"The first distinct mention of the word `tithe' in the Bible is in the very first book of the Old Testament," said Elder Howard W. Hunter, then of the Quorum of the Twelve at the April 1964 general conference.
"Abram, returning from the slaughter of the four kings, was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God. Melchizedek blessed him, and Abram `gave him tithes of all.' " (Gen. 14:20.)Elder Hunter explained that the word "tithe" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon meaning "a tenth."
"It may be defined as a tenth of property or income which is paid over or dedicated for sacred uses or purposes," he said. "The history of the word, as traced through biblical and extra-biblical history, focuses our attention upon some very interesting information."
In addition to the reference in Gen. 14:20, tithing is mentioned a few chapters later in Genesis, in the account of Jacob making a vow at Bethel in these words:
"If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
"So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
"And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." (Gen. 28:20-22.)
Elder Hunter pointed out that the third mention of tithing in the Bible is in connection with the Levitical law. The Lord spoke through Moses:
"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." (Lev. 27:30.)
"There are some who take the position that the law of the tithe was only a Levitical institution, but history confirms the fact that it has been and is a universal law," Elder Hunter said. "It was basic in the Mosaic law. It had existed from the beginning and is found in the ancient Egyptian law, in Babylonia, and can be traced throughout biblical history. It was mentioned by the Prophet Amos and by Nehemiah who was charged with the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Shortly thereafter Malachi
spoke of tithing as heT began an even greater task of rebuilding the faith and the morale of a nation: `Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.' (Mal. 3:8-10.)"
Elder Hunter said that tithing remains a law of the Lord that has been reiterated in the latter days. (See D&C 119:4.)