This morning I found a short video on tithing in the Old Testament that led me on a wonderful quest. I love picking up on an insight someone shares and then digging deeper into those things. In this instance, the topic is the phrase “pass under the rod” and it was the method the Lord instructed the people to use to tithe of their flocks.
If you would like to create a collection note in Scripture Notes as we go, pull up a search pane and do a search for:
Remove the result from Exodus 21:20 and click “Create CN” to create the collection note.
Then for Leviticus 27:32 click the up arrow to add verses 31, then 30. For Ezekiel 20:37, click the down arrow to add verse 38.
Now lets look at Leviticus 27:30.
30. And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.
The Hebrew word for tithe is ma’aser (pron. mah-as-ayr) and meant tenth part.
In verse 32 we then read this interesting phrase.
32. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.
Looking at the LDS Citation Index for this verse there is a statement of explanation by Elder Franklin D. Richards in an address deliver in Logan, Utah on November 6, 1882.
“Do you know what that means? I will relate the history as it has come down to us. When they came to pay their tithing the Lord told them it should not be the poorest, neither would he ask the best; therefore they put their flock or herd in a pen having an outlet just large enough for one to pass out at a time, and as the animals passed in single-file, the owner stood by with a rod in his hand that had been dipped in some sort of coloring material, counting them as they came out, and touching every tenth animal with his colored rod. He would not go in among them and pick them lest his judgment might not be right, but the flock passed out according to their own inclination, and as they passed, the owner stood with the coloring rod and marked on the back of every tenth animal, and after all had passed out to an adjoining fold, those that were marked were then picked out from the flock. “He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” (Lev. 27:33) They were to take it as it came, not to pick the good nor the bad; this was the requirement, that they should give to the Lord tithes of all: (Lev. 27:30-33). There is another feature in this which is worthy of notice, while all Israel paid these offerings and tithes of their seed and grain, flocks and herds, to the ones appointed to receive it—to the Levites; that tribe of Israel was forbidden to have any other property, but they had to live on the tithing thus presented. (Num. 18:20-24) Still they were required to pay a tithe of what they received the same as the rest of the people. The Scriptures say about this in the 18th chapter of Numbers: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fullness of the winepress.” (Num. 18:25-27) Thus we see that the Levites had to pay tithing of all they received.” -Elder Franklin D. Richards, JD 23:316
So we see that the Lord made this process simple and efficient. Nobody had to worry about giving the Lord the best or worst animals. It was a simple process of letting them all come out one at a time and marking them as the Lord’s, and then gathering them out of the herd to deliver them.
Then interestingly, we see the Levites, who received a tenth part from all the other tribes, in turn gave a tenth part of what they received to the priests who were performing the offerings as a reminder to them and all Israel, that all tithe of their increase and remember the blessings the Lord has given them.
I left verse 31 out above because it contains a concept that needs dealt with separately. The verse reads:
31. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.
What does that mean??? How does one redeem their tithes and then add to it?
In a discourse by Elder George Q. Cannon, delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, Sept. 8, 1872, he said:
“And so strict was this law, that when an animal passed under the rod, to use the expression of Scripture, and thereby became a proper animal to be devoted to the service of God, though it were a choice animal, and one which the owner of it desired to retain, the law provided that it could not be retained: it was devoted to the Lord, and was holy on that account. Lev. 27:32-33 And if the owner of it were to substitute another animal instead of it, they both became holy unto the Lord, and both became tithing animals and had to be dedicated unto him, so strict was the Lord in enforcing this law of tithing upon Israel. I often think of the practice which prevails among us in this respect, how differently we act to what ancient Israel did, and how it would pinch some of us if the law of tithing were enforced among us as strictly as it was among them. Not only was this the law of tithing, as I have rehearsed it, with regard to substitution; but if a man wanted to redeem that which was devoted for tithing, a certain valuation was put upon it, and in addition to this valuation a certain sum of money had to be paid before it could be redeemed. In other words tithing had to be paid in kind, and if a man wanted to redeem his tithing he had to pay not only the money valuation of it, but an additional sum besides, before the redemption could be effected.” -Elder George Q. Cannon, JD 15:145
So apparently, if someone marked an item for the Lord, it was holy and if they tried to substitute for it, both members of the flock became holy to the Lord and were to be tithed. The only way to redeem that animal and keep it was to have a proper valuation put upon it, and the person would have to pay double tithing (the original valuation twice) which is a fifth (20%). This put a real emphasis on the Lord’s portion.
I would copy/paste Elder Richard’s quote to your collection note and name the note something like “Passing under the rod for tithing.” Give it tags of Rod and Tithing. Add those verses in Numbers 18:20-27 to the verses in the collection as well if you want, and you can paste Elder Cannon’s quote to either the verse note (that’s my choice) or the collection note.
Now lets look at the other verses in the collection in Ezekiel 20.
37. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
38. And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
Well now we have a whole different perspective on passing under the rod. We are the tithing of the Lord. It is we who are passing under the rod, but this time, a very discerning shepherd with perfect judgment who makes no mistakes about his selection is going to mark those who are part of his covenant people, and purge out the rebels, before they can enter the promised land.
This purging is happening right now. The increased polarization of the world is impacting members of the church. The lines between good and evil are very clearly being drawn and it’s only going to get more and more clear the choices we have to make to promote the true principles of the gospel, or follow Babylon and the path of the rebel.
Please note, we would probably never have found these verses in Ezekiel from reading in Leviticus unless we had become curious and done a search to see where else the words “rod and under” were used. Over and over again, the Lord gives a command or teaches a principle in one part of the scriptures, but explains it somewhere else or over a collection of verses. This is why it is critical to search the scriptures and look for unique phrases to see what other verses might explain about them. It’s also wonderful to have resources from scholars and prophets to explain things that might not be readily discernable from the text alone.
Lets go a step further. Looking in the Blue Letter Bible, we see the word rod comes from the Hebrew word shebet (pron. she-vet). This word has meanings that include rod, staff, shaft (of a spear), branch, club, sceptre, and tribe.
Now picture this. The Lord’s people are passing “under the rod” for his selection (judgment). Consider these verses which use the same shebet word but is translated differently. I will bold the word in Hebrew that is this same word for rod.
Genesis 49:10 “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Numbers 24:17 “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
Deuteronomy 1:13 “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.”
Deuteronomy 29:18 “Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;”
Isn’t it interesting that the Hebrew language equates a shepherd’s rod with a ruling scepter, and the word tribe? The tribes of Israel were set apart and chosen by a righteous judgment in a pre-mortal election. As part of modern-day Israel, the Lord is again having us “pass under the rod” to judge which of the sheep are worthy and prepared to be marked as his chosen ones in this final day of judgment.
You can see all the verses that use this word at this link if you desire to read more.
(Featured image by Timothy Allen @ 123rf.com)