Monday, March 19, 2007

Leviticus 27

Leviticus 27: Dedications to the LORD

Synopsis

The rules in this chapter seems a bit strange to me, and I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing or not. But this chapter gives rules and regulations for “dedicating” persons, animals, or possessions, to the LORD, as well as rules for “redeeming” them, meaning that you could “un-dedicate” something, and make it your property again.

Since I’m not familiar with this concept, I’ve taken the step of doing a bit of research, first, on what all this means. First, from a page by someone named David Guzik:

What did it mean to consecrate a person to the LORD? It could be done either for one’s self, or on behalf of another (such as consecrating a child unto the LORD). This was a completely voluntary act, meant to demonstrate that this person was totally given to God.

The beauty of these commands is that it gave the one making a vow of consecration something definite to do; the vow of consecration was therefore far more than mere words, it had a definite action associated with it—and prevented people from making empty vows to God.


And then… well, I didn’t find any other concise explanations. And I don’t even know who David Guzik is.

So, in essence, when you dedicated a person—including yourself—or an animal or a possession to God, it became God’s property, and you paid to make it happen.

The chapter starts off by listing out the prices for dedicating people to the LORD:

  • Males between 20 and 60 would be valued at 0.6 kilograms of silver
  • Females between 20 and 60 would be valued at 0.3 kilograms of silver
  • Males from 5 to 20 would be valued at 0.2 kilograms of silver
  • Females from 5 to 20 would be valued at 110 grams of silver
  • Males from one month to 5 years would be valued at 55 grams of silver
  • Females from one month to 5 years would be valued at 35 grams of silver
  • Males over 60 years would be valued at 170 grams of silver
  • Females over 60 years would be valued at 100 grams of silver
  • If someone couldn’t afford the specified value as outlined here, the person to be dedicated was to be brought to the priest, who would determine a value, based on what the person could afford
So, basically, if you wanted to dedicate a person to the LORD, you would go to the priest and pay the specified amount to make it official.

Similar rules were set out for dedicating animals to the LORD:

  • If the animal to be dedicated was an animal that would be acceptable as an offering:
    • Once the animal was dedicated, it would be considered holy
    • Once the animal had been accepted, the person offering it was not allowed to substitute another animal
      • If a person did try to substitute animals, both animals would become holy, and dedicated to the LORD—both the original one, and the substitute
  • If the animal to be dedicated was not an animal that would be acceptable as an offering:
    • It was to be presented to the priest, who would “judge its quality as good or bad” (verse 12)
    • Whatever price the priest set, that’s what the person would have to pay
  • If the owner wished to redeem the animal, he was to add a fifth to the value.
I have two questions about the last part: 1) I’m not sure, based on the context, if this applied only to “unclean” animals, that weren’t acceptable as an offering, or all animals; 2) When adding a fifth, I’m not sure if the person only had to pay the extra fifth, to redeem the animal, or if the entire amount plus a fifth was to be paid.

There were similar rules for dedicating houses:

  • The priest would judge the house, and set its value appropriately.
  • If the man wanted to redeem the house, he would add a fifth to its value, and it would become his again.
I find it interesting that priests were required to know how to set property values.

For land—I think this is especially for farmland—the rules are a bit more calculable:

  • The value for “family land” was to be set based on how much seed was required to plant it; for every 220 litres of barley seed required, the value would be 0.6 kilograms of silver
  • The value was to be reduced, in years between the Year of Jubilee, and calculated based on the number of years until the next one. (If the field was dedicated on the Year of Jubilee, the full price would be set, and then every year it would be reduced, until the next Year of Jubilee.)
  • If the man wanted to redeem the field, he could do so by adding a fifth to its value.
    • There is a rider on this, however, that says that if the man does not redeem the field, or sells it to someone else, it can never be redeemed. I’m not sure what this means, because I wouldn’t think he could sell the field if it had been dedicated to the LORD; in fact, verse 28 explicitly says this:

      But nothing that a man owns and devotes to the LORD—whether man or animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD.

      So I’m really not sure what this means.
    • Similarly, if the field remains dedicated to the LORD until the Year of Jubilee, it will become holy, and the property of the priests.
  • If a man bought a field, which was not his family’s land, the rules were a bit different. Basically, everything is the same, except that in the Year of Jubilee, the land would revert back to the original family from which it originated.
I wouldn’t have thought of this last part, but it makes sense. Since all land was supposed to revert to its original family, in the Year of Jubilee, it means that you couldn’t permanently dedicate bought land to the LORD; you could only temporarily dedicate it, until the Year of Jubilee.

So far, the rules are about dedicating things to the LORD, but what about things that already belong to the LORD?

  • The Israelites weren’t allowed to dedicate the firstborn of an animal, since the firstborn already belonged to the LORD.
  • For the “clean” animals—the ones that were acceptable as sacrifices—there are no further rules; they were to be sacrificed, as outlined in other chapters.
  • For the “unclean” animals, the person was to pay its set value. Or, he could redeem the animal, by adding a fifth to its value.
  • A tenth of everything produced from the land was to belong to the LORD. It could be redeemed, by adding a fifth to its value.
  • Similarly, a tenth of every herd and flock belonged to the LORD.

Thoughts

I just wish I understood the rules in this chapter better, so that I could write something intelligent here.

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