This is part one of a two-part series. After reading this article, please continue reading “Jacob’s Tithing VowPart 2“.
I know there is a majority who disagree with what I’m about to say. Even some of those who also believe that tithing is not required will disagree with me about this.
Immediately after Jacob deceives Esau out of his birthright, Jacob has a dream commonly referred as “Jacob’s ladder”. After he awakens Jacob makes a vow to God and is accused of deceptively bargaining with God. But, I do not believe that Jacob’s tithing vow in Genesis 28 was deceptive or manipulative. I will show you how 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:
In Genesis, Jacob deceived Esau and Isaac into giving Esau’s birthright to Jacob. He took advantage of a starving brother and a father who could not see. After he tricks his father into giving him Esau’s birthright, Jacob quickly runs away to avoid the calamity that would follow once his scheme was found out. After traveling, he found a resting place to sleep. During his sleep, Jacob had a dream in which God promised him multiple blessings. After the dream, Jacob wakes up, renames this place “Bethel” and makes this vow to God – “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.“
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“.
God just made these promises to Jacob in the dream:
- the land on which you lie I will give to you
- I am with you, and will keep you in all places
- will bring you back to this land”
Jacob did not lay these demands down. God stated them and promised them to Jacob. Saying “If” is not a matter of question or doubt of Jacob, it was a matter of confirmation. We can confirm and compare my assumption with other passages:
- Romans 8:31 “What then shall we say to these things? If God [is] for us, who [can be] against us?”
- 2 Peter 2:4 “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned”
- 1 John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us”
Do you really question If God loves us or If God is for us? Paul, Peter, and John are not making demands from God here. We know that what they mean is “since” God loves. 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 existing promise, so where do we find that Jacob makes any bargain? Let me give you an example. If I told you today that I’m buying you a brand new car, would you wake up the next day and try to deceive me into buying you a new car? I would probably ask if you are ok and if you hit your head too hard. 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 Jacob Being Deceptive?
The other assumption 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 was experiencing 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. Jepthah had not received the promise of victory yet, so he created a bargaining chip with God.
Similarly to Jepthah, you can also read about the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 when she promised to God that she would dedicate her son as a Nazarite if he would only give her one.
Jacob made three promises in his vow:
- The Lord will be my God
- This place will be God’s house
- I will give a tenth of all that you give me
Jacob immediately named that place “bethel”, fulfilling one-third of his vow. Seven chapters later in chapter 35, he commands his family put away the strange gods, therefore affirming that the LORD was his God and fulfilling two-thirds of his vow. The truth is that a majority of Jacob’s vow was just fulfilled without God completing a single one of his promises. Does this seem like a man who is of doubt, or demanded God do ABC before he did XYZ?
Jacob didn’t fulfill the final third 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 end of the bargain fairly quickly.
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.
Robin Calamaio says
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
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.
Paul Williams says
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? =-.
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
Leola Thomad says
It is always a blessing to give, but from a biblical stand point tithing was only for the children of Israel. God said he was the Levites inheritance that is why the Bible instructed the children of Israel to bring their tithe to the Lord and that is also what Jacob vowed to do. The Bible is right regardless of what we have been taught.
“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? :-(
Jared Brian says
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’.
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.
Jared Brian says
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
Jared Brian says
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?
Natasha Philip says
First of all, thanks for sharing your perspective. I enjoy people like you. Secondly, the bible is NEVER unclear about anything. God shows us what we need to see for a time, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who claims the bible is unclear about some (if not all) things have clearly not received light on said matter due to a lack of the abiding of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Thirdly, I stopped reading your article after you decided that you can be GOD and change His (the ETERNAL ONE who reigns from Everlasting to Everlasting) Holy binding Words. So GOD in Heaven help you! Go read Rev.22:18-19. I would suggest you tread carefully around this matter.
Show me a human being doubts the infallibility of scripture and I will unmistakably show you a human being whose destiny is Antichrist kingdom.
I have no problem with exegesis, but any analysis to write a different understanding from what us intended is a spirit from a different spirit than the Holy. I respect personal beliefs because of our backgrounds and traditions, but supremacy of the scripture can never be compromised. I still advise unwaveringly ‘ PAY YOUR TITHE”.
Jared Brian says
Who/what are you referring to?
Is there one here that disagrees with this?
Finally something we actually disagree on.
I was raised on your type rationale and conversation above. My father would always bring up a story about how Israel sinned in the wilderness or how David committed adultery (or another similar sin story), and then after telling this story at the end he would state that music with a beat is bad. The tactic is commonly referred as a red herring (or straw man). It uses an unrelated situation allowing the arguer distract your attention from the lack of facts presented in proving their thesis. This allows the arguer (in their mind) to equate your opinions with error. Basically, it sounds similar to this scenario – “David committed adultery and God punished him for his error. Music with a beat is wrong too.”
In your case you talk about an unrelated topic of infallibility of scripture and the supremacy of scripture and the antichrist. etc. You are setting up the story. Then at the end, you finally make your point – “pay your tithe”. No facts. No scripture. no related verses to back up your claim. You told a story about oranges then told us all to tithe our apples. Your story didn’t use either eisegesis or exegesis to prove why we should ‘pay our tithe’.
Pastor Israel says
Appreciate the good efforts made on this article. However, I believe the situation remains the same, whether it’s SINCE or IF. Israel has to fulfil the vow made by Jacob, because God indeed fulfiled the promise to give the land to Jacob. I agree with you that Jacob couldn’t have fulfilled his vow since the land promised did not come to him in his time.
Also i don’t have a problem with the word IF. I am not surprised to see Jacob use the word. I believe it’s quite understandable. He had just robbed Esau of his blessing of which Esau seeks to kill him.
The vow obviously explains the root of tithing as a commandment compared with Abrahamic tithe which is from his spirit. God is looking for such to worship Him.
Jared Brian says
Thank you for your contribution and input.
Michael Earl Riemer says
I read this and part 2. Well done. I believe you may be correct; thus, I may need to redo a small part I wrote about this in my book “The Tithes from Our Ground – Is Tithing Required? – A Study of Christian Giving” Michael Earl Riemer. However, this changes nothing on how the tithe was given and where it came from.