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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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Estimate of the value of the sacred gifts when a money substitute was required for them. The chief Biblical passage in relation to the subject of valuation is Leviticus 27:2 et seq., where is probably a noun of action, as in Ex. 4 (comp. König, "Syntax," § 277c). The particle , which in the cited passage often occurs suffixed to , refers to the people of Israel, who are addressed, and in consequence also to the priest, who represents the people on every occasion. To assume a substantive, "'arkok" (), as does J. Halévy ("Journal Asiatique," 1899, p. 548), is not necessary, nor is it supported by tradition. This valuation was to be made by the priest, and his estimation was determined partly by fixed standards and partly by his individual judgment.

Particular Instances.

It might happen that some one made a vow that another person would become a Nazarite or would do service in the Sanctuary (comp. Numbers 6:2 et seq.; 1 Samuel 1:22); and in case such a vow were not kept outwardly, the person in question had to be redeemed. For a male between twenty and sixty years of age, for instance, the sum to be paid was fifty shekels of silver (Leviticus 27:3-8).

It doubtless occurred very often that, moved by gratitude, some one would say, "I will consecrate this animal to the Lord." But if the animal in question did not reach the standard necessary in an animal destined for a sacrifice to the Lord, an equivalent in money was required. The value of the animal was estimated by the priest, and the personwho had made the vow had to pay that sum and one-fifth more (Leviticus 27:9-13).

One might wish to give a house to Yhwh, but since this could not be done literally, the donor would be directed to present the money-equivalent of the house. This, again, was to be estimated by the priest, and if the donor wished to buy back his house he was obliged to pay the estimated price and one-fifth in addition (Leviticus 27:14 et seq.).

Valuation of Land.

The case became more complicated where any one wished to give a part of his land to Yhwh. In such a case two possibilities had to be considered. (1) The land might have been inherited. In that case the price of the field was to be estimated according to the measure of seed it required; one homer of seed necessitated a payment of fifty shekels of silver. In addition, only the number of years which remained until the next year of jubilee was to be reckoned, for in that year the field reverted to its former possessor. If he who desired to give the field to Yhwh nevertheless sold it afterward to some one, or leased it until the next year of jubilee, at the expiration of that term the field did not revert to its former owner, but belonged to Yhwh forever (Leviticus 27:16-21). (2) The piece of land might have been purchased by the person wishing to make the gift, or leased by him until the next jubilee year. In such a case also, if he wished to redeem his field, he had to pay a sum estimated according to the amount of seed necessary for the field. This gift held good only for the number of years which remained until the next year of jubilee (Leviticus 27:22-25).

The first-born of unclean beasts (asses, for instance) were to be valued by the priest, though in Numbers 18:16 five shekels of silver is mentioned as the price for the redemption of such an animal as soon as it should be one month old. The owner, however, might redeem such firstlings by paying the estimated price plus one-fifth (so in the case of the first-born of men, according to Exodus 13:13, 34:20; Numbers 18:16), or else they were sold by the priest at the price fixed by him (Leviticus 27:26 et seq.). In the case of tithes, also, the obligatory fifth was added to the value if a part was to be redeemed by money (Leviticus 27:31). But such persons or things as were dedicated to the Lord in the form of the "ḥerem" (e., the ban) could be neither redeemed nor sold.

A comparison with other passages throws interesting light on these estimations. In the so-called Book of the Covenant the labor of a slave is valued at thirty shekels of silver (Exodus 21:32), while in Leviticus 27:3 the value of a strong man between twenty and sixty years of age is reckoned at fifty shekels of silver. Furthermore, in the Book of the Covenant no difference is made between a male and a female slave (Exodus 21:32), but according to Leviticus 27:3-8, a female is always reckoned at three-fifths the value of a male of the same age; in one case this three-fifths is reduced to one-half the value of a male (Leviticus 27:5). Moreover, the sum to be paid to the father of a dishonored virgin is fifty shekels of silver (Deuteronomy 22:29), whereas in Exodus 22:15 no fixed sum is mentioned in such a case. The number fifty, or half a hundred, is shown by these instances of its use to be a "round number" (a comparison of these numbers may be found in König, "Stilistik, Rhetorik, Poetik," p. 56).

History of Valuation.

A certain development may be traced in regard to valuation. In more ancient times persons were dedicated to the Lord, and then either they were actually obliged to do service in the Sanctuary, as in the case of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:23), and of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:22), and of the women who, according to Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22, did service at the door of the Tabernacle (this is König's interpretation of the fate of Jephthah's daughter; Judges 11:39), or they lived as Nazarites and refrained from wine and other intoxicating drinks (Numbers 6:2 et seq.; Judges 13:7; Amos 2:12 ["They caused my Nazarites to drink wine," Hebr.]). Later such persons were often redeemed (Leviticus 27:3-8).

A similar evolution is to be seen in the case of the first-born of unclean beasts. At first the neck of such an animal was broken (Exodus 13:13); but in later times, according to Leviticus 27:27 and Numbers 18:15, redemption became allowable. The case of ḥerem also came to be treated more mildly in the course of time. This word (comp. the Arabic "ḥaram" = "to cut off") designated formerly a separation, or a setting aside to be destroyed (Exodus 22:19 et al.); but according to Numbers 18:14 and Ezekiel 44:29, the thing set aside belongs to the priest. Perhaps the passage Leviticus 27:28b designates a transition period in this idealization of the ḥerem (comp. Simon Mandl, "Der Bann," 1898, p. 13).

This valuation occurs once also in the history of Israel. King Jehoash, in 2 Kings 12:5, mentions the money for the dedicated objects ("ḳodashim") which is brought into the house of Yhwh. These ḳodashim are nothing else than persons or things given to Yhwh and then redeemed with money, according to Leviticus 27:2 et seq. For in 2 Kings 12:5 the valuation ("'erek") of the souls in question (e., of the persons) is spoken of, and nothing is said of the half-shekel which each male Israelite, according to a fixed rule, had to pay annually to the Temple as atonement money ("kofer"; Exodus 30:12-16). If the Chronicler in the parallel passage (2 Chronicles 24:5) intended that, he was mistaken.

  • Bertholet, Commentary on Leviticus 27 in K. H. C. 1900;
  • Baentsch, ib.
E. G. H.
E. K.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Valuation'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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