Leviticus 27
Benson Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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.
Leviticus 27:2. Shall make a singular vow — The Hebrew may be rendered, Shall separate, or set apart a vow; that is, shall, by solemn promise; separate any thing from a common to a sacred use. For vows were religious promises made to God, for obtaining some blessing or deliverance from some evil or danger, and were accompanied with prayer, and paid with thanksgiving. The words, however, יפלא נדר, japhli neder, may be properly translated, as here, Shall make a singular, or hard, or eminent vow. And this is to be understood, not of things, but of persons, which he devoted to the Lord. Although vows of this kind were not usual, yet there want not instances of persons who devoted either themselves or their children, and that either more strictly, as the Nazarites and the Levites, (1 Samuel 1:11,) and for these no redemption was admitted, but they were in person to perform the service to which they were devoted; or more largely, as some who were not Levites might yet, through zeal for God, or to obtain a blessing which they wanted, devote themselves or their children to the service of God and of the sanctuary, though not in such a way as the Levites, which was forbidden, yet in some kind of subserviency to them. And because there might be too great a number of persons thus dedicated, which might be burdensome to the sanctuary, an exchange is allowed, and the priests are directed to receive a tax for their redemption. A book of rates is, accordingly, provided here, by which the priests were to be guided in their valuation. 1st, The middle-aged, between twenty and sixty, were valued highest, the males at fifty shekels each, and the females at thirty, (Leviticus 27:3-4,) women being generally inferior to men in strength and serviceableness. 2d, The rate of the youth between five years old and twenty was less, because they were then less capable of doing service. 3d, Infants under five years old were capable of being vowed to God by their parents, as Samuel was, but were not to be presented and redeemed till they were a month old; that, as one sabbath passed over them before they were circumcised, so one new moon might pass over them before they were estimated; and their valuation was but small, Leviticus 27:6. Samuel, who was thus vowed to God, was not redeemed, because he was a Levite, and designed by his parents to be lent to the Lord as long as he lived, 1 Samuel 1:28. Therefore he was employed in his childhood in the service of the tabernacle. 4th, The aged are valued at a less rate than youth, but greater than children, Leviticus 27:7. And the Hebrews observe, that the rate of an aged woman is two parts of three to that of an aged man, so that in that age the female came nearest to the value of the male. 5th, The poor were to be valued according to their ability, Leviticus 27:8. Something they must pay, that they might not be rash in vowing to God; for he hath no pleasure in fools, Ecclesiastes 2:6; yet not more than their ability, that they might not ruin themselves and their families by their zeal.

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.
And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And 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.
Leviticus 27:9. If it be a beast — it shall be holy, &c. — A second sort of things vowed to God are beasts. With respect to which the law is, that the very individual beast was to be disposed of by the owner according to the first intention of his vow, whether to be sacrificed upon the altar, or given to the priests, or sold for the use of the sanctuary, the price to be applied to the repairs of the house of God, or to purchase the usual sacrifices. This is what we are to understand by its being holy, as appears from Leviticus 27:10. The design of this law was to preserve a reverence toward things once consecrated, that they might not return to common uses.

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 beast, then it and the exchange thereof shall be holy.
Leviticus 27:10. He shall not alter it, nor change it — Two words expressing the same thing more emphatically; that is, he shall in no wise change it, neither for one of the same nor of another kind: partly because God would preserve the sanctity and reverence of consecrated things, and therefore would not have them alienated; and partly to prevent abuses of them by those who on this pretence might exchange what had been vowed for the worse. It and the exchange — That is, both the thing first vowed, and the thing offered and given in exchange. This was inflicted upon him as a just penalty for his levity in such weighty matters.

And if it be any unclean beast, of which they do not offer a sacrifice unto the LORD, then he shall present the beast before the priest:
Leviticus 27:11. Unclean — Either for the kind or for the quality of it; if it were such a one as might not be offered. In the case of any unclean beast; that is, which was not allowed to be offered in sacrifice, such as a horse, camel, &c., it was to be valued by the priest, and then the owner had liberty to leave the beast at the priest’s disposal, or to redeem it by paying the price set upon it, with a fifth part more. This served as a proper check to men’s levity and fickleness in making vows and religious resolutions. It put them in mind not to be rash in opening their mouths to God, and made them feel the inconvenience of repenting of their vows.

And the priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad: as thou valuest it, who art the priest, so shall it be.
But if he will at all redeem it, then he shall add a fifth part thereof unto thy estimation.
And 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.
Leviticus 27:14. When a man shall sanctify his house — By a vow; for of that way and manner of sanctification he speaks in this whole chapter. This is the third case, and was to be regulated by the same law as the last- mentioned. It was to be justly valued by the priest; and if the party chose rather to pay the price than part with the house, he was to submit to the law made in the foregoing case.

And if he that sanctified it will redeem his house, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be his.
And if a man shall sanctify unto the LORD some part of a field of his possession, then thy estimation shall be according to the seed thereof: an homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver.
Leviticus 27:16. Shall sanctify some part of his field — This intimates that it was not 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 design of consecrating a part to God, was to procure his blessing upon the rest of their possessions. Thy estimation shall be according to the seed thereof — That is, it shall be valued according to the quantity of seed required to sow it. A homer of barley-seed shall be valued at fifty shekels — That is, so much land as a homer of barley would sow was to be rated at fifty shekels, or about five pounds seventeen shillings; and so, proportionably, for greater or less quantities of ground so devoted. There is a great difference between this measure and that which occurs Exodus 16:16; this is written homer, and that ghomer. Now, a ghomer was but the tenth part of an ephah, as we learn from Exodus 16:36; whereas the homer, which is the measure here spoken of, was ten ephahs, Ezekiel 45:11. By this we may explain that threatening in Isaiah 5:10, The seed of a homer shall yield an ephah; that is, ten bushels shall yield but one.

If he sanctify his field from the year of jubile, according to thy estimation it shall stand.
Leviticus 27:17-18. If he sanctify his field from the year of jubilee — That is, if the vow has been made immediately after the jubilee, then the land requiring a homer of barley-seed is to be valued at fifty shekels, as before mentioned. If after the jubilee — That is, some considerable time after, then the priest was to deduct from the above rate of fifty shekels, either more or less, according as more or fewer years remained till the next jubilee. For no land could be alienated for a longer period than forty-nine years, that is, from one jubilee to another, except in the case after mentioned. If he will not redeem the field — If the owner choose rather to part with his land than redeem it at the price which the priest hath set upon it, and the priest, upon his refusal, have sold it, or rather let it, till the next jubilee, to another man; then he that vowed it shall be excluded from all future privilege of redemption; and, when the jubilee is come, the land shall return to the priesthood for ever. For preventing ambiguity, instead of, If he have sold the field, it ought to be rendered, If the priest have sold, as in the Arabic version; or, If it be sold to another, as in the Vulgate; for the he cannot refer to the owner or vower of the land, as our version makes it, since the vower had no power to sell the land after he had consecrated it, but it was to be sold or let by the priest or treasurer of the sanctuary, who converted the price thereof to a holy use.

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 estimation.
And if he that sanctified the field will in any wise redeem it, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be assured to him.
And if he will not redeem the field, or if he have sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed any more.
But the field, when it goeth out in the jubile, shall be holy unto the LORD, as a field devoted; the possession thereof shall be the priest's.
Leviticus 27:21. When it goeth out — That is, out of the possession of the other man to whom the priest sold it. The possession shall be the priest’s — For his maintenance. Nor is this repugnant to that law, that the priests should have no inheritance in the land, Numbers 18:20; for that is only spoken of the tribe of Levi in general, in reference to the first division of the land, wherein the Levites were not to have a distinct part of land, as other tribes had; but this does not imply that some particular lands might not be vowed and given to the priests, either for their own benefit, or for the service of the sanctuary.

And if a man sanctify unto the LORD a field which he hath bought, which is not of the fields of his possession;
Leviticus 27:22-23. Not of the fields of his possession — His patrimony or inheritance. Thy estimation — That is, the price which thou, O Moses, by my direction, hast set in such cases. To the jubilee — As much as it is worth, for that space of time between the making of the vow and the year of jubilee: for he had no right to it for any longer time, as the next verse tells us. As a holy thing — As that which is to be consecrated to God instead of the land redeemed by it.

Then the priest shall reckon unto him the worth of thy estimation, even unto the year of the jubile: and he shall give thine estimation in that day, as a holy thing unto the LORD.
In the year of the jubile the field shall return unto him of whom it was bought, even to him to whom the possession of the land did belong.
And all thy estimations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall be the shekel.
Leviticus 27:25. The shekel of the sanctuary — About 2 Samuel 6 d.

Only the firstling of the beasts, which should be the LORD'S firstling, no man shall sanctify it; whether it be ox, or sheep: it is the LORD'S.
Leviticus 27:26. No man shall sanctify it — By vow; because it is not his own, but the Lord’s already, and therefore to vow such a thing to God is a tacit derogation from, and a usurpation of, the Lord’s right, and a mocking of God by pretending to give what we cannot withhold from him. Ox or sheep — Under these two eminent kinds he comprehends all other beasts which might be sacrificed to God, the firstlings whereof could not be redeemed, but were to be sacrificed; whereas the firstlings of men were to be redeemed, and therefore were capable of being vowed, as we see, 1

Samuel Leviticus 1:11.

And if it be of an unclean beast, then he shall redeem it according to thine estimation, and shall add a fifth part of it thereto: or if it be not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to thy estimation.
Leviticus 27:27. An unclean beast — That is, if it be the firstborn of an unclean beast, as appears from Leviticus 27:26, which could not be vowed, because it was a firstborn, nor offered, because it was unclean; and therefore is here commanded to be redeemed or sold. It shall be sold — And the price thereof was given to the priests, or brought into the Lord’s treasury.

Notwithstanding 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.
Leviticus 27:28. No devoted thing — That is, nothing which is absolutely devoted to God with a curse upon themselves or others if they disposed not of it according to their vow; as the Hebrew word implies. Most holy — That is, only to be touched or employed by the priests, and by no other persons; no, not by their own families, for that was the state of the most holy things.

None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.
Leviticus 27:29. Devoted of men — Not by men, as some would elude it, but of men, for it is manifest both from this and the foregoing verses, that men are here not the persons devoting, but devoted to destruction, either by God’s sentence, as idolaters, Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 23:15; the Canaanites, Deuteronomy 20:17; the Amalekites, Leviticus 25:19; 1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 15:26; Benhadad, 1 Kings 20:42; or by men, in pursuance of such a sentence of God, as Numbers 21:2-3; Numbers 31:17; or for any crime of a high nature, as Jdg 21:5. But this is certainly not to be understood, as some have taken it, as if a Jew might, by virtue of this text, devote his child or his servant to the Lord, and thereby oblige himself to put them to death. For this is expressly limited to all that a man hath or which is his; that is, which he hath a power over. But the Jews had no power over the lives of their children or servants, but were directly forbidden to take them away, by that great command, thou shalt do no murder. And seeing he that killed his servant casually by a blow with a rod was surely to be punished, as is said, Exodus 21:20, it could not be lawful wilfully to take away his life upon pretence of any such vow as this. But for the Canaanites, Amalekites, &c., God, the undoubted Lord of all men’s lives, gave to the Israelites a power over their persons and lives, and a command to put them to death. And this verse may have a special respect to them, or such as them.

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.
Leviticus 27:30. The tithe — There were divers sorts of tithes, but this seems to be understood only of the ordinary and yearly tithes belonging to the Levites, as the very expression intimates, and the addition of the fifth part in case of the redemption thereof implies.

And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.
And 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.
Leviticus 27:32. Under the rod — Either, 1st, The tithers’ rod, it being the manner of the Jews in tithing to cause all their cattle to pass through some gate or narrow passage, where the tenth was marked by a person appointed for that purpose, and reserved for the priest. Or, 2d, The shepherd’s rod, under which the herds and flocks passed, and by which they were governed and numbered. See Jeremiah 33:13; Ezekiel 20:37.

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.
These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.
Leviticus 27:34. These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai — This has reference to the whole book. Many of these commandments are moral; others ceremonial, and peculiar to the Jewish economy; which yet are instructive to us, who have a key to the mysteries that are contained in them. Upon the whole, we have cause to bless God that we are not come to mount Sinai, that we are not under the dark shadows of the law, but enjoy the clear light of the gospel. The doctrine of our reconciliation to God by a Mediator, is not clouded with the smoke of burning sacrifices, but cleared by the knowledge of Christ, and him crucified. And we may praise him that we are not under the yoke of the law, but under the sweet and easy instructions of the gospel, which pronounces those the true worshippers that worship the Father in spirit and in truth, by Christ only, who is our priest, temple, altar, sacrifice, purification, and all.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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