Leviticus 27
Pulpit Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Leviticus 27:1


CHAPTER 27. The final chapter, attached to the book after the concluding exhortation, is a short treatise on persons (verses 2-8), animals (verses 9-13), houses (verses 14, 15), lauds (verses 16-24), vowed to God; and on the commutation of vows. A man might vow to the service of God whatever he had a right over, that is, himself, his wife, his children, his slaves, his beasts, his houses, his fields. In case persons were vowed, the rule was that they should be redeemed at a certain price, though occasionally the redemption was not made. 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. Yet there is a great difference between the two acts of vowing a person and vowing the correlative sum of money. A man in great danger or distress might devote himself (Genesis 28:20) or another (Judges 11:30; 1 Samuel 1:11) to God, when he never would have vowed money. Such vows were redeemable, and, as a rule, were redeemed, though there were some exceptions, as in the case of Samuel. If beasts were vowed to the Lord (verses 9-13), they could not be redeemed if they were such as could be sacrificed to him; if they were not such as could be sacrificed, they were to be valued by the priest, and either retained as a possession of the sanctuary, or, if the owner preferred it, redeemed by him at the price fixed and out-fifth additional. If houses were vowed to the Lord (verses 14, 15), they became the property of the sanctuary, unless they were redeemed at the valuation set upon them by the priest, with one-fifth additional. If hereditary lands were vowed to the Lord (verses 16-21), they became the possession of the sanctuary at the year of jubilee, unless they had been previously redeemed; redemption, however, was in this case the ordinary rule, and we do not hear of any accumulation of landed property in the hands of the priests from this source. In the case of a field which was not an hereditary possession, but a purchase, being vowed to the Lord (verses 22-24), the commutation sum was paid down "in that day," that is, on the spot in a lump sum, the land going back at the jubilee to the original owners from whom the temporary possession had been bought by the man who made the vow. A section is added forbidding the firstborn of animals, things devoted, and tithes to be vowed, because they were already the Lord's; allowing the redemption of the firstborn of unclean animals, and of the tithes of corn and fruits, but prohibiting redemption in the case of sacrificial animals, of things devoted, and of the tithes of animals.
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.
Verse 2. - When a man shall make a singular vow, - literally, when a man shall separate a vow, that is, make a special vow (see Numbers 6:2) - the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation; that is, when a man has vowed himself or another person to the Lord, the priest shall declare the amount at which the person vowed is to be redeemed.
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.
Verses 3-7. - The sum at which a man between twenty and sixty years of age was to be redeemed was fifty shekels, equal to £6 9s. 2d.; a woman, thirty shekels, or £3 17s. 6d.; a youth between five and twenty years of age, twenty shekels, or £2 11s. 8d.; a maiden between the same ages, ten shekels, or £1 5s. 10d.; a boy between one month and five years, five shekels, or 12s. 11d.; a girl between the same ages, three shekels, or 7s. 9d.; a man above sixty years, fifteen shekels, or £1 18s. 9d.; a woman of the same age, ten shekels, or £1 5s. 10d.
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.
Verse 8. - A discretion is left with the priest to lower these valuations in case the man who has made the vow is very poor. 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.
Verses 9, 10. - In case a clean animal is vowed to the Lord, it is not to be exchanged for another on the plea of not being good enough or being too good for sacrifice. If any such attempt is made, both animals are to be given up and sacrificed, or, if blemished, added to the herd of the sanctuary.
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:
Verses 11-13. - An unclean animal, which might not be sacrificed, if vowed, was to be valued at a price fixed by the priest. If its original owner took it back again, he was to pay this price and one-fifth more than the sum named; if he did not, it became the property of the sanctuary. The words, the priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad, should rather be rendered, the priest shall estimate it between good and bad, that is, at a moderate price, as though it were neither very good nor very bad. And so in the next verse.
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.
Verses 14, 15. - The rule as to the redemption of houses is the same as that regarding the redemption of unclean animals. The ordinary practice was to redeem.
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.
Verses 16-21. - In case a man shall sanctify unto the Lord some part of a field of his possession, that is, of his hereditary lands, the redemption price is fixed by the quantity of seed required for sowing it. If it requires a homer, or five bushels and a half, of barley seed to crop it, the redemption price is fifty shekels, or £6 9s. 2d., plus one-fifth, that is, £7 15s., supposing that the vow had been made in the year succeeding the jubilee; but if the vow was made at any time after the jubile, the value of the previous harvests was deducted from this sum. The amount does not seem to have been paid in a lump sum, but by annual installments of one shekel and one-fifth of a shekel, equal to 3s. 1 1/5 d., each year. In case he had sold his interest in the field up to the approaching jubilee before making his vow, then no redemption was allowed; he paid nothing, but the field passed from him to the sanctuary at the jubilee.
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;
Verses 22-24. - The case of a man who shall sanctify unto the Lord a field which he hath bought, which is not of the fields of his possession, or inheritance, is necessarily different, because he was not the owner of the land, but only the possessor of it until the next jubilee. For this reason he had to pay the redemption price immediately in that day, the land, of course, reverting to the original owner at the jubilee.
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.
Verse 25. - The estimation is to be made according to the shekel of the sanctuary, that is, the shekel at its full value, before worn by use in traffic (see Exodus 30:13; Numbers 3:47; Numbers 18:16).
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.
Verses 26-33. - The law of vows and their commutation is further declared in four subjects:

(1) the firstborn of animals;

(2) things already devoted;

(3) tithes of the produce of the land;

(4) tithes of the produce of the cattle. Verses 26-28. - The firstborn of animals were already the Lord's, and they could not, therefore, be vowed to him afresh; the sacrificial animals were to be offered in sacrifice (Exodus 13:15); the ass was to be redeemed by a sheep or be put to death (Exodus 13:13; Exodus 34:20); other unclean animals are to be either redeemed at the fixed price, plus one-fifth, or, if not redeemed, sold for the benefit of the sanctuary.
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.
Verses 28, 29. - Whatever is already cherem (a word here first used as a term well understood), that is, devoted to God, whether devoted for the purpose of destruction or of entire surrender to him, may be neither redeemed nor sold. Whether it be of man, like the Canaanites at Hormah (Numbers 21:2), or of beast, as the sheep and oxen of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:21), or of the field, as referred to in verse 21, or of other inanimate objects, as the cities of Hormah (Numbers 21:2), it is either to be put to death or given up without reserve or commutation to God's ministers. In the case of men they must be put to death. "This provision would have applied only to the devoting of those who were already manifestly under the ban of Jehovah those guilty of such outrageous and flagrant violation of the fundamental law of the covenant that they manifestly came under the penalty of death. Such persons, instead of being tried and condemned, might be at once devoted and put to death" (Gardiner). "To this it may be added that the devotion by ban (cherem) of any object or person was not to be done by private persons, at their own will, but was performed by the civil magistrates, under known conditions and laws; e.g. the cities of idolaters, such as Jericho, were so devoted, and the inhabitants, by the command of God himself, who made his people to be the executioners of his judgments against inveterate idolatry (see Deuteronomy 13:13; Joshua 6:17)" (Wordsworth).
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.
Verses 30-32. - Tithes, like the cherem, are introduced as things well known. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4). Jacob vowed the tenth to the Lord (Genesis 28:22), whence we see that the practice of the payment of tithes was not of Mosaic institution, but immemorial. The duty was, however, commanded afresh for the Israelites. "I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle" (Numbers 18:21), and of this tithe they were to pay a tenth to the priests (Numbers 18:26). Being already the Lord's, the tithe of the corn and fruits could not be vowed to the Lord, but it could be redeemed, or commuted, by the owner paying one-fifth more than the price at which it was valued.
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.
Verses 32, 33. - The tithe of the cattle could neither be vowed nor redeemed. As the young oxen and sheep passed under the rod by which they were counted by the herdsman, the tenth animal was touched (the rod, according to tradition, having been dipped in red paint), and handed over to the Levites. There was to be no change made in the animals, nor was commutation allowed.
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.
Verse 34. - The final verse of the previous chapter is repeated after the further legislation on vows and on their commutation has been added, to show that it too makes part of the Sinaitic code.

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