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1 And Yahweh spake unto Moses, saying,

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

A man might make "a singular vow" concerning anything not already under divine claim. He might "sanctify to God" anything under his control: himself; an animal (clean or unclean); a house; a field; or part of a field...

He might not consecrate the firstborn of any beast, because that was already the Lord's, nor for the same reason could he consecrate "the tithe of the land, whether seed or fruit", Any object lawfully consecrated to God might be purchased back again on payment of a sum to be fixed according to what might be called the tariff of the tabernacle.

In that case, the money paid was reckoned as the thing that had been consecrated. This was a convenient arrangement both for the man making the vow, and the priests into whose hands the consecrated things might come for administration. It might often happen that a thing given to God might be essential to the proper working of a man's affairs; or that it might not be capable of being turned to any use in the hands of the priests. A commutation in money relieved the transaction in such cases from its embarrassments, while at the same time preserving the principle of the inviolability of vows.

The same merciful adjustability was shown in carrying out the assessment of the value made by the priests in cases of commutation. If it happened in the redemption of a man's own person that the priest put a higher value on him than the man could pay, the priest was directed to reduce the assessment in harmony with what he might ascertain to be the man's ability to pay. *

3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from 20 years old even unto 60 years old, even thy estimation shall be 50 shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.

Male; higher redemption value commanded

4 And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be 30 shekels.

Less for a female on account of her inferior status (Eve being first in the transgression).

5 And if it be from 5 years old even unto 20 years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

6 And if it be from a month old even unto 5 years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male 5 shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be 3 shekels of silver.

7 And if it be from 60 years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be 15 shekels, and for the female 10 shekels.

Persons sanctifying or separating themselves to the Lord could be redeemed by a money payment fixed by age, according to the following scale :-

[Male] [Female]

From 1 month to 5 years 5 shekels,, 3 shekels

,, 5 years to 20 years 20 ,, 10 ,,

,, 20 years to 60 years 50 ,, 30 ,,

,, 60 years and over 15 ,, 10 ,, *

9 And if it be a beast, whereof men bring an offering unto Yahweh, all that any man giveth of such unto Yahweh shall be holy.

10 He shall not alter it, nor change it, a good for a bad, or a bad for a good: and if he shall at all change beast for beast, then it and the exchange thereof shall be holy.

If the consecrated thing was "a beast, whereof men bring an offering to the Lord", it was to be neither altered, changed, nor redeemed. In case of any attempt to substitute the consecrated thing by an inferior animal, both the consecrated thing and the exchange were to be impounded. *

20 And if he will not redeem the field, or if he have sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed any more.

21 But the field, when it goeth out in the jubile, shall be holy unto Yahweh, as a field devoted; the possession thereof shall be the priest's.

From v20 The return of the land does not apply in the Jubilee year - the original owner by inheritance has despised their birthright - the land becomes the inheritance of the sanctuary.

But an unclean beast [v11-13], or a house [v14], could be redeemed by paying a fifth over and above the valuation put upon them by the priest; or if it was a field or part of a field dedicated after the year of jubilee: if not redeemed before the next jubilee, or if sold to another man, then at the next jubilee, it went into the hands of the priests, as a field holy to the Lord for ever. But if redeemed, it was to be resumed by the original possessor at the year of jubilee. *

28 Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto Yahweh of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto Yahweh.

That which was devoted belonged exclusively to Yahweh...most holy ie typifying the incorruptible state, total absorption into the divine will.

29 None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death. [If he tries to recover any devoted thing]

Slight ambiguity in the AV rendering here. It is not the devoted thing being 'put to death' - this could not apply to a devoted field for instance.

The intended meaning is that if a man attempted to recover ownership of that which he had devoted to Yahweh, he was to be put to death.

The revised version rendering is clearer

v29 None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death. (If he tries to recover any devoted thing)

The marginal note in the Amplified version supports this explanation: 'Anyone who kept for himself something that had been "devoted" or placed under a ban, placed himself under a sentence of death'.

So in Jepthah's case, Jepthah's daughter was devoted becoming Yahweh's exclusive possession (a living sacrifice)...this was the required alternative to the burnt offering following the impetuous and careless vow offered by Jepthah. 

Had he failed to perform his vow and sought instead to recover his daughter to the family home, his life would be forfeit according to this law.

30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is Yahweh's: it is holy unto Yahweh.

The Law saw to it that those who occupied the Covenant Land should be under no illusions from the very outset as to the moral obligations of their tenancy, or as to its conditional character. God had promised "I will bring you in unto the land ... and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord". The terms of the promise were significant: "I will give it you". There was no question at all of the nation's possessing a right to it: it was a gift. The Law, in characteristic fashion, employed a variety of devices in order to bring this fact home to the people. ..

......The Levites had, like others, to eat in order to live: they also needed homes in which to dwell. The Law consequently made special arrangements to cater for their material needs, first in the tithing (and related) laws, and secondly in the allocation of special cities to the Levites. We shall find, as we now examine these, that, though they were primarily practical in character, they were also designed to educate Israel in the things of God, and thus served a dual purpose like so much else in the Law.


The Levites did the Israelites' work for them in the service of the Sanctuary. So the rule was, "Behold, I have given the children of Le vi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for the service which they serve" (Num. 18: 21). It is reasonable to suppose that this toll upon the resources and income of the people was an annual levy, but they had to attend the Sanctuary to present it no more than once every three years (Deut. 14: 28; 26: 12).

It was surrendered as "a heave offering" (i.e., as something made over to God as His ownNum. 18 : 24). They were therefore not to begrudge the loss of it, but to see in the surrender of it a symbolic surrender of themselves to God. "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or ofthe fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord" (Lev. 27: 30). So also with a man's cattle: "Concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord" (Lev. 27: 31-33).

To cater for problems of distance and transport (and, no doubt, also to some extent of preserving perishable produce), provision was made for the redemption of the tithe in the case of both field-produce and animals. But to stress the absoluteness of God's claim, and the fact that that claim was really upon the tithe itself and not upon its cash value, redemption could only be effected by the payment of the actual cash value, plus a fifth. *

Such an arrangement would act as a deterrent on the materially minded who would tend altogether to overlook the didactic purpose of the tithe laws; and to penalize those who might wish to discriminate against God by exchanging inferior animals for good when the count was made, it was decreed that both animals would then. be forfeit and the right to redeem revoked-"If he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed". Thus God brought home to the deceitful that He would not be deprived of what was rightfully His, and insisted for those who were reluctant to acknowledge it that "the tenth is holy unto the Lord".

Once again the part typified thewhole. The fact that this sample portion of his material wealth was to be automatically surrendered to God as holy, taught the Israelite to consider it his duty to dedicate the whole of his spiritual resources as likewise "holy to the Lord". Nothing was to be withheld. Every third year without fail was to be an occasion for reminding him of his duty.

"At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: and the Levite (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee) and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come and eat and be satisfied that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest" (Deut. 14 : 28-29). The nation's attitude to the Levite (and so, by natural association of thought, to all others in the same defenceless and precarious position) would thus reveal what was its attitude to God Himself - hence the law, "Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth" (Deut. 12: 19)'

Law and Grace Ch 11.

34 These are the commandments, which Yahweh commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.

On the face of it, it might seem as if the special consecrations sanctioned and almost invited under the law we have been considering, implied that, apart from these "singular vows" [v2], Israel were at liberty to live purely secular lives like the Gentile communities of modern "civilization", and that only persons under these "singular vows" were holy or religious persons. How far this was from being the case is well known to those who know the Scriptures. Israel as a whole was "an holy people unto the Lord their God" (Deut. 7:6).

How often is this urged in the course of the law as a reason for the various observances prescribed. "Thou art an holy people. Be ye holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44-45). The life of every Israelite was" holy to the Lord" from the first moment of his existence. He was introduced to the national covenant with God by circumcision on the eighth day. He was presented to the Lord on the day of his mother's ceremonial cleansing.

He was to be instructed daily from his earliest childhood in the history of their origin, and in the divine commandments and institutions, upon their conformity to which the continuance of God's favour depended. He required no special dedication to come under the obligation of holiness. He was to keep himself aloof from all the practices of the surrounding nations, and to make no alliances with them for fear of infection with their principles and their ways, which would lead Israel away from God...

...The individual sanctifications, therefore, which we have been considering in connection with "singular vows" were in the nature of special holiness, supplemental to the general holiness of the nation: like the introduction of special plants into an already well-kept garden. The nation was a typical nation in this respect--a prophecy of things to come, as well as a teacher for the time then present. God's purpose is that human life upon earth should be a thing of holiness and therefore of beauty and joy in all lands.

The Gospel is the glad tidings that He will bring this about. *

* Law of Moses Ch 31.