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This chapter contains various laws concerning vows made unto the Lord, whether of persons whose estimation was to be made by the priest, according to their age, sex, and condition, ( Leviticus 26:1-8); or of beasts, clean and unclean, good or bad, ( Leviticus 26:9-13); or of houses, fields, and lands, the estimation of which was to be according to its seed, and the time of its being set apart, whether from or after the year of jubilee, and the number of years to it, ( Leviticus 26:14-25); with this exception to the above laws, that no firstling of the Lord’s might be sanctified, and if an unclean beast it might be redeemed, but nothing devoted to the Lord, whether of man, beast, or field, might be sold or redeemed, ( Leviticus 26:26-29); and the chapter is concluded with some laws concerning the redemption or change of tithes, what might or what might not be redeemed or changed, ( Leviticus 26:30-34); Ver. 1 . And the Lord spake unto Moses , etc.] After he had delivered the body of laws in the preceding chapter, which by the close of the last seem to have been finished; but here some rules and instructions concerning vows are given, which a man was not obliged to make, but which he did of his own freewill and good pleasure: saying; as follows.
Ver. 2 . Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them , etc.] This being an affair which only concerned them; for the Jewish writers say f926 , 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 f927 , 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 f928 : 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, etc. (see 2 Kings 12:4,5); the word may be rendered, agreeably to the accents, “according to thy estimation of souls (or persons) the vow shall be to the Lord” f929 ; 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 f930 ; for a man cannot live without his head, or without his liver, or when half of himself is taken away.
Ver. 3 . And thy estimation shall be , etc.] The estimation of the man himself that vowed, or of the priest for him, was not left to be made by either of them at their pleasure, but was to be made according to the following rules, in proportion to the age a person was of to be estimated: of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old : the account begins with these, because men of an age from the one to the other are fittest for labour, and therefore to be set at the highest price, as they are in the next clause: even that estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary ; a shekel was about half a crown of our money, or somewhat less, so that fifty of these amounted to about six pounds: these shekels were to be of the full weight, according to the standard that was kept in the sanctuary, and were the highest price that was set upon any; and this was paid equally by all of the same age, whether rich or poor: hence it is said, “in estimations there is nothing less than one shekel, nor more than fifty f931 .”
Ver. 4 . And if it [be] a female , etc.] That is, of the same age, full twenty years of age, and not more than sixty: then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels ; about three pounds ten shillings of our money, the price of a servant, ( Exodus 21:32); the reason of this difference of estimation between a man and a woman is, because the woman is the weaker vessel, and her labour and service of less importance and worth, such as spinning, washing, etc.
Ver. 5 . And if [it be] from five years old, even unto to twenty years old , etc.] Not that one of five years old is supposed to vow or to make an estimation, but one grown up, that says, the estimation of this little one, who is five years of age, be upon me; and such an one was bound to pay the value of him, which is as follows: then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels ; which were for the one above two pounds, and for the other more than one pound; these were valued at a less price than the former, partly because, generally speaking, there are more die between the age of five and the age of twenty years than between twenty and sixty; and partly because within that time they are not capable of so much work and service as in the latter; and it may be observed, that the females of this age are not valued in proportion to the females of the other; the estimation of these being just half that of the males, whereas that of the other is more than half; the reason is, that women above twenty years of age, their service bears, a better proportion to that of men, than that of young women to young men under twenty.
Ver. 6 . And if [it be] from a month old even unto five years old , etc.] That is, if a man devotes his child to the Lord within such an age, and says, the estimation of this my son or my daughter be upon me, then he was to pay the value, as next directed; for one under a month old no estimation was to be made: the Jews say, “one less than a mouth old may be vowed, but not estimated f932 :” then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver ; somewhat more than ten shillings: and for the female thy estimation [shall be] three shekels of silver ; about seven shillings, which is the least value put on any; and though the lives of male or female at this age are equally uncertain, and the service of either of little worth when near the full time fixed; yet the preference is given to the male, as being of the more perfect kind, and its life generally most desirable.
Ver. 7 . And if [it be] from sixty years old and above , etc.] When man is almost past his labour, and it is high time to leave off business; if [it be] a male, then thy estimation shall between shekels ; about one pound fifteen shillings: and for the female ten shekels ; about one pound three shillings; it may be observed that there is not the disproportion between a man and a woman in old age as in youth, with respect to the estimation of them; the reason of which is, because there is but little difference in their labour and service; nay, sometimes the woman is most useful and serviceable; for when a man, through age, is quite worn out and his labour gone, an older woman is capable of managing the affairs of the family, and is of great use and service, either by directing and advising, or by doing: so Jarchi observes, when persons come to old age, a woman is nearly to be reckoned as a man, and quotes a proverb of theirs, an old man in a house is a broken potsherd in the house (some interpret the word, a snare or stumbling block, that is in the way); an old woman in a house is a treasure in a house, a good sign in a house f933 , of great use in the management of the affairs of the family.
Ver. 8 . But if he be poorer than thy estimation , etc.] If he is so poor that he is not able to pay the value that, is set upon him, according to the rules before given: then he shall present himself before the priest ; that has made the estimation, according to the above directions, observing the difference of years, and of male and female; but if a person could not pay the said sums that were appointed, he might apply to the priest, and tell his case: and the priest shall value him ; put a price upon him he is able to pay, as follows: according to his ability that vowed shall the priest value him ; he was to examine into his circumstances, and as they appeared to him he was to put a value on him, which was to be paid, but not less than, a shekel; for if he could not pay that, it was to remain as a debt until he could f934 ; and it was the ability of him that made the vow that was to be inquired into, and according to which the estimation was to be made, and not of him that was vowed: so it is said in the Misnah, “ability is regarded in the vower, and years in the vowed, and estimations in the estimated, and according to the tithe of the estimation: ability in the vower, how? a poor man that estimates a rich man, pays the value of a poor man; and a rich man that estimates a poor man, pays the value of a rich man: if he is poor and afterwards becomes rich, or rich and afterwards poor, he pays the price of a rich man f935 ;” but the sense which Jarchi gives is, that a priest in such a case was to judge according to what a man has, and so order him to pay, but was to leave him so as he might live, a bed and bolster, and working tools, and if he had an ass he might leave him that.
Ver. 9 . And if [it be] a beast whereof men bring an offering to the Lord , etc.] That is, it such a creature is devoted, which is of that kind which are used in sacrifice to the Lord, such as bullocks, sheep, goats, rams, and lambs: all that [any man] giveth of such unto the Lord shall be holy ; shall be set apart to sacred uses, and not applied to profane or common uses, but either were for the use of the altar or of the priests; or the price of them for the repair of the sanctuary, according as they were devoted.
Ver. 10 . He shall not alter it nor change it , etc.] Some think these two words signify the same, but Abarbinel makes them different; according to him, to “alter” is for one of another kind, as one of the herd for one of the flock, or the contrary; and to “change” for one of the same kind: a good for a bad, or a bad for a good ; or, as the Targum of Jonathan, “that which is perfect for that which has a blemish in it, or what has a blemish in it for that which is perfect;” a change might not be made neither for the better nor for the worse, but the creature devoted was to be taken as it was; if not fit for sacrifice it was to be sold, and its price put to other uses; for, as Abarbinel observes, whatsoever was devoted to sacred use was never to be put to any profane one; and this was also to teach men not to be hasty and fickle in such things, but to consider well what they did, and abide by it; for if such alterations and changes could be admitted of, a man after he had vowed might through covetousness repent, and bring a bad one instead of a good one, or, under pretence of bringing a good one instead of a bad one, might bring a bad one and say it was good, as Bechai observes; even one worse than he had brought, thinking to impose upon the ignorance of the priest; and indeed if he was sincere in it, and had a mind to bring a better than what he had vowed, it was not allowed of; if he made any change, though it was for the better, he was to be beaten, as Maimonides f939 affirms: and if he shall at all change beast for beast ; whether of the same or of a different kind, or whether for better or worse: then it and the exchange thereof shall be holy : both of them were to be the Lord’s, and appropriated to sacred use, of one sort or another, either for sacrifice or for the priests family, or the price of it for the repairs of the sanctuary.
Ver. 11 . And if [it be] any unclean beast, of which they do not offer a sacrifice unto the Lord , etc.] Any creature, excepting a dog, the price of which was not to be brought into the house of the Lord; besides oxen, sheep, goats, rams, and lambs; though some understand it even of such that have blemishes on them, and so not fit to be offered unto the Lord; so Jarchi and others f940 : then he shall present the beast before the priest ; to be viewed, examined, and judged of as to its worth, and a value put upon it, that it might be sold or redeemed, as no other but a beast might; so it is observed birds, wood, frankincense, and ministering vessels, have no redemption, for it is only said a beast f941 .
Ver. 12 . And the priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad , etc.] Put a price upon it according to its worth, as it shall appear to him: as thou valuest it, [who art] the priest, so shall it be ; that shall be the price at which it shall be sold, not to the owner or devoter of it, for he must give more, as appears from ( Leviticus 27:13); but, as Jarchi observes, to all other men who come to purchase it.
Ver. 13 . But if he will at all redeem it , etc.] The owner of it, or he that has devoted it, if he is determined to have it again at any rate: then he shall add a fifth [part] thereof unto thy estimation ; he shall give the full price for it, as rated by the priest, and for which it might be sold to another man, and a fifth part of the value of it besides; this was done that the full price might be paid for it, the priest not knowing, as it might be, the worth of it so well as the owner; and that the value of consecrated things might be kept to, and to make men careful how and what they devoted, since, though redeemable, they were obliged to pay a large price for them.
Ver. 14 . And when a man shall sanctify his house [to be] holy unto the Lord , etc.] Shall set it apart for sacred service, devote it to holy uses, so that it may be sold, and the money laid out in sacrifices, the repairs of the temple, etc. under this any other goods are comprehended, concerning which the Jews say, “he that sanctifieth his goods, and his wife’s dowry is upon him, or he is a debtor; his wife cannot demand her, dowry out of that which is sanctified, nor a creditor his debt; but if he will redeem he may redeem, on condition that he gives the dowry to the wife, and the debt to the creditor; if he has set apart ninety pounds and his debt is an hundred, he may add a penny more, and with it redeem those goods, on condition he gives the wife her dowry and the creditor his debt: whether he sanctifies or estimates his goods, he has no power over his wife’s or children’s clothes, nor over coloured things, died on their account, nor on new, shoes he has bought for them f942 , etc.” again it is said f943 , “if anyone sanctified his goods, and there were among them things fit for the altar; wine, oil, and fowls, R. Eliezer says, they might be sold to those that need any of, that kind, and with the price of them burnt offerings might be bought, and the rest of the goods fell to the repair of the temple:” then the priest shall estimate it whether it be good or bad ; shall examine it of what size and in what condition it is, whether a large well built house or not, and whether in good repair or not, and accordingly set a price upon it: as the priest shall estimate it, so shall it stand ; according to the price he shall set upon it, it may be sold; whoever will give it may purchase it, excepting the owner or he that has sanctified it, he must pay a fifth part more, as follows.
Ver. 15 . And if he that sanctifieth it will redeem his house , etc.] An house set apart for holy uses might be redeemed, either by another paying the price set upon it by the priest, or by the original owner of it paying a fifth part more; and this was the case, whether of houses in walled cities or in villages: so Maimonides says, “he that sanctifies his house, whether it be one of those in walled cities, or of those in villages, it may be always redeemed; he that redeems one out of the hand of holiness (or which has been sanctified), if it is a house in a walled city, and remains in the possession of the redeemer twelve months, it is absolutely his; but if it is a house in the villages, and the jubilee comes, and it is in the possession of the redeemer, it returns to its owner in the jubilee f944 :” but if the owner of it had a mind to redeem it after he had devoted it, then he shall add the fifth [part] of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be his ; that is, he was to give a fifth part more for the house than it was valued at by the priest, or than another might have it for; the reason of which was, to make men careful how they sanctified or vowed their houses or goods, and that it might be certain that the full value was given for it, the worth of which the priest might not know so well as the owner, and the latter, being willing to give the price set by the former, might give suspicion of it; wherefore, in order to have the full price of it with certainty, and to set an high value on things devoted, the owner was to give a fifth part more than the estimation of it: thus, for instance, if an house thus devoted was valued by the priest at the price of an hundred pounds, the owner was obliged, if he would redeem it, to give an hundred twenty pounds.
Ver. 16 . And if a man shall sanctify unto the Lord [some part] of a field of his possession , etc.] That which he enjoyed by inheritance from his father, to distinguish it from a field of his own purchase, as in ( Leviticus 27:22); and which might be devoted, not all of it, but a part of it; partly that he might have something to live upon, or to improve for a livelihood for himself and family, and partly that estates might not be alienated entirely from their families and tribes in which they were: then thy estimation shall be according to the seed thereof ; not according to the field, the goodness or badness of that, one field being good and another bad, as Jarchi observes, but according to the quantity of seed which it produced, or rather which it required for the sowing of it; an homer of barley seed [shall be valued] at fifty shekels of silver ; which was near six pounds of our money; and here we must carefully distinguish between an “omer”, beginning with an “o”, and an “homer”, beginning with an “h”; not observing this has led some learned men into mistakes in their notes on this place, for an “omer” was the tenth part of an “ephah”, ( Exodus 16:36); and an “ephah” is but the tenth part of an “homer”, ( Ezekiel 45:11); which makes a very great difference in this measure of barley, for an homer of it contained ten ephahs or bushels; and even according to this account a bushel of barley is rated very high, for ten bushels at fifty shekels, reckoning a shekel half a crown, or them at six pounds five shillings, are at the rate of twelve shillings and sixpence a bushel, which is too high a price for barley; wherefore as an ephah, the tenth part of an homer, contained three seahs or pecks, and which some call bushels, then an homer consisted of thirty bushels, which brings down the value of it to little more than two shillings a bushel, which is much nearer the true value of barley; but the truth of the matter is, that the value of barley for sowing is not ascertained, as our version leads us to think; for the words should be rendered, if the “seed be an homer of barley”, it, the field, shall be valued “at fifty shekels of silver”: if the field take so much seed to sow it as the quantity of an homer of barley, then it was to be rated at fifty shekels of silver; and if it took two homers, then it was to be rated at an hundred shekels, and so on.
Ver. 17 . If he sanctify his field from the year of jubilee , etc.] The very year, as Aben Ezra, while it is current, or when it is past, and he immediately sanctifies it for an holy use, and one comes to redeem it, as Jarchi says, as soon as ever it is devoted, and a priest has valued it, and there is a purchaser of it: according to thy estimation it shall stand ; what price soever the priest set upon it, that it was to go at, and he that had a mind to purchase it might have it for it, unless it was he that devoted it, and then he was to give a fifth part more, as afterwards expressed.
Ver. 18 . But if he sanctify his field after the jubilee , etc.] Some years after it, more or fewer, or it may be, when half way towards another jubilee, or nearer: then the priest shall reckon unto him the money according to the years that remain, even unto the year of the jubilee ; thus, for instance, if it only required an homer of barley to sow it, and the whole value of it from jubilee to jubilee was but fifty shekels of silver; then supposing it to be sanctified in the middle of the fifty years, or at twenty five years’ end, it was to be reckoned at twenty five shekels, and sold for that money, and so in proportion, reckoning a shekel for a year: and it shall be abated from thy estimation ; not the year of jubilee, but a shekel for every year was to be deducted from the original value of fifty shekels, according to the number of years that had passed or were to come.
Ver. 19 . And if he that sanctified the field shall in any wise redeem it , etc.] Is desirous of it, and determined upon it at any rate, repenting that he had parted with it in this manner: then he shall add the fifth [part] of the money of thy estimation to it : the Jerusalem Targum is, the fifth part of the shekels of silver: that is, if he has a mind to redeem it, and is resolved on it, as soon as he has sanctified it, then, besides the fifty shekels of silver it is rated at, and might be sold for to another, he must pay a fifth part thereof, that is, ten shekels more, for reasons before given, ( Leviticus 27:15); and it shall be assured to him ; remain firm and stable with him, abide by him, and he in the possession of it as his property, ever after, as if he had never sanctified it.
Ver. 20 . And if he will not redeem the field , etc.] He that sanctified it, does not care to give for it the settled price of the fifth part besides, but chooses it should be disposed of for the uses he devoted it to: or if he have sold the field to another man ; that is, either the original owner having bought it and sold it again, or rather the priest, the treasurer, as Jarchi, who had the disposal of it, for the uses and purposes for which it was devoted, when sold by him: it shall not be redeemed any more ; it was not in the power of him that sanctified it to make a purchase of it again; the buyer of it might not sell it to him again, for otherwise, by that means, he might come at it cheaper than the law directs; besides, there is another reason for it, which is suggested in ( Leviticus 27:21).
Ver. 21 . But the field, when it goeth out in the jubilee , etc.] Out of the hand of him that bought it: shall be holy unto the Lord, as a field devoted ; though it went out of the hand of the purchaser, it did not return to him that sanctified or devoted it, but was separated to sacred uses for the service of the Lord; for every devoted thing, whether of man, beast, or field, was most holy to the Lord, ( Leviticus 27:28); the possession thereof shall be the priests’ ; it did not return to the treasurer of the sanctuary, who had sold it to another for the repair of the temple, as Jarchi observes, but as a devoted field it was given to the priests, as it is said, “everything devoted in Israel shall be thine”, ( Numbers 18:14); and even this was divided, as he says, between the priests of that ward or course that happened to be on the day of atonement of the jubilee year: but in case it never was redeemed, but remained sanctified in the year of jubilee, the priests did not possess it without paying for it; and so the Jewish canon runs f945 , “the jubilee comes, and the field is not redeemed, the priests enter into it, and pay the price of it;” on which one of the commentators observes, when anyone has redeemed it, the money becomes sacred for the repairs of the temple; and when the jubilee comes, it goes out (i.e. of the hands of the purchaser) to the priests freely; but if it is not redeemed, the priests must pay the price of fifty shekels, and take it; and if even it was bought by a priest before out of the hands of the treasurer, it went from him to his brethren the priests, in the year of jubilee: the rule is this, “if any of the priests redeem it, and, lo, it is in his possession, he may not say, seeing it goes out to the priests in the year of jubilee, lo, it is in my possession, lo, it is mine, but it shall go out to all his brethren the priests f947 .”
Ver. 22 . And if [a man] sanctify unto the Lord a field which he hath bought , etc.] With his own money, of some person in poverty and distress, who was obliged to sell it, and which, according to a former law, returned to the original proprietor in the year of jubilee: which [is] not of the fields of his possession ; which he has not by inheritance from his fathers. Jarchi observes, there is a difference between a field bought, and a field possessed; for a field bought is not divided to the priests in the year of jubilee, because a man cannot sanctify it but until the year of jubilee; for in the year of jubilee it would go out of his hands, and return to the owner; wherefore if he comes to redeem it, he must redeem it with the price fixed for the field of possession: the Jewish doctors are divided about a field bought of a father by a son, whether it is a field of purchase or of possession f948 .
Ver. 23 . Then the priest shall reckon unto him the worth of thy estimation, [even] unto the year of jubilee , etc.] The priest was to estimate the field of purchase sanctified, and set a price upon it according to the best of his judgment, and give it to the person that sanctified it, or whoever would redeem it; and this estimate was made, according to the number of years there were to the year of jubilee: and he shall give thine estimation in that day ; the price set upon the field by the priest immediately, either the sanctifier, but without adding the fifth part, as in ( Leviticus 27:19); so Maimonides observes, or any other purchaser: [as] a holy thing unto the Lord ; to sacred uses, as the repairs of the temple, etc. to which the purchase money was appropriated.
Ver. 24 . In the year of jubilee, the field shall return unto him of whom it was bought , etc.] Not to him that sanctified it, whether he redeemed it or not; nor to him that bought it of the treasurer of the temple after it was sanctified; but to the original proprietor and owner of it, of whom he bought it that sanctified it, for so it follows: [even] to him to whom the possession of the land [did belong] ; which was a possession of his he had by inheritance from his fathers, and therefore, according to the law of the year of jubilee, was then to return to him, and could be retained no longer, nor even converted to holy uses; for as it is said in the Misnah f950 , “a field of purchase goes not out to the priests in the year of jubilee; for no man can sanctify a thing which is not his own;” as what he had purchased was no longer his than to the year of jubilee, and therefore could not devote it to sacred uses for any longer time.
Ver. 25 . And all thy estimation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary , etc.] The shekel kept in the sanctuary, which was the standard of all shekels; not that there was a shekel in the sanctuary different from the common one; for every shekel ought to have been as that, of the full weight and worth of it; and the estimation was to be according to such a shekel, and the money paid in such, even in full weight: twenty gerahs shall be the shekel ; which the Targum of Jonathan calls “meahs” or “oboli”, one of which was about three halfpence of our money, scarce so much, and weighed near eleven grains, as Bishop Cumberland f951 has calculated: (see Ezekiel 45:12).
Ver. 26 . Only the firstlings of the beasts , etc.] These are excepted from being sanctified, or set apart for sacred uses, for a very good reason, suggested in the next clause: which should be the Lord’s firstling, no man shall sanctify it ; it being what he has a claim upon, and ordered to be sanctified to him by a law previous to this, ( Exodus 13:2); wherefore to sanctify such a creature, would be to sanctify what was his before; not merely in a general sense, in which all creatures are his, but in a special sense, having in a peculiar manner required it as his; and therefore to sanctify, or vow to him, what was his before, must be trifling with him, and mocking of him: whether [it be] ox, or sheep ; the firstlings of either of them: it [is] the Lord’s ; which he has claimed as his own special and peculiar property, antecedent to any vow of its owner.
Ver. 27 . And if [it be] of an unclean beast , etc.] This is to be understood, not of the firstling of unclean creatures in common, which were to be redeemed with a lamb, and not with money, according to the estimation of the priest, and a fifth part added to that; but of such as were sanctified, or vowed, for the reparation of the sanctuary, as Jarchi notes: then he shall redeem [it] according to thine estimation ; the price the priest should set upon it, how much it was worth in his judgment: and shall add a fifth [part] of it thereto ; to the price, set upon a fifth part of that over and above the sum; this the sanctifier, or he that made the vow, was obliged to pay, if he thought fit to redeem it: or if it be not redeemed ; by him, he does not choose to give the price, and the fifth part: then it shall be sold according to thy estimation ; to another man, without the fifth part, that chooses to purchase it, and then the purchase money was laid out for sacred uses.
Ver. 28 . Notwithstanding, no devoted thing that a man shall devote unto the Lord , etc.] This is a different vow from the former, expressed by “sanctifying”; for though “sanctifying” and “devoting” were both vows, yet the latter had an execration or curse added to it, by which a man imprecated a curse upon himself, if that itself, which he devoted, was put to any other use than that for which he devoted it; wherefore this sort of vow was absolute and irrevocable, and what was vowed was unalienable, and therefore not to be sold or redeemed as afterwards expressed, whereas things sanctified might: of all that he hath, [both] of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed ; but must be put to the use for which it was devoted. This must be understood of such as were his own, and he had a right to dispose of; which were in his own power, as Aben Ezra interprets the phrase, “of all that he hath”: if of men, they must be such as were his slaves, which he had a despotic power over; such as he could sell, or give to another, or leave to his children for a perpetual inheritance, ( Leviticus 25:46); and could dispose of as he pleased, and so devote to the service of the priests: thus Jarchi interprets it of menservants and maidservants, Canaanitish ones; and if of beasts, such as were his own property, and not another’s; and if of fields, such as were his possession by inheritance. Some Jewish writers, as Abendana, from the phrase, “of all that he hath”, gather, that a man might devote only a part of what he had, and not the whole; and so it is said in the Misnah, “a man may devote of his flock and of his herd, of his servants and maidens Canaanites, and of the field of his possession; but if he devote all of them, they are not devoted f952 ,” the vow is null and void; and so one of the commentators upon it says, he may devote some movable things, but not all; some of his Canaanitish servants and maidens, but not all; some part of the field of his possession, but not the whole: but a man’s children, and Hebrew servants, and purchased fields, according to the Jewish canon, might not be devoted; “if anyone devotes his son or his daughter, his servant or his handmaid, that are Hebrews, or the field of his purchase, they are not devoted (or to be reckoned so), for no man devotes (or ought to devote) what is not his own f954 .”
A commentator excepts his daughter, and says, he may devote his daughter, because he may sell her while a minor, but not an adult virgin; (see Exodus 21:7); every devoted thing [is] most holy unto the Lord ; and therefore not to be appropriated to any use but his, nor to be meddled with, not even touched or handled by any but the priests, as the most holy things that were eatable were only to be eaten by them.
Ver. 29 . None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed , etc.] This is said, not of such men as are devoted to the Lord, as in the preceding verse; for it is not said here as there, “none devoted unto the Lord”, but of such as are devoted to ruin and destruction, for whom there was no redemption, but they must die; nor is it said, “which is devoted by men, but of men”, or from among men; whether they be devoted by God himself, as all idolaters, and particularly the seven nations of the land of Canaan, and especially the Amalekites, who therefore were not to be spared on any account, but to be put to death, ( Exodus 22:20 Deuteronomy 7:1,2 20:16,17 25:19 1 Samuel 15:3). So in the Talmud f956 , this is interpreted of Canaanitish servants and handmaids; or whether devoted by men to destruction, either by the people of Israel, as their avowed enemies they should take in war, whom, and their cities, they vowed to the Lord they would utterly destroy, ( Numbers 21:2,3); and of such Aben Ezra interprets the words of the text; or such as were doomed by the civil magistrates to die for capital crimes, by stoning, burning, strangling, and slaying with the sword. And this sense is given into by many; because the judges kill with many kinds of death, therefore, says Chaskuni, it is said “every devoted thing”, as if he should say, with whatsoever of the four kinds of death the judges pass sentence of destruction on a man, he must die that death; so Jarchi and Ben Melech interpret it of such as go out to be slain, i.e. by the decree of the judges; and if one says, his estimation, or the price of him be upon me, he says nothing, it is of no avail: [but] shall surely be put to death ; as the same writer observes, lo, he goes forth to die, he shall not be redeemed, neither by price nor estimation. The Targum of Jonathan is, “he shall not he redeemed with silver, but with burnt offerings, and holy sacrifices, and petitions of mercy, because he is condemned by a sentence to be slain.”
And of either, or of all of these, may the words be understood, and not as they are by some, as if Jewish parents and masters had such a power over their children and servants to devote them to death, or in such a manner devote them, that they were obliged to put them to death; for though they had power in some cases to sell, yet had no power over their lives to take them away, or to devote them to death, which would be a breach of the sixth command, and punishable with death; even a master that accidentally killed his servant did not escape punishment; nay, if he did him any injury, by smiting out an eye, or a tooth, he was obliged to give him his freedom, and much less had he power to take away his life, or devote him to destruction. Some have thought, that it was through a mistaken sense of this law, that Jephthah having made a rash vow sacrificed his daughter, ( Judges 11:30-39); but it is a question whether he did or not.
Ver. 30 . And all the tithe of the land , etc.] Of which there were various sorts, the first tithe, the tithe out of the tithe, the second tithe, and the poor’s tithe, which are generally reduced to three, “The first tenth part of all increase I gave to the sons of Aaron, who ministered at Jerusalem: another tenth part I sold away, and went, and spent it every year at Jerusalem:” (Tobit 1:7)q so Maimonides says, “after they had separated the first tithe every year, they separate the second tithe, as it is said ( Deuteronomy 14:22,23); and in the third year, and in the sixth, they separate the poor’s tithe, instead of the second tithe:” so that, properly speaking, there were but two tithes, though commonly reckoned three; the tithes of all eatables were given to the Levites every year, and a tenth part of that given by the Levites to the priests, and the second tithe was eaten by the owners; instead of which, according to the above writer, in the third and sixth years it was given to the poor, and called theirs; of this second tithe, Jarchi interprets this law, and so does Maimonides f958 : [whether] of the seed of the land, [or] of the fruit of the tree, [is] the Lord’s : is to be given to him as an acknowledgment of his being the proprietor of the land, and that all the increase of it is owing to his blessing, and therefore is given in way of gratitude to him: the former of these takes in all sorts of corn that is man’s food, as wheat and barley; and the latter wine and oil, and all sorts of fruits that are eatable; for it is said to be a general rule, that whatever is for food, and is preserved (having an owner, and not being common), and grows up out of the earth, is bound to tithes f959 : [it is] holy unto the Lord ; the first tithe was eaten by the priests and Levites only, and the other before the Lord in Jerusalem only, and that by clean persons. Something of this kind obtained among the Heathens, it may be in imitation of this, particularly among the Grecians; Pisistratus tells Solon, that everyone of the Athenians gave a tenth part of his inheritance, not to me, says he, who was their governor, but for public sacrifices, and the common good, and when engaged in war, to defray the charge of it; and so, by the oracle of Apollo, the Corcyraenans were directed to send to Olympia and Delphos the tenth part of the produce of their fields f961 ; and by the same oracle, the island of the Syphnians, in which was a golden mine, were ordered to bring the tenth of it to the same place f962 . So the Pelasgi in a time of scarcity vowed the tithes of all their increase to the gods, and having obtained their wish, devoted the tenth of all their fruits and cattle to them.
Ver. 31 . And if a man, will redeem [ought] of his tithes , etc.] Of his own, and not his neighbour’s, as Jarchi observes; for if he redeemed the tithes of his neighbour, but did not add a fifth part, which he was obliged to do if he redeemed his own, as follows: he shall add thereunto the fifth [part] thereof ; besides giving the value for what part of his tithes he redeemed, he gave a fifth part of that sum over and above; as, supposing the tithe was worth fifty shillings, then he gave that, and ten shillings more, and so in proportion. The use of this redemption, as Jarchi suggests, was, that he might have liberty of eating it in any place: for he understands it of the second tithe, as before observed, and which was to be eaten at Jerusalem.
Ver. 32 . And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock , etc.] Of oxen and sheep, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; for this law only concerns such, as Maimonides observes, for none but clean beasts were tithed, though the firstlings of unclean beasts were to be redeemed: [even] of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord : which being slain, the blood and fat were to be offered the altar, and the flesh eaten by the owners, as Jarchi observes; who adds, this is not reckoned with the rest of the gifts of the priesthood; and we do not find it was given to the priests: the “rod”, under which these are said to pass, is either the shepherd’s rod, as Aben Ezra under, which they passed morning and evening, when led out or brought in, as in ( Jeremiah 33:13); or the rod of the tither: the manner of tithing, as described by Maimonides, was this; “he gathers all the lambs and all the calves into a field, and makes a little door to it, so that two cannot go out at once; and he places their dams without, and they bleat, so that the lambs hear their voice, and go out of the fold to meet them, as it is said, “whatsoever passeth under the rod”; for it must pass of itself, and not be brought out by his hand; and when they go out of the fold, after another, he begins and counts them with the rod, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and the tenth that goes out, whether male or female, whether perfect or blemished, he marks with a red mark, and says, this is the tithe f965 :” the time of tithing the cattle was on the first of Elul or August; for so it is said f966 , “the first of Elul is the beginning of the year for the tithing of beasts;” when they tithed all that were born the preceding year: but we are elsewhere told f967 , there were three times for tithing beasts; fifteen days before the passover, (which was the last of Adar or February,) and fifteen days before the Pentecost, and fifteen days before the feast of tabernacles, which was the last of Elul or August; and these tithings were made for the sake of those that went up to these feasts, that it might be certain the cattle sold and eaten were tithed.
Ver. 33 . He shall not search whether it be good or bad , etc.] In a good or bad state of health, fat or lean, perfect or blemished, but take it as it is, be it what it will: neither shall he change it ; neither for the better nor the worse, no alteration was to be made, but the beast was to be taken as it came: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change shall be holy ; be sacred to the Lord, and for his use and service; this was done to restrain men from making any alteration, since if they did, both the one and the other were taken from them; yea, were to be beaten with forty stripes, save one f968 ; whether this change was of the herd with the flock, or of the flock with the herd; or of lambs with goats, or goats with lambs; or of males with females, or of females with males; or of perfect with blemished ones, or of blemished ones with perfect ones: it shall not be redeemed ; from whence the Jews gather, that a tithe beast was not to be bought and sold, whether blemished or unblemished.
Ver. 34 . These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses , etc.] Meaning either what are contained in this chapter, or rather in the whole book, which he delivered to Moses: for the children of Israel ; to be observed by them, priests and people: and these were given to him in Mount Sinai ; either when upon it, or rather when near it, in the wilderness of it, after the tabernacle was set up, and the Lord spake to him out of that; (see Leviticus 1:1 25:1).