Leviticus 27:2
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by your estimation.
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(2) Shall make a singular vow.—Better, shall consecrate a vow. (See Leviticus 22:21.) According to the interpretation of this phrase which obtained during the second Temple it denotes shall pronounce a vow. Hence the ancient Chaldee Versions render it, “shall distinctly pronounce a vow.” Accordingly, no vow mentally made or conceived was deemed binding. It had to be distinctly pronounced in words. The form of the vow is nowhere given in the Bible. Like many other points of detail, the wording of it was left to the administrators of the law. They divided vows into two classes: (1) Positive vows, by which a man bound himself to consecrate for religious purposes his own person, those members of his family over whom he had control, or any portion of his property, and for this kind of vow the formula was “Behold I consecrate this to the Lord”; and (2) Negative vows, by which he promised to abstain from enjoying a certain thing, for which the formula was, “Such and such a thing be unlawful to me for so many days, weeks, or for ever.”

The persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation.—Better, souls to the Lord according to thy estimation., that is, the vow consists of consecrating persons to the Lord with the intention of redeeming by money the persons thus consecrated, according to the valuation put upon them by Moses. This part of the verse explains the nature of the vow, and takes it for granted that by consecrating a human being to God by a vow is meant to substitute the money value for him. By the suffix, “thy estimation,” Moses is meant, to whom these regulations are here Divinely communicated, and upon whom it devolved in the first instance to carry out the law. (See Leviticus 5:15; Leviticus 5:18.) During the second Temple any Israelite could estimate the money value of a person thus vowed to the Lord.

Leviticus 27:2. Shall make a singular vow — The Hebrew may be rendered, Shall separate, or set apart a vow; that is, shall, by solemn promise; separate any thing from a common to a sacred use. For vows were religious promises made to God, for obtaining some blessing or deliverance from some evil or danger, and were accompanied with prayer, and paid with thanksgiving. The words, however, יפלא נדר, japhli neder, may be properly translated, as here, Shall make a singular, or hard, or eminent vow. And this is to be understood, not of things, but of persons, which he devoted to the Lord. Although vows of this kind were not usual, yet there want not instances of persons who devoted either themselves or their children, and that either more strictly, as the Nazarites and the Levites, (1 Samuel 1:11,) and for these no redemption was admitted, but they were in person to perform the service to which they were devoted; or more largely, as some who were not Levites might yet, through zeal for God, or to obtain a blessing which they wanted, devote themselves or their children to the service of God and of the sanctuary, though not in such a way as the Levites, which was forbidden, yet in some kind of subserviency to them. And because there might be too great a number of persons thus dedicated, which might be burdensome to the sanctuary, an exchange is allowed, and the priests are directed to receive a tax for their redemption. A book of rates is, accordingly, provided here, by which the priests were to be guided in their valuation. 1st, The middle-aged, between twenty and sixty, were valued highest, the males at fifty shekels each, and the females at thirty, (Leviticus 27:3-4,) women being generally inferior to men in strength and serviceableness. 2d, The rate of the youth between five years old and twenty was less, because they were then less capable of doing service. 3d, Infants under five years old were capable of being vowed to God by their parents, as Samuel was, but were not to be presented and redeemed till they were a month old; that, as one sabbath passed over them before they were circumcised, so one new moon might pass over them before they were estimated; and their valuation was but small, Leviticus 27:6. Samuel, who was thus vowed to God, was not redeemed, because he was a Levite, and designed by his parents to be lent to the Lord as long as he lived, 1 Samuel 1:28. Therefore he was employed in his childhood in the service of the tabernacle. 4th, The aged are valued at a less rate than youth, but greater than children, Leviticus 27:7. And the Hebrews observe, that the rate of an aged woman is two parts of three to that of an aged man, so that in that age the female came nearest to the value of the male. 5th, The poor were to be valued according to their ability, Leviticus 27:8. Something they must pay, that they might not be rash in vowing to God; for he hath no pleasure in fools, Ecclesiastes 2:6; yet not more than their ability, that they might not ruin themselves and their families by their zeal.27:1-13 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.Rather, When a man makes a special vow which concerns thy valuation of persons to Yahweh, if thy estimation shall be of the male, etc. The expression "thy estimation" is addressed either to Moses or to the priest Leviticus 27:12 : it denoted a legal valuation. The vow of a person was perhaps most frequently made in cases of illness or danger, under the impulse of religions feeling, either in the way of thankfulness for blessings received, or of supplication for something desired. A man might dedicate himself, his wife, his child, or his bondservant. This might have been an old custom; but the Law ordained that he who had taken such a vow should pay a sum of money to the sanctuary, determined according to the age and sex of the person. 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 (1Sa 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 (1Sa 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.

A singular vow, or, an eminent or hard or wonderful vow; not concerning things, which was not strange, but customary; but concerning persons, as it here follows, which he vowed, or by vow devoted unto the Lord, which indeed was unusual and difficult: yet there want not instances of such vows, and of persons which devoted either themselves or their children to the service of God, and that either more strictly and particularly, as the Nazarites and the Levites, 1 Samuel 1:11, and for these there was no redemption admitted, but they were in person to perform the service to which they were devoted; or more largely and generally, as some who were not Levites, nor intended themselves or their children should be Nazarites, might yet, through zeal to God and his service, or to obtain God’s help in giving them some mercy which they wanted and desired, or in freeing them from some evil felt or feared, devoted themselves or their children to the service of God and of the sanctuary, though not in such a way as the Levites, which they were forbidden to do, yet in some kind of subserviency to them. And because there might be too great a number of persons thus dedicated, which might be burdensome and chargeable to the sanctuary, therefore an exchange is allowed, and the priests are directed to impose and require a tax for their redemption.

For the Lord, i.e. dedicated to the Lord, and consequently to the priest. By whose estimation?

Answ. Either, 1. Thine, O priest, to whom the valuation of things belonged, and here is ascribed, Leviticus 27:12. Or rather,

2. Thine, O man that vowest, as appears from Leviticus 27:8, where his estimation is opposed to the priest’s valuation. Nor was there any fear of his partiality in his own cause, for the price is particularly limited. But where the price is undetermined, there, to avoid that inconvenience, the priest is to value it, as Leviticus 27:8,12. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them,.... This being an affair which only concerned them; for the Jewish writers say (h), by this phrase, the children of Israel, Gentiles are excluded:

when a man shall make a singular vow; an unusual, an uncommon one, a very distinguished one, and even what is wonderful, as the word signifies; as when a man, through uncommon zeal for God and his service, devotes himself, or his children, or his cattle, or his houses or fields, to the Lord: the word "man", the Jewish writers say (i), includes every male, and even a Gentile; yea, it is said all estimate and are estimated, vow and are vowed, priests, and Levites, and Israelites, women and servants (k): the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation: as when a man devoted himself or any that belonged to him to the service of the sanctuary, out of his great zeal for it, as to assist the priests and Levites in the meaner sort of work, as to carry wood and draw water, and sweep the tabernacle, and the like; they were not allowed to do these things, partly because it was not the will of God that any or every Israelite should be employed in such menial service, and partly because there were men appointed for such work, as well as to prevent too great a number of persons in the sanctuary, which would be troublesome, and only stand in one another's way; wherefore, on every devoted person to such service a value or price was set, according to the rules after given, which were to be paid in to the priests for the service of the sanctuary, the repair of the house, &c. see 2 Kings 12:4; the word may be rendered, agreeably to the accents, "according to thy estimation of souls (or persons) the vow shall be to the Lord" (l); that is, the price of the person devoted, according to the estimation of the priest, or as settled by the Lord in some following verses, shall be given to him: the word "souls" being used, the Jewish doctors understand it of estimation or value of that on which the soul or life depends; thus, for instance, if a man says, the value of my hand or of my feet be upon me, he says nothing; but if he says, the value of my head or of my liver be upon me, he gives the whole value, i.e. of himself; if he says, the half of my value be upon me, he gives the half of it; but if he says, the value of half of me, he gives the whole value: this is the general rule, that on which the soul or life depends pays the whole value (m); for a man cannot live without his head, or without his liver, or when half of himself is taken away.

(h) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Eracin, c. 1. sect. 2.((i) Ibid. (k) Misn. Eracin, sect. 1.((l) "pro tua aestimatione animarum, votum erit" Domino, Reinbeck de Accent. Heb. p. 320; (m) Misn. Eracin, c. 5. sect. 2, 3.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a {a} singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by {b} thy estimation.

(a) As of his son or daughter.

(b) Who art the priest.

2. accomplish a vow] rather, as mg., make a special (lit. hard) vow. For the definition of a vow, as compared with other classes of offerings, see on Leviticus 7:11. It was the utterance, and not merely the intention, that constituted the binding character of a vow (Deuteronomy 23:22). In this first case, viz. that of persons being vowed, the redemption might be made by an offering of money, in accordance with an estimate adapted to the particular case. R.V. mg. is nearer the Heb. than the text, but in strict grammar its ‘of’ should be omitted, ‘persons’ being in apposition to the word ‘vow’ in the original. The pronoun ‘thy,’ if it stands, seems to refer to Moses, but see on Leviticus 27:13. The estimate evidently turned upon the comparative strength and capability of work to be fairly expected in the two sexes and at various periods of life, in fact, in modern phraseology, on their value in the labour market.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. In this state of pining away under their enemies, they would confess to themselves their own and their fathers' sins, i.e., would make the discovery that their sufferings were a punishment from God for their sins, and acknowledge that they were suffering what they had deserved, through their unfaithfulness to their God and rebellion against Him, for which He had been obliged to set Himself in hostility to them, and bring them into the land of their enemies; or rather their uncircumcised hearts would then humble themselves, and they would look with satisfaction upon this fruit of their sin. The construction is the following: וזכרתּי (Leviticus 26:42) corresponds to התודּוּ (Leviticus 26:40) as the apodosis; so that, according to the more strictly logical connection, which is customary in our language, we may unite Leviticus 26:40, Leviticus 26:41 in one period with Leviticus 26:42. "If they shall confess their iniquity...or rather their uncircumcised heart shall humble itself...I will remember My covenant." With בּמעלם a parenthetical clause is introduced into the main sentence explanatory of the iniquity, and reaches as far as "into the land of their enemies." With יכּנע או־אז, "or if, etc.," the main sentence is resumed. או, "or rather" (as in 1 Samuel 29:3), bringing out the humiliation of the heart as the most important result to which the confession of sin ought to deepen itself. The heart is called "uncircumcised" as being unsanctified, and not susceptible to the manifestations of divine grace. את־עונם ירצוּ וץ̓הןךח́ףןץףי פב̀ע ב̓לבספי́בע בץ̓פש͂ם (lxx), they will take pleasure, rejoice in their misdeeds, i.e., in the consequences and results of them-that their misdeed have so deeply humbled them, and brought them to the knowledge of the corruption into which they have fallen: a bold and, so to speak, paradoxical expression for their complete change of heart, which we may render thus: "they will enjoy their misdeeds," as רצה may be rendered in the same way in Leviticus 26:43 also.

(Note: Luther has translated עון in this sense, "punishment of iniquity," and observes in the marginal notes, - "(Pleasure), i.e., just as they had pleasure in their sins and felt disgust at My laws, so they would now take pleasure in their punishment and say, 'We have just what we deserve. This is what we have to thank our cursed sin for. It is just, O God, quite just.' And these are thoughts and words of earnest repentance, hating itself from the bottom of the heart, and crying out, Shame upon me, what have I done? This pleases God, so that He becomes gracious once more.")

But where punishment bears such fruit, God looks upon the sinner with favour again. When Israel had gone so far, He would remember His covenant with the fathers ("My covenant with Jacob," יעקב בּריתי: the suffix is attached to the governing noun, as in Leviticus 6:3, because the noun governed, being a proper name, could not take the suffix), and remember the land (including its inhabitants), which, as is repeated again in Leviticus 26:43, would be left by them (become desolate) and enjoy its Sabbaths whilst it was waste (depopulated) from (i.e., away from, without) them; and they would enjoy their iniquity, because they had despised the judgments of the Lord, and their soul had rejected His statues.

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