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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Leviticus 27

 

 

Verses 1-34

APPENDIX

Of Vows

Leviticus 27:1-34

1And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation [special[FN1] vow, the souls shall be to the Lord according 3 to an[FN2] estimation]. And thy 2 estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy 2 estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary 4 And if it be a female, then thy 2 estimation shall 5 be thirty shekels. And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy 2 estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels 6 And if it be for a month old even unto five years old, then thy 2 estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy 2 estimation shall be three 7 shekels of silver. And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy 2 estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels 8 But if he be poorer than thy2 [be too poor to pay the2] estimation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall value him: according to his ability that vowed shall the priest value him.

9And if it be a beast, whereof men bring an offering unto the Lord, all that any man giveth of such unto the Lord shall be holy 10 He shall not alter it, nor change it, a good for a bad, or a bad for a good: and if he shall at all change beast for 11 beast, then it and the exchange thereof shall be holy. And if it be any unclean beast, of which they do not offer a sacrifice [an offering[FN3]] unto the Lord, then he shall present the beast before the priest: 12and the priest shall value [estimate[FN4]] it, whether it be good or bad: as thou valuest it, who art the priest [according to the[FN5] estimation 4 of the priest], so shall it be 13 But if he will at all redeem it, then he shall add a fifth part thereof unto thy 2 estimation.

14And when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy unto the Lord, then the priest shall estimate it, whether it be good or bad: as the priest shall estimate it, so shall it stand 15 And if he that sanctified it will redeem his house, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy 2 estimation unto it, and it shall be his.

16And if a man shall sanctify unto the Lord some part of a field of his possession [inheritance[FN6]], then thy 2 estimation shall be according to the seed thereof: an homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. [FN7]17If he sanctify his field from the year of jubile, according to thy 2 estimation it shall stand 18 But if he sanctify his field after the jubile, then the priest shall reckon unto him the money according to the years that remain, even unto the year of the jubile, and it shall be abated from thy 2 estimation19And if he that sanctified the field will in any wise redeem it, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy 2 estimation unto it, and it shall be assured to him 20 And if he will not redeem the field, or if he have sold the field to another Prayer of Manasseh, it shall not be redeemed any more 21 But the field, when it goeth out in the jubile, shall be holy unto the Lord, as a field devoted; the possession22[inheritance5] thereof shall be the priest’s. And if a man sanctify unto the Lord a field which he hath bought, which is not of the fields of his possession23[inheritance5]; then the priest shall reckon unto him the worth of thy 2 estimation, even unto the year of the jubile: and he shall give thine 2 estimation in that day, as a holy thing unto the Lord 24 In the year of the jubile the field shall return unto him of whom it was bought, even to him to whom the possession [inheritance5] of the land did belong.

25And all thy 2 estimations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall be the shekel.

26Only the firstling of the beasts, which should be the Lord’s firstling, no man shall sanctify it; whether it be ox, or sheep [one of the flock[FN8]], it is the Lord’s 27 And if it be of an unclean beast, then he shall redeem [free[FN9]] it according to thine 2 estimation, and shall add a fifth part of it thereto: or if it be not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to thy 2 estimation.

28Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the Lord of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord 29 None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed [freed8], but shall surely be put to death.

30And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit ofthe tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord 31 And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.

32And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord 33 He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

34These are the commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Leviticus 27:2. “הִפְלִיא נֶדֶר does not mean to dedicate or set apart a vow, but to make a special vow.” Keil.

Leviticus 27:2-3; Leviticus 27:5-8, etc. “The second כ in בְּעֶרְכְּךָ is formative of the noun, by reduplication of the third radical: it is not the pronominal suffix.” Horsley. The Heb. subst. ערך, estimation or value, is never found in Scripture, but with the pronoun of the second person joined to it; and which is an expletive, having no use but to distinguish it from the meaning of an ordinance, or laying in order.” Delgado. According to Fürst “the suff. refers to the person valued.” The LXX, Onk, Vulg. and Syr. omit the pronoun altogether.

Leviticus 27:11. קָרְבָּן. See Textual Note 2 on Leviticus 2:1.

Leviticus 27:12. Valuation is quite as good a translation of עֵרךְ; but as the A. V. has estimation in all other places in this chapter, it should be retained here.

Leviticus 27:2-3; Leviticus 27:5-8, etc. “The second כ in בְּעֶרְכְּךָ is formative of the noun, by reduplication of the third radical: it is not the pronominal suffix.” Horsley. The Heb. subst. ערך, estimation or value, is never found in Scripture, but with the pronoun of the second person joined to it; and which is an expletive, having no use but to distinguish it from the meaning of an ordinance, or laying in order.” Delgado. According to Fürst “the suff. refers to the person valued.” The LXX, Onk, Vulg. and Syr. omit the pronoun altogether.

Leviticus 27:16. אֲחֻזָּתוֹ = Possession here means possession by inheritance, and it is better to mark this in the translation as purchased fields ( Leviticus 27:22) come under another law.

Leviticus 27:17. A conjunction is here supplied by the Sam, 16 MSS, the LXX, Chald. and Syr.

Leviticus 27:26. שֶׂה. See Textual Note6 on Leviticus 12:8.

Leviticus 27:27; Leviticus 27:29. וּפָדָה = free or deliver. It is a different word from the גָּאַל of the second clause of Leviticus 27:27 and of both clauses of Leviticus 27:20, and should be differently translated.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The question of the relation of this chapter to the rest of the book is partly a matter of form, and partly to be determined by the contents. As to the former, the preceding chapter of promises and warnings is an appropriate close of the legislation, and its last verse certainly has the air of the subscription to a finished work. The present chapter also closes with an abbreviated form of the same subscription. It may be compared to the close of John 20, after which Leviticus 21follows plainly as an addition. As to the subject matter: our chapter is very clearly distinguished from the rest of the book in that it treats of special voluntary consecrations to the Lord; and yet it is connected with the foregoing, in that these also are to be brought under the same general law of sacred fidelity. The chapter therefore constitutes precisely what is understood by an appendix, appropriate to the book. Lange’s objection to this seems based upon a different idea of the word, and his arguments go to show only that it is appropriate. He says, “1. With our section corresponds Numbers 6; Numbers 30; Deuteronomy 23:21; Judges 11:35, 34–40]; Ecclesiastes 5:5. According to Keil this section should be an appendix—contrary to the declaration at the close of Leviticus 27:34. He gives as his reason: “The directions concerning vows follow the express termination of the Sinaitic law-giving ( Leviticus 26:46), 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.” According to this apprehension, however, much of the Mosaic legislation must stand in an appendix; indeed, it may be said of the sacrifices, that they are the theocratic regulation of a primeval sacrificial custom, and not originally theocratically commanded. We accept then the view that the prescriptions of this section are attached to the foregoing chapter as a law of keeping the covenant in particulars, viz. in relation to the pledged word, or as a law of particular and individual duties under the law of keeping the covenant as a whole.” [We cannot see that this could be better defined than by the word Appendix.—F. G.] “The superscription of this section ‘Of vows’ is not truly congruous with the whole. The unity is: of special consecrations, or of the keeping holy of special covenant duties in relation to their remissibleness or their irremissibility, and indeed1) of voluntary and remissible vows or consecrations, Leviticus 27:1-27; Leviticus 2) of the extraordinary, but commanded and irremissible consecration, or of the ban, Leviticus 27:28-29; Leviticus 3) of the consecrated holy first-fruits, or of the tithes, partly redeemable and partly unredeemable. Leviticus 27:30-33 (34).

2. “The religious fundamental thought of the section. Cursorily considered, it appears a kind of regulation for the remissible and irremissible special duties of the covenant, and in particular it assumes the external character of a tax; the ideal germ of the whole, however, is again the keeping holy of the personal life in relation to the personal Jehovah, the manliness of individual piety; one might say: the keeping pure of the religious vow, of the word given to God; the Divine ordinance of the ban; the holy fruit-tax which is appointed for the maintenance of the priests and Levites in the same way as the temple-tax for the support of the temple and the sacrifice……

“3. The vows. On the meaning and the nature itself, comp. the lexicons, especially both the articles in Herzog’s Real-encyklopädie. Writings on this subject of Weise and others.” [See also the archæologies, Art. vows in Smith’s Bib. Dict, and important observations scattered in Michaelis’ laws, Art73, 83, 124, 145.—F. G.]. “We distinguish promissory vows and vows of renunciation,…. so that it may be not without meaning that the vows are spoken of here, as efficient Levitical consecrations; the renunciations, or Nazarite vows, on the other hand, in the book of Numbers, the book of the social relations of the commonwealth. Samson was qualified as a Nazarite for a theocratico-political action; Paul’s Nazarite vow also was devoted to ecclesiastical politics ( Acts 21); and James the Just had consecrated himself as a Nazarite to the deliverance of his nation. The religious vows, as such, form a parallel to the peace offerings and partly indeed were connected with them. The ethics of the Old Testament vows consists in this: first, that they are not commanded but voluntary, Deuteronomy 23:22-24 (consequently not the object of the mediæval Song of Solomon -called consilia evangelica); and secondly, that as a pledged word they must be held inviolable ( Proverbs 20:25; Ecclesiastes 5:3; Ecclesiastes 5:5), yet not literally, since equivalents for their discharge were legally prescribed; thirdly, that the neglect of their fulfilment is to be expiated with a sin offering ( Leviticus 5:4-6). The vows were formal promises given to God for the benefit of the Sanctuary; they had for their object not only cattle, houses, and lands, but also persons, of course, dependent children and slaves. The examples of Jacob ( Genesis 35:14) and others, show how significantly the vows of the Old Testament operated. The superstitious misinterpretation of the vow of Jephthah, according to the corrections of Hengstenberg, P. Cassel, and others previously, appears yet capable of being held tolerably righteous. It is indeed one of the exegetical prejudices in which, from different motives, literal orthodoxy and negative criticism come together.” [The question of the actual sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter has always divided opinion in ancient as well as modern times. Jewish tradition is decided for the actual sacrifice as an unrighteous act. There are several reasons why it is not likely to have taken place: no priest could have been found to offer it; nor could it possibly have received the Divine acceptance; and it is contrary to the most probable interpretation of the closing verses of the story ( Judges 11:37-40). Moreover it is unlikely that Jephthah would have committed such an act when he was not bound to it by his vow; the vow was an alternative one,—that he would dedicate what met him to the Lord, or offer it as a sacrifice. That this is the true sense of וand not and, as in the A. V, is plain, for even the most rash of men must have remembered the great improbability that the first thing he met on his return would be either one “of the flock of the herd,” or a pigeon, the only animals admissible in sacrifice. There is therefore in the execution of the vow of Jephthah no just ground for the absurd charge of the allowance of human sacrifices among the Israelites.—F. G.]. “There is no question that the vows, on account of their legal character, belong more to the Old than to the New Testament; although they still have their place in the New Testament time also, but certainly not in the sense of the mediæval, avaricious priesthood.”

The general principle on the subject of vows is clearly laid down in Deuteronomy 23:21-24 : they were not obligatory, and no sin was incurred by not making them; but once made they were to be conscientiously kept, and their neglect ( Leviticus 5:4-6) required the expiation of the sin offering. It appears from this chapter that nothing could be made the subject of a vow which was already marked out by the law as belonging to God; but anything else might be, and having been vowed, might be redeemed, with the exception of the sacrificial animals, and except also things or persons devoted, Leviticus 27:28-29. The subject of this chapter is the ordinary vow, and has no reference to the vow of the Nazarite, Numbers 6:1-21. The exceptional conditions under which the vow was not binding are detailed in Numbers 30.

Leviticus 27:1-25. regulate the commutation of vows; Leviticus 27:28-29 declare the incommutability of things devoted; Leviticus 27:30-33 declare what tithes and under what conditions may be commuted: while Leviticus 27:34 closes the whole. Under the first head, Leviticus 27:2-8 relate to the commutation of persons; 9–13, of cattle; 14, 15, of houses; 16–25, of land.

Leviticus 27:2-8. Lange: “According to Knobel the consecration of persons means that one allots himself, or another of whom he has the disposal, to the service of the Sanctuary. He cites as examples the consecration of Samuel, the Gibeonites, the augmentation of the temple slaves by David and Song of Solomon, Ezra 2:58; Ezra 8:20; Nehemiah 7:60; Nehemiah 11:3 (p583). Keil, on the other hand, asserts that in every vow of a person redemption must take place according to the value, with reference to the Mishna (see p179), [Trans, p480 and note. Keil also cites Saalschutz, and thinks Oehler wrong in referring to 1 Samuel 2:11; 1 Samuel 2:22; 1 Samuel 2:28, in proof of the opposite view.—F. G.]. “But the appointed valuation little accords with this. It is inconceivable why in this case old men and old women should have been redeemed at a smaller cost than men and women in their vigor. Keil himself makes prominent that the valuation was conformed to the vitality and skill. Besides the diversity of the valuation, it was entrusted to the priest to value a poor man less, from which it does not follow that he must be redeemed, but only that he might be. The fact that children under five years of age could not be consecrated, points also to the ability to serve.” In regard to the difference of valuation, Lange’s argument does not seem to be a determining one; on either theory the valuation would naturally be based upon what might be called the actual worth of the person; but there would be no object in a valuation at all except for the purpose of redemption, and it is expressly provided that all persons who had been vowed must be valued. The diminished valuation of a poor man was a merciful provision analogous to the alternate sin offering in case of poverty. Notwithstanding Lange’s view, it seems to point very strongly to the universality of redemption; otherwise there would be no reason why the poor man should not have worked out his vow, or why he should have been redeemed at a lower rate than others whose services were of the same intrinsic value. In saying “that children under five years could not be consecrated,” Lange must have overlooked Leviticus 27:6, which expressly provides a valuation for those vowed from one month to five years. The form of expression in Leviticus 27:2, moreover, seems to contemplate redemption in all cases of personal vows. The objection to this view is that a personal vow thereby becomes only a roundabout and awkward way of consecrating the amount of the redemption money to the Lord; but the moral effect appears to have been different, and with the personal vow there is to be supposed a sense of spiritual consecration to God which was not removed by the payment of the redemption. Kalisch speaks very strongly: “To our author vowing a person to God meant neither offering him up as a sacrifice, nor dedicating him to the service of the temple, and much less selling him as a slave, but simply redeeming him by money in favor of the sacred treasury; so foreign were the two former alternatives to his mind, that he utterly ignored them, and stated the third as a matter of course, and the only one to be considered.”

Leviticus 27:9-13. Vows of animals. The right of redemption in this case depended upon the nature of the animal; if it was one suitable for sacrifice ( Leviticus 27:9-10), after being once vowed, it could not be redeemed or exchanged, and the result of an attempt at exchange was that both animals should belong to the Lord. It does not follow that the animals were to be immediately sacrificed, but they may have been put into the herd from which the public sacrifices were taken. The case of animals of the sacrificial kinds, with blemishes which unfitted them for the altar, is not especially mentioned; but after the analogy of Leviticus 27:33, these probably went to the support of the priests. If, on the other hand, the animal was unclean ( Leviticus 27:11-13), it must be valued by the priest; then it might be redeemed by adding one-fifth to its value, or else it belonged to the sanctuary. Keil thinks it was then sold for the benefit of the sanctuary; but in this case the original owner would have had no occasion to redeem it at a higher price since he could have bought it at its estimated value. It is more likely therefore that such animals were retained, at least for a time, for the use of the priests and Levites. Keil considers that the Heb. בֵּין .… וּבֵין means “ ‘between good and bad,’ i.e., neither very high as if it were very good, nor very low as if it were bad, but at a medium price.” The A. V, however, is in accordance with the ancient versions, and is sustained by Gesenius.

Leviticus 27:14-15. The law for houses is the same as for unclean animals. It relates probably only to houses in the cities, as those in the country would come under the following law for land.

Leviticus 27:16-24. Lange: “Lands, a. Inheritances. If they were not redeemed they lapsed in the year of Jubilee to the Sanctuary. If they were redeemed, the price was determined partly according to the money value of the seed for the land, partly according to the number of sowings or seed years to the Jubilee year, and a fifth part of the amount must be added besides. These ordinances applied also to the purchaser (the under tenant). A field was taken for the measure of valuation which yielded until the year of Jubilee one Homer (225 pounds, or two bushels of seed).” [The expression ( Leviticus 27:16) according to the seed thereof is generally understood to mean, according to the seed required to sow it; but the difference is immaterial; it is merely an expression of the measure of valuation, and the proportion will remain the same whatever it be. The value of the homer of barley, however (estimated by Thenius at225 pounds), is so great, amounting probably to about twenty-seven dollars, that it is necessary to understand it, as Lange has done, not of the single homer, but of a homer annually during the forty-two years (omitting the seven Sabbatical years) intervening between two Jubilee years. This would make the money value of the single homer of barley about 64 cts.; but it is to be remembered that en the average it was to be paid many years in advance, so that we cannot estimate from this the actual price of the barley. Others however (as Clarke and Keil) think it was an annual payment as it accrued. The meaning of the expression, Leviticus 27:20, if he have sold the field to another man is uncertain. According to Knobel it means “if he has fraudulently sold the field to another, and taken the price to himself, after having vowed it to the sanctuary.” In this case the confiscation of the field to the Lord would be the penalty upon his trickery and deceit. Keil rejects this view, and supposes that the owner continued to cultivate the land himself, paying a yearly rent to the sanctuary; in such a case the basis of sale would be the possible surplus of the produce above the yearly rental, and the fault of the seller “consisted simply in the fact that he had looked upon the land which he vowed to the Lord as though it were his own property, still and entirely at his own disposal, and therefore had allowed himself to violate the rights of the Lord by the sale of his land.” Wordsworth, following Jarchi, suggests another interpretation; that the pronoun he is used impersonally, and the expression means, if the field had been sold by the treasurer for the benefit of the sanctuary. The object would then be to make the title given by the sanctuary in all cases perfect. A simpler explanation is to understand have sold in a pluperfect sense = had sold—viz.: before making his vow. In this case he would have no claim upon it until after the Jubilee (except by redemption), and therefore his vow could only be accomplished by the land falling to the sanctuary at the Jubilee. The reason for the same result in case of refusal to redeem is apparently based upon the persistent wish of the owner. He might redeem at any time up to the Jubilee; and if he did not, he showed that he wished absolutely to give the field to the Lord. It does not appear that the landed possessions of the sanctuary ever grew large in this way.—F. G.]. “b. Purchased possessions. Since these must fall back in the Jubilee year to the heir, they could only become the subject of vows in a very limited sense.” The vow of a purchased field required( Leviticus 27:23) the immediate payment of its full value (without addition) to the year of Jubilee. In this case the actual occupation and usufruct of the land undoubtedly remained with the one who had made the vow, subject to the ordinary law of redemption ( Leviticus 25:23-28). The requirement here of immediate payment does not imply that in the former case ( Leviticus 27:19) the payment was annual (so Keil, Clark, and others), but only that here the money must be immediately paid down as the only security for its payment at all.

Leviticus 27:25 simply provides that the standard of all valuations must be the shekel of the sanctuary— a silver coin estimated at 54 cents. It was divided into20 gerahs of27 cts. each. The LXX. uses the word δίδραχμα, which is employed in Matthew 17:24 for the half-shekel, the Alexandrian δραχμὴ being double the Attic.

Leviticus 27:26-27. The positive law concerning vows is now completed. It remains to treat negatively of certain things which were not allowed to become the subject of vows. First, all the first-born of animals are excluded as already belonging to the Lord, and therefore incapable of being given to Him either by vow or in any other way: no man shall sanctify it. A firstling of an unclean beast, however, might be redeemed by adding a fifth to its valuation—otherwise it was to be sold for the benefit of the sanctuary. The reason for its peremptory sale in this case, instead of its retention for use, was doubtless the tender age of the firstlings, so that if they were retained they must have occupied much time and care. Lange: “Keil remarks ‘ By this regulation the earlier law, which commanded that an ass should either be redeemed with a sheep or else be put to death ( Exodus 13:13; Exodus 34:20) was modified in favor of the revenues of the sanctuary and its servants.’ Comp. Winer,etc. We cannot consider this correct. Concerning the first-born of an unclean beast, the law was peremptory. And how should the law-giver here come back once more to the unclean beast? Nevertheless, a special ordinance concerning the first-born might certainly be met with which had dropped out through a defect under the law of unclean animals.” Keil, Clark and others must have overlooked the fact that the law of Exodus is only a special law concerning the ass, but making no mention of other unclean animals; while here the law is a general one which, as often in general laws, does not mention the already known and established exception. It had been but a year since the law for the ass was first given in Exodus, and less than this since its repetition in Exodus 34:20. The time is too short, therefore, for the reason given by Keil and Clark for its modification.

Leviticus 27:28-29. From redeemable vows is also to be excepted every devoted thing, whether of Prayer of Manasseh, or beast, or land. This is the first instance of the use of the word חֵרֶם, and it occurs afterwards in the law but seldom ( Numbers 18:14; Deuteronomy 7:26, bis; Leviticus 13:17). It is introduced as a term already familiar. It is translated by various words in the A. V. (as curse, accursed, dedicated, devoted, appointed to utter destruction, etc.), but etymologically and by usage always means irrevocably cut off from all common use—in the case of persons, devoted to destruction—in the case of things entirely surrendered to the Lord to be disposed of at His will. “What was devoted could never be offered in sacrifice; but in all places where mention is elsewhere made of the ban laid on any thing ( Numbers 18:14; Numbers 31; Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 13:12-18; Deuteronomy 25:19; Joshua 6:17-19; Malachi 4:6) this appears as a dedication to destruction, as a fulfilling of the Divine vengeance, as an honoring of God on those in whom He cannot show Himself holy and glorious.” Von Gerlach. In regard to inanimate objects the meaning is therefore clear enough; but the expression which shall be devoted of men ( Leviticus 27:29) has been the occasion of some difficulty. This much is certainly plain: that the sentence of cherem once pronounced was absolutely irrevocable, and in 1 Samuel 15:21; 1 Samuel 15:33, we have an instance of the prophet’s indignant rebuke of the attempt to set it aside. Beyond this, the only instances of the cherem in Scripture are those which rested upon an express Divine command. Jephthah’s vow does not come under this category at all, for that was a vow either to offer a burnt offering, or to devote to the Lord; but the cherem is not treated as a vow at all, and is separated from ordinary vows by being irredeemable. The general sense of the passage, historically interpreted, is therefore that man may not interfere to thwart the purpose of the Almighty: Jehovah’s sentence of destruction must always be unflinchingly carried out. Leviticus 27:28, however, clearly asserts that an individual man might devote persons belonging to him in the same way that he could his animals or fields, while Leviticus 27:29 requires that any one so devoted must be put to death. The meaning of this very mysterious provision must be gathered from the historical instances of the cherem. It could have applied only to the devoting of those who were already manifestly under the ban of Jehovah—those guilty of such outrageous and flagrant violation of the fundamental law of the covenant that they manifestly came under the penalty of death. Such persons, instead of being tried and condemned, might be at once devoted and put to death. Lange’s exegesis is as follows: “That which had been placed under the ban was absolutely irredeemable. No object was banned, however, or consecrated to Jehovah by an irrevocable reversion (for the use of the Sanctuary in the case of impersonal things, or for death instead of capital punishment in the case of persons) through any private will; only Jehovah, or the community in His service, executed the ban. The various particulars of the ban are explained by Knobel, p588.” See also Selden de Jure Gent. IV, vi.–xi.; Waterland Scripture vindicated, Works IV, p226–229.

Leviticus 27:30-33. Tithes also are to be excluded from the possible subjects of vows, since they already belonged to the Lord; in certain cases, however, they might be redeemed like vows. The tithe, like the thing devoted, is referred to as something already familiar. From Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedec ( Genesis 14:20) and Jacob’s vow ( Genesis 28:22), and probably from still far earlier times, it had been immemorially an essential part of the worship of God. The tithe is here spoken of, therefore, not for the purpose of enjoining it, but to exclude it from vows, and to prescribe how far and under what conditions, like vows, it might be redeemed. In Numbers 18:20-32; Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:22, directions are given as to the use and the collection of the tithes. “According to Rabbinical tradition, the animals to be tithed were enclosed in a pen, and as they went out, one by one at the opening, every tenth animal was touched with a rod dipped in vermilion. Comp. Jeremiah 33:13; Ezekiel 20:37.” Clark. The tithe was applied, of course, only to the increase of the flock and the herd, i.e., to animals which had never been tithed before. Lange: “It must not be overlooked that the tithes were a ground-rent in favor of the hierarchy, primarily of the Levites, who again must themselves pay tithes to the priest; and were also a perpetual theocratic civil tax which could not properly be maintained in Christian times by the side of other taxes, notwithstanding the strong Old Testament disposition of the middle ages in this matter. It is easy to see that at the present day, by the side of the modern forms of voluntary and involuntary taxes, ecclesiastical and secular, tithes can only be claimed by an overstrained literal zeal.” The law (32, 33) absolutely forbade the redemption or exchange of the tithe of sacrificial animals, as in case of a vow; other tithes were also under the same law as the vow, and might be redeemed by the payment of their value with one-fifth in addition.

Leviticus 27:34 closes this appendix, and forms, as it were, a second close to the whole book of Leviticus, the aim and object of which has been holiness—holiness to be typically acquired by the sacrificial system prescribed to point to “the Lord our righteousness;” and to be preserved by those many legal enactments superadded to the great law of faith, “because of transgressions, until the promised seed should come.”

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

I. In the law for the redemption of personal vows is again brought out very strongly the equality of all men before God. Differences were made according to sex and age, but none according to social position and rank. The redemption for the high-priest himself was precisely the same as for the day-laborer.

II. In the prohibition of vows of the first-born, of tithes, etc, which already belonged to the Lord, the general principle is taught that man may not make that a matter of extraordinary piety which already forms a part of his ordinary duty. In a sense this would absolutely exclude all vows, since the Christian requirement is that we should devote ourselves with all that we have to Him who gave Himself for us, and indeed the highest standard of the Christian life, making of that life itself one perpetual vow, necessarily supercedes all minor vows; but nevertheless practically, special dedications of ourselves and ours may be made, and when made are to be sacredly kept. See Ecclesiastes 5:4-5.

III. Here as elsewhere Moses is made only the channel and instrument by whom the laws are given; their authorship is expressly referred to the Lord Himself. Accepting this as a truth, the wonderful character of this legislation occasions no difficulty; but if with the negative critics, it be denied and the legislation be referred to human authorship, we have in this book the impossible phenomenon of a legislation wholly occupied with the promotion of holiness, and yet stamped with fraud and deliberate forgery upon its very front. We have also a legislation far superior to that of any nation of antiquity, and indeed morally superior to any that has ever existed except under the influence of Christianity, proceeding from a people whose history shows them to have been unfitted for the conception, much more the enactment of even a very inferior code.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Lange: “The religious observance of vows. Before all things man must not be willing to cheat Jehovah; also he must be thoroughly honest and true in his vows, his professions, his fasts, his devotion, and his religious duties generally.”

Also under exegetical: “The importance of these prescriptions is that they oppose all unmanliness in relation to a pledged word, confirmation vows, marriage vows, ordination vows, false discharge of fasting that has been vowed by fish-eating and the like; the removal of all evasions of criminal justice and of churchly discipline, and finally, of all frauds in regard to the duties which one owes to the cultus and to the religious rights of the community. The ordinance concerning the irremissibility of various actions shows clearly that there can be a true freedom within this obligation. The sanctification of manliness—thus might the whole section be entitled.”

Also under the same: “It is an old story that worldliness, cunning, and impiety, very willingly put obstructions in the way of religious, theocratic, and ecclesiastical discharge of duty, and the complaints of the Old Testament of the want of manliness in this matter, which was connected with dimness of faith in the Omniscient, have been continually repeated even to the present. But here Jehovah, who deals faithfully and reliably with His holy people, approaches with the demand in regard to them, that they should hold themselves holy, and faithful, and trustworthy in all their business in regard to Him. If moral laxity begins first in concealments in relation to God and His institutions, it will diffuse itself more widely until it completes its process of dissolution in religious and moral deceptions, especially in the province of all religious and moral vows.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Leviticus 27:2. “הִפְלִיא נֶדֶר does not mean to dedicate or set apart a vow, but to make a special vow.” Keil.

FN#2 - Leviticus 27:2-3; Leviticus 27:5-8, etc. “The second כ in בְּעֶרְכְּךָ is formative of the noun, by reduplication of the third radical: it is not the pronominal suffix.” Horsley. The Heb. subst. ערך, estimation or value, is never found in Scripture, but with the pronoun of the second person joined to it; and which is an expletive, having no use but to distinguish it from the meaning of an ordinance, or laying in order.” Delgado. According to Fürst “the suff. refers to the person valued.” The LXX, Onk, Vulg. and Syr. omit the pronoun altogether.

FN#3 - Leviticus 27:11. קָרְבָּן. See Textual Note 2 on Leviticus 2:1.

FN#4 - Leviticus 27:12. Valuation is quite as good a translation of עֵרךְ; but as the A. V. has estimation in all other places in this chapter, it should be retained here.

FN#5 - Leviticus 27:2-3; Leviticus 27:5-8, etc. “The second כ in בְּעֶרְכְּךָ is formative of the noun, by reduplication of the third radical: it is not the pronominal suffix.” Horsley. The Heb. subst. ערך, estimation or value, is never found in Scripture, but with the pronoun of the second person joined to it; and which is an expletive, having no use but to distinguish it from the meaning of an ordinance, or laying in order.” Delgado. According to Fürst “the suff. refers to the person valued.” The LXX, Onk, Vulg. and Syr. omit the pronoun altogether.

FN#6 - Leviticus 27:16. אֲחֻזָּתוֹ = Possession here means possession by inheritance, and it is better to mark this in the translation as purchased fields ( Leviticus 27:22) come under another law.

FN#7 - Leviticus 27:17. A conjunction is here supplied by the Sam, 16 MSS, the LXX, Chald. and Syr.

FN#8 - Leviticus 27:26. שֶׂה. See Textual Note6 on Leviticus 12:8.

FN#9 - Leviticus 27:27; Leviticus 27:29. וּפָדָה = free or deliver. It is a different word from the גָּאַל of the second clause of Leviticus 27:27 and of both clauses of Leviticus 27:20, and should be differently translated.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 27:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/leviticus-27.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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