Leviticus 27 – Regarding Things Given to God
A. Consecrating persons to the LORD.
1. (1-2) When a man consecrates certain persons to the LORD with a vow.
Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD, according to your valuation,
a. When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD: This chapter deals with things that are given to God by a vow. That means they were not required by a command of the law, but the vow was a freely promised and given gift to God. In this case, it deals with persons that were promised to the LORD in a vow.
i. “A vow is a promise made to God voluntarily and not in obedience to any divine requirement.” (Morgan)
ii. For example, a man from the tribe of Judah, in a time of distress, out of gratitude, or out of a sense of calling, might want to consecrate his son to the LORD. He could not give his son to the service of the tabernacle, because he was not a priestly family. So, to consecrate his son, he would follow the procedures in the following verses.
iii. “According to Judges 11:29–40 and 1 Samuel 1:11, it was possible for a person to dedicate another human being to God…. it was expected that the person so dedicated would serve in the sanctuary. But this passage shows that such a person could be set free by the payment of money.” (Peter-Contesse)
b. When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD: The beauty of these commands is that it gave the one making a vow of consecration something definite to do. The vow of consecration was therefore far more than mere words, it had a definite action associated with it – and prevented people from making empty vows to God.
i. “It was not a sin to refrain from making a vow (Deuteronomy 23:22), but once a vow was made, it had to be kept (Deuteronomy 23:21–23; Numbers 30:2; Ecclesiastes 5:4–6). Substitutions could be made, however, and it was this possibility of making a substitution that distinguished the vow from the sacrificial offering made on the altar.” (Rooker)
2. (3-7) Assigning a valuation for persons consecrated by a vow.
If your valuation is of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old, then your valuation shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. If it is a female, then your valuation shall be thirty shekels; and if from five years old up to twenty years old, then your valuation for a male shall be twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels; and if from a month old up to five years old, then your valuation for a male shall be five shekels of silver, and for a female your valuation shall be three shekels of silver; and if from sixty years old and above, if it is a male, then your valuation shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.
a. If your valuation is of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old: Persons were assigned a value according to their age and general usefulness to society; especially in an agricultural society, there was a definite sense in which a man between 20 and 50 was more “valuable” than a child one month to five years old.
|0-4||5 shekels||3 shekels|
|5-19||20 shekels||10 shekels|
|20-59||50 shekels||30 shekels|
|60 and over||15 shekels||10 shekels|
b. Fifty shekels of silver…. thirty shekels…twenty shekels: The valuation was made mostly in terms of an estimation of the physical labor value of the person. The normal 25-year-old man could do more labor on behalf of the tabernacle than a five-year-old boy.
i. “The prices (values) of the individuals should be understood as representing either the wage of a worker (which was a shekel a month in the biblical period) or the relative worth of the value of the person’s services in the tabernacle. If the services included heavy manual labor in working with sacrificial animals or in transporting the tabernacle, it is easy to see why young men would be given higher value.” (Rooker)
3. (8) Provision for the poor in consecration by a vow.
‘But if he is too poor to pay your valuation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall set a value for him; according to the ability of him who vowed, the priest shall value him.
a. If he is too poor to pay your valuation: Importantly, no one was prohibited from fulfilling a vow of consecration because they did not have enough money; if they were poor, the priests would be flexible with the valuation.
i. Everyone can give their life to the LORD; there are none who are too small, or too insignificant, or too useless. God wants to use each and every one.
b. According to the ability of him who vowed, the priest shall value him: When God accepted a substitute of money for the actual thing vowed, the priest was to take into account the financial ability of the one who made the vow. God did not only want the rich to vow things to Him; we wanted to make this special devotion and consecration within the reach of everyone.
i. “Reader, hast thou ever dedicated thyself, or any part of thy property, to the service of thy Maker? If so, hast thou paid thy vows? Or hast thou altered thy purpose, or changed thy offering?” (Clarke)
B. Redeeming property consecrated to God by a vow.
1. (9-13) Redeeming animals.
‘If it is an animal that men may bring as an offering to the LORD, all that anyone gives to the LORD shall be holy. He shall not substitute it or exchange it, good for bad or bad for good; and if he at all exchanges animal for animal, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy. If it is an unclean animal which they do not offer as a sacrifice to the LORD, then he shall present the animal before the priest; and the priest shall set a value for it, whether it is good or bad; as you, the priest, value it, so it shall be. But if he wants at all to redeem it, then he must add one-fifth to your valuation.
a. If it is an animal that men may bring as an offering to the LORD: If an animal was clean (fit for sacrifice), and you wanted to redeem it from the vow of consecration to the LORD (perhaps because the animal was especially useful), you could exchange it for another animal – as long as that animal was also clean, and equally suitable for sacrifice.
b. If it is an unclean animal: If an animal was unclean (unfit for sacrifice), it could still be vowed to the LORD and then redeemed; but the priest would set a value on the animal, and one would add one-fifth to that value (20%) and give the total to the tabernacle treasury.
i. Again, if one simply wanted to give their unclean animal (a donkey, for example) to the LORD, he could give it to a priest, who would use it or sell it, giving the money to the tabernacle treasury; but if they desired to keep the animal, while still consecrating it with a vow to the LORD, they had to pay the price of the animal plus 20%. You could give your donkey and use him too, but it would cost you the value of the donkey plus 20%.
2. (14-15) Redeeming houses.
‘And when a man dedicates his house to be holy to the LORD, then the priest shall set a value for it, whether it is good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand. If he who dedicated it wants to redeem his house, then he must add one-fifth of the money of your valuation to it, and it shall be his.
a. When a man dedicates his house to be holy to the LORD: With a house, as in the case with an unclean animal, if a man wanted to consecrate by a vow the house to the LORD, while still using it, the priest would set a value on the house.
b. He must add one-fifth: After the value of the home was estimated, an additional 20% was added. That total was given to the tabernacle treasury and the vow was considered fulfilled.
3. (16-21) Redeeming land that belongs to the family by allotment.
‘If a man dedicates to the LORD part of a field of his possession, then your valuation shall be according to the seed for it. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. If he dedicates his field from the Year of Jubilee, according to your valuation it shall stand. But if he dedicates his field after the Jubilee, then the priest shall reckon to him the money due according to the years that remain till the Year of Jubilee, and it shall be deducted from your valuation. And if he who dedicates the field ever wishes to redeem it, then he must add one-fifth of the money of your valuation to it, and it shall belong to him. But if he does not want to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore; but the field, when it is released in the Jubilee, shall be holy to the LORD, as a devoted field; it shall be the possession of the priest.
a. If a man dedicates to LORD part of a field of his possession: This deals with land that belonged to the buyer’s family or clan according to the division of land that would later happen in Joshua 13-21.
b. If he dedicates his field: For land, its value was based on its potential production, as well as the number of years until the Year of Jubilee.
4. (22-25) Redeeming land that does not belong to the family by allotment.
‘And if a man dedicates to the LORD a field which he has bought, which is not the field of his possession, 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 offering to the LORD. In the Year of Jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to the one who owned the land as a possession. And all your valuations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs to the shekel.
a. If a man dedicates to the LORD a field which he has bought, which is not the field of his possession: This deals with land that did not belong to the buyer’s family or clan according to the division of land that would later happen in Joshua 13-21. In a sense, the land was not truly purchased, only leased until the next Year of Jubilee.
b. The priest shall reckon to him the worth: The priest made an estimate of the land’s value, taking into account the number of years until the next Jubilee. This amount was then given as a holy offering to the LORD, and God regarded the land as truly dedicated unto Him.
i. “Gerahs: a unit of weight which was, according to this verse, one twentieth of a shekel. Compare also Exodus 30:13…. the ‘gerah’ was the smallest unit of measurement in the system used at that time. It was equivalent to about a half a gram.” (Peter-Contesse)
5. (26-27) Redemption of the consecration vow for the firstborn.
‘But the firstborn of the animals, which should be the LORD’s firstborn, no man shall dedicate; whether it is an ox or sheep, it is the LORD’s. And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall redeem it according to your valuation, and shall add one-fifth to it; or if it is not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to your valuation.
a. But the firstborn of the animals, which should be the LORD’s firstborn, no man shall dedicate: Since the firstborn already belonged to God (Exodus 13:2), it was not allowed to give it to the LORD in a vow. If the firstborn animal was a clean animal, it had to be sacrificed.
b. It shall be sold according to your valuation: However, an unclean firstborn animal could either be sold or redeemed(bought back) from the LORD.
6. (28-29) One cannot redeem things or persons devoted to the LORD.
‘Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD. No person under the ban, who may become doomed to destruction among men, shall be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death.
a. Every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD: To devote something to the LORD was a further step than consecration by a vow; it often had the meaning of destroying the item (or executing the person) so that it could not be used by anyone else, and all of its value was given to God. Therefore if something was already declared a devoted offering, it could not be given in a vow. It already belonged to God and was most holy to the LORD.
i. Joshua 6:17, among other passages, translates this word devoted with the word accursed – because that thing devoted to God would be destroyed, being used for no other purpose.
b. Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all that he has: For these reasons, an item devoted to God could not be redeemed for a price. It already belonged to the LORD and had to be given to Him.
i. “No devoted thing, i.e. 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.” (Poole)
c. No person under the ban, who may become doomed to destruction among men, shall be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death: In this sense also, one could not escape execution by being “bought back” from the LORD. They had to face their fate or penalty.
i. An example of this is found in 1 Samuel 15 where King Saul was commanded to bring God’s judgment against the Amalekites. They were devoted and doomed to destruction. Saul failed to do this and greatly displeased the LORD.
ii. “The law mentioned in these two verses has been appealed to by the enemies of Divine revelation as a proof, that under the Mosaic dispensation human sacrifices were offered to God; but this can never be conceded. Had there been such a law, it certainly would have been more explicitly revealed, and not left in the compass of a few words only, where the meaning is very difficult to be ascertained; and the words themselves differently translated by most interpreters.” (Clarke)
7. (30-33) The payment of tithes.
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 to the LORD. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’”
a. And all the tithe of the land: In this context, the tithe simply means “the tenth” or “ten percent.” Israel gave ten percent of their flocks, of their grain, and of their fruit to God. This tithe, the ten percent, was sacred and separated unto God (It is holy to the LORD).
i. “The word ‘tithe’ (ma aser) is related to the number ‘ten’ (eser) and thus refers to a tenth. The concept of a tithe was not a new one for the Israelites, since we observe the practice before the giving of the Law (Genesis 14:20; 28:20-22). Thus what we have in Leviticus 27 is a systematization of an earlier practice.” (Rooker)
ii. Ancient Israel observed at least two tithes. Here in Leviticus 27:30-33 is the general tithe, which also seems to be described in Deuteronomy 14:22-27. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 describes a second tithe paid every three years and given to the Levite and to the poor. Some believe Leviticus 27:30-33 and Deuteronomy 14:22-27 describe two different required tithes, but there is no compelling reason to think they are different.
iii. While the New Testament does not command or emphasize tithing, it presents giving as a duty for God’s people and does not speak negatively of tithing. Jesus approved of the careful tithing of the religious leaders of His day (Luke 11:42) while rebuking them for what they left undone. Melchizedek was praised when he gave Abraham a tithe of all (Hebrews 7:4-10). The New Testament does give many principles for the giving of believers under the New Covenant.
· Giving is commanded and is not an option (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
· Giving is to be regular, planned, and proportional. It should never be manipulated (1 Corinthians 16:2).
· True giving comes as we first give ourselves to the Lord, then we will give our financial resources as we should (2 Corinthians 8:5).
· Giving cannot be commanded of any individual believer at a particular moment, not even by an apostle (2 Corinthians 8:8).
· Giving is a valid test of the sincerity of our love for God and others (2 Corinthians 8:8).
· Giving should be seen as investing money, not as spending money (2 Corinthians 9:6).
· Giving should be not grudging or of necessity (2 Corinthians 9:7).
· God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
· Giving must always include giving to the ministries that directly feed us spiritually (1 Corinthians 9:7-13).
iv. Because the New Testament emphasis is on giving more than tithing, there is no one answer to the question, “How much am I supposed to give?” Many people go back to the Old Testament law of the tithe. Since giving is to be proportional (1 Corinthians 16:2), we should be giving some percentage – and ten percent is a good benchmark – a starting place! We should have the attitude of some early Christians, who essentially said: “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!” Giving and financial management are spiritual issues, not only financial issues (Luke 16:11).
b. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it: Tithes could also be redeemed or “bought back” from the LORD. For example, instead of tithing good seed from his field, a farmer could pay the value of the seed plus 20%.
i. Whatever passes under the rod: “According to Jewish commentators, this expression is an allusion to the way in which animals were selected for the tithe. The animals were counted as they passed single file under the staff of the herdsman. Every tenth animal was marked with a red colored stick, to show that it had been chosen for the tithe.” (Peter-Contesse)
8. (34) Conclusion: These are the commandments.
These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.
a. These are the commandments: These were not mere traditions and customs, though men began to attach traditions and customs to these commandments; these were – and are – the commandments (not suggestions) of the LORD.
b. Which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai: As we have seen before in Leviticus, the phrase before the LORD occurs more than 60 times – more than any other book in the Bible. What happens in Leviticus happens before the LORD, and every point of obedience it calls us to illustrates – either by a specific command or in a precious picture – how to walk before the LORD.
i. “READER, thou hast now gone through the whole of this most interesting book; a book whose subject is too little regarded by Christians in general. Here thou mayest discover the rigid requisitions of Divine justice, the sinfulness of sin, the exceeding breadth of the commandment, and the end of all human perfection…. By this law then is the knowledge, but not the cure of sin…. We see then that Christ was the END of the law for righteousness (for justification) to everyone that believeth.” (Clarke)