year of the tithe’ only occurred once, not twice.
  6. In order to maintain giving away 20-30% of their increase in flocks, the birth rate of their animals would need to be higher in order to have growth of their animal population.
  7. Why call it “the year of tithing” when Israel tithed all the other years, unless this was the year they started tithing again after being off for two years.
  8. If they were two years of tithing in the 7 year cycle, then why call it the singular version – “Year of Tithing” instead of the “Years of tithing”


Trying to determine when the animal farmers gave and when the fruit farmers gave and when the grain farmers gave and how much they saved and did they give 10% 23% or 30% takes too much effort because we find ourselves digging for little secrets hidden in the bible that aren’t actually there.

I think we can make thing pretty complicated. That’s why i like to keep it simple.

Simple fact – Israel gave only 10% of their increase. TOTAL
Simple fact – They didn’t give their tithe the same way, nor did they give it at the same time or place each year.

The very first command on tithing explains the general concept. No matter how complex it gets later in scripture, the extra variations cannot deviate from the original landscape.

Lev. 27 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. 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.

Since then, we’ve taken all the other complexities of Israel’s calendar, feasts, infrastructure and kept adding stipulations, and variations convoluting the whole thing; which when first mentioned in scripture was very simple.

So, what i believe is that Israel divided 10% of their increase into multiple payments throughout the year. I’m not saying that i have given the final answer to the single tithing system, but in my view, the three tithes theory sprouts even more conflicts and questions than it even begins to solve. So, for now i stick with it. Figuring out the amount and types of tithes is not one of those issues where people get into heated arguments about. Truthfully, aside from misinterpreting scripture, it doesn’t really matter to me if I’m wrong about this issue. But nonetheless, i have devoted a lot of time studying the intricacies of the tithing system and i feel it helps me understand God’s word just a tad more.

What do you have to say about this issue? Do you feel i am wrong, or is there anything you have learned?


Jared Bartholomew is the author of There are over 300 articles written on research and reviews about tithing information.

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32 comments on “How Many Tithes Were in the Bible?
  1. Noble says:


    “Produce” defined. Scholars segregate the definition of “tebuah” into 3 categories:

    (1) General asset terms – “product(s)”, “produce”, or “property of husbandmen”;

    (2) Specific asset terms – “fruit”, or “crop(s)” (none define it as “grain”); and

    (3) Cashflow terms-“gain”,”income”,“increase”, “revenue”, or “yield”.

    Significantly, “produce” in any tithing verse only means one of these terms. In other words, no scholar defines “tebuah” as “fruit AND crops” or “products AND increase”, meaning there are only 10 possible choices. Let’s take these categories in reverse order to exegete what “produce” in Deut. 14:28 means.

    Cashflow terms. When interpreting “tebuah” in any tithing verse, the cashflow terms are the easiest to eliminate. Because a shepherd with 29 ewes and no ram (and thus no increase or yield) would still have to tithe 2 sheep, we know that the tithe of animals was based upon assets that “passed under the rod” (whether they produced income, increase, or nothing at all).

    That means that “produce” in any tithing verse can’t mean “gain, income, increase, revenue, or yield” unless “produce” is specifically limited to produce that doesn’t include animals and the way scripture required them to be counted and tithed. Of course, Deut. 14:28 contains no such limiting language. So, we eliminate the cashflow terms.

    Specific asset terms. Because of the land sabbath, the terms “fruit” and “crop(s)” must be eliminated as possible interpretations. That is, “produce” can include those terms, but it can’t be limited to them.

    If “produce” in Deut. 14:28 is limited to “fruit” or “crops”, then the command was incapable of obedience every time the Sabbath fell on a third year (see my explanation of how the sabbath affected “production” in my previous posts). That leaves only three choices: ”products, produce, and property of husbandmen”.

    General asset terms. A clear majority of the time, when “tebuah” is used in the Word, it is accompanied by a limiting prepositional phrase, such as “of the land”, “of grain”, “of the field”, “of the threshing floor”, “of the winepress”, “of the vineyard”, “of his lips”, and “of the wicked”.

    The word “tebuah” is used twice in Deut. 14:22-29, which is the only Mosaic Law passage that sets forth all five statutory elements of the only two tithes the sons of Israel were commanded to observe. For the feast tithe in 14:22, the word “produce” is limited to “of what you sow”.

    However, there is no such limiting statutory language in 14:28. That is significant, from a statutory construction standpoint, particularly when the terms are in such close proximity in a single 8-verse passage that describes the statutory elements of, and distinguishes between, two separate tithes.

    Certainly, the word “produce” in verse 28 means something different and broader that “produce from what you sow” in verse 22. The only definitions scholars have derived that provide such a broader definition are “produce”, “products”, or “property of husbandmen”.

    Thus, tebuah means “produce”, “products” or “property of husbandmen”, and is further statutorily defined by all four definitional subjects of the tithe, “seed, fruit, flock, and herd”, from Lev. 27:30.

    B-D-B seems to be spot-on when it defines “produce” as “property of husbandmen, or people”, specifically citing both Deut. 14:28 and Deut. 26:12. Husbandry is defined as “the application of scientific principles to agriculture, especially to animal breeding.”

    The fact that “produce” must include all the products of Lev. 27 will be made apparent as we walk through the sacred tithe.

    The Num. 18 – Deut. 14:28, 26:12 Sacred Inheritance tithe. The B-D-B definition of “produce” that connects Deut. 14:28 with Deut. 26:12 is significant. Further, the use of the term “sacred” inseparably connects those two passages to Num.18. to show that they were the same tithe.

    I strongly disagree with your statement that “The priests were commanded to give a heave offering to God from the best of their tenth.” The priests didn’t offer the heave offering, or “sacred” portion, to the Lord. Exactly the opposite – the Lord offered the sacred portion to the priests. Num. 18:28-9.

    Once we see that the “sacred” portion was offered TO the priests rather than BY the priests, the inseparable connection between Num.18 and Deut.14:28 and 26:12 becomes clear.

    There was only one sacred tithe in scripture and the Word draws a perfectly straight line for that sacred tithe from the sons of Israel (Deut. 26:12), to the Levites (Num. 18:21), from the Levites to the Lord (Num. 18:26-7), and from the Lord to the priests (Num. 18:28-9). Here’s the three-step process by which the sacred tithe went from the Land to the priests:

    1. Step One. The sons of Israel to the Levites. Israel was commanded to tithe from “all their produce” at the end of every third year. Deut. 14:28, Deut. 26:12. That’s all 4 elements mentioned in Lev. 27:30. This tithe is referred to as “sacred”. Deut. 26:13. Note the ceremonial statement that the sons of Israel were commanded to make when presenting their “produce” in the sacred tithe:

    That the “sacred” produce had been REMOVED from the tithers’ homes and that NONE WAS EATEN by the sons of Israel (none of it was used to “invite” the beneficiaries to eat it with the tithers, as you suggest).

    2. Step Two. The Levites to the Lord. Note that everything from Num. 18:26-32 is all one quote that the Lord is instructing Moses to make to the Levites. No part of that instruction was directed to the priests. All instructions to the priests were given to Aaron in the preceding verses.

    Therefore, the “tithe of the tithe”, “best part”, “heave offering”, and “sacred” part (all synonyms) were “offered to the Lord” by the Levites. Num. 18:26.

    Exactly as the tithers were prohibited from eating any of this tithe in Deut. 26, NONE WAS EATEN here of the “sacred”, “best”, “tithe of the tithe”. Num. 30-31. After the sacred portion was given to the priests, the “rest” could be “EATEN ANYWHERE” by the Levites. The uneaten animals tithed to the Levites in the sacred tithe were placed into their 35 Levitical fields to provide a food source for the Levites and poor for the next three years.

    3. Step Three. The Lord to the priests. The sacred, best, heave offering, “tithe of the tithe” was then given by the Lord to the priests as “the Lord’s portion”. Num. 18:19-20. Only then were the sacred gifts allowed to be EATEN BY THE PRIESTS. The priests didn’t give any heave offering of them, as you suggest. The “best”, or “sacred” animals (and their offspring) were eaten or sacrificed as holy by the priests, which is why neither Israel (Deut. 26) nor the Levites (Num. 18:31) could EAT THEM. See how perfectly symmetrical Num. 18 is to Deut. 14:28 and 26:12?

    Thus, the use of the term “sacred” inseparably connects the tithe of Numbers 18 with Deut. 26:12, which is simply a restatement and more detailed presentation of the Deut. 14:28 sacred tithe given every third year. The food tithed under Num. 18 is the same food tithed in what you term the “poor” tithe.

    If one interprets “produce” to only be “crops”, the term “sacred” in both Num. 18 and Deut. 26 would similarly limit the Levites’ tithe to the priests to only crops. Since Christ gave 2 priests a whopping 13 fields on which to graze the animals tithed to them by the Levites, the animals had to be included in that which is “sacred” in both passages.

    Deut. 14:22 Feast tithe. The second tithe given by the sons of Israel was the feast tithe. If you use “crops” to mean both grain and fruit, then I disagree with you about what was tithed here. Fruit isn’t “sown”. Only grain was tithed here, with the extra grain being funded by Christ’s triple-blessing grain crop in each 6th year that the fruit and animal farmers weren’t benefitted by.

    Fruit farmers were commanded to bring an unspecified amount of new wine and oil to the feasts, but they didn’t tithe at the feasts. The only farmers who observed the feast tithe were grain farmers, for a net effective annual tithe of 10.33%. Fruit and animal farmers gave a net effective annual tithe of 3.3% because they only tithed every third year.

  2. lee says:

    Today the tithe (singular) has been traditionally taught to give 10% of ones income.

    However I believe God intended the tithes(plural)to be a provision of substance to meet the needs of his people and sustain Gods intended purposes, what ever they may have been.

    What always seems to be a grey area in the NT covenant is the context of

    The 10 Commandments
    The keeping of the Sabbath
    The Tabernacle
    The tabernacle rituals
    (but not limited to just these)

    Jesus did not did not sacrifice him self, so the gentiles could eventually turn synagogues into multimillion dollar business and use his word to finance and justify there life styles.

    The purpose of the tithes is for provision, of labors and the people, labors are ONLY given what they need to meet there need and the people are also provided for of what they are lacking.

    Ministers are only given what they need, not in excessive to remind them who it is they rely on and who it is they trust in, then the needs of the members in the fellowship need to be addressed for what they are lacking and then the community needs will be addressed.

    This is the standard order

    The needs of the people are not forfeited to pay for air or TV time, this is robbing them of there blessing, it is our heavenly father who provides for these expenses.

    The tithes was not designed to be collected for a persons personal wealth, whilst others struggle to survive, the tithes are collected to meet the labors peoples and community needs and the where ever God directs them to be used.

    There is so much corruption in the body of Christ.

    May God forgive us.

  3. The law was a shadow of things to come. The Temple was destroyed and our bodies are now God’s temple. The pastor is not the same as the priest under the old covenant. We are all a royal priesthood and the work of the ministry is not restricted to a few individuals. Jesus ministered but did not collect a tithe what makes us think that we can? We have been bought at a price and our not our own we have to let God lead us and trust that he will even in the area of giving.

    I have been raising funds for an orphanage and the only people refusing to give are Christians who say they have already given at church. I find that a little unsettling.

    When you have financial problems the church is always ill equipped to help out, because most of the money is tied in running the building, we have our priorities mixed up. This is part of the reason we are inefficient in reaching our generation. I stopped tithing, but give cheerfully as the Holy Spirit leads me. This is the new covenant way. I am not under any curse as many people teach.

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