Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Leviticus 27:1-34. COMMUTATION OF VOWS AND TITHES (P)
The phraseology of the Priestly Code is conspicuous throughout, e.g. ‘male’ and ‘female’ (3–7), ‘oblation’ (Ḳorbân, 9, 11), ‘most holy’ (lit. holiness of holinesses, 28). Moreover, the law of the Jubile year (Leviticus 27:17 ff.) is assumed to be in force. This fact, and its reference to rights of redemption (ch. 25), may account for the position of the ch. here. The last v. (34) is intended as the conclusion, not merely of this ch., but of the collection of ‘commandments’ contained in P, and referred to the Sinai legislation, just as Leviticus 26:46 of the previous ch. was the conclusion of the ‘Law of Holiness.’ See note there.
The subject of this ch. may be thus analysed:
(1) vows, consisting of (a) persons, Leviticus 27:1-8; (b) cattle, Leviticus 27:9-13; (c) houses, Leviticus 27:14-15; (d) land, Leviticus 27:16-25; but firstborn and ‘devoted’ are excluded, Leviticus 27:26-29. (2) tithes, Leviticus 27:30-33; concluding subscription, Leviticus 27:34.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,1–8. The case of persons
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.2. accomplish a vow] rather, as mg., make a special (lit. hard) vow. For the definition of a vow, as compared with other classes of offerings, see on Leviticus 7:11. It was the utterance, and not merely the intention, that constituted the binding character of a vow (Deuteronomy 23:22). In this first case, viz. that of persons being vowed, the redemption might be made by an offering of money, in accordance with an estimate adapted to the particular case. R.V. mg. is nearer the Heb. than the text, but in strict grammar its ‘of’ should be omitted, ‘persons’ being in apposition to the word ‘vow’ in the original. The pronoun ‘thy,’ if it stands, seems to refer to Moses, but see on Leviticus 27:13. The estimate evidently turned upon the comparative strength and capability of work to be fairly expected in the two sexes and at various periods of life, in fact, in modern phraseology, on their value in the labour market.
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.3. the shekel of the sanctuary] See on Leviticus 5:15.
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.8. The case of the poor person. Cp. ch. Leviticus 5:11.
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.9–13. The case of cattle
Such an animal, when presented as a vow, must not be changed, a bad for a good. Otherwise both animals became dedicated. If the animal so presented was ‘unclean,’ and as such could not lawfully be offered to God, the priest was to set upon it a value in proportion to its worth, whereupon the owner might sell it for that sum and pay over the amount. If, however, he desired to have it back, he must pay in addition one-fifth of the price which the priest had adjudged.
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.
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:
And the priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad: as thou valuest it, who art the priest, so shall it be.12. thou the priest] or, thou, O priest.
But if he will at all redeem it, then he shall add a fifth part thereof unto thy estimation.13. thy estimation] Cp. Leviticus 27:15, etc. The pronoun constitutes a difficulty, as in Leviticus 27:2. There Moses, who seems to be referred to, is himself speaking to the people. Here the reference is apparently to the priest in Leviticus 27:12. In Leviticus 27:23 ‘thy’ cannot have either of these references. The LXX. omits it in all the cases. It is thought to be the insertion of a reviser, in order to harmonize with Leviticus 27:15, where the subject is similar and the pronoun presents no difficulty as applied to Moses, who is there addressed. But it may possibly, as is suggested by the anomalous grammar in the Heb. of Leviticus 27:23, be a survival of a phrase from old directions addressed to the priest, and have thus ceased to bear any definite meaning.
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.14, 15. The case of houses 16–25. The case of lands
The vow, as regards its duration, is thus limited to a maximum of 50 years, being determined by the distance of the year of Jubile. When that year arrives, the field shall return to the owner, to be disposed of as he pleases. But even in the meantime, on payment of a defined sum of redemption-money, the field shall remain in the enjoyment of the owner, and the estimate for the purpose shall be at the rate of fifty shekels of silver for the amount of land (about 3 8/4 acres, according to Kennedy, ad loc.) which would yield one homer (about eleven bushels) of barley, with an abatement in proportion to the number of years to run before the next Jubile. In order to obtain the enjoyment of the field, however, the owner must pay a further sum amounting to one-fifth of the redemption-money. In case the owner do not desire to redeem, or have alienated the land by selling it to another, the law of Jubile is not to operate; the land shall become the possession of the priest. In the case of a man’s vowing land which is his by purchase and not by inheritance, that purchase shall not hold good beyond the Jubile, the purchaser redeeming it in the meantime by a payment calculated on the same principle as above.
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.16. fifty shekels of silver] meaning apparently that at the rate of one shekel a year this shall be the maximum amount of redemption payment. The standard in these cases was to be ‘the shekel of the sanctuary.’ See Driver, Exodus 30:13 (where the same words are used), for discussion as to the meaning and value of the shekel thus denominated.
If he sanctify his field from the year of jubile, according to thy estimation it shall stand.
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.
And if a man sanctify unto the LORD a field which he hath bought, which is not of the fields of his possession;
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.23. thy estimation] The Heb. representing these two words presents a grammatical anomaly, although parallels are not absolutely wanting in the MT. But see on Leviticus 27:13.
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.
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.26, 29. Classes which may not be vowed
Firstlings are already the Lord’s (Exodus 13:2). If the firstling is, that of an animal which is reckoned among the ‘unclean’ (according to the rule laid down, ch. Leviticus 11:3), it is to be valued and redeemed at 1 1/5 of its valuation. Driver, Exodus 13:13 (J), points out that P’s law, as given here, is more favourable to the priests. In Exod. the redemption is to be made by a lamb, a less valuable animal.
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.
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.28. no devoted thing] The word lit. means set apart, separated (Arab. harama, whence harem, the occupants of the women’s portion of a Mohammedan house, or the apartments themselves). See on Exodus 22:20 for examples of its application, and for the superiority of R.V. over A.V. in the English rendering. For the different species of separation in this sense see HDB., Art. Ban (Kennedy), where a distinction is drawn between objects set apart for God by individuals (the ‘private ban’) referred to in this v., and those persons, such as the idolater or blasphemer, who were subjected to a judicial sentence by the authorities. The latter are those meant in Leviticus 27:29
None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.
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.30–33. Laws concerning tithes
A distinction is here made between the tithe on the yield of the land or of fruit trees, and that on animals. The former according to this passage may be redeemed on payment of 1 1/5th of the estimation. In Numbers 18:21-24 there is no such permission given. See McNeile (C.B.) there for comparison of the two passages. The tithe on cattle here imposed is, as he points out, a fresh demand, found nowhere else in O.T. except 2 Chronicles 31:6.
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.32. under the rod] the ‘staff’ carried by shepherds (Psalm 23:4; Micah 7:14; Zechariah 11:7), and used (Tal. Bab., Bechoroth, fol. 58 b) for counting the flock when they were entering or leaving their fold. For the phrase, and for the reference by classical writers to similar customs, see Davidson (C.B.) on 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.33. Cp. Leviticus 27:10.
These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.34. See introd. note to this ch.