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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 27

 

 

Introduction

Leviticus 27. This chapter must be regarded as a portion of the later priestly legislation, distinct from H. It follows the definite close of H in Leviticus 26:46, and it is a purely business-like treatment of the priestly income (cf. Leviticus 10:12-15). For the position of the priest as authoritative valuer in Leviticus 27:8; Leviticus 27:12; Leviticus 27:15; Leviticus cf.13, where he appears as the person qualified to decide questions of contagion. After the Exile, when the community was (at any rate in the earlier years) impoverished, and the priestly establishment was already becoming expensive, the question of fixed monetary equivalents in the case of sacrifices and vows would become important. An interesting though general comparison is afforded by a Phœnician inscription known as the "Tariff of Marseilles," where the exact proportion of each kind of sacrifice due to the priest is carefully stated and the priest is forbidden, on penalty of a fine, to take more; where poverty necessitates a very small offering, the priest receives nothing.


Verses 1-8

Leviticus 27:1-8. Commutation for a Person.—Where an individual vows himself or herself to Yahweh (cf. Judges 11:30 f., 1 Samuel 1:28) the commutation price will vary in proportion to the valuation of his or her labour; for a man in the prime of life this will amount to 50 sacred silver shekels (cf. "thirty pieces of silver"). This would be equivalent in early post-exilic times to something under £7 (the sacred silver shekel probably being equivalent to the heavy Phœnician silver shekel, p. 116). For an infant or young child, a boy is valued at a sum roughly equivalent to 14s., a girl about 8s., and so on. In cases of poverty a special valuation is to be made.


Verses 9-13

Leviticus 27:9-13. Commutation for an Animal.—An animal once vowed is treated as holy; any attempt to substitute another less valuable renders the second holy (and forfeit) also. An "unclean" animal cannot be directly offered for sacrifice; it must, therefore, be sold and the price paid to the Temple; if the owner wishes to have it back he must pay an extra 20 per cent. (cf. Leviticus 27:15; Leviticus 6:5; Leviticus 22:14).


Verse 14

Leviticus 27:14 f. For a house, the same principle holds good; the price is offered to the Temple funds.


Verses 16-25

Leviticus 27:16-25. Commutation for Land.—In this case the question of the interval before Jubile arises, as, in the case of a man, the period when he will be past work (Leviticus 27:7). The standard taken is "the sowing of a homer of barley," which is regarded as equivalent to the labour of a man in his prime, about £7. A homer= about 11 bushels (p. 115). Kennedy (HDB, "Weights") points out that in the Mishna the size of a field is often computed by the amount of seed needed to sow it. "The area of 2 seahs" is fixed in the Mishna as the area of the Tabernacle, 100 × 50 cubits. Thus, the standard taken is a field which will need 11 bushels to sow it, i.e. about 4 acres. If the period of fifty years has run part of its course, deductions are made on the principle of a partly expired lease. If the field is bought back for a lump sum, the additional 20 per cent, is to be paid. If the person who has vowed the land had himself bought it "on lease" (i.e. till the Jubile) he must pay the price in cash, as the original owner could at any time "redeem" the field. The sacred shekel weighed nearly twice the ordinary shekel; the gerah (Leviticus 27:25) weighed probably about 10 grains.


Verse 26

26f. For Firstlings.—Firstlings of oxen and sheep and goats) belong to Yahweh in any case, and thus cannot be voluntarily offered or come under valuation (cf. Deuteronomy 23:21-23). Animals that fall outside this category are treated according to the rule in Leviticus 27:11-13.


Verse 28

28f. The "Ban."—"Devoted" things are things dedicated to God without possibility of redemption," i.e. put under the ban and not to be touched by men (pp. 99, 114, Deuteronomy 2:34*, Judges 1:17*). Hence, according to the old rule, a human being so devoted must be put to death (cf. Joshua 6:17*, 1 Samuel 15:21). There are no later instances. Such an act, mentioned as it is here, if not simply looking back to historical instances, must refer only to capital crimes, all of which now come under the cognisance of the priests. Ezekiel 44:29 assigns all objects so devoted (? including human beings) to the priests.


Verses 30-33

30-33. Tithes (cf. Deuteronomy 14:22 ff; Deuteronomy 26:12 ff., Numbers 21-32*).—The tithe offered in kind may be commuted for its value (estimated presumably by the priest) plus 20 per cent. (cf. Leviticus 27:13; Leviticus 27:15; Leviticus 27:27). A tithe on cattle is not mentioned elsewhere save in 2 Chronicles 31:5 ff. (q.v.), though a royal tax of a tenth on animals is spoken of in 1 Samuel 8:19 (see p. 99).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 27:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/leviticus-27.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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