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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Leviticus 27

Introduction

CHAP. XXVII.

Concerning vows: no devoted thing may be redeemed: concerning the payment of tithes.

Before Christ 1490.

Verse 1

Leviticus 27:1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying It has been thought that some of the people, moved by the promises and threats in the last chapter, expressed a resolution of dedicating themselves and their goods more immediately to God; and that this gave occasion to the following rules for the due regulation of such vows.

Verses 2-3

Leviticus 27:2-3. When a man shall make a singular vow, &c.— Or, it may be read, When any one shall set apart to the Lord a vow, according to such valuation of persons as thou shalt fix, and thy valuation shall be of a male from twenty years old to sixty years old; then thou shalt set the value at fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. 4. But if it be a female, the rate shall be, &c. The phrase in the original shall separate, or set apart, a vow, signifies to separate any thing from a common to a sacred use by solemn promise; for vows were religious promises made to God, for obtaining some blessing, or for deliverance out of some danger; and were accompanied with prayer, and paid with thanksgiving, Numbers 21:2-3.Psalms 66:13-14; Psalms 66:13-14. Eceles. Leviticus 5:4. Philo calls this the great vow, ευχη μεγαλη, as proceeding from a singular devotion; whereby a man dedicates, not his cattle or goods, but himself or children, his greatest possessions, to the service of the tabernacle, to minister to the priests in the necessary offices thereof. Any souls or persons thus devoted to the Lord, were to be redeemed according to the rate, or valuation, here appointed: fifty shekels, i.e. about 5£. 15s. (reckoning the shekel at about 2s. 4d.) were to be the valuation of a man from twenty to sixty years old: women are valued at a lower rate, because their services for the tabernacle were of less utility.—Houbigant renders the second verse, If any man shall vow a vow to the Lord, concerning souls of which valuation is to be made: (i.e. in order to redemption). This seems the most just interpretation, and the learned reader will find it largely defended in Houbigant's note on that place.

Verse 6

Leviticus 27:6. And if it be from a month old Some children were devoted not only in the first month, but before they were born; as was the case with Samuel, 1 Samuel 1:11.

Verse 8

Leviticus 27:8. If he be poorer than thy estimation If he be too poor to pay the rate. If the man who vowed was unable to pay the affixed price of redemption, he was to represent his case to the priests, who were to rate him according to his ability; or, as it is in the original, according as his hand can find who vowed; an expression which may signify, either that the valuation was to be made according to what a man could do, or earn; or according to what he possessed. By referring to Seneca, lib. i. Controv. n. 2. and Alex. ab Alex. Dic. Geneal. lib. iii. c. 22. the curious reader will see how very remarkably the regulation of vows was vested in the Roman pontiffs and priests.

Verse 9

Leviticus 27:9. And if it be a beast, &c.— A record kind of things vowed to God, are beasts; which being of two sorts, clean and unclean, it is provided, first, with respect to clean beasts, that every individual of this sort vowed to God, should be applied according to the direct intention of the vow: it was to be, and to be treated as holy. And, secondly, with respect to unclean beasts, when such were devoted, they were to be valued by the priests; and then the owner had liberty either to leave them to the priests' disposal, or to redeem them, by paying the rate set upon them, with a fifth part more, Leviticus 27:13. The case was the same with regard to houses and fields, the other kinds of things devoted and spoken of in the subsequent verses; see Leviticus 27:15; Leviticus 27:19.

Verse 12

Leviticus 27:12. As thou valuest it, who art the priest According to the valuation of the priest.

Note; (1.) A zealous heart is not only willing to its power, but above its power. (2.) We should be careful not to be hasty to vow, lest we involve ourselves in difficulties, and repent of our rashness. There is a zeal not according to knowledge. But when we have vowed to the Lord, we should pay without reserve or change: for he loveth the cheerful giver.

Verse 15

Leviticus 27:15. Thy estimation The fixed rate.

Verse 16

Leviticus 27:16. If a man shall sanctify unto the Lord some part of a field of his possession Bishop Patrick observes, that this intimates it not to have been lawful for a man to vow his whole field or estate; because God would have no man's family made beggars to enrich his sanctuary. The valuation here is an homer of barley-seed at fifty shekels:i.e. so much land as an homer of barley would sow, was to be rated at fifty shekels: (see on Leviticus 27:2-3.) and so proportionably for greater or less quantities of ground so devoted. Houbigant is of opinion, that not the seed to be sown, but the seed produced by the land, is here referred to as the mode of valuation. The homer here, (as we have before observed) is a different measure from the omer mentioned in Exodus 16:16.: that was but the tenth part of an ephah; this was ten ephahs; Ezekiel 45:4. By this, Isa 5:10 may be explained, the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah, i.e. ten bushels shall yield but one. The homer, called also cor, was the largest measure of capacity for things dry; and was equal to about seventy-five gallons five pints English. In the following verses, proper rules are given for the just valuation of fields with regard to the year of jubilee. Thy estimation, is rendered by some, the valuation.

Verse 17

Leviticus 27:17. According to thy estimation it shall stand According to the value of it, it shall stand.

Verse 20

Leviticus 27:20. And if he will not redeem the field, &c.— Our version here is very ambiguous. Houbigant renders it more clearly after the Vulgate; but if he will not redeem the field, and it be sold to another person, it shall not, &c.] The Arabic version has it, and if the priest have sold it, &c.

Verse 25

Leviticus 27:25. And all thy estimations, &c.— I find the following note on this verse in Dr. Church's Bible, in which he follows the opinion of Bishop Wilkins. "So great care was taken among the Jews for the preservation of commutative justice from all abuse and falsification in weights and measures, that the public standards, by which all other measures were to be tried and allowed, were with much religion preserved in the sanctuary; the care of them being committed to the priests and Levites, whose office it was to look unto all manner of measures and sizes, 1 Chronicles 23:29. Hence this frequent expression, according to the shekel, &c. which doth not refer to any weight or coin distinct from, or more than the vulgar, as some fondly conceive; but doth only oblige men, in their dealing and traffic, to make use of such just measures, as were agreeable to the public standards kept in the sanctuary."

Note; Though we need not sell our houses now for God's service, it becomes us to sanctify them to him, by constant worship and his fear in the midst of them.

Verse 26

Leviticus 27:26. Shall sanctify it i.e. Consecrate, because God had already consecrated them. See Exodus 13:2.

Verses 28-29

Leviticus 27:28-29. Notwithstanding, no devoted thing, &c.— The word which we render a vow, in the second verse, is נדר neder, by which, (whoever devoted any thing to God,) there remained a power of redemption. Another kind of vow called חרם cherem, is here mentioned; whereby, (whoever devoted any thing to God;) there remained no power of redemption. Things thus devoted were most holy; i.e. so solemnly adjudged or separated to religious uses, that they could not be at all alienated. Some have supposed that cherem signifies a vow, with a curse or imprecation upon themselves if the thing was not employed according to that vow. Every thing thus devoted, was never to be separated from the Lord's service: whether of man or beast, it was to continue in that service till death; which is the whole meaning of the phrase in the 29th verse, rendered, certainly, too ambiguously both in ours and many other versions; but which it is amazing to find that men of learning, but of deistical principles, have perverted in such a manner, as if it countenanced and inculcated the offering of human sacrifices among the Jews. The plain meaning of the verse is only this, that nothing devoted of men shall be redeemed; but shall surely die; in the original, dying he shall die, (as in Genesis 2:17.) i.e. shall continue till death in this devoted state. Thus Samuel, for instance, was vowed from infancy unto the Lord, to serve him all the days of his life; and, accordingly, his mother brought him to abide with him for ever: i.e. till he should die, as in this verse. Houbigant, however, renders this verse, whoever of men shall be devoted, shall not be redeemed, but shall be put to death: and he understands it as referring entirely to the divine anathema upon the Canaanites. Dr. Doddridge is nearly of the same opinion; "for," says he, "this passage refers to a vow to destroy the inhabitants of any place which they made war against, and was intended to make them cautious in laying themselves under such obligations. Compare Numbers 1:3.Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 17:19. Joshua 6:17-18; Joshua 24:26; see also Judges 21:5. 1 Samuel 24:22." Some of our modern infidels have enlarged with great satisfaction upon this capital defect, as they think it, of the Jewish law: but either interpretation of the words above given, renders their triumph weak and insignificant. Many excellent writers of ours, however, have been at the pains copiously to vindicate this passage: and those who are inclined to see more upon the subject, may consult Doddridge's Theological Lectures, page 358, and the authors there quoted by him.

Verse 30

Leviticus 27:30. And all the tithe of the land The tithe is here spoken of as a thing fixed and known; upon which subject see Genesis 28:22. All these tithes (whether of the seed of the land, i.e. the corn; or of the fruit of the tree, i.e. wine and oil; Numbers 18:12; Numbers 20:5.Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 14:23.) were to be appropriated to God; i.e. to the maintenance of his priests and ministers. There is a law, indeed, in the last quoted passage of Deuteronomy, which ordains the owners to eat the tithe of their corn, wine, and oil, before the Lord; i.e. in the place where his sanctuary was. But this is to be understood of the tithe of the remainder, after the tenth had been given to the Levites: For, first of all, the first-fruits were to be paid to the priests; Exo 22:29 chap. Lev 2:12 which is reckoned to have been about a sixtieth part of the whole. Then, out of the remainder, they offered the tithes, which were divided into the first and second; the first tithes were paid to the Levites, under which name are comprehended all the ministers of religion of an inferior order to the priests; as the aeditui, door-keepers of the temple, the singers, &c. Out of these tithes, again, the Levites paid a tenth to the priests, Num 26:28 and by this offering they owned the priests to be as far superior to them in their office, as they were to the people in general in their office. The second tithes were the tithe of the residue, or remaining nine parts, out of which the owner was obliged either to take a tithe in kind, and carry to Jerusalem, or to the place where the sanctuary was, &c. there to feast before the Lord, with the Levites and the poor; or, if the place was too remote, he turned it into money, to be applied to the same use. Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 14:29. But these second tithes were every third year to be distributed among the Levites and the poor within their respective cities; of which see Deuteronomy 14:28-29. Therefore all the difference was, that what was spent in other years at Jerusalem upon the Levites and the poor, was, the third year, spent in their own cities. Thus, according to Selden, the owner paid near one fifth of his whole yearly income. For instance, suppose it was 6000 ephahs, then the terumah, or oblation of first-fruits was 100, i.e. a sixtieth part; of the remaining 5900, the first tithe, 590 was for the Levites; out of which the priest had 59 for his tithe. Then remains 5310, of which the second tithe 531, was, the first and second year, for the Levites and poor at Jerusalem; and every third year for the same at home; see Selden's Dissertation on Tithes.

Verse 32

Leviticus 27:32. Whatsoever passeth under the rod The Jews understand this of the tithing rod, a rod coloured with ochre, with which a man stood at the door of the field, and numbered the cattle as they came out, marking every tenth with his rod: but Bochart understands it more simply of the shepherd's rod or crook, under which the flock passed as often as he numbered them; which was generally twice a day: of this Jeremiah speaks, chap. Jer 33:13 and to this Ezekiel alludes, saying, in God's name, I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: i.e. I will take the same care of you, as a good shepherd does of his flock, which he numbers, and accurately surveys, by making them pass under his rod one by one. Ezekiel 20:37.

REFLECTIONS.—The book thus concludes; and from the whole of these commandments we have much to learn. What thankfulness is due for the mercies we enjoy in the clear light of gospel-day, when these shadows are passed away, and Christ the Sun of righteousness is risen, to guide our feet into the paths of peace! We now no longer see through the dark glass of types and figures, but face to face behold a reconciled God in Christ. The burdensome services of ceremonial ordinances are ceased, and all our present required offering is the broken and contrite heart. In this liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free, every humble believer rejoices; and while ceremonial uncleanness is no longer his concern, he labours more solicitously to cleanse himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Leviticus 27". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/leviticus-27.html. 1801-1803.