Exodus 30:12
"When you take a census of the Israelites to number them, each man must pay the LORD a ransom for his life when he is counted. Then no plague will come upon them when they are numbered.
Ransom for Souls -- IAlexander MaclarenExodus 30:12
Silver Sockets: Or, Redemption the FoundationSpurgeon, Charles HaddonExodus 30:12
The Atonement MoneyH. W. Soltau.Exodus 30:12
The Ransom for the LifeH. Melvill, B. D.Exodus 30:12
The Soul-RansomJ. C. Gray.Exodus 30:12
Universal EqualityHugh Price Hughes, M. A.Exodus 30:12
The Golden Altar and the PerfumeJ. Orr Exodus 30:1-11, 34-38
The Numbering of Israel and Their RansomJ. Urquhart Exodus 30:11-16
The Atonement MoneyJ. Orr Exodus 30:11-17
It pertained to the full admission of Israel to theocratic privilege, that, the nation as a whole having been admitted into covenant, a formal registration should be made of at least the grown part of the community. Directions were accordingly issued for the taking of a census, which had also in view a more complete military organisation of the nation than as yet existed. The males of the tribes from twenty years old and upwards were to be made to pass before Jehovah, and were to be regularly counted and enrolled as members of the holy commonwealth. This act, however, which involved a near approach to Jehovah, and was on the part of the individual an entrance into the full rights of his citizenship, called for some new recognition of the principle of atonement on which the covenant was built. Hence the ordinance that each individual of those who were numbered should make an offering of half a shekel of silver, as a ransom or atonement for his soul (ver. 15). The silver thus obtained was to go for the service of the tabernacle (ver. 16). On which observe -

1. The money was money of atonement. It was paid in ransom for life. If we seek the principle on which the ransoming proceeds, we must view the half shekel in the light of the practice of commutation. In strictness, atonement could be made only by blood. Here, as in other cases, the animal sacrifice is commuted for money, and the money, in virtue of that for which it is commuted, is admitted as atonement. The purpose to which the silver was to be applied required that the ransom should take this form.

2. All were to be taxed alike. "The rich shall not give more, nor the poor less" (ver. 15). This intimates that, as respects his need of atonement, no man has any advantage over his neighbours. "There is no difference" (Romans 3:22). It intimates, too, the essential equality of men in the eyes of God.

3. The money was to be applied to the work of the tabernacle. The greater part of it was used in making the silver sockets for the dwelling-place (ch. 38:27). Thus

(1) the tabernacle - symbol of God's kingdom in Israel - was founded on the silver of atonement. This, surely, was a profound testimony to the fact that only on the basis of atonement can communion exist between heaven and earth.

(2) Each Israelite was individually represented in Jehovah's sanctuary. His tribute money formed part of it. He had a stake and interest in it. The honour was great: not less so the responsibility. - J.O.

A ransom for his soul.
The word which is here rendered "ransom" is afterwards rendered "atonement." The atonement covered or removed what displeased God, and thus sanctified for His service. Our notion of atonement under the law should ordinarily be limited to the removal of the temporal consequences of moral or ceremonial defilement. The sum of half a shekel was the tax that every man had to pay as his ransom, and as this is the single instance in the Jewish law in which an offering of money is commanded, it seems highly probable that it was not a ransom for the soul so much as a ransom for the life which the Israelite made when he paid his half-shekel. On all occasions in which the soul, the immortal principle, is undeniably concerned, the appointed offerings are strictly sacrificial. Consider:

I. THE RANSOM FOR THE LIFE. Our human lives are forfeited to God; we have not accomplished the great end of our being, and therefore we deserve every moment to die. The Israelites paid their tax as a confession that life had been forfeited, and as an acknowledgment that its continuance depended wholly on God. We cannot give the half-shekel payment, but we should have before us the practical remembrance that in God's hand is the soul of every living thing.

II. THE RICH AND THE POOR WERE TO PAY JUST THE SAME SUM. This was a clear and unqualified declaration that in the sight of God the distinctions of rank and estate are altogether as nothing; that, whilst He gathers the whole human race under His guardianship, there is no difference in the watchfulness which extends itself to the several individuals.

III. If we understand the word "soul" in the ordinary sense, the text is a clear indication THAT GOD VALUES AT THE SAME RATE THE SOULS OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS. Every soul has been redeemed at the price of the blood of God's Son. Rich and poor must offer the same atonement for the soul.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. DIVINELY APPOINTED. "The Lord spake," etc. Who else had a right to speak on this matter? How would it have been had man spoken? God mercifully prevents confusion by Himself speaking. So, in our case. "I have found a ransom."

II. UNIVERSALLY ENFORCED. "They shall give every man a ransom for his soul." No moral man shall, in the pride of his self-righteousness, conclude that he needs no ransom; nor shall any vile sinner, in utter despair, conclude that a ransom will in his case be useless. "He gave Himself a Ransom for all." How if we "neglect so great salvation"?

III. EQUALLY DISTRIBUTED. "The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less." There should be no excuse for misrepresenting their circumstances. They were taught that the soul, and not wealth, was the thing considered. Men spiritually on one level (Leviticus 19:15). The rich and the poor might be sundered by circumstances in the tent, but were on an equality in the Tabernacle. In the house of God the rich and the poor meet together, etc. Each went with his half-shekel to Him who respecteth not the person of any man.

IV. MERCIFULLY MEASURED. "An half-shekel shall be the offering of the Lord." In other matters there was a difference (see Leviticus 5:7; see marg.; Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:21, 22, 30, 31). The poor were always treated with special consideration. It was a mercy to the rich to humble him, and to the poor to inculcate proper self-respect. A mercy to all, to inculcate the habit of giving as a "means of grace." Learn —

1. That in soul matters men are equal before God.

2. That our ransom is paid for us.

3. That we are not redeemed with corruptible things, etc.

(J. C. Gray.)

1. Observe that this redemption, without which no man might rightly be numbered among the children of Israel lest a plague should break out among them, must be personal and individual. You must each one bring Christ unto the Father, taking Him into your hands by simple faith. No other price must be there; but that price must be brought by every individual, or else there is no acceptable coming to God.

2. It was absolutely essential that each one should bring the half-shekel of redemption money; for redemption is the only way in which you and I can be accepted of God. There were many, no doubt, in the camp of Israel who were men of station and substance; but they must bring the ransom money, or die amid their wealth. Others were wise-hearted and skilful in the arts, yet must they be redeemed or die. Rank could not save the princes, nor office spare the elders: every man of Israel must be redeemed; and no man could pass the muster-roll without his half-shekel, whatever he might say, or do, or be.

3. Note well that every Israelitish man must be alike redeemed, and redeemed with the like, nay, with the same redemption. "The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel."

4. And it must be a redemption that meets the Divine demand, because, you see, the Lord not only says that they must each bring half a shekel, no more, no less, but it must be "the shekel of the sanctuary" — not the shekel of commerce, which might be debased in quality or diminished by wear and tear, but the coin must be according to the standard shekel laid up in the holy place.

I. I want you to view this illustration as teaching us something about GOD IN RELATION TO MAN. The tent in the wilderness was typical of God's coming down to man to hold intercourse with him. The Lord seems to teach us, in relation to His dealing with men, that He will meet man in the way of grace only on the footing of redemption. He treats with man concerning love and grace within His holy shrine; but the basis of that shrine must be atonement.

II. I think we may apply this illustration to CHRIST IN HIS DIVINE PERSON. The Tabernacle was the type of our Lord Jesus Christ, for God dwells among men in Christ. "He tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory," "In whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Our Lord is thus the Tabernacle which the Lord hath pitched and not man; and our first and fundamental idea of Him must be in His character as Redeemer. Our Lord does come to us in other characters, and in them all He is right glorious; but unless we receive Him as Redeemer we have missed the essence of His character, the foundation idea of Him.

III. The Tabernacle was a type of THE CHURCH OF GOD AS THE PLACE OF DIVINE INDWELLING. What and where is the Church of God? The true Church is founded upon redemption.

1. Christ is a sure Foundation.

2. An invariable Foundation.

IV. I think this Tabernacle in the wilderness may be viewed as a type of THE GOSPEL, for the gospel is the revelation of God to man. Now, as that old gospel in the wilderness was, such must ours be, and I want to say just two or three things very plainly, and have done. Redemption must be the foundation of our theology — doctrinal, practical, and experimental. Ah, and not only our theology but our personal hope. The only gospel that I have to preach is that which I have to rest upon myself — "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." This is henceforth the burden of our service, and the glory of our life. Those silver sockets were very precious, but very weighty. I dare say the men who had to move them sometimes thought so. Four tons and more of silver make up a great load. O blessed, blissful draught, to have to put the shoulder to the collar to draw the burden of the Lord — the glorious weight of redemption.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The atonement money preached a very clear and blessed gospel. It told out the great truth, that birth in the flesh availed nothing. Every man must give a ransom for his soul. The price was fixed by God Himself. Each man, whether poor or rich, must bring the same. One could not pay for another. Each person was estimated by God at the same price. Salvation must be an individual, personal matter, between the soul and God. Every man has to bring his own half-shekel. The half-shekel was to be of silver; the unalloyed, unadulterated metal. Three things are probably here presented in type: the Lord Jesus as God — as the pure and spotless One — and as giving His life a ransom for many. The silver, being a solid, imperishable, precious metal, may have this first aspect; its chaste whiteness representing the second; and its being ordinarily employed as money or price may point out its fitness as a type of the third.

(H. W. Soltau.)

Why, under these circumstances, the ransom of half a shekel? Everybody when he went over to the official group was called specifically as a man of twenty years of age and upward. Let us see. Strip away wealth. Strip away learning. Strip away rank. Strip away fame. Reduce us to our natural nakedness. What is left? Nothing but a sinful man. There are four moments in our ecclesiastical life when we are all reduced to this naked simplicity, to this fundamental similarity. At the moment of our baptism. The minister receives into his arms, literally following the example of our Lord — "this child," not this prince or this peasant. Again, at the moment of our marriage. I remember that many years ago, when the Prince of Wales was married, and I was a mere boy, I was struck by the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury turned to the Prince of Wales and said, "Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?" not "this Princess of Denmark." And then to the woman he said in effect, we know nothing of the heir to the British throne in the house of God, — wilt thou have "this man" to be thy wedded husband? I was struck even then at the way in which the most exalted were reduced to their simple humanity. Then, again, at the Holy Communion, all men are absolutely equal. One table for rich and poor. I remember a beautiful incident in the life of the Duke of Wellington when he was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a position held by the late Earl Granville, whose death we all so much lament. The Iron Duke was in church, and was going to receive the Lord's Supper, when a peasant, who had not noticed the duke, kneeled by his side. Discovering who he was, and being much terrified, he was getting up, when the duke put his hand on his shoulder, and said, "Don't move, we are all equal here." Wisely said, profoundly true. There is one other moment when we are all equal — at the moment of death. If any mighty monarch is fortunate enough to be a Christian, the utmost the Christian minister will say at his burial is this, "We commit the body of our dear brother to the dust." Our brother, nothing more. As there are four moments in our ecclesiastical history when we are reduced to our common humanity and to our absolute similarity, so there is one moment in our civic history, and that moment is to-night, perhaps the only time in your life when you will be absolutely on an equal with the greatest in the land. This is why in that old theocracy every man who was numbered in the census had to pay a tribute to the Tabernacle. When nothing is left except our common humanity surely then we must make our common confession, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." You may be a duke. You may be an Oxford graduate. You may be a millionaire. But all these are superficial distinctions. At bottom you are a sinful man needing the mercy of God as much as the rest of us. Therefore, when for one moment all social, artificial distinctions ceased, each man paid his half-shekel to the Tabernacle as an acknowledgment of his obligation to sue for the mercy of heaven and to do the will of God.

(Hugh Price Hughes, M. A.)

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