Second Tithe, and Wine

What is the meaning of Deuteronomy 14:26?

SAMUEL A. KAPLAN, Jewish Minister, Greater New York Conference.

What is the meaning of Deuteronomy 14:26? After the Lord instructed His people to tithe their increase, He laid down this condition, that if the distance be too far to carry the tithe, "Then shalt thou turn it into money, and . . shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink." Please explain how the Lord permitted the tithe to be used for per­sonal gratification here, and also why He per­mitted His people to drink.

Some Jewish authorities, such as Leeser, in­terpret this passage to mean that the Israelites were to use the sacred tithe for themselves for two years out of every three while sojourning in Jerusalem. Such a construction is wholly at variance with the explicit command of God as recorded in Numbers 18:21: "And to the children of Levi, behold, I have given every tithe in Israel."—Leeser's translation. (See also "Patriarchs and Prophets," p. 526.) No Israelite was at liberty to use any of this tithe for himself. If the tithe was to be redeemed, the equivalent of it must be paid, with an addi­tional one fifth, or twenty per cent. (See Lev. 27 : 30-32.)

The scripture in question, therefore, must refer to another tithe altogether, or a secondary tithe. In "Patriarchs and Prophets," page 530, we are told: "To promote the assembling of the people for religious service, as well as to pro­vide for the poor, a second tithe of all the increase was required." (See also Deut. 14: 23 and Ex. 23:17.) Two years out of every three, the Israelites were to bring this second tithe to the temple at Jerusalem. But if the-distance was too great to carry this tithe in kind, the Jews were instructed to turn their provisions into cash and take the money to Jerusalem. (See Deut. 14:24, 25.) After giv­ing a thank offering to God and a specified portion to the priests, the Israelites were to "use the remainder for a religious feast, in which the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow should participate."—Ibid. Every third year the secondary tithe was used at home for the Levites and the poor. (See Dent. 26; 12; 14:28, 29.)

Now the matter of drinking wine. At the afore-mentioned religious feasts at Jerusalem, the Israelites were to use the secondary tithe "for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after [Hebrew —whatsoever thy soul desirethl, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink." Did the Lord hereby give the children of Abra­ham license to become intoxicated while on these sacred pilgrimages? Such a conclusion is inadmissible in the light of the Bible as a whole. Throughout the Sacred Writings, drink­ing and drunkards are condemned, and "the Scripture cannot be broken." John 10:35. The text in question, however, is, and must be, con­sistent with every other scripture.

In the Hebrew language, "wine" and "strong drink" are written ya-een and shai-chor, re­spectively. The two expressions are sometimes used synonymously in the Bible. (See Prov. 20:1; 1 Sam. 1:15.) Ya-een, or wine, covers a variety of meanings. It is used in Scripture to mean the pure juice of grapes (Ex. 29:40), fermented wine (Joshua 9:13), pure doctrine. Isa. 55:1. New, unfermented wine is tirosh. Joel 1:10. Old wine, fermented or unfermented, is shai-chor. The Hebrew word "shai-chor," means satisfaction, satiation, sweetness. Haggai 1:6. The English word "sugar," the German word "zucher," and the Greek word "sikera" (sweet wine) are all quite similar to) the Hebrew shai-cha ." The old wine was sweeter, more satisfying, than the new wine. (See Luke 5:39.)

Although "shai-chor" is used in Scripture many times, meaning intoxicating drink, it is also used to designate old, sweet, unfermented wine. (See Num. 28:7.) In this sense it is used also in Deuteronomy 14:26. Certainly God would not advocate in one scripture that which He unequivocally condemns in all the others. (See Prov. 21:1; Hab. 2:5; Isa. 5:22.) 


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SAMUEL A. KAPLAN, Jewish Minister, Greater New York Conference.

November 1937

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