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Deeper Commentary


Lev 27:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
This chapter is as it were an appendix to the Law because it concerns vows which were freewill decisions to give something to God and weren’t part of the legal demands which God made upon His people in the previous chapters. It’s good for us to at times make a special commitment to God from a joyful heart. The values attached to people in the next verses seem to speak of the price that should be paid if a person wished to cancel the dedication of themselves or even of others which they had made. It seems Jephthah may have been ignorant of these provisions and therefore suffered immensely from not paying attention to all God’s law (Jud. 11:31-40).

Lev 27:2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘When a man makes a vow, the persons shall be for Yahweh by your valuation-
It could be argued that this continues from the theme of Lev. 25 about valuing persons. There, the context was valuing them in the context of the year of Jubilee. Here, the valuation is in the context of vowing property to God's service. In this sense, Lev. 27 is not really an appendix but a continuation (although see on :1). The idea in this verse is perhaps that a vow must not be vaguely expressed, but must be defined specifically- in order to discourage the general desire and expression of a wish to give something to God, and then just leaving it as a vague, undefined desire which could later be pulled back from. And that is an abiding lesson for us all. LXX implies this section speaks of a person vowing themselves to God rather than vowing to give a servant to His service: "Whosoever shall vow a vow as the valuation of his soul for the Lord".

Lev 27:3 Your valuation shall be of a male from twenty years old even to sixty years old, even your valuation shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary-
The person was valued at what they would be worth on the secular market as it were, which is why the female is valued at less (:4); not because God thinks women are less valuable, but because the idea was that the person was being given to the Lord's service just as a property could be given, and to redeem or take back the gift, an appropriate price must be paid according to the secular value of whatever had been dedicated.

Lev 27:4 If it is a female, then your valuation shall be thirty shekels-
See on :3. Jephthah could have redeemed his daughter from the vow he involved her with (Lev. 27:4). But he decided in his mind: "I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back" (Jud. 11:35). Actually he could have done; but he so firmly chose the higher level that it was as if there was no way back. Ps. 15:4, in evident allusion to Jephthah, describes those who will attain the Kingdom as fearing Yahweh, and swearing to their own hurt and changing not. Some may swear and change and attain the Kingdom; but we are invited to follow Jephthah to the highest level.

Lev 27:5 If the person is from five years old even to twenty years old, then your valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels-
As discussed on :3, this was not because God was devaluing females; the idea was that a dedication of a person should not be undertaken lightly, and if it was to be changed, then the person who made the vow had to pay the secular value of the person.

Lev 27:6 If the person is from a month old even to five years old, then your valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female your valuation shall be three shekels of silver-
We have an example of this when Hannah dedicated Samuel to the sanctuary from a young age.

Lev 27:7 If the person is from sixty years old and upward; if it is a male, then your valuation shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels-
Again as discussed on :3,5, the idea is not that God is devaluing elderly people nor women nor youngsters. The idea simply is that the secular value of the person must be calculated and the price required for redeeming them back had to be decided accordingly.

Lev 27:8 But if he is poorer than your valuation, then he shall be set before the priest, and the priest shall value him; according to the ability of him who vowed shall the priest value him-
This provision seems to foresee the possibility that a totally poor person would dedicate themselves to God’s service (e.g. doing some work related to the maintenance of the sanctuary) and yet need to change that commitment (perhaps to care for a sick and dying relative), and yet have nothing to pay for his own redemption. The idea is 'Too poor (to pay) your valuation'. This freewill dedication of oneself to God’s service is alluded to when Paul praises some of the Macedonian believers for devoting their own selves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5), and the family of Stephanas for having ‘ceremonially consecrated’ themselves to serving their fellow believers (1 Cor. 16:15 Gk.). What could we devote ourselves to do, remembering that wealth is no barrier to making this kind of devotion?

Lev 27:9 If it is an animal, of which men offer an offering to Yahweh, all that any man gives of such to Yahweh becomes holy-
This legislation and in :10 is typical of where the law foresees people trying to disobey. Whatever animal was given was holy / dedicated for good. No substitute could therefore be given. But if a substitute was given (:10), then that too would be dedicated. The laws were geared to discourage anyone from making a rash vow, and towards acceptance that whatever we give to God should never be demanded back. Giving must be total and absolute and never regretted later; and that again is an abiding principle.

Lev 27:10 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 animal for animal, then both it and that for which it is changed shall be holy-
Changing what we have given to God according to new circumstances isn’t encouraged; we should give and assume that what we gave is now not ours any longer. Giving should be frank and final, with no thought of regret afterwards or considering what might have been if we had not given it- e.g. letting our mind wander around the possibilities of what we could have used money for if we’d not given it to God.

Lev 27:11 If it is any unclean animal, of which they do not offer as an offering to Yahweh, then he shall set the animal before the priest-
The unclean animal would have been given for the domestic use of the priests.

Lev 27:12 and the priest shall value it, whether it is good or bad. As you the priest values it, so shall it be-
A bad animal that was unclean could still be given to God. The idea was that the very poor could still be allowed to give to God whatever they could. And that again is an abiding principle. For giving is not only for rich Christians. It is to be the spirit for all God's people of whatever social or economic status.

Lev 27:13 But if he will indeed redeem it, then he shall add the fifth part of it to its valuation-
The fact the unclean could be redeemed but not the clean perhaps hints at the Lord's redeeming work. He came as a doctor for the sick, the unclean, rather than for the healthy who considered themselves clean.

Lev 27:14 When a man dedicates his house to be holy to Yahweh, then the priest shall evaluate it, whether it is good or bad: as the priest shall evaluate it, so shall it stand-
There is continually the hint that the person vowing would consider his 'gift' of a different value to what it really was. There was always the concern that public vowing was not from pure motives. Dt. 23:21 is of the same spirit: "When you make a vow to Yahweh your God you must not be slack to pay it, for Yahweh your God will surely require it of you and it would be sin upon you". This was to guard against the temptation to make a vow which was publically impressive before men, but then not to pay it. Any attempt to garner kudos for our spiritual devotion is absolutely wrong; such spiritual pride is the worst. God would therefore "require it" and severely judge those who did this (Dt. 23:21). Not being slack to pay a vow (Dt. 23:21) fits in with a wider Biblical theme of being quick in responding to God. It comes to full term in the New Testament accounts of immediate baptisms straight after people had grasped the basic message of the Gospel. "Yes straight away" is what God really seeks from His children. Israel were not to delay in offering their firstfruits to God (Ex. 22:29), lest their intentions weren't translated into practice. The disciples immediately left the ship, simply put their nets down and followed (Mt. 4:20,22); Matthew left his opened books and queue of clients in the tax office and walked out never to return (Lk. 5:17,18 implies).

Lev 27:15 If he who dedicates it will redeem his house, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of your valuation to it, and it shall be his-
Again we note that the law is geared towards the conclusion that any gift to God should not be given in the hope of getting it back. What is given is given and we live in the joy of having made that gift, without regretting it or seeking to recoup it. Although God does make concessions to those who for some reason wanted or needed to retract their gift. "It shall be his" is a reminder that when something had been given, it was no longer "his".

Lev 27:16 If a man dedicates to Yahweh part of the field of his possession, then your valuation shall be according to the seed for it: the sowing of a homer of barley shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver-
The idea is that the field was calculated in accordance with how much seed was required in order to sow it, and not the projected harvest from it. The quality of the land was not taken into account. Fifty shekels of silver was a lot if indeed a homer (10 ephahs, Ez. 45:11) of barley was all that it produced. Again, the law is geared to make redemption of such a dedicated field very expensive, and to enforce the idea that vows should not be rashly made. And what is given to God should not be considered as reclaimable. See on :17.

Lev 27:17 If he dedicates his field from the Year of Jubilee, according to your valuation it shall stand-
The idea may be that the 50 shekels of :16 was the price for the field if dedicated for the Jubilee cycle, a shekel / year making therefore 50 shekels.

Lev 27:18 But if he dedicates his field after the Jubilee, then the priest shall reckon to him the money according to the years that remain to the Year of Jubilee; and a reduction shall be made from your valuation-
See on :17; apparently the idea was a shekel for every year.

Lev 27:19 If he who dedicated the field will indeed redeem it, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of your valuation to it, and it shall remain his-
"Remain his" is not the sense; rather is the idea that the field would be established to him. The idea is as in :15, "it shall be his", whereas after it had been vowed to God, it was not his. Again the lesson is that giving to God means we are totally in deficit, we have actually parted with what was ours and it is no longer ours. We must remind ourselves of this definition of giving; for we are not to "give" in some secret hope that what we give will return to us somehow, at least in part. Failure to realize this led to the destruction of Ananias and Sapphira.

Lev 27:20 If he will not redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore-
Giving something to Yahweh and then selling it to another man was an awful thing to do. But the law foresaw that people would be inclined to "give" to God and yet still assume ownership and power over what they had given. Like a donor to a charity then thinking they can thereby take control of that charity. The punishment for this was that the field would be totally lost both to that man and any who had purchased it (:21).

Lev 27:21 but the field, when it goes out in the Jubilee, shall be holy to Yahweh, as a field devoted; it shall be owned by the priests-
See on :20. The land was God's anyway, so the punishment for the wrong behaviour of :20 was that the 'owner' would be taught this lesson- for he could hardly complain at this judgment, if he accepted the land was God's anyway.

Lev 27:22 If he dedicates to Yahweh a field which he has bought, which is not of the field of his possession-
Here we have the tendency revealed to be generous with that which is not ours. The principle is that we are not to offer that which costs us nothing (2 Sam. 24:24).

Lev 27:23 then the priest shall reckon to him the worth of your valuation up to the Year of Jubilee; and he shall give your valuation on that day, as a holy thing to Yahweh-
The value of all things is relative to the Year of Jubilee, which speaks of the return of Christ (see on Lev. 25:10,15,20). And we are to live by this principle.

Lev 27:24 In the Year of Jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, even to him to whom the possession of the land belongs-
The idea could be that the field itself was not bought, as the land possession of the Israelites was not to be sold, but rather the usage of the land to grow crops. Although this indicated that the ideal situation in the land was not going to be achieved, whereby each Israelite enjoyed super abundant harvests in the land God had specifically given to them. Constantly we see examples of where the law of Moses foresaw human failure and yet God was still eager to work with them, even though they were not experiencing His ideal intentions for them.

Lev 27:25 All your valuations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs to the shekel-
There were various definitions of shekels; but as in our lives, all valuation, our entire worldview and value system, is to be based upon God's way and values rather than ours or those of the surrounding world.

Lev 27:26 Only the firstborn among animals, which is made a firstborn to Yahweh, no man may dedicate it: whether an ox or sheep, it is Yahweh’s-
We should avoid the temptation to give what we owe to God anyway as if it is a gift of special freewill devotion.

Lev 27:27 If it is an unclean animal, then he shall buy it back according to your valuation, and shall add to it the fifth part of it; or if it isn’t redeemed, then it shall be sold according to your valuation-
The redemption of unclean devoted animals was to be at the basis of the animals value plus one fifth. But the firstborn of donkeys were to be redeemed with a lamb, and a lamb would have been of less value than a newborn donkey. The firstborn of the donkey was to be redeemed by a lamb (Ex. 13:13) as a ritual reminder of the power of the Passover lamb's redemption. The value of its blood was far greater than its commercial value. And this was to point forward to the value of the blood of the Lord Jesus, far more precious than of any gold or silver (1 Pet. 1:18). The donkey was the most common domestic animal, and it was an unclean animal. It was therefore representative of common people, in their unclean state. Firstborn donkeys were to be redeemed because they were to be understood as representative of God's people, redeemed by the Passover lamb.    

Lev 27:28 Notwithstanding, no devoted thing that a man shall devote to Yahweh of all that he has, whether of man or animal, or of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy to Yahweh-
We have been reading earlier in this chapter of how things devoted in a vow could be redeemed, usually upon the payment of extra money. So now in this section the devoted things must refer to something different. Perhaps what is in view is the things devoted in tithe to the priests; the priests were not sell these things back to the donor. Verse 30 speaks of the tithe. Or perhaps the devoted things refer to things taken in warfare, which makes more sense when we come to :29.

Lev 27:29 No one devoted, who shall be devoted from among men, shall be ransomed: he shall surely be put to death-
As discussed on :28, what may be in view are people or things captured in warfare which were devoted to Yahweh. If someone [like Achan] was to be slain, then they must be- and money was not to be taken in order to save their lives. Ps. 49:7 alludes here, lamenting that no man, no matter how rich or powerful, can redeem his brother in this case. But that passage goes on to imply that it is the Lord Jesus who alone can do so, through abrogating all such legal condemnation.

Lev 27:30 All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is Yahweh’s. It is holy to Yahweh-
Whilst devoted animals could not be redeemed, it seems agricultural produce could be (see on :28). But there must be firstly the recognition that it was Yahweh's. It had been given to Him, and did not belong to the donor any more. It was His, and should not be given in the hope of somehow getting it back. However what may be in view here is the natural growth of the seeds in the land, and not of cultivated crops. In the context of this chapter, which speaks about vows, perhaps the idea is that the tithes were not to be claimed as voluntary offerings, as if to try to impress others by their apparent generosity when in fact they were only giving the required tithes anyway. The law was clearly aware that there would be such tendencies, and we must accept that we have the same.

Lev 27:31 If a man redeems anything of his tithe, he shall add a fifth part to it-
They could only possibly redeem their own tithe; they were not to look at the tithes of others and wish them for themselves. Constantly the legislation is geared towards stopping people from 'giving' with a view to taking back what they had given.

Lev 27:32 All the tithe of the herds or the flocks, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to Yahweh-
The Rabbis explain this as meaning: "When a man was to give the tithe of his sheep or calves to God, he was to shut up the whole flock in one fold, in which there was one narrow door capable of letting out one at a time. The owner, about to give the tenth to the Lord, stood by the door with a rod in his hand, the end of which was dipped in vermilion or red ochre. The mothers of those lambs or calves stood without: the door being opened, the young ones ran out to join themselves to their dams; and as they passed out the owner stood with his rod over them, and counted one, two, three, four, five, etc., and when the tenth came, he touched it with the coloured rod, by which it was distinguished to be the tithe calf, sheep, etc., and whether poor or lean, perfect or blemished, that was received as the legitimate tithe".

Lev 27:33 He shall not analyze whether it is good or bad, neither shall he change it; and if he changes it at all, then both it and that for which it is changed shall be holy. It shall not be redeemed’-
God foresaw their disobedience to His stated principle, and made a concession and provision. This ruling about tithes is an example: “...neither shall he change it: and if he change it...” (Lev. 27:33). Likewise God told Israel that He wanted altars made of earth; but He knew they would want to make altars of stone like the other nations, and He made allowance for this (Ex. 20:24,25). The Law has several examples of this living on different levels. "Ye shall let nothing of (the Passover) remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire" (Ex. 12:10) is an evident example. We should not be carefully calculating in our giving to God, trying to do so at minimal cost to ourselves.

Lev 27:34 These are the commandments which Yahweh commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai-
The implication is that no more commandments would now be given. The law had been given as a whole and was not to be meddled with or have additional commandments added, although Deuteronomy appears to be God's clarification of some of them at the end of the wilderness wandering. The whole system of laws was designed to inculcate an upward spiritual spiral, with each law reinforcing others. Removing some laws or adding others would not in fact make the path to obedience easier; the laws given were especially designed to be adequate and self reinforcing, and any removal or addition would destroy their purpose and collective effect.