Misconceptions About Jacob’s Tithing Vow (Part 1)

This is Part one of a two part series. After reading this, article, please continue reading, “Jacob’s Tithing Vow“.

I know there are a majority who disagree with what I’m about to say. Even some of those who believe the same thing as I do – that tithing is not required, will disagree with me about this.

I do not believe that Jacob’s tithing vow in Genesis 28 was deceptive or manipulative. I believe that unclear translation, and preconceived notions about Jacob have implanted wrong assumptions. Before i run through my analysis Let’s quickly overview the scenario leading up to the events of Jacob’s vow:

Jacob just found a resting place to sleep after deceiving Esau out of his birthright and running away. During his sleep, Jacob had a dream in which God promised him multiple blessings. After the dream, Jacob wakes up, renames this place to “bethel” and makes a vow to God. – That should do it for a quick synopsis.

Unclear Biblical Interpretation

First, I believe that many translations of Genesis 28 interpret Jacob’s vow unclearly. Here’s what the NKJV states, “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace…'”

I believe the unclear translation comes with one simple little word in that passage – “If”. Let’s reword that passage and use a more clear translation of what I (IMHO) believe it should say. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, SINCE God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

Let’s not forget that God just finished stating these exact promises to Jacob in the dream:

  1. “the land on which you lie I will give to you
  2. I am with you, and will keep you in all places
  3. and will bring you back to this land”

We can see that the phrase- “if God”, is constantly misused throughout many other biblical passages:

  1. Romans 8:31 “What then shall we say to these things? If God [is] for us, who [can be] against us?”
  2. 2 Peter 2:4 “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned”
  3. 1 John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us”

Is it really – “If” God loves us? I believe “Since” God loves us would be a more clear translation. Let’s not just take my word for it. here are some others who agree:

Young’s Literal Translation states the beginning of Genesis 28:20 as this, “And Jacob voweth a vow, saying, `Seeing God is with me, and hath kept me in this way which I am going…”

Warren W. Wiersbe in his Old Testament bible commentary states, “The ‘If’ found in many translations of verse 20 can also be read ‘since.‘ Jacob wasn’t making a bargain with God. He was affirming his faith in God”

In “Exploring Genesis: An Expository Commentary” by John Phillips it states, “And Jacob vowed a vow saying, If God will be with me [or better, ‘since God will be with me’; he is not using the language of uncertainty, but of assurance]”.

“Jamieson, Fausset & Brown” states, “Jacob vowed a vow–His words are not to be considered as implying a doubt, far less as stating the condition or terms on which he would dedicate himself to God. Let “if” be changed into “since,” and the language will appear a proper expression of Jacob’s faith–an evidence of his having truly embraced the promise.”

Although Adam Clarke’s commentary does not change the terminology of the passage he does state, “This mode of interpretation removes that appearance of self-interest which almost any other view of the subject presents. Jacob had certainly, long ere this, taken Jehovah for his God;”

As a final example, Matthew Henry confirms this meaning by rephrasing Jacob’s words this way, “Seeing God will be with me, and will keep me. . .and seeing he has promised to bring me again to this land”

Jacob didn’t add any amendments to God’s already guaranteed promises, so where do we find that Jacob makes any bargain? For instance, If somehow I told you in a dream that I’m going to unconditionally buy you a brand new car, would you wake up and demand conditions of this agreement? It wasn’t Jacob that drafted the terms of God’s promises. Jacob’s response was telling God – “since you are doing that, then i will do this”

Was the Deceiver Being Deceptive?

The other preconceived notion is that Jacob was being deceptive in his vow. Yes, i believe that Jacob was deceptive at times; but there is no indication that deception was in his heart at that time. As a matter of fact, scripture says quite the opposite. Once Jacob awoke from his dream the bible says he had fear – “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew [it] not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful [is] this place! this [is] none other but the house of God”

Another situation that clouds our assumptions is that many correlate Jacob’s vow with Jepthah’s careless vow in Judges 11 where he promises God, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,  whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

Jepthah’s vow was made out of uncertainty and not of assurance. It was foolish, and he thought he could use a token from his possessions to persuade God to give him victory. Jacob’s vow was not used as a bargaining chip in this way. God already made a covenant with Jacob, and Jacob honored God back.

As you can see, Jacob immediately named that place “bethel”, fulfilling his vow in vs. 22. In chapter 35, he commands that his family put away the strange gods, therefore affirming that the LORD was his God. Two-third’s of Jacob’s vow was just fulfilled without God completely fulfilling his promises. Did Jephthah do the same? Does Jacob’s fulfillment of his promise seem like a man who is of doubt, or who wishes to bargain with God?

Jacob didn’t fulfill one portion of his vow, and that was because he couldn’t. God stated, “the land on which you lie I will GIVE to you and your descendants”, so once you look at what Jacob promised, “of all that you GIVE me, i will surely give a tenth unto thee”; you find that Jacob had promised to tithe off of what he received from the promised land. It’s kind of hard to give a tithe of the promised land, when you haven’t inherited it yet. For all intense and purposes, Jacob fulfilled his entire vow immediately.

Like i said, many people disagree with me about this issue, but there’s no scripture to back up the claim that Jacob was bargaining or being deceptive with God. As i stated above, scripture is clear in saying Jacob had fear in his heart, not deception. Second, these demands did not originate from Jacob, they came from God. Third, the word “if” is unclear in many other passages in many bible translations. Fourth, Jacob immediately fulfilled his vow.

I hope this helps some of you. I don’t want to just throw out my opinion here so that’s why i compared this translation with other scriptures, and used scriptures to also determine the attitude that Jacob had in his heart at the time.

NEXT > PART 2: Please continue to read the second part of this study titled, Jacob’s Tithing Vow. This next article will help you grasp a deeper understanding of the vow of Jacob.

– jared

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

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11 comments on “Misconceptions About Jacob’s Tithing Vow (Part 1)
  1. This goes against the point I made in my ebook, “No Tithe for the Christian”. But, I think you may very well be correct about this. If so, well maybe that will be the last error I ever make, right?

    Good job, Jared

  2. Dan Parker says:

    Well, I have to say, there’s a lot more faith in ‘since’ than there is in ‘if’. Good on you Jared. We must be confident of the hope of our salvation or it is empty. Jesus is always faithful.

  3. Great point on this passage, Jared. I have to say I never considered that myself. It still wouldn’t support a tithing advocate’s point even if it is changed to “since”. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I need to consider amending some of what I’ve written about that passage!
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..What Records Do I Need to Keep for My IRA Contributions? =-.

  4. Liam Erickson says:

    Jared this seems right and consistent.

    Regarding Jacob’s deceptiveness; he never appeared to be deceptive towards God. His deceptiveness only came about in his pursuit for God. He feared God and his highest goal was to receive God’s blessing, even if it meant acting cunningly towards others. (Interestingly- Jacob was deceived by his sons in a similar manner to which he deceived his own father).

    Furthermore I would go one step further and say that all mentions of the tithe work together and flow harmoniously. Abraham’s tithe and its reference in Hebrews are obviously linked but they are not independent from Jacob’s tithe or the Mosaic tithe. Sure, they have some very distinct differences but when you stand back you can see they are all linked together by Christ.

    For example Abraham tithed to Melchizedek as part of an ancient war custom that was due to the local priest. Abraham paid this tithe as recognition of Melchizedek as Priest and King. This, I believe, was a fore shadow of Israel recognizing their Messiah – something they evidently failed to do at his first coming.

    Jacob’s tithe found its fulfillment in the Mosaic tithe once Israel entered the promised land. But when Christ offered his sacrifice at Calvary the tithe came to an end.

    Jacob’s tithe also found its beginning in Abraham because that’s whom the promise was first given. And it’s in this way that I see that all the tithes are intertwined and linked with Jesus as the central reference point. In other words each occurrence of the tithe in scripture seems to point to Jesus in some way, but without one reference contradicting another. (Unless the Church starts tithing – then we have the tithe contradicting itself). Your views….

    • Joseph Salazar says:

      So when Jesus died on the cross the Ahabramic covenant and justification by faith came to an end to? Wow I’m amazed how greedy and wicked how many Christians are that they will figure out any reason not to give Unto the Lord. Face it giving is a huge part of Living for God and ten percent is just a measly start. God gives all to all and to give a tenth is the bare minimum for me. It may not be a command but those who really love God and trust him
      Will give above and beyond the tithe. I’m disgusted frankly and will give more now fhanks

  5. Emeka says:

    “Young’s Literal Translation, Warren W. Wiersbe, In “Exploring Genesis: An Expository Commentary” by John Phillips, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, these are all personal views of what “maybe” the Bible meant to say, not what the bible said.

    E.G. Despite my father being a loving and caring father, and i have just finished deceiving my Brother of his inheritance, and fleeing away in fear and trembling of retribution from God and Man, come across my Grandfather in a dream known to be a very strong and strict man, say’s to me I will give you this land and buy you a car, How will I know the dream was my Granddaddy for real? In doubt and fear I will be able to say “if” “Granddaddy you do this” it is not a new thing to see somebody tell his family member that “if” you do this thing you said you will do for real, I will know you are my real Brother etc.

    The views of individuals or considerations of people should not or influence what the Bible said. The bible knows what it meant to say I believe.

    You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan’s view of God word see where it got us today? :-(

    God Bless

    • Emeka,
      I see you have read both of the posts on Jacob’s vow. You have a good point once again, but if Jacob was really saying an “IF” he shouldn’t have fulfilled any of his vow until God fulfilled his. But, as you can see, Jacob already fulfilled a portion of his vow. Jacob vowed to call that spot “God’s house”, and immediately Jacob setup a pillar and renamed the place to ‘Bethel’, which means, ‘house of God’.

      – jared

      • Emeka says:

        Dear Jared,
        Thank you very much for taking the time to reply, May we follow it in the sequence.
        First: God’s  promise was before Jacobs vow, so God has made a promise first, and Jacob a vow later,  why would God extract from Jacobs descendants if Jacob made a vow after the promise? if the Vow came before the dream then it would make perfect sense to extract from the descendants of Jacob.
        Second: To prove also that the statement ‘IF was what Jacob said. Take careful note of the continuity of the vow after ‘the ‘IF’ word, Jacob continued exhibiting that same fear factor by saying in Verse 21  “so that I return safely to my fathers house” a statement  of “doubt and fear” because the  God who had promised him in the dream saying “I Am with you and will  watch over you, wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this Land, I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you I will do”
        This indicates the fear of Jacob continues, and it proves that Jacob exhibited clear doubt and fear in the promise of God bringing him “safety home” as God has explicitly and clearly promised in the dream.
        Let us not forget how Jacobs mind works as a cunning man,  raising the Stone was also an indication of fear and hoping to bribe or pacify God, because God never asked him to set up a pillar or pour oil on the stone, all of this was in the hope that God would not renegade on his promise to him.
        God never ask him to make a vow, God just promised him, the rest (Vows, Pillars, and pouring oil) were personal attachment’s of Jacob as a cunning man believing he can bribe or pacify God, by making a show of respect and fear in the face of his previous wrongs that he was running away from.
        And remember we must worship God in Spirit and in truth. Not by works Jacob brought in the works by Setting a stone, pouring oil on it, making Vows God never asked of him.
        Thank you
         

        • You said: “why would God extract from Jacobs descendants if Jacob made a vow after the promise”

          If the king gave your whole family land, and your father offered a portion of the increase back to the king, then as long as the king lived, he would receive a portion of the land he gave to your family.

      • Joseph Salazar says:

        You had great Insight on everything I read in this article but the last part of your analysis may have faulty logic. Only what God GAVE pertained to the promised land that would have to mean that God is not sovereign and that he does not own the cattle on a thousand hills. EVERYTHING we have comes from God and even if tithing is not a command it is what Abraham did and it is what I will do is give tithes unto melchezidek (Jesus) and his work. I feel sorry for anti others because they’re missing out on blessings but more importantly a deeper more fulfilling relationship with Christ

        • Context. Only what ‘what god gave’ was in reference to the dream and the promise in that dream. It’s not about ‘everything’ that God is going to give. Goodness, God gave you the whole earth to enjoy and your measly 10% paycheck over your whole lifetime won’t even amount to 0.0001% of what he’s actually given you. Jacob’s promise was in response to a very specific promise in a specific dream for specific reasons. It wasn’t some vague general ‘everything that God gives’ vow. if i told you that i’m going to give you $5 and you said that i’ll give a 10% back, who would assume that your response was a universal, blanket to cover “Everything” that i indirectly or directly give?

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