The Man-Tithe
Exodus 13:1-2
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…

I. OBSERVE THE FIRST RULE: "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn of man." As the redemption of the firstborn of the more valuable animals was graciously commuted by the sacrifice of less valuable ones, so there was a commutation for the firstborn of man; not indeed by inferior substitutes as in the former case, but by his fellowman — by the institution of a priesthood, "sanctifying," or setting apart, the whole tribe of Levi in place of the firstborn of all Israel. But as this arrangement had not yet transpired at the period of the text, the explanation was deferred till then, that in the meanwhile the whole nation might fully realize the amount and weight of their liability to God; and further, that when Levi was sanctified, the whole Levitical priesthood — a priesthood of their brethren, "bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh" — might symbolize the High Priesthood of the Mediator who "was in all things made like unto His brethren," that He too "might also make intercession for the sins of the people." This lies at the root of the Levitical principle, the layagency in the church of God. Admirable is the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law, and incidentally it bears upon this subject. "This thing," that is, the whole burthen of the work, "is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone... Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens." Thus the work of religion, benevolence, and rule was divided, subdivided, and redivided still, from considerable districts down to classes of tens, as we should desire to see the work of God among ourselves distributed among our lay deacons and elders, district visitors, collectors and Sabbath-school teachers, who in their respective ministries should act on the suggestion of Jethro, "The hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves."

II. Secondly, the text presents the rule of consecrated WEALTH — "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn of beasts." On this point there is some difficulty. "All the firstborn of cattle" were given to the Lord by sacrifice; and yet in the forty-fifth verse of the third chapter of Numbers the whole of the cattle of the Levites were considered as a substitute for the firstlings of the general cattle, just as all the men of the Levites were accepted as the substitute for all the firstborn of men from the rest of the tribes. Possibly the cattle firstlings were redeemed, as the excess of human firstborn over the number of the firstborn of the Levites were, by the half-shekel atonement for each, which was payable at the census or periodical numbering of the people. It is probable that David's omission of this payment was the sin which incurred God's heavy displeasure in that unseasonable numbering of the people, which, in omitting the soul. tax for atonement, seemed numbered for David himself, and not for God. Be this as it may, the Lord claimed all the firstborn of their beasts, which were the staple property in the ruder forms of society.

III. The text presents its demand for consecrated TIME. We need not dwell upon the Sabbath, or the Divine claim upon the sevenths of our time. Assuming we are all agreed that this, the minimum of God's requirement, is due from every man, we may deplore the manner in which, for the most part, even this holy debt is discharged. The abuse of the Sabbath and insubordination to its constantly recurring, bounden, and emphatic law, lies at the root of the national irreligion. There is a significancy in the proportion of the Divine demand of only a tenth of all other things, but a seventh of our time.

(J. B. Owen, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

WEB: Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

The First Born, Types of Christ
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