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LEVITICUS CHAPTER 27
Laws touching the redeeming of men devoted to God, Leviticus 27:1-8, or of beasts, Leviticus 27:9-13; of bosses, Leviticus 27:14,Leviticus 27:15; of fields or grounds, Leviticus 27:16-25.
What things might not be vowed; and being so, what redeemable, and what not, Leviticus 27:26-29.
Of redeeming the tenths both of fruit and cattle, Leviticus 27:30-33.
A singular vow, or, an eminent or hard or wonderful vow; not concerning things, which was not strange, but customary; but concerning persons, as it here follows, which he vowed, or by vow devoted unto the Lord, which indeed was unusual and difficult: yet there want not instances of such vows, and of persons which devoted either themselves or their children to the service of God, and that either more strictly and particularly, as the Nazarites and the Levites, 1 Samuel 1:11, and for these there was no redemption admitted, but they were in person to perform the service to which they were devoted; or more largely and generally, as some who were not Levites, nor intended themselves or their children should be Nazarites, might yet, through zeal to God and his service, or to obtain God’s help in giving them some mercy which they wanted and desired, or in freeing them from some evil felt or feared, devoted themselves or their children to the service of God and of the sanctuary, though not in such a way as the Levites, which they were forbidden to do, yet in some kind of subserviency to them. And because there might be too great a number of persons thus dedicated, which might be burdensome and chargeable to the sanctuary, therefore an exchange is allowed, and the priests are directed to impose and require a tax for their redemption.
For the Lord, i.e. dedicated to the Lord, and consequently to the priest. By whose estimation?
Answ. Either, 1. Thine, O priest, to whom the valuation of things belonged, and here is ascribed, Leviticus 27:12. Or rather,
2. Thine, O man that vowest, as appears from Leviticus 27:8, where his estimation is opposed to the priest’s valuation. Nor was there any fear of his partiality in his own cause, for the price is particularly limited. But where the price is undetermined, there, to avoid that inconvenience, the priest is to value it, as Leviticus 27:8,Leviticus 27:12.
From twenty years old to sixty years old is the best time for strength and service, and therefore is prized at the highest rate.
Less than the man’s price, because she is inferior to him both in strength and serviceableness.
From five years old, at what age they might be vowed by their parents, as appears from 1 Samuel 1:0. though not by themselves; and the children were obliged by their parents’ vow, which is not strange, considering the parents’ power and right to dispose of their children so far as is not contrary to the mind of God.
If he be poorer than thy estimation; if after his vow he be decayed and impoverished, and not able to pay the price which thou, according to the rules here given, requirest of him.
According to his ability; which God also considered in other cases, as Leviticus 12:8. Compare 2 Corinthians 8:12.
Whereof men bring, to wit, usually and according to God’s appointment. Giveth, i.e. voweth to give.
Shall be holy, i.e. consecrated to God, either to be sacrificed, or to be given to the priest according to the manner of the vow, and the intention of him that voweth.
He shall not alter it, nor change it; two words expressing the same thing more emphatically: q.d. He shall in no wise change it, neither for one of the same, nor of another kind.
A good for a bad, or a bad for a good; partly because God would preserve the sanctity and reverence of consecrated things, and therefore would not have them alienated; and partly to prevent abuses of them who on this pretence might exchange it for the worse, as reserving the judgment to himself.
The exchange thereof, i.e. both the thing first vowed, and thing offered or given in exchange. This was inflicted upon him as a just penalty for his rashness and levity in such weighty matters.
If it be unclean, either for the kind, or for the quality of it, if it were such a one as might not be offered. The dog only may seem to be excepted, for his price might not be offered. See Deuteronomy 23:18.
Sanctify his house, to wit, by a vow, for of that way and manner of sanctification he speaks in this whole chapter.
Holy uno the Lord; in which case the benefit of it redounded either to the priests, for their maintenance, Numbers 18:4, or to the sanctuary, for its reparations or expenses.
So shall it stand; supposing that the priest’s estimation doth not notoriously swerve from the rules of valuation prescribed by God. For if the priest determined most unrighteously and unreasonably, as suppose a hundred times more than the true value of it, I presume no man is so void of sense as to say they were all bound to stand to the priest’s determination in that case. Even as in case a man’s leprosy was notorious and unquestionable, if a priest should through partiality pronounce him clean, this did not make him clean. And therefore all those passages of Scripture which leave things to, and command men to acquiesce in, the determination of the priest or priests, are to be understood with this exception, that their determinations be not evidently contrary to the revealed will of God, to whom priests are subject and accountable. Otherwise, if the priests had commanded men to profane the sabbath, this would have acquitted them from the obligation of God’s command of keeping it holy, which is impious and absurd to affirm. And this consideration will give light to many scriptures.
He shall add the fifth part, which he might the better do, because the priests did usually put a moderate rate upon it.
A field of his possession, i.e. which is his by inheritance, because particular direction is given about purchased lands, Leviticus 27:22. And he saith part of it, because it was unlawful to vow away all his possessions, because thereby he had disenabled himself from the performance of divers duties by way of sacrifice, almsgiving, &c., and made himself burdensome to his brethren.
According to the seed thereof, i.e. according to the quantity and quality of the land, which is known by the quantity of seed which it can receive and return.
Fifty shekels of silver, not to be paid yearly, till the year of jubilee, as some would have it, but once for all, as is most probable,
1. Because here is no mention of any yearly payment, but only of one payment, and we must not add to the text.
2. Because it is most probable that lands and all things were favourably and moderately valued, so that men might be rather encouraged to make such vows upon just occasions, than to be deterred from them by excessive impositions. But if this were yearly rent, it was an excessive rate, and much more than the land ordinarily yielded. For an omer is but the tenth part of an ephah, Exodus 16:36, and therefore not above a pottle of our measure, which quantity of seed would not extend very far, and in some lands would yield but an inconsiderable crop, especially in barley, which was cheaper than wheat, and which for that reason, among others, may seem to be here mentioned rather than wheat.
From the year of jubilee, i.e. immediately after the year of jubilee is past.
According to thy estimation, now mentioned, to wit, of fifty shekels for an homer of barley seed.
It shall stand, i.e. that price shall be paid without diminution.
After the jubilee, i.e. some considerable time after the jubilee, as appears from the following words.
Unto the year of the jubilee; the defalcation from the full price of fifty shekels being to be more or less, as the years are more or fewer. See Leviticus 25:15-17.
If he will not redeem the field, to wit, when the priest shall set a price upon it, and offer it to him in the first place to redeem it.
If he have sold; he, who? Either,
1. The man that vowed it; if he after such a vow made shall neglect to pay his vow, and shall sacrilegiously sell the same land to another man; or, if he sell it, i.e. suffer it to be sold to another, and will not prevent that by redeeming it to himself. Or rather,
2. The priest, or some in his name, who, though not expressed, is sufficiently understood out of the foregoing clause, If he will not redeem or buy again the field, to wit, of the priest, who is now the seller of it; or, or rather and, for this seems to be added by way of accumulation, if he, i.e. the priest, of whom he might have redeemed it, upon his refusal, offers it to sale, and
have sold the field to another man. Add to this, that none but the priest could sell this land, after it was once vowed and declared to be so, and offered by the priest to him again to redeem it, which is apparently the present case.
It shall not be redeemed any more, i.e. he shall for ever lose the benefit of redemption.
When it goeth out, i. e. of the possession of the other man to whom the priest sold it. The priests’, for their maintenance. Nor is this repugnant to that law, that the priests should have no inheritance in the land, Numbers 18:20; for that is only spoken of them and the whole tribe of Levi in general, and in reference to the first division of the land, wherein the Levites were not to have a distinct part of land, as other tribes had; but this doth not hinder but some particular lands might be vowed and given to the priests, either for their own benefit, or for the service of the sanctuary.
The worth of thy estimation, i.e. the price or sum at which thou, O priest, shalt reckon it. So it is only a change of the person, which is frequent; or, the price which thou, O Moses, by my direction hast set in such cases. Unto the year of the jubilee, i.e. as much as it is worth for that space of time between the making of the vow and the year of jubilee; for he had no right to it for any longer time, as the next verse tells us.
He shall give thine estimation, without the addition of the fifth part, which he was to pay for his lands of inheritance, Leviticus 27:19, as being of a better and more durable tenure than purchased lands, which were his only till the jubilee.
As a holy thing; as that which is to be consecrated to God instead of the land redeemed by it.
By original right, which no other person by vow or otherwise could give away from him.
No man shall sanctify it, to wit, by vow; because it is not his own, but the Lord’s already, and therefore to vow such a thing to God is a tacit derogation from and a usurpation of the Lord’s right, and a mocking of God by pretending to give him what we cannot withhold from him.
Ox or sheep: under these two eminent kinds he comprehends all other beasts which might be sacrificed to God, the firstlings whereof could not be redeemed, but were to be sacrificed; whereas the firstlings of men were to be redeemed, and therefore were capable of being vowed, as we see 1 Samuel 1:11.
If it be of an unclean beast, i.e. if it be the first-born of an unclean beast, as appears from Leviticus 27:26, which could not be vowed, because it was a first-born, nor offered, because it was unclean, and therefore is here commanded to be redeemed or sold. Others understand it of all unclean beasts in general, and not of the first-born of them, because the first-born of such were to be redeemed by a sheep, Exodus 13:13, without the addition of any such fifth part as is here enjoined; which is true of the first redemption of them, but then as after they were redeemed they might be again vowed unto God, so when the owners would redeem them a second time, it was but reasonable they should pay a better price for them. And if this were meant of unclean beasts in general, this were the very same law which is mentioned before, Leviticus 27:11-13; which, it is not probable, would after a few verses be unnecessarily repeated again like a distinct law. It shall be sold, and the price thereof was given to the priests, or brought into the Lord’s treasury.
No devoted thing, i.e. nothing which is absolutely devoted to God, with a curse upon themselves or others if they disposed not of it according to their vow; as the Hebrew word implies.
Of all that he hath, to wit, in his power or possession.
Is most holy unto the Lord, i.e. only to be touched or employed by the priests, and by no other persons; no, not by their own families, for that was the state of the
most holy things.
Of men, not by men, as some would elude it; but of men, for it is manifest both from this and the foregoing verses, that men here are not the persons devoting, but devoted.
Quest. Was it then lawful for any man or men thus to devote another person to the Lord, and in pursuance of such vow to put him to death?
Answ. This was unquestionably lawful, and a duty in some cases, when persons have been devoted to destruction either by God’s sentence, as idolaters, Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13:15, the Canaanites, Deuteronomy 20:17, the Amalekites, Deuteronomy 25:19; 1 Samuel 15:3,1 Samuel 15:26, Benhadad, 1 Kings 20:42; or by men, in pursuance of such a sentence of God, as Numbers 21:2,Numbers 31:17; or for any crime of a high nature, as Judges 21:5; Joshua 7:15. But this is not to be generally understood, as some have taken it, as if a Jew might by virtue of this text devote his child or his servant to the Lord, and thereby oblige himself to put them to death, which peradventure was Jephthah’s error. For this is expressly limited to all that a man hath, or which is his, i.e. which he hath a power over. But the Jews had no power over the lives of their children or servants, but were directly forbidden to take them away, by that great command, Thou shalt do no murder. And seeing he that killed his servant casually by a blow with a rod was surely to be punished, as is said Exodus 21:20, it could not be lawful wilfully and intentionally to take away his life upon pretence of any such vow as this. But for the Canaanites, Amalekites, &c., God, the undoubted Lord of all men’s lives, gave to the Israelites a power over their persons and lives, and a command to put them to death. And this verse may have a special respect to them, or such as them. And although the general subject of this and the former verse be one and the same, yet there are two remarkable differences to this purpose:
1. The verb is active Leviticus 27:28, and the agent there expressed, that a man shall devote; but it is passive Leviticus 27:29, and the agent undetermined, which shall be devoted, to wit, by God, or men in conformity to God’s revealed will.
2. The devoted person or thing is only to be sold or redeemed, and said to be most holy, Leviticus 27:28; but here it is to be put to death, and this belongs only to men, and those such as either were or should be devoted in manner now expressed.
There are divers sorts of tithes, but this seems to be understood only of the ordinary and yearly tithes belonging to the Levites, &c., as the very expression intimates, and the addition of the fifth part in case of redemption thereof implies.
Under the rod; either,
1. The tither’s rod, it being the manner of the Jews in tithing to cause all their cattle to pass through some gate or narrow passage, where the tenth was marked by a person appointed for that purpose, and reserved for the priest. Or,
2. The shepherd’s rod, under which the herds and flocks passed, and by which they were governed and numbered. See Jeremiah 33:13; Ezekiel 20:37.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Leviticus 27". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16