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The purpose of this question is to understand the amount that a household would give to the tabernacle following the law found in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. One example of this law is found in Numbers 29 and 29. These chapters describe a yearly cycle of offering and sacrifice. Yet, it is unclear how much of the offering was done by the priests for the entire nation and how much it was obligatory on households.

For example, Numbers 28:3-8 - “3 And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering. 4 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 5 also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil. 6 It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place, you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD. 8 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight. Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” Is this daily morning and night offering made by the priests only for the whole nation? Does each household perform the morning and evening offerings?

Reading on in Numbers 28 and 29, there are prescribed offerings and sacrifices for each Sabbath day, the beginning of each month, and then the high holy days. Adding it all together, what would the average household have given in a year?

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Numbers 28--29 is communal offerings. Those were done by Temple priests, and funded by everyone's annual half-shekel dues. (In fact, the Talmud's tractate Shekalim is all about said public funds. These communal sacrifices must come from public monies!)

The average family was responsible for a Passover lamb (which they could "go in on" with other families if needed), and some kind of offering at each pilgrimage. If someone wasn't wealthy, those could be lambs too, so we're talking four lambs. (Even then, the Passover lamb was mostly eaten by its owners.)

Firstborn male livestock were given to priests; tithes of new livestock had to be eaten in Jerusalem (by the owners). A few symbolic first fruits to the priest annually; recommend-2%-but-it-could-be-a-single-kernel to the priests; 10% of crops to the Levites, and a subsequent 10% either to the poor or eat-it-yourself-in-Jerusalem, depending on the year.

A couple more offerings for childbirth -- but those explicitly offered a cheaper option of doves for those who couldn't afford livestock.

All in all, if you average the eat-it-yourself-in-Jerusalem years with the give-it-to-the-Levite years, you're looking at 14% annually of your produce that you can't eat yourself, plus four lambs, maybe two doves, one fruit basket, and a half shekel of cash. Oh and a couple pounds of wool when shearing. Quite reasonable; a lot of these are really symbolic. And then a tenth your livestock plus eh, 6% on average of your produce that had to be eaten in Jerusalem. Still, really not that hefty. A lot of it was really symbolic, small amounts throughout the agricultural cycle, to constantly reinforce the religious message.

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  • Also every boy over 13 has to bring an offering for the holidays, not just the father.
    – Heshy
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 21:57
  • Great answer! Thank you!
    – Trent
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 22:39

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