A tenth part, especially as offered to God. Abraham presented a tithe of war booty to the priest-king of Jerusalem, Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20). Jacob pledged to offer God a tithe of all his possessions upon his safe return (Genesis 28:22). The tithe was subject to a variety of legislation.
Numbers 18:20-32 provides for support of the Levites and the priests through the tithe. The Deuteronomic code stipulated that the tithe of agricultural produce be used for a family feast at the sanctuary celebrating God's provision (Deuteronomy 14:22-27). The same code stipulated the third year's tithe for care of the Levites, orphans, widows, and foreigners (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Some scholars think the differences in legislation reflect different uses of the tithe at various stages of Israel's history. The rabbis of the New Testament period, however, understood the laws as referring to three separate tithes: a Levitical tithe, a tithe spent celebrating in Jerusalem, and a charity tithe.
Malachi 3:8 equates neglect of the tithe with robbing God. Jesus, however, warned that strict tithing must accompany concern for the more important demands of the law, namely, for just and merciful living (Matthew 23:23;
Luke 11:42). See Stewardship.