tithing debate video
Russell Kelly Rebuts Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible on Tithing
July 22, 2012
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible
probably reflects the Southern Baptist understanding which teaches only one tithe (

Baker: Giving a portion of one’s profit or the spoils of war was known in the ancient world from Greece to China.

Kelly: In other words, tithing SPOILS OF WAR did not originate in the Bible. They were not the same as tithes under the law which were only food from inside God’s HOLY land (
Baker: Tithing first appeared in the Bible when Abraham gave one-tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem (Gen 14:18-20 ).
Kelly: Only spoils of war from Sodom (
Baker: The writer of Hebrews presumed that tithes were paid to a higher authority and inferred that there was a greater priesthood than Aaron’s (Hebrews 7:4 Hebrews 7:9 ).
Kelly: Tithes were abolished in the greater priesthood per 7:12 and 7:18. The “change” in 7:12 was from Levites and priests to “annulment” in 7:18 (
Baker: Tithing as a tribute to God appeared later in Genesis when Jacob promised to give a tenth to God if he returned home safely (28:22 ). But these tithes were spontaneous and no details were given.
Kelly: Correct. Neither Abraham’s nor Jacob’s tithes were commanded by God or holy. Abram’s was probably in obedience to the law of the land and Jacob’s was a freewill conditional vow in which he set the conditions (;
Baker: The Book of Exodus required giving only firstfruits (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 23:19 ; 34:26 ) and is not clear whether the tithe later specified the percent of the total to be given as firstfruits or was a separate gift.
Kelly: There was originally no tithing because all Israelites were to be priests (Ex 19:5-6). The incident of the golden calf changed that (
Baker: Sometimes firstfruits and tithing appear to be identical (Deut 26:1-14 ), other times separate (Neh 12:44 ).
Kelly: Never. How can “first” mean “tenth”? The tenth could only be counted after the whole crop had been harvested. Deuteronomy 26:1-4 clearly teaches that tithes were very small token offering which could be carried in a small basket. That is not true of tithes.

Baker: Tithes were awarded to the Levites for their priestly service because they would not receive land in Canaan (Num 18:19-21 ).
Baker: They, too, gave a tenth of what they received (v. 26). Kelly: This is wrong in what it omits. Read Numbers 18:25-28 and Neh 10:38. The Levites gave a tenth of the holy food they received (as servants) to the priests (sons of Aaron).
Baker: If a person did not want to give what he produced he could give 120 percent of its value (Lev 27:31).
Kelly: Dishonest again. If a farmer wanted to keep all of a field (for next year’s seed), he could substitute food from another field and add 20%. The “value” added was not money. Tithes were never money and could not come from defiled pagan land.

Baker: For livestock, however, there could be no substitute. Animals passed single file under a rod dipped in coloring and every tenth one was marked. Selecting inferior animals was prohibited (vv. 32-33).

Kelly: This is dishonest in its assumption. If the “inferior” animal was the “tenth,” it was still selected by the count itself. Verse 33 specifically forbids any selection of good or bad.

Baker: Deuteronomy instructed households to bring their tithes to the sanctuary for a joyous sacrificial meal.

Kelly: Wrong. It directed a second tithe be brought to the STREETS OF JERUSALEM (not the sanctuary) during the 3 yearly festivals to be eaten in the streets by everybody. This tithe was NOT brought to the sanctuary (
Baker: If it was too far, the offerer was told that the goods could be sold locally and the money used near the sanctuary to buy “anything you wish” including oxen, sheep, wine, or strong drink (Deut 14:22-26) (

Kelly: “Goods” should read “HOLY food from God’s HOLY land.” It was temporarily converted to money for ease of transport –then it was converted back into clean food for consumption. You cannot eat money. See

Baker: Every third year tithes remained in the hometown and were given to the Levite, alien, orphan, and widow (vv. 28-29).

Kelly: Wrong. They did not “remain” there; this was a separate tithe. If the third year tithe replaced the festival tithes, there would be no food for the three required festivals every third year (

Baker: The offerer had to “say before the Lord” that the tithe had been properly given (26:13-14).Thus tithing taught the people to “revere the Lord” always (14:23), and supported the poor and the priests.

Kelly: This only applied to the second and third tithes. The whole first tithe went to the Levites and priests in their Levitical cities (Num 18:21-28; Neh 10:37b-38).

Baker: Samuel later warned Israel that an earthly king (whom they desired against God’s wishes) would require a tenth to sustain his rule (1 Samuel 8:151 Samuel 8:17).

Kelly: This new “first” tithe-tax was in addition to the other tithes and included even people and resources ((

Baker: The difference between instructions in Deuteronomy and Numbers led some rabbis to believe that there were two tithes each year, one for the Levite and one to be eaten before the Lord. Yet it is unlikely that the text would institute a second tithe the way it does, without introduction or clarification. Some also believed that the triennial tithe was additional, making a total of three tithes. But it is unlikely that the offerer would have to affirm that such tithe was given properly while saying nothing of the first, or primary tithe.It is possible that there was only one tithe and that the differences in descriptions were due to changing circumstances.

Kelly: There were clearly three different tithes for three different purposes, to three different groups of people and kept in three different places (

Baker: Numbers, written during the period of wandering, instructs the people to give their tithes to the Levites.

Kelly: See Deuteronomy 12:1. Since nobody had land yet, nobody tithed until they entered the land and had a harvest.

Baker: Deuteronomy, written as Israel entered the land and began a more settled existence, required that tithes be eaten in the sanctuary (where the remaining portion was no doubt left).

Kelly: Without a clear text, Baker says “where the remaining portion was no doubt left.” What he really wants to say is that the Bible has an ERROR HERE and that Deuteronomy contradicts or changes Numbers 18.

Baker: It seems every third year the tithe was given to the poor.

Kelly: That would mean no yearly feasts every third year. No record of this.

Baker: Tithing indicated Israel’s devotion to God, and the people did not always give as they should.

Kelly: Only food producers who lived inside Israel were required to tithe. Jesus and Paul did not even qualify.

Baker: Withholding tithes and offerings was regarded as robbing God, but great prosperity was promised if they would obey (Mal 3:8-12).

Kelly: See

Baker: When the people forsook worship of Yahweh their tithes went to idols (Amos 4:4).

Kelly: True.

Baker: Hezekiah oversaw a restoration of obedience to God during which so much was given in tithes and offerings that rooms had to be prepared in the house of the Lord (2 Chron 31:10-11).

Kelly: Half-truth. Hezekiah’s temple was still Solomon’s Temple. It is absurd to assume that Hezekiah’s poor half-nation (the northern tribes were already gone) had more tithes than Solomon during times of great wealth. Why did Solomon’s temple NOT have storerooms for tithes? – because they were kept in the Levitical cities where they were needed for food (2 Chron 31:15-19; compare Neh 10:37a-38). The reason the streets were used to hold large piles of food-tithes is because the Temple was never intended to store more than enough to feed one course (of 24) Levites and priests. That is why it was re-distributed to the cities in verses 15-19.

Baker: Upon return from captivity Nehemiah led another restoration and made sure tithes and offerings were collected (Neh 12:44) so the Levites would not have to work in the fields (13:10) (

Kelly: Nuts. See Numbers 35 and Joshua 20-21 ( From the very beginning Levites and priests were expected to work in the fields to provide food for the tithed-animals they would receive. Baker ignores Nehemiah 10:37b-38. There were far too many Levites and priests to serve in the Temple at one time. Solomon’s “storehouse” of Malachi 3:10 was only a large “storeroom” as indicated by Nehemiah 13:5 and First Kings 6:6 (