“And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there. And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us.
And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God.
And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you. ” (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)
For over five hundred years, Israel had occupied and farmed land belonging to others. When they had gone into Egypt it had been strictly as aliens with no real rights except as the Egyptians permitted them. When they brought the first fruits it was to be a reminder that they had possessed no land of their own, and that they would not have survived except for Egypt’s generosity.
Later the Egyptians made slaves of them, and began to abuse them, and God delivered them in a miraculous fashion. The first fruits were a sample of the first harvest each year from their own land. They were to bring the first fruits to the Lord and review what he had done for them, thanking God that they had their own land and the crops belonged to them.
“When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them: I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use, nor given ought thereof for the dead: but I have hearkened to the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that thou hast commanded me. Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 26:12-15)
God did not require the tithe be paid until the end of the third year, allowing the profits to grow freely. The effect would be similar to placing one’s money into an IRA where it can grow freely without deductions. It also gave them time to have fully disposed of the crop so they know exactly what they have made.
When the tithe was settled at the end of the third year, they were to review how they had shared portions with the Levites, homeless, orphans and widows according to God’s commandments. They were to certify that they had obeyed God’s commands, not using the tithe selfishly or for any purpose that he would not be honored by. While the tithe was given to the Lord, how it was dispersed was largely up to the donor. Based on their obedience they were to ask God to bless them as he had promised.