I started today with Leviticus 27:30-33.
30 A tenth 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.
(Holy means it is set apart as sacred)
33 He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution.
(So much for the teaching that one must "always give God your best." In this case it seems God does the choosing, not the shepherd.)
My NIV footnote directed me to Exodus 13, where I read this... (I'm skipping a little. You will want to read it all, to keep it in context. The chapter right before this one explains the ordinance of the Passover.)
1 The Lord says to Moses,
2 "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The firstborn of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal."
11 After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites.....
12 you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord.
(The King James version reads this way: That thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix,
and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the Lord's.)
Definition: Something (such as a situation or a set of conditions) in which something else originates, develops or takes form.
--thanks to Miriam-Webster dictionary
So a womb is a matrix.
This reminds me of the Bible's emphasis that man is born of woman. While the firstborn male child is from birth given to the Lord, he comes from the womb of the female; and so all humanity is indicated.
Also acknowledged is that all life comes from the Lord's hand. He both created the matrix and has the power to open it.
Fertility, offspring, multiplication... it all comes from the very Author of Life.
13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck.
So the firstborn of the herds and flocks, with no distinction between whether they were clean or unclean, was to be given to the Lord. Special emphasis was upon the males that were first to come out of the womb.
God makes it clear that they belong to Him.
Now, the notes also say the word "redeem" is a verb meaning to "obtain release by means of payment." The payment must be made for the firstborn donkey, but it can be released from that obligation by payment of a lamb. In other words, there was made a way to retain the future services of a very valuable animal, and at the same time fulfill one's obligation to the Lord.
This passage is not about the tithe or tenth, which is where my study started. Rather it involves not just agriculture and livestock, but the first (male) to be born from any womb in the land of Israel.
13) Redeem every firstborn among your sons.
So the human beings were to be consecrated to their Lord, but by their life, rather than their death.
But why was this consecration of the firstborn declared? Exodus 13 explains in verses 14-16.
When Pharoah refused to let the Israelites go, the Lord killed every firstborn man and animal in Egypt. That payment / redemption was the high price of their freedom. So the Israelites themselves sacrificed to the Lord every firstborn as a sign and a symbol that the Lord God himself redeemed them.
From there I was led to Numbers 3:40-51.
The Lord required Moses to number all the first-born of the males of the children of Israel a month old and older. And he was to take down their names.
Then the tribe of Levi was to take the place of the first-born, and belong to the Lord instead. There were slightly more first-born males than Levis. 273 more. These were redeemed by paying five shekels apiece for them and giving the money to the Levites.
Likewise, the Levite's cattle (only the cattle, not all the livestock) were redeemed in place of the cattle which belonged to the rest of the Israelites.
Redemption: the idea that a price must be paid for freedom from bondage, continues in other areas of the Bible.
It must be remembered that the Torah or Law is a matter of teachings. These teachings are re-emphasized over and over from generation to generation.
It also must be remembered that these particular scriptures are focused on God's establishment of the nation Israel. These regulations pertain to them, and any promises also pertain to them. Whether they also pertain to the not yet established body of Christ remains to be seen.
This is one of those lessons I feel form a foundation for something I am to learn later.
Today's take away:
1) A tenth of Livestock and agricultural goods are given to the Lord through the Levites who also are especially holy to Him.
2) All life, human and animal, are formed by God within the womb. As such, the firstborn are a sign of his blessing, and they also belonged to Him.
3) Freedom comes from redemption. While tithing can involve agriculture, redemption involves a life for a life. For the Israelites freedom was at the cost of the firstborn of the Egyptians and their animals. I must always remember, the price must be paid somewhere.