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A helpful commentary on Leviticus 27

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by George Antonios, Jan 18, 2021.

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  1. George Antonios

    George Antonios Well-Known Member

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    Lev 27:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
    Lev 27:2 Speak 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.
    Lev 27:3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.
    Lev 27:4 And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.
    Lev 27:5 And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
    Lev 27:6 And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.
    Lev 27:7 And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
    Lev 27:8 But if he be poorer than thy 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.


    A man might vow to the service of God whatever he had a right over, that is, himself, his wife, his children, his servants, his beasts, his houses, or his fields. The case of vowing persons was a particular one, for, whereas the tabernacle [or temple] could always employ a beast, or a house, or a field, yet it had a lesser need for people because there was already an entire tribe [Levi] devoted to the service of God, and, moreover, the law of God allowed only Levites to minister about the holy things of the tabernacle. Therefore the vowed persons were to be immediately redeemed with money according to the valuation of the priest, as is especially clear from v.8, where the man in question is too poor to pay his esteemed value on the spot. “Vowing a person to God thus, was, as a rule, no more than vowing so much money to the use of the sanctuary as was fixed as the price of the redemption of the person vowed”[1]. The payment was a substitute for the labour market value of the person. That is similar to what God would ordain when he took the Levites instead of every firstborn of Israel to minister unto him (Nu.3:12). When Moses numbered both groups, there were 273 more firstborn than Levites (Nu.3:46), their odd number being redeemed at the rate of five shekels a piece by the poll (Nu.3:47)[2], which was also given to the Levitical priests (Nu.3:48-51). Even the minimum age of redemption would be the same: a month old (Lev.27:6/Nu.3:15). Incidentally, that confirms that the persons offered would not actually serve in the tabernacle, for a month old child cannot possibly serve.

    The monetary estimation was indeed for the purpose of redemption of the vowed person, and not a simple payment/offering, for what else could be the object of valuing the person? “Valuation supposes either redemption or purchase. But in the case of men (i.e., Israelites) there could be no purchasing as slaves, and therefore the object of the valuing could only have been for the purpose of redeeming, buying off the person vowed to the Lord, and the fulfilment of the vow could only have consisted in the payment into the sanctuary of the price fixed by the law.”[3]

    The idea that the vowed persons did not actually serve but were immediately redeemed is reinforced by the lack of the specification to pay a 20% fine for the redemption of the vowed persons, as is the law for redeeming unclean beasts (vs.13, 27), houses (v.15), fields (v.19), and tithes (v.31) – which things could indeed be in the employment of the priests to useful ends when suddenly sought for redemption by the one who first offered them. Therefore the 20% fine would discourage double-mindedness and rash vows.

    The objection that Samuel was vowed of his mother to serve God in the tabernacle for ever (1Sa.1:11, 22, 28), a vow which Samuel fulfilled, forgets that Samuel was a Levite (1Sa.1:1)[4] and could thus legally minister to the Lord in his holy things. As for the vow of the Nazarites (Nu.6), nothing therein connects the Nazarite to the tabernacle, nor even to any kind of service – only to separation.

    As for the differing estimations according to gender and age, they were mainly based on the labour-market value of the persons, in the context of an agricultural society where physical strength was vital and the labourers primarily men. The estimations had nothing to do with the value of the souls. In the case of children from a month old to five years old (v.6), consider that even three year old Levites had to work in the temple (2Ch.31:16) and thus had labour-value. But when it comes to a strict labour-market estimation of a month old child, it would be less than nothing, even negative, such a child consuming more than producing, in which case the vower would pay nothing, nay, would be owed money of the priest. In such a case therefore, it was fit for the offerer to pay something minimal, five or three shekels, for a male and female respectively. If in turn it be argued that the labour-market value of a male and female one-month old is identical, and that thus their estimation should not differ, let the reader consider that the lesser estimation of the females meant that they had to pay less for their redemption than the men, if they were the ones offering themselves or their daughters. Thus the lower estimation of the females, in such a case, was a mercy, for females earned less than men and were thus expected to pay less for their redemption. However, it is also true that the labour-market value consideration does not answer all “accusations”, for the law of God reckoned a woman unclean for 80 days after giving birth to a female, but only for 40 days after giving birth to a male (Lev.12)[5]. Thus the true explanation for the differing estimations must hark back to something more fundamental than labour-market value. It cannot be denied that the man is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man (1Co.11:7), and that the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man (1Co.11:8), and that neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man (1Co.11:9). The difference, however, is only in the natural person, the earthly identity, and earthly role, not in the value of the soul itself, for Christ shed his blood equally for men and women. Let the dear sisters remember that spiritually they are a new creature in Christ (2Co.5:17) and that there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28) and that the earthly distinctions will be done away in heaven.


    [1] The Pulpit Commentary – Exposition of Leviticus 27

    [2] The reason that the monetary valuation here varied according to gender and age group, unlike in Numbers 3, is that that Numbers 3 was a one-time, male-to-male, matching age-group event.

    [3] Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament – Leviticus 26:2-8

    [4] See author’s notes there.

    [5] See author’s notes there for the reason.
     
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