The law concerning vows, Of persons and animals. (1-13) Vows concerning houses and land. (14-25) Devoted things not to be redeemed. (26-33) Conclusion. (34)
Verses 1-13 Zeal for the service of God disposed the Israelites, on some occasions, to dedicate themselves or their children to the service of the Lord, in his house for life. Some persons who thus dedicated themselves might be employed as assistants; in general they were to be redeemed for a value. It is good to be zealously affected and liberally disposed for the Lord's service; but the matter should be well weighed, and prudence should direct as to what we do; else rash vows and hesitation in doing them will dishonour God, and trouble our own minds.
Verses 14-25 Our houses, lands, cattle, and all our substance, must be used to the glory of God. It is acceptable to him that a portion be given to support his worship, and to promote his cause. But God would not approve such a degree of zeal as ruined a man's family.
Verses 26-33 Things or persons devoted, are distinguished from things or persons that were only sanctified. Devoted things were most holy to the Lord, and could neither be taken back nor applied to other purposes. Whatever productions they had the benefit, God must be honoured with the tenth of, if it could be applied. Thus they acknowledge God to be the Owner of their land, the Giver of its fruits, and themselves to be his tenants, and dependants upon him. Thus they gave him thanks for the plenty they enjoyed, and besought his favour in the continuance of it. We are taught to honour the Lord with our substance.
Verse 34 The last verse seems to have reference to this whole book. Many of the precepts in it are moral, and always binding; others are ceremonial, and peculiar to the Jewish nation; yet they have a spiritual meaning, and so teach us; for unto us, by these institutions, is the gospel preached, as well as unto them, Heb. 4:2 . The doctrine of reconciliation to God by a Mediator, is not clouded with the smoke of burning sacrifice, but cleared by the knowledge of Christ and him crucified. We are under the sweet and easy institutions of the gospel, which pronounces those true worshippers, who worship the Father in spirit and truth, by Christ only, and in his name. Yet, let us not think, because we are not tied to the ceremonial rites and oblations, that a little care, time, and expense, will serve to honour God with. Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith, worshipping God with the more cheerfulness and humble confidence, still saying, BLESSED BE GOD FOR JESUS CHRIST.
Leviticus 27:1-18 . CONCERNING VOWS.
2-8. When a man shall make a singular vow, &c.--Persons have, at all times and in all places, been accustomed to present votive offerings, either from gratitude for benefits received, or in the event of deliverance from apprehended evil. And Moses was empowered, by divine authority, to prescribe the conditions of this voluntary duty.
the persons shall be for the Lord, &c.--better rendered thus:--"According to thy estimation, the persons shall be for the Lord." Persons might consecrate themselves or their children to the divine service, in some inferior or servile kind of work about the sanctuary ( 1 Samuel 3:1 ). In the event of any change, the persons so devoted had the privilege in their power of redeeming themselves; and this chapter specifies the amount of the redemption money, which the priest had the discretionary power of reducing, as circumstances might seem to require. Those of mature age, between twenty and sixty, being capable of the greatest service, were rated highest; young people, from five till twenty, less, because not so serviceable; infants, though devotable by their parents before birth ( 1 Samuel 1:11 ), could not be offered nor redeemed till a month after birth; old people were valued below the young, but above children; and the poor--in no case freed from payment, in order to prevent the rash formation of vows--were rated according to their means.
9-13. if it be a beast, whereof men bring an offering unto the Lord--a clean beast. After it had been vowed, it could neither be employed in common purposes nor exchanged for an equivalent--it must be sacrificed--or if, through some discovered blemish, it was unsuitable for the altar, it might be sold, and the money applied for the sacred service--such as an ass or camel, for instance, had been vowed, it was to be appropriated to the use of the priest at the estimated value, or it might be redeemed by the person vowing on payment of that value, and the additional fine of a fifth more.
14, 15. when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy unto the Lord, &c.--In this case, the house having been valued by the priest and sold, the proceeds of the sale were to be dedicated to the sanctuary. But if the owner wished, on second thought, to redeem it, he might have it by adding a fifth part to the price.
16-24. if a man shall sanctify unto the Lord some aprt of a field of his possession, &c.--In the case of acquired property in land, if not redeemed, it returned to the donor at the Jubilee; whereas the part of a hereditary estate, which had been vowed, did not revert to the owner, but remained attached in perpetuity to the sanctuary. The reason for this remarkable difference was to lay every man under an obligation to redeem the property, or stimulate his nearest kinsman to do it, in order to prevent a patrimonial inheritance going out from any family in Israel.
26, 27. Only the firstling of the beasts--These, in the case of clean beasts, being consecrated to God by a universal and standing law ( Exodus 13:12 , 34:19 ), could not be devoted; and in that of unclean beasts, were subject to the rule mentioned ( Leviticus 27:11 Leviticus 27:12 ).
28, 29. no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the Lord of all that he hath, . . . shall be sold or redeemed--This relates to vows of the most solemn kind--the devotee accompanying his vow with a solemn imprecation on himself not to fail in accomplishing his declared purpose.
29. shall surely be put to death--This announcement imported not that the person was to be sacrificed or doomed to a violent death; but only that he should remain till death unalterably in the devoted condition. The preceding regulations were evidently designed to prevent rashness in vowing ( Ecclesiastes 5:4 ) and to encourage serious and considerate reflection in all matters between God and the soul ( Luke 21:4 ).
30-33. all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land--This law gave the sanction of divine authority to an ancient usage ( Genesis 14:20 , 28:22 ). The whole produce of the land was subjected to the tithe tribute--it was a yearly rent which the Israelites, as tenants, paid to God, the owner of the land, and a thank offering they rendered to Him for the bounties of His providence. (See Proverbs 3:9 , 1 Corinthians 9:11 , Galatians 6:6 ).
32. whatsoever passeth under the rod, &c.--This alludes to the mode of taking the tithe of cattle, which were made to pass singly through a narrow gateway, where a person with a rod, dipped in ochre, stood, and counting them, marked the back of every tenth beast, whether male or female, sound or unsound.
34. These are the commandments, &c.--The laws contained in this book, for the most part ceremonial, had an important spiritual bearing, the study of which is highly instructive ( Romans 10:4 , Hebrews 4:2 , 12:18 ). They imposed a burdensome yoke ( Acts 15:10 ), but yet in the infantine age of the Church formed the necessary discipline of "a schoolmaster to Christ" [ Galatians 3:24 ].