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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 27

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-8

1. Vows concerning persons 27:1-8

The amount of money that a person had to pay at the end of a vow in which he pledged a person depended on the age and sex of the individual. Some people were worth more in this respect than others.

"These figures are very large. The average wage of a worker in biblical times was about one shekel per month. [Note: I. Mendelsohn, Slavery in the Ancient Near East, p. 118.] It is little wonder that few could afford the valuations set out here (Leviticus 27:8)." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 338.]

Verses 1-34


The blessings and curses (ch. 26) were in a sense God’s vows to His people. This chapter deals with His people’s vows to Him. Another connection between these chapters is that in times of divine discipline (Leviticus 26:14-33) people tend to make vows to God. Chapter 27 shows how God wanted the Israelites to honor their vows. [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 336.]

"The directions concerning vows follow the express termination of the Sinaitic lawgiving (chap. xxvi. 46), as an appendix to it, because vows formed no integral part of the covenant laws, but were a freewill expression of piety common to almost all nations, and belonged to the modes of worship current in all religions, which were not demanded and might be omitted altogether, and which really lay outside the law, though it was necessary to bring them into harmony with the demands of the law upon Israel." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 2:479.]

"No true worship can end without presenting ourselves and our substance to the Lord, Who provides all our benefits." [Note: Louis Goldberg, Leviticus: A Study Guide Commentary, p. 143.]

"Just as the whole of the giving of the Law at Sinai began with ten commandments, so it now ends with a list of ten laws. The content of the ten laws deals with the process of payment of vows and tithes made to the Lord." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 365.]

The ten laws, which I have combined somewhat for convenience, are in Leviticus 27:1-34.

God did not command the Israelites to make vows or to promise anything to Him. However vowing is a natural desire of people who love God or want things from God. Therefore God gave the Israelites regulations that were to govern their vowing and dedicating. Though God did not command vows, He expected that once His people made them they would keep them (cf. Proverbs 20:25; Ecclesiastes 5:3-5). It may be that part of the purpose of these regulations was to discourage rash swearing by fixing a relatively high price on the discharge and changing of vows. [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 337.]

"A vow to God placed a person or property in a special consecrated relationship which stood outside the formal demands of the law." [Note: Harrison, p. 235.]

A vow was a promise to give oneself or one’s possessions to God so He would bestow some blessing or because He had already bestowed a blessing. People made vows to do something or not do something. Vows were normally temporary. When a person wanted to get back what he had vowed to God he had to pay a certain price to the sanctuary to buy back what he had given to God. This constituted redeeming what the person had vowed. Old Testament examples of people who made vows are Jephthah (Judges 11:30-31) and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11). Votive offerings were offerings made in payment of vows.

Verses 9-13

2. Vows concerning animals 27:9-13

The Israelites could offer animals that the Mosaic Law classed as clean or unclean to God in payment for a vow. The priests probably used the unclean animals for various purposes other than sacrifice, or they could sell them for a profit.

Verses 14-29

3. Vows concerning other property 27:14-29

God treated houses (Leviticus 27:14-15) the same as unclean cattle (cf. Leviticus 27:11-12). He calculated land value in relationship to the year of jubilee. The people evidently were to pay for land they inherited and then vowed year by year (Leviticus 27:16-21). However they normally were to pay for land they purchased and then vowed in one payment (Leviticus 27:22-25). They could not vow first-born animals because these already belonged to God (Leviticus 27:26-27). Neither could they vow people or objects that had already been dedicated to God for good purposes (e.g., the spoil of Jericho) or bad purposes (e.g., a condemned murderer; Leviticus 27:28-29).

Verses 30-34

4. The redemption of tithes 27:30-34

God claimed as His possession one tenth of the seed, fruit, and livestock of the Israelites. If the owner wished to keep some of this himself, he had to pay the value of what he kept to God plus 20 percent. This tithe was a commonly recognized obligation to God and for this reason it was not part of the Mosaic Law (cf. Genesis 14:20; Genesis 28:22). This was one of two tithes the Israelites had to pay (cf. Deuteronomy 14:22-27), the other being the tithe they paid every three years to support the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Probably Moses included the directions concerning it in this section of Leviticus because this tithe was a gift to God.

The Israelites were to devote the Sabbath entirely to God as a reminder that all their days belonged to Him. Likewise they were to tithe their income as a reminder that all their possessions belonged to Him. The tithe was not just the part the Israelites owed God. It was a reminder that they owed everything to God. [Note: James Philip, Numbers, p. 212.]

"Leviticus 27 points out that holiness is more than a matter of divine call and correct ritual. Its attainment requires the total consecration of a man’s life to God’s service. It involves giving yourself, your family, and all your possessions to God." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 343.]

God has given quite different directions to guide the giving of Christians under the New Covenant (cf. 1 Corinthians 16; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Philippians 4). He has not specified a percentage that His people must give. He wants us to give joyfully, sacrificially, proportionately, and as He has prospered us. Teaching Christians to give as God instructed the Israelites under the Old Covenant often has the effect of limiting their giving rather than increasing it. Many Christians erroneously think that when they have given 10 percent they have satisfied God.

"In order to reflect God’s faithfulness, God demands that his people be faithful to do all that they vow or promise and be careful that their vows and promises are appropriate." [Note: Ross, p. 495.]

The New Testament emphasizes keeping our word more than keeping our vows. All our words should be trustworthy and reliable (Matthew 5:37). This is an important aspect of personal integrity.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 27". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/leviticus-27.html. 2012.
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