Session 7: Giving from Exodus to Ezra-Nehemiah

➡ Average Reading Time: 14 minutes

Cultivating GenerosityWhen you finish this lesson you should be able to:

  • Understand voluntary giving from Exodus to Ezra-Nehemiah
  • Understand required giving from Exodus to Ezra-Nehemiah

Session Preview

As we continue in the Old Testament, we will look at voluntary and required giving from Exodus to Ezra-Nehemiah

Where We Are Going

Giving from Exodus to Ezra-Nehemiah
1 Exodus 25.1-2
2 Exodus 35.4-10; 21-22a; 36.5-7
3 Numbers 18.12
4 Deuteronomy 16.17
5 1 Chronicles 29.9, 16
6 Proverbs 3.9-10
7 Proverbs 11.24-25
1 Exodus 23.10-11
2 Leviticus 19.9-10
3 Leviticus 27.30-33; Numbers 18.21-22
4 Deuteronomy 12.6-7
5 Deuteronomy 14.28-29
6 Deuteronomy 15.1-2, 9 7
7 Nehemiah 10.32-33
8 Malachi 3.6-12
Where Have We Been and Where We Are Going

Giving From Exodus To Ezra-Nehemiah

It was during this period of time that the tithe became a familiar term in Israel. Those who teach tithing, as a universal standard for God’s people of all times, lean strongly on this time period for support of their teaching.

| Voluntary

The emphasis of voluntary giving is about the attitude of the giver. Quantity and percentages are not a part of this mentality, but attitude and quality of the gift are important.

There are seven passages of Scripture that we will look at in this area.

1 Exodus 25.1-2

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.

Here was God’s great opportunity to install tithing as a universal command. “Give me a tithe,” he could have said. It would have been a done deal. Instead, he asked for an offering to be given to him and that the giver could give whatever was in his or her heart to give. This is a beautiful picture of the heart of God, allowing his children to give to him voluntarily based on the prompting of a generous heart.

2 Exodus 35.4-10; 20-22; 36.5-7

Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the Lord has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.

“All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the Lord has commanded:…” (Ex. 35.4-10)

Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord. (Ex. 35.20-22)

…and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work (Ex. 36.5-7).

When God commands something to be done, he provides the means for its accomplishment. His instruction to Moses was not some harsh command but a loving God giving to his children and allowing them from a willing heart to give back (Ex. 36.5, 21, 26, 29).

The point of these passages is to demonstrate that God trusts his creation to give from a willing heart. When people believe that ministry set before them exalts God, they will give more than enough to meet the needs. Giving done with the motivation of love will always go beyond the stated need. God had asked them to respond to a need. If they were willing and their heart moved them, they should give. And they did!

They gave so much that Moses had to tell them to quit giving. The word restrained pictures one who has restraints placed on him. However, the action of the word suggests that they had to “keep on being restrained.” They had “more than enough!” What a picture! It would be nice to participate with a local ecclesia come some Sunday morning or any other time for that matter and hear the functioning pastor say, “We don’t need any money for this week because of your faithfulness.” Wouldn’t that be way cool? This could happen if those leading a local ecclesia were trained beyond their fundamentalist training about the subject of giving.

3 Numbers 18.12

I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the Lord as the firstfruits of their harvest.

The firstborn of the flocks and the first vegetables and grains were gathered at harvest time. The Hebrew people thought of these as belonging to God in a special sense. They were dedicated or presented to God on the day of the firstfruits as a part of the celebration of Pentecost (Num. 28:26; 2 Chron. 31:5). The beauty of this gift was that it was given before the harvesting of the crop. God used this gift to teach the Israelites that if they would give him their first, even with no promise of a final harvest, that he would bring them a harvest. He wanted them to learn to trust in him as a gracious God who would supply their needs.

4 Deuteronomy 16.17

Each of you shall bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.

Remember, the required giving was taxation. Voluntary giving was what came from the heart of men and women. This gift in proportion was voluntary. Notice that the portion is not stipulated, nor is a frequency required. The only guideline was as the Lord has blessed you.

5 1 Chronicles 29.9, 16

The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.

O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.

This passage tells us how the people of Israel responded to their leaders in bringing offerings to build the Temple. Even David rejoiced. It also teaches us that they understood that all the abundance that had been given to them belonged to God.

6 Proverbs 3.9-10

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

The enduring teaching of this bit of proverbial wisdom is that we should honor God with our wealth and give to him from the best, sacrificially. God’s response to those who follow this guideline is that their needs will be met and there will be leftovers. Giving to the Lord was always a voluntary matter. However, voluntary giving is not when you have spent all your income on yourself, and if there is any left you give some to God. That’s not the concept of firstfruits. Firstfruits is the attitude of giving him the “cream of the crop,” the first of what you have, and he will provide your needs, and there will be some left.

7 Proverbs 11.24-25

One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

This is just the opposite of conventional wisdom. People who learn the art of generosity toward God do not lose what they have. They gain more. However, if you want to hold on to what you have with a clenched fist, poverty awaits you in this life. Scripture is so clear: generosity breeds prosperity. Want to be refreshed in life? Give generously to God.

During this period of time, there was also required giving. Let’s take a glance at this area.

| Required

There are eight passages of Scripture that we will look at together.

1 Exodus 23.10-11

For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

The Jews were required to have a Sabbath rest for their land every seventh year. During this year the land was not to be planted or harvested. The advantages of this practice are clearly understood by modern farmers. By not planting a crop, the land would not continually be deprived of nutrients (crop rotation and fertilization serve similar purposes). This meant that they would forfeit their entire year’s earnings that would be gained for the year from farming. It also meant that the Jews would follow the pattern of God, which is: work followed by rest. The spirit of this year was the same as the weekly Sabbath which was to rest. The rest for the land in the seventh year was to increase its fruitfulness by allowing it to lay fallow. The result was that the poor would find sustenance and the economic production of the land would increase because of its rest.

2 Leviticus 19.9-10

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.

The leaving off part of the harvest was required by all landowners as part of the nation’s welfare system so that the poor in Israel would be taken care of. We should not think of this as a free handout. The corners of the fields were left unharvested. This meant that the poor had to work in those areas to gain the food they needed. This was not a modern welfare free handout system. This was the love and care of God for the poor in which they must do their part.

3 Leviticus 27.30-33; Numbers 18.21-22

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithes, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.

“I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting. From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die.

In these passages, we are told that the tithe of everything taken from the land belonged to the Lord. This is often called the Lord’s Tithe but should be called the Levite’s Tithe. Numbers 18.21 and 24 tell us that this tithe was collected to be given to the Levites who were the priests. Remember, the nation of Israel was divided into twelve tribes with one whole tribe being set aside for priesthood. The tithe or taxation from all the rest of the tribes went to support the priests in the Levite tribe.

According to these passages, you could give money in exchange for land, seed, and fruit, but you could not redeem the animals. The animals had to be given. We might notice as well that in the redemption to currency process there was a twenty percent (20%) redemption fee. This was required giving and the percentage was a tenth. This is the first of three tithes in the First Testament.

4 Deuteronomy 12.5-7

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

In the passage of Scripture above, we discover a second tithe, another ten percent levy. It was taken to the central sanctuary to be consumed by the family. This was a tithe for a national holiday. Notice there were tithes, special gifts, and free will or voluntary offerings. The percentage of required giving with these two tithes was twenty percent.

5 Deuteronomy 14.28-29

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Yet a third tithe was levied every third year. That’s another ten percent. This tithe was to help those Levites who did not function as priests, those who were from outside the country, those who were fatherless, and the widows. This has often been called the “Poor Tax.”

It is not difficult to do the math at this point. The average tithe given by a Jew in the First Testament was twenty-three and one-third percent. If you believe that you should be paying tithes according to the First Testament as a model, then you should be giving $23.33 out of every $100.00 you earn. The First Testament tithe was not ten percent! All these tithes together funded the religious government of the state of Israel. Tithing was taxation in the First Testament period from Exodus to Ezra- Nehemiah.

6 Deuteronomy 15.1-2, 9

At the end of every seven years, you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed.

Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.

Isn’t this a kick in the seat of the pants? All debts canceled at the end of every seven years. What happened to this facet of the First Testament required giving? I have often wondered how the local ecclesia can be so saturated by the legalistic theology of tithing and then forget the debt cancellation program instituted by God. It’s called “selective” theology.

7 Nehemiah 10.32-34

We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God: for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.

During the Restoration Period of Jewish history, there was, in addition to all the taxation mentioned above, a one-third shekel Temple tax that was levied so they could buy showbread, grain, and sacrifices.

It cost a Jew a lot more than ten percent to exist in the theocracy of Israel! Required giving was there and it was upwards to twenty-five percent. Tithing in Israel’s First Testament theocracy was taxation! We don’t live in a theocracy today! However, we still pay taxes which is taught in the Second Testament (Rom 13.6). Most Americans today pay in the neighborhood of twenty-five percent of their income in taxes. Other government systems around the world very. The American government today, even if it doesn’t realize it, may still be running on the God-instituted taxation system of First Testament Israel. We must point out once again, tithing/taxation was not giving. The emerging point is that you should not get stuck on ten percent and limit yourself to a legalistic form of taxation but rather cultivate generosity as a lifestyle! Learn to follow the Spirit’s guide and give superabundantly. We will see how this works out as we move into the Second Testament.

8 Malachi 3.6-12

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

This is the most often quoted passage in support of the teaching of the tithe as the foundation of God’s plan to give. Let’s take a look at what this passage says. First, it is written by the last of the First Testament prophets. The people to whom he is preaching have returned to the land of their forefathers. They have rebuilt the Temple and the wall. To these people, God sent Malachi with a current message for their day. If their taxation system had been reinstalled and they were following it, this word would not have been given. It is a corrective word for their current behavior. God begins by telling them that he is an unchanging God. Verse quoting without context is tantamount to making God say something that he never said. Verse quoting produces bad theology and remember, bad theology is a cruel taskmaster!

They, the descendants of Jacob, had not been destroyed. The story of their forefathers, however, was completely different. They had turned away from the stipulation which God had given them as his people. How did this happen? They did not pay their taxes. God asked this new generation, who was making a new start, not to make the same mistakes that their forefathers had made. Will anyone of them rob God?

The answer was yes! How? By not paying the tithes (remember, there were three different tithes) and their offerings (voluntary giving). Their forefathers had simply stopped functioning the way they were instructed to function in required and voluntary giving. They should take heed and not follow in their forefathers’ footsteps. Bringing the whole tithe means to bring all the stipulated tithes to the storehouse (the storehouse is not the local ecclesia; storehouse is a First Testament concept).

Lest you jump for joy at this point, thinking that you are liberated from giving, don’t go there! If you do, you are missing the point and will miss the final points from the texts of the Second Testament. God promises these people that they can put him to the test. If they follow his decrees concerning the tithes and they give their voluntary offerings, he would bless them abundantly.

Let me make the point abundantly clear. This passage has nothing to do with giving from a Second Testament perspective. It is clearly a call to the restored people of God to pay their taxes. Those who teach this passage as a method of giving and a challenge to give for those in the Second Testament ecclesiae evidently miss the point and may, without knowing, be leading the people of God from grace back to legalism.

Where Have We Been And Where We Are Going

We have toured the rest of the First Testament period from Exodus through Ezra-Nehemiah and looked at the concept of voluntary and required giving. In the next session, we turn to the Second Testament and look at these same categories.

Community Discussion Questions

➡ |CDQ Info|

  • How has God’s heart for generosity and your heart become one?
  • How does the concept that God trusts you to give from a willing heart cause you to make new choices?
  • Can you think of a time in your Christian life when God asked you to give in advance of you actually having the amount? What happened?
  • How can you restructure your own giving habits to follow the simple axiom: as the Lord has blessed you?
  • When was the last time that you rejoiced because of your generous giving?
  • When giving, how often do you give that which is left rather than that which is the best? How can you change?
  • What’s your hand like when it comes to giving: opened or clinched? In what specific way can you change if it is the latter?
  • How have you incorporated God’s plan of work followed by rest? What do you need to change if you have not?
  • How does your church provide for the poor? How does this model work out in your church?
  • If you presently tithe, why are you only giving one 10% gift?
  • How does the information in Deuteronomy 12.6-7 help you in your quest for generosity?
  • How would this model of helping the poor work in the church? Or should it? Why or Why not?
  • Why do you think we practice “selective” theology in the church?
  • What is your biblical theology about paying taxes?
  • Why is paying taxes important?

End of Session

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)