Leviticus 27:2. A singular vow. When a man shall vow a vow; or as others contend, when a man shall vow to give the price of his life or labour to the Lord. The family of Aaron being appointed priests, and the whole tribe of Levi their assistants; persons desirous of aiding in the worship of the tabernacle, were but little encouraged. Some devoted persons were however accepted; and women were not exempt, for they could prepare the linen. But the levites were too numerous for the sacred service; and therefore they were very much employed as private tutors, Deuteronomy 14:27; and they diffused their services to the more distant parts of the land. See Numbers 30.
Leviticus 27:28. No devoted thing. חרם cherem, which the LXX render anathema. These strong words place the consciences of men in a most serious situation, who violate their vows, and rob God and the church of devoted things. They steal the offering, and God adds the leprosy as a punishment.
Coming now to the close of this sacred and shadowy code, we find the Israelites who devoted themselves to God by the vows of a national covenant, might also, to a certain extent, dispose of their persons and gifts in the same way. Every man might devote himself, his beast, his house, or a lot out of his land; and if not accepted, the value of it was paid into the public treasury for the service of God. The priest might enjoy a field so devoted, till the jubilee, and in some cases for ever. Over this treasure, whether arising from the spoils of war or from private gifts, the kings had a limited controul. 2 Samuel 8:11. 1 Kings 7:51; 1 Kings 15:18. David designed and Solomon applied the public treasure towards the building of the temple; and sometimes the kings of Judah have purchased a peace with their enemies out of the sacred treasury.
To modify extravagant vows, the priest was appointed to estimate the services of devoted persons, and the worth of devoted things. Where a poor man in the warmth of his affections had devoted himself imprudently, he could mitigate the price of his redemption. In our vows and purposes we should therefore be prudent, and consider whether we be able to do so and so; whether it be wanted, and whether the Lord will accept our services and our work. He requires a reasonable service; and all rash and indiscreet vows are but obtrusions on the divine regard. In the dark ages of the church, when the Roman Catholic religion was in all its splendour, the vowing trade was carried to great excess. The churches and monasteries were incredibly enriched. No man would appear at a martyr’s shrine empty; and scarcely an opulent man died, but he left an ox-gang of land, that the monks might pray for his soul. In sickness, trouble, or danger at sea, vows of the most ridiculous kind were often made, and almost as often not paid; and being the effect of guilt and fear, they frequently exposed religion to very great contempt. Nevertheless if a christian choose to make a religious vow, he has the example of St. Paul, and the sanction of the new testament for so doing; and provided the purposes of his heart are discreet and well timed, both he and his services shall be pleasing to God. In short, I would have every christian live in close covenant with God. I would have him consider himself as a person devoted in baptism, and more closely still by self-dedication and covenant. And though he may find daily breaches in his vows and purposes, let him every day renew his efforts, and live nearer to the Lord: purposes so sacred shall strengthen his faith in the hour of temptation.
The Lord having prescribed his service, and appointed his ministers, next provided them a rich store of food in the tenths of cattle and corn: and although the laws of tithe are not repeated, or sanctioned in the new testament, our lands not coming by lot as in Israel: yet we are to revere the laws of our country, and see that neither God’s ministers nor his house lack whatever may be for his glory, or the advancement of true piety. Those who roll in luxury and affluence, and do nothing for religion, will stand in an awful situation when they meet the Lord and giver of all.
But God having so well provided for his servants, let them learn to labour with all their might. Let their piety be as the heated iron, warming and sanctifying all around; and let their sermons be as the hammer which scatters the sparks on every side, that the most distant sphere of their labours may be kindled with the sacred fire.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 27". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany