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21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
The Levites did the Israelites' work for them in the service of the Sanctuary. So the rule was, "Behold, I have given the children of Le vi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for the service which they serve" (Num. 18: 21). It is reasonable to suppose that this toll upon the resources and income of the people was an annual levy, but they had to attend the Sanctuary to present it no more than once every three years (Deut. 14: 28; 26: 12).
It was surrendered as "a heave offering" (i.e., as something made over to God as His own (Num. 18 : 24). They were therefore not to begrudge the loss of it, but to see in the surrender of it a symbolic surrender of themselves to God. "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or ofthe fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord" (Lev. 27: 30). So also with a man's cattle: "Concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord" (Lev. 27: 31-33).
To cater for problems of distance and transport (and, no doubt, also to some extent of preserving perishable produce), provision was made for the redemption of the tithe in the case of both field-produce and animals. But to stress the absoluteness of God's claim, and the fact that that claim was really upon the tithe itself and not upon its cash value, redemption could only be effected by the payment of the actual cash value, plus a fifth. *
Such an arrangement would act as a deterrent on the materially minded who would tend altogether to overlook the didactic purpose of the tithe laws; and to penalize those who might wish to discriminate against God by exchanging inferior animals for good when the count was made, it was decreed that both animals would then. be forfeit and the right to redeem revoked-"If he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed". Thus God brought home to the deceitful that He would not be deprived of what was rightfully His, and insisted for those who were reluctant to acknowledge it that "the tenth is holy unto the Lord".
Once again the part typified the whole. The fact that this sample portion of his material wealth was to be automatically surrendered to God as holy, taught the Israelite to consider it his duty to dedicate the whole of his spiritual resources as likewise "holy to the Lord". Nothing was to be withheld. Every third year without fail was to be an occasion for reminding him of his duty.
"At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: and the Levite (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee) and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come and eat and be satisfied that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest" (Deut. 14 : 28-29). The nation's attitude to the Levite (and so, by natural association of thought, to all others in the same defenceless and precarious position) would thus reveal what was its attitude to God Himself - hence the law, "Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth" (Deut. 12: 19)'
Law and Grace Ch 11