Things Vowed and Devoted
One of my friends takes a different stand on vows than I do. There is actually no real information on making oaths and vows in the New Testament epistles. Christians are supposed to say what they mean, and mean what they say.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:7, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” This was telling Israel that they were not to swear, but to be people of integrity in what they said. This is essentially repeated by Paul for those in the church. James repeats it in his epistle as well. However, this really has nothing to do with making oaths or vows. The Old Testament explicitly speaks of making vows, such as in our passage today.
As the New Testament doesn’t explicitly deal with either oaths or vows, we must use common sense in how we deal with them. In an oath or vow to another person, we are committing to perform based on our words, and in our circumstance of being Christians. Their perception of our integrity, and our allegiance to Christ, is at stake. If we make such a vow, we are to perform it.
Secondly, in making a vow, we are doing so in the name of the Lord. To do so in any other name or capacity, such as “I vow on my mother’s grave…” is idolatry. Because we are vowing in the name of the Lord, we are expected to perform what we say.
Having said this, if we made a vow which is contrary to our life in Christ, before coming to Christ, it cannot be something we are expected to perform. First, it is contrary to our commitment to Christ. It is not to be done. Secondly, we were in a completely different state before we came to Christ. If we made a vow which was inappropriate, the sin of that vow is forgiven in Him.
However, not all vows are abrogated in coming to Christ. A vow of marriage between a man and a woman must stand. It is legal, it is appropriate under the New Covenant, and therefore we are bound to it. If a guy, however, made a vow of marriage to another guy (perish the thought), before coming to Christ, that vow cannot stand. It is illegitimate in the eyes of the Lord, and it must be ended in a legal fashion in the society in which we live. In other words, common sense needs to be used when considering vows which we made before coming to Christ.
Text Verse: “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. 22 But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. 23 That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.” Deuteronomy 23:22-23
I think, probably, my friend and I would agree on the issue of vows up to this point. However, he mentioned to me one time, “What if someone made a stupid vow to never drink coke again. Would that be binding?” I would say, “Yes.” If you have vowed to the Lord that you will do, or not do something, then it is binding.
He says, that is putting us back under the law. I say, it is submitting to our vow made to the Lord. At what point is our word to be taken as anything less than as we speak? If our Yes is to be Yes, and our No is to be No – even apart from vows – then how much more should our vows be held as sacred!
Understanding this, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
If this is so; if sin is not being imputed to us, then one’s logic might be that, “I cannot be sinning if I break my stupid vow of not drinking coke again.” In this, there is the assumption that the non-imputation of sin means one is not doing wrong. That is a category mistake. One may not be imputed sin, but one can still do wrong.
The non-imputation of sin means that we will not die. The wages of sin, after all, is death. What this means is that we will never again lose our salvation, because we are not imputed sin for our wrongdoing, and thus we will not die. We have been (past tense) granted eternal life, and that will not change. Sin is no longer imputed. But wrongdoing is still reckoned. This is what then falls under the category of rewards and loss. We will all stand before the Bema seat of Christ and receive our judgment for deeds done in the body, whether good or bad. To vow a stupid vow which one will break because it is stupid is wrongdoing. To vow a vow which will lead to one doing wrong is to then commit wrongdoing. Either way, wrong has been done.
The sanctity of keeping vows is found in the books of wisdom – Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. These cannot be regulated to merely a part of the Old Covenant. The books of wisdom speak of that which is right on a basic level. They speak of that which is fundamentally right – apart from the law. Let us be wise and circumspect both in making oaths and vows, and in performing them. In the end, sin will not be imputed to you for your failure to perform your vows, but you will be held accountable for failing to perform them nonetheless.
Understanding this, it’s time that we get into our verses of the passage before us. It’s been a wonderful trip through this book, and we are almost at its end as we begin Chapter 27. Great things are to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. That Which is Vowed (verses 1-27)
Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
The words here indicate that an entirely new section of instruction from the Lord lies ahead. It is the standard phrase to indicate this, and so these words are to be taken as a completely separate section within the book. Before closing out this marvelous book called Leviticus, the Lord has one more item to be included in it, and without this chapter, there would be a lack in the book’s content.
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:
The word “appendix” is used by many scholars to describe the contents of this chapter. This is for a few reasons. First, the final words of Chapter 26 appear to close out “the statutes and judgments and laws” which were made between the Lord and the children of Israel there at Sinai. Secondly, it is because this chapter deals with vows, and vows are a free-will expression by an individual who is under no obligation to make the vow in the first place. Thus, they lay outside the law.
Although this is true, calling this chapter an appendix is not the best way to look at it. First, neder, or vows, are referred to five times in Leviticus. These are given in conjunction with the details of other temple sacrifices. The legal acknowledgment of these vows within the sacrificial laws thus requires that commands concerning them be carefully laid out. Secondly, the verses end acknowledging that the chapter details commandments given by the Lord while still at Mount Sinai. Thus, this is not an appendix.
The reason for placing it last in Leviticus, however, is because it deals with voluntary offerings. Though not mandatory to be made, once made, they become mandatory in keeping them. There would be a void without including these directions. As the Lord’s word was considered inviolable, so the words of the people were to be considered as well. The spoken word from the man resulted in a command from the Lord, and a command from the Lord became something which was to be obeyed. This is referred to later –
“When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. 22 But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. 23 That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.” Deuteronomy 23:21-23
Solomon, in both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes speaks of the importance of keeping one’s vows –
“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
For He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed—
5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5
2 (con’t) ‘When a man consecrates by a vow
Here, the verb pala, or wonder, is translated as “consecrates.” The idea is that as a wonder, or miracle, is something out of the normal, so a vow is something out of the normal. It is above and beyond what is considered regular. Even today, when someone does something above and beyond, we will proclaim, “Well, isn’t that wonderful.” This carries the idea being conveyed.
2 (con’t) certain persons to the Lord, according to your valuation,
There is a debate as to whether the vows concerning people were intended to mean that these people became the property of the Lord unless redeemed, or if the purpose of making the vow was to redeem the person based on the valuation. The scholar Keil says, “This implies clearly enough, that whenever a person was vowed, redemption was to follow according to the valuation. Otherwise what was the object of valuing them? Valuation supposes either redemption or purchase.”
If that is the case, then why vow someone to the Lord? If the purpose is to redeem, then why vow at all? Why not just give the money to the priests? Secondly, the vowing of animals and land will be mentioned next, and they too could be redeemed, but it was not the expectation that they would be.
What seems to be the case is that when a vow is made to consecrate a person to the Lord, that person belonged to the Lord permanently. Unless redeemed, they would be devoted to the service of the sanctuary for the duration of their lives.
We might ask, “Why would someone do this?” But we do it in our own society, even if with different means, the intent would be the same. We give children up for adoption in hopes of them, or us, having a better life. We give ourselves up to employers, even signing work contracts, in order to secure a more positive future. Someone at the sanctuary would be under the care of the sanctuary.
This practice may explain the term nethinim which is used in Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah to describe a class of people who served at the temple, but who were of a lower class than that of the Levites. Nethinim comes from natan, to give, and thus they may be people given over to the temple service, whether those of foreign birth as slaves, or those of Israel who are consecrated by vow.
The purpose of the valuation, then, would be to redeem a person who was devoted to the Lord if their future looked brighter outside the temple. If this was the case, then they could be redeemed to live out their lives as the Lord had prospered them apart from the temple service. Again, this is conjecture, but it makes logical sense.
3 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.
The valuations of the people to follow are based on ability to serve, and skill in service, not on intrinsic value of the person. Serving the Lord is what is being valued. In the case of a man between twenty and sixty, they are in the prime of life, and the expected service would be considerable. To redeem them then would require a large amount, fifty shekels. It is silver which is specified, and throughout Scripture, redemption is pictured in silver.
4 If it is a female, then your valuation shall be thirty shekels;
Again, ability to serve, not intrinsic value of the person, is being seen here. Peter calls women the weaker vessel in his first epistle. The amount of physical productivity expected from a woman was a bit more than half of that for a comparable male. This was the value set for a male or a female slave who had been gored by an ox in Exodus 21:32. It was also the value the Lord was priced at when Judas betrayed Him to the chief priests.
5 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;
The value set here is less than half that set for those between twenty and sixty. This shows us that skill, knowledge, and ability are all factors which are considered. The age of twenty is when the congregation was considered acceptable for war, as Numbers repeatedly states. Before that, those nineteen and younger were still considered as not ready for the challenges of adult life.
In this one category, the value of the female is exactly one half of the male, rather than 3/5, or 2/3 percent. This indicates that the service of females of this age is not considered to be of the same proportion as at other ages, probably because of the issues females especially face between these ages.
6 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;
A child of such an age would be almost a liability as one who is considered for service. The prospects would be of a future worker only, and thus the price is very small for redemption value.
7 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.
The value of an elderly man is less than a male between five and twenty. However, the value of an elderly woman is the same as a female between five and twenty. Thus, her proportional value is greater at this age than at the younger age. During the second temple period, they had a proverb concerning this, “An old man in the house is always in the way; an old woman in the house is a treasure; she manages all household affairs.”
8 ‘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.
This verse contains the last use of the word muk, or poor, in the Bible. It signifies someone who has become thin; thus figuratively to be impoverished. Scholars point to this verse and say that this entire section on vows presupposes redemption of the individual, and this is a ceremonial rite, not an actual vow to service. Otherwise, the person would be obligated to service to the Lord.
But I would argue the opposite. Their logic must be that they consider such a vow as permanent. But nothing here says it is. The Nazirite vows of Numbers 6 are made for amounts of time chosen by the one vowing. If a person vowed to serve the Lord, a price for redemption from that service is set. If it is not paid, the service continues. But a person may be so poor that he simply wanted to serve the Lord for a specified time. He could then appeal to the priest for a reduction in his redemption value with the intent of paying his redemption fee when things looked up for him. He is offering himself as a gift of service to the Lord, but doing it from a position of poverty. Paul repeats the sentiment in 2 Corinthians –
“For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12
Paul is saying that the disposition of the individual is what makes an offering acceptable or not, regardless of the size of the gift. If one eagerly, and with a right heart, gives just thirty cents, they are doing well. However, if someone gives one million dollars with the wrong intent, why would they be credited with an acceptable gift? The world focuses on the size of the gift, but God focuses on the intent behind it.
Understanding this, we can see that a gift is based on the heart of the giver and it is “according to what one has.” The poor man with little can still give a grand gift. It is accepted then “not according to what he does not have.” If it was, then only the gifts of the wealthy would be acceptable regardless of the amount given in comparison to the amount they possess.
This precept appears to be what is being relayed by the Lord here. A person who consecrated himself by oath to serve the Lord should not be prohibited from doing so because he was too poor. Rather, he should be given the chance to do so, and then to be able to redeem himself based on his state of poverty. If this were merely a way of giving a gift to the Lord, there would be no need to make a vow of consecration. There were other things that could be vowed to the Lord, as we will next see…
9 ‘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.
These words now refer to any animal that was considered as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, as already detailed within the law – bulls, goats, rams, lambs, and so on. Any such animal that was brought to the Lord became holy. This means that it was henceforward set apart for sacred use – either for sacrifice on the altar, or for the maintenance of the priests and sanctuary. It could also be put with the animals intended for later sacrifice.
10 He shall not substitute it or exchange it, good for bad or bad for good;
Anything which had been consecrated to the Lord as an offering became, at that moment, holy. Thus it belonged to the Lord for sacred purposes. Adam Clarke notes that, “to change which was impiety; to withhold it, sacrilege.”
A new word, mur, is brought into the Bible to make the point. It means essentially the same thing as the other verb. Both convey the idea of changing one for another. By using two words, it is giving an emphasis that this would be wholly unacceptable. Further, it might be inferred that one verb is speaking of exchanging one animal for another like animal, whereas the other verb would then mean one animal for a different kind. This seems right because…
10 (con’t) and if he at all exchanges animal for animal, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy.
One might ask, “Why would someone want to exchange what they have vowed?” The reason might be that at first he promised a lamb and decided that he had a better lamb. Or, he might have vowed a lamb and decided that to give an ox would be a better gift. In making such a change, or exchange, both animals became holy. On the other side, the person may have devoted an ox, and then his other ox died. He may say, I need an ox, so I am going to exchange it for a lamb. If he decided to do this, then both animals were holy. He would not receive back his lamb, and he would not receive back the ox either. The lesson is, “One must always be careful when making vows.”
11 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;
There are two possibilities as to what this means. The first is an unclean animal according to sacrificial law, such as a donkey. The second is any clean animal with a defect. The first is probably the case, but either way it is to be presented to the priest…
12 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.
It is an obvious verse. The quality of the animal is set by the priest, and from that determination, a price is then set.
13 But if he wants at all to redeem it, then he must add one-fifth to your valuation.
The animal’s price was set at a certain amount, and it is for that amount that it could be sold to another. But the one who brought it forward originally would have to pay 1/5 more for it than anyone else. This was intended to avoid people making rash vows. There would be a penalty imposed for having so dedicated and then decided to have again what was dedicated.
14 ‘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.
This is probably pertaining to a house in a city. It is not that which is granted by original inheritance of the land. One commentary says that the ordinary practice here is to redeem. That makes no sense. Like the animals of verse 12, if one were to redeem his own house, he would be penalized for doing so…
15 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.
The same penalty for the redemption of an unclean animal is found here. It would make no sense for the usual practice to be the redeeming of the property by the original owner.
16 ‘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.
This speaks of land of original inheritance. It belongs to the family and tribe forever, and so only the produce could be dedicated. The amount is set based either on how much barley seed the land would require to seed it, or how much the land was expected to produce, it is debated which is correct. Probably it is for sowing. After that though, then a set value of silver for that amount of seed was set.
17 If he dedicates his field from the Year of Jubilee, according to your valuation it shall stand.
This would be land dedicated immediately after the Jubilee. In such a case, the full valuation applied. This then covered 49 years.
18 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.
This speaks of the years remaining until the next Jubilee. A standard calculation was to be made based on the number of years left, and then the amount of corresponding seed was then to be converted into silver, and that would be the set value.
19 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.
Again, the same 1/5 penalty is imposed upon anyone who desired to receive back his vowed offering. It would be a lesson that would be remembered by the one who vowed and then reconsidered.
20 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;
This is an exceedingly complicated verse. What it probably means, is that the man has done one of two things. He 1) vowed the land which he owns, as an offering to the Lord, and he has not redeemed it before the Jubilee, or 2) he had sold the land to someone else and decided after selling it that he vowed that it should be the Lord’s. As the land is his in perpetuity by landed inheritance, it should revert to him, but because he vowed it to the Lord after selling it, then his intention is that it should revert not to him, but to the Lord. Either way he is making an absolute claim that He wished the land to be the Lord’s forever, which will now happen…
21 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.
The intent of the man, with his landed inheritance, was that it would forever be the Lord’s. It would never return to the land of the tribe from which he came. We might think this odd, until we see what people do with land they once possessed, giving it to the state or county in which they live as a memorial park, arboretum, etc. It is taking the land out of the family’s possession, and it is taking it out of the possession of anyone else as well. Thus it becomes a testimony of love by the one who has parted with it.
22 ‘And if a man dedicates to the Lord a field which he has bought, which is not the field of his possession,
This would be landed property purchased by someone from its permanent owner as described in Chapter 25. The individual has actually not bought the land, but the crops of the land.
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 offering to the Lord.
The priest was to then make an evaluation of the seed of the land which would occur till the year of Jubilee, and when that amount was set, the one vowing was to give the money to the priest for the care and maintenance of the sanctuary. But no 1/5 would be added to it as it was not his landed property to be redeemed, and so only the money of the vow would ever be exchanged.
24 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.
As it wasn’t the buyer’s actual property, he had no right to sell it, or have it transferred out of the possession of the landed owner. Thus it went back to the landed owner at the Jubilee.
25 And all your valuations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs to the shekel.
The shekel is defined as twenty gerahs. It comes from garar which means “to drag away.” The gerah literally means “a bean” or “a kernel” which is round as if scraped. Thus it is a portion of a shekel which has been taken away. This is the same idea as our use of “grain” when speaking of money, gun powder, etc.
The reason for including this statement is to ensure that the sanctuary shekel, which was the standard, was to be used, and the silver was to be according to that 20-gerah standard. The number 20 in Scripture signifies “expectancy.” There was to always to be the expectancy that the shekel used was appropriate to the standard.
26 ‘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.
Exodus 13:2 expressly stated that all firstborn belonged to the Lord. Because of this, they could not be used as a vow of offering. They were already His to begin with. A firstborn man could be vowed though because they were redeemed when the Lord took the Levites as His in place of the firstborn.
27 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.
The subject of this verse is very hard to pin down. Is it a clean animal with a defect that cannot be presented to the Lord? Is it an unclean animal according to sacrificial laws? Is it even still speaking of the firstborn of animals referred to in verse 26? It has already been prescribed in Exodus 13 that the firstborn of a donkey was to be redeemed with a lamb or have its neck broken. Does that principle apply to all unclean beasts, or only donkeys?
Probably, this is speaking of the firstborn of an unclean animal other than a donkey, but being dogmatic here, especially when dogs are unclean animals, is probably the wrong course of action. The price of a dog is forbidden to be brought to the house of the Lord for any vowed offering according to Deuteronomy 23:18.
I have spoken with my lips and made a vow
I shall not delay in keeping what I have said
To the sanctuary! I am headed there now
My heart was prompted, and so I shall go where my heart has led
My praise shall be of You in the great assembly
I will pay my vows before those who fear Him, this I shall do
The Lord will be pleased, so it shall certainly be
To the Lord I will be faithful and true
Following in the footsteps of Christ my Lord
Who paid His vows to the Lord; those He had spoken
As the psalm has said, in His sacred word
And like Jesus, my vows shall never be broken
II. That Which May Not Be Vowed (verses 28-34)
28 ‘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.
A new word, with an awesome and terrifying meaning, is introduced into Scripture here, kherem. The word is also translated as a net. The idea is that as a net closes and drags away its catch, so it is to be with something devoted to the Lord. Kherem signifies something placed under a ban and devoted to destruction.
A man had the right to devote anything under his possession to be dedicated to the Lord. He would do this with a curse upon himself if not obeyed. This included property, slaves, and even children. No reason is given, and no further explanatory details come later. All we have is that if such a pronouncement was made, the thing could not be sold or redeemed. Instead, it became devoted and most holy to the Lord. For property and assets, they become solely the property of the priests. For people…
29 No person under the ban, who may become doomed to destruction among men, shall be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death.
Though scholars attempt to separate the words of verse 29 from verse 28, it is hard to see how they can justify this. Verse 28 explicitly gives a person the power to declare a man under his possession kherem. Verse 29 immediately follows and says that all kherem who are devoted as kherem shall be put to death. As melancholy as the passage is, this verse seems to explain the intent of the account of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11, and it shows the severity of speaking rashly. Though that was a vow and not a kherem, the result was the same as if it was. Further, it shows the disobedience of Saul who made a similar vow in 1 Samuel 14 which his son was implicated in, and which he did not carry out.
30 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.
Everything which came from the agricultural work of the people was to have a tithe, or a tenth portion of it, removed. This was to be considered “holy to the Lord.” At this point, what that means is not explained, but that is coming later in the law. For now, one tenth of the land’s produce was considered as holy.
31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it.
The tithes were excluded from vows because they already belonged to the Lord, but they could be redeemed by adding a fifth of the value to them.
32 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.
What this means is explained in more detail later, but for now, the animals would pass under a rod. As each passed, it would be counted. Each tenth would be set aside as qodesh l’Yehovah, or holy to the Lord. That animal could not be sold or kept for working or for anything else. It was set apart to the Lord.
33 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.’”
When the tenth animal passed under the rod, its fate was sealed. It was not to be exchanged for a better or worse animal. If an exchange was attempted, then both were to be considered holy. What can be inferred from the words, “It shall not be redeemed,” is that they could neither be bought nor sold. They were set to be dedicated to the Lord, and that was their purpose henceforth.
As an additional note: The tithe will continue to be explained and defined after this point, and throughout the law. Some scholars will point to those clarifications as being “second” and even “third” tithes. There is no such thing. The subject of tithing is one of the most misunderstood, and most abused principles in the church. The tithe, or tenth, is a precept found in the law, and it is never repeated under the New Covenant. Further, what is done with the tithes, even under the Mosaic Covenant, is wholly ignored by preachers.
This precept, now named here, is the first time that tithing is mandated under the law. Two other times, the setting aside of tenths are mentioned before this. Both are in descriptive passages, and they mandate nothing. Some, however, will point to those two passages and claim that because they precede the law, the tithe is an eternal standard for man. They claim that it falls under the “law of first mention,” meaning that something mentioned for the first time is to be upheld after that.
There is no such law in Scripture. If there were, anyone could have multiple wives and concubines, we would have to marry our oldest daughters off before our younger ones could marry, and if our son died, we would be giving his widow to our next son to raise up children in the first son’s name, we would be paying dowry’s for our wives, giving our firstborn a double portion of the inheritance, observing the weekly Sabbath, and the seventh-year Sabbath. We would also be observing those pilgrim feasts mentioned in Exodus. On and on and on it would go.
Understand now that the tithe is not a New Testament principle, and even when preachers teach tithing, they don’t do it according to the standard of the law. Remember this simple rule: No thithing. There is one precept in the New Testament for giving, and that is to give as one may prosper. That is it. Out of that prospering, Paul then says to share in all good things with the one who teaches you.
*34 These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.
The words here simply and elegantly close out the book of Leviticus. They immediately speak of the contents of this chapter, but they are an overall summary of the entire book. And though this chapter has lacked much of the Christological symbolism that most of the book of Leviticus has shown us, it is an important ending to the book. Without it, there would have been a void in several important aspects of the lives of the Israelites.
What would be the result of making vows? What would have been the consequences for reneging on those made? Who was to be the deciding voice in such things? And so on. It was necessary to put these here, to ensure a smooth transition out of Leviticus. Further, though its placement is often called a mistake, it is more than appropriate. Rather than closing out the general Sinatic laws with blessings and curses, it ended on a more positive note of what could and could not be vowed to the Lord.
And finally, things like the tithe are spoken of here, but what to do with them is not revealed. Thus, it gives an anticipatory taste that more is to come before all is complete in regards to such things. In all, the Chapter serves as a marvelous conclusion to the book of Leviticus.
Before we close out the chapter though, because we are dealing with vows, it is right that we tie this in to a passage from Mark 7. There we read the following words of Jesus to the Pharisees –
“All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.” Mark 7:9-13
The word He uses, Corban, is found in Leviticus 27:9. It is an offering to the Lord. What the people were doing, was getting around the law of tending to their parents by taking what should have been used for their care, and making it a qorban, or offering, to the Lord. By doing this, it meant that it could not be used for any other purpose. And the parents would rather do anything, even perishing, than to interfere with such an offering and rob God.
Eventually, the person could reclaim their offering by adding the standard 1/5 to the value. Thus instead of tending to the parents with a great portion of the asset, they would supposedly be honoring God. The 1/5 value would be a minimal loss compared to spending it all on their care. The priests would profit off the deal, and all would be well with the world. But Jesus knew their deceit and laid it out for all to see and understand.
The law was intended to bless the people, protect the poor and needy, and glorify God all at the same time. It was never intended to be used as the leaders of Israel did. They manipulated its precepts for gain, and they harmed the people in the process, both in the hardening of the hearts of the people, and in the mistreatment of those who should have been cared for.
As we continue through the law, we can see where it constantly failed to do what it was given to do, which is 1) to sanctify the people – “…you shall be holy; for I am holy” (11:44), and 2) to grant them life – “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them” (18:5). The people failed to be sanctified, and the people died. Leviticus shows us that something more was needed than the law itself. This beautiful, marvelous treasure of 27 chapters was given to lead us to a better understanding that we need Jesus. And so, before we depart today, getting ready for a new adventure in another book of the Bible next week, let me tell you about Jesus, and how He is so very important to your life.
Closing Verse: “I will go into Your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay You my vows,
14 Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.” Psalm 66:13, 14
Next Week: Esther 1:1-12 Really something to see, and yet quite sad…(Naughty Vashti / A Party Gone Bad) (1st Esther Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if you have a lifetime of sin heaped up behind you, He can wash it away and purify you completely and wholly. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
Things Vowed and Devoted
Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying
These are the words He was then relaying
“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, then this is how
If your valuation is of a male
From twenty years old up to years old sixty
Then your valuation shall be fifty shekels of silver
According to the shekel of the sanctuary
If it is a female, so shall it be
Then your valuation shall be shekels thirty
And if from five years old up to twenty years old
Then your valuation for a male, yes for one of the men
Shall be twenty shekels
And for a female shekels ten
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 shekels of silver three
And if from sixty years old and above
If it is a male, then your valuation shall be for one of these men
And for a female shekels ten
‘But if he is too poor to pay your valuation
Then he shall present himself before the priest
———-so he shall do
And the priest shall set a value for him
According to the ability of him who vowed
———-the priest shall him value
‘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
According to this word
He shall not substitute it or exchange it
Good for bad or bad for good, such it shall not be
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
According to this word
And the priest shall set a value for it
Whether it is good or bad, as seen plainly
As you, the priest, value it
So it shall be
But if he wants at all to redeem it, according to my narration
Then he must add one-fifth to your valuation
‘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; just as he does submit
If he who dedicated it wants to redeem his house
Then he must one-fifth of the money add
Of your valuation to it
And it shall be his; if that is what makes him glad
‘If a man dedicates to the Lord
Part of a field of his possession, so he does do
Then your valuation shall be according to the seed for it
A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver
———-as I am now instructing you
If he dedicates his field from the Year of Jubilee, yes this land
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, so shall it be
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, as to you I submit
But if he does not want to redeem the field
Or if he has sold to another man the field
It shall not be redeemed anymore
His rights to it he did yield
But the field, when it is released in the Jubilee
Shall be holy to the Lord; its commons status has ceased
As a devoted field
It shall be the possession of the priest
‘And if a man dedicates to the Lord
A field which he has bought
Which is not the field of his possession
It was not his inherited plot
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, so shall it be
In the Year of Jubilee
The field shall return to him, please understand
From whom it was bought
To the one who as a possession owned the land
And all your valuations shall be
According to the shekel of the sanctuary:
Twenty gerahs to the shekel, as prescribed by Me
‘But the firstborn of the animals
Which the Lord’s firstborn should be
No man shall dedicate; whether it is an ox or sheep
It is the Lord’s; it belongs to Me
And if it is an unclean animal
Then he shall redeem it according to your valuation, as you set
And shall add one-fifth to it
Or if it is not redeemed, then it shall be sold
———-according to your valuation, so the price shall be met
‘Nevertheless no devoted offering
That a man may devote of all that he has to the Lord
Both man and beast, or the field of his possession
Shall be sold or redeemed, according to this word
Every devoted offering is to the Lord most holy
This is how it is and how it shall be
No person under the ban
Who may become doomed among men to destruction
Shall be redeemed
But shall surely be put to death, according to this instruction
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, please understand
If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, so I submit
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
Yes, to the Lord your God
He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad
Nor shall he exchange it; such shall not be
And if he exchanges it at all
Then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy
It shall not be redeemed
It is holy and so it shall be esteemed
These are the commandments
Which the Lord commanded Moses, and which we have heard
For the children of Israel on Mount Sinai
These are the commandments of the Lord
Lord God, thank you for this wonderful book
Leviticus! What a marvel to have studied it
Into every detail possible we took a look
And to You our thanks and praise we now submit!
Hallelujah to Christ our Lord!
Hallelujah for Leviticus, a marvelous part of Your superior word!
Hallelujah and Amen…