"Speak to the Israelites and say to them, 'When someone makes a special vow to the LORD involving the value of persons,
I. Speaking in modern phrase, we should describe this chapter as the act of the old law on the "singular vow." This vow was distinguished from certain other vows common among the Hebrews by the circumstance that it was susceptible of redemption. We can all understand that a consecration of a man's self or of a man's estate might be so hurriedly or so thoughtlessly made (as in the case of Jephtha with his daughter) that the author of them would find out afterwards how rashly the promise had been given, and how unequal he was to the keeping it, and so be anxious to compound by a money equivalent for the more spiritual service he found himself incompetent to bring. This kind of engagement is called in the Hebrew the "Neder," and is further marked by the character of singularity or wonderfulness; whereas towards the end of this very chapter we have another vow provided for, and called the "Cherem," which, being accompanied with some sort of anathema or execration, allowed no redemption. But now, observe very carefully the method appointed for gaining release from the obligation. Moses was to arbitrate according to what he considered the ability of the applicant to render. "Pay so much," would be the decision of the lawgiver, "and thou mayest go free." Rut the remarkable and the beautiful thing is, that even that measure of relief to the vow-maker was not absolutely or invariably final. Moses might overestimate the resources of the devotee for the buying himself off from the personal service of the Tabernacle — Moses might adjudge too heavy a ransom — and therefore the law provided a yet further and more merciful escape. The man was at liberty to appeal from Moses to the priest. Aaron was the priest. His very name stands for a representative before God of the wants and the sorrows and the sins of the people; and hence to transfer the adjudication of a debtor's affairs from Moses to his brother would, as you can all see, be the introduction of a perfectly new element into the ease to be tried. The appellant would be as poor in the presence of Aaron as he was in the presence of the former judge. He would also be as rich. And yet the very terms of the text are all but decisive on the fact that he would gain by carrying his cause before this new tribunal. Aaron would certainly — if we understand the law of the case — fix the money ransom at a lower figure. And the obvious reason is that Aaron, by virtue of his own calling, would make up for it — i.e., for the deficiency — in some other way, and in some way in which Moses could not make up for it. We must not pronounce with any authority on the exact method in which the priest would settle with the poverty of a debtor, and make it possible for him to go free whom his brother would have handed over to the full penalties of the vow, to do, perhaps, Gibeonites' work as a hewer of wood or a drawer of water. But the probability is that the remedy in Aaron's hands would be the appointment of some easy offering in which the priest would render him the aid of his sacred functions.
I. THE SINGULARITY LIES IN THE ELEMENT OF SEPARATION.
1. Hence the subject of the vow is styled a Nazarite.
2. Jesus was a Nazarite in spirit.
(1) He was not a Nazarite in the letter (Matthew 11:19). What a rebuke is here to the uncharitableness of certain extreme advocates of total abstinence!
(2) Yet in spirit was Jesus the Grand Antitype of all those anciently separated to God. Hence his dwelling at Nazareth was in the order of providence, and in fulfillment of prophecy, viz. that he should be called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23).
3. So are true Christians.
(2) Professors should strive to prove themselves worthy of both. All Christians, in their baptism and in their voluntary acceptance of Christ, are bound by sacred vows.
(3) The true merit of our modern abstainers from intoxicants who are so for the glory of God, is that of the Nazarite.
II. THINGS MAY BE CONSECRATED AS WELL AS PERSONS.
1. A beast might be the subject of a singular vow.
(1) The Law prescribes that should it be such as might be offered in sacrifice to God, it must not be exchanged (verses 9, 10). The reason appears to be that in this case it must be looked upon as a type of Christ, and for him there can be no substitute.
(2) But if unsuitable for sacrifice, then it becomes the priests'. In this case it became the subject of estimation, and from the value put upon it by the priest there is no appeal. This assumes that his valuation is just; and this certainly is true of his Great Antitype, who will be our Judge.
2. A house may be the subject of a singular vow.
(1) By means of dedicated things the sanctuary came to be the depository of great treasure (1 Kings 15:15).
(2) The riches of the gospel are principally spiritual. The houses which enrich the Church are saintly families.
3. A field might be the subject of a singular vow.
(1) The estimation of the land is by the quantity of seed sown in it, fifty shekels to the homer (verse 16). But the estimation was modified with respect to the law of the jubilee. The values of all earthly things are influenced by their relation to things heavenly.
(2) If the owner would redeem that he vowed to God, he must add a fifth to the estimated value. This was a general rule; and was instituted to discourage fickleness in relation to the service of God. - J.A.M.
When a man shall make a singular vow.I. THAT VOLUNTARY AND SPECIAL VOWS WERE PERMITTED BY THE LORD. VOWS should be made cautiously, deliberately, and, in most instances, conditionally; because further enlightenment, or changed conditions may render their fulfilment undesirable, unnecessary, or even impossible.
II. THAT VOWS WERE ACCEPTABLE TO THE LORD ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT WHICH PROMPTED THEM, AND IN WHICH THEY WERE PAID. When circumstances justified an Israelite repenting of his vow, it could be com-mutated or remitted, or some compensation offered in its stead. Jehovah would accept nothing that was recklessly or reluctantly presented. All adjustments and decisions were to be made according to the standards of the sanctuary, not according to human fallibility and caprice. Though a vow should not be literally performed, it must be perfectly fulfilled in respect to honourable intention and sacred fidelity. The state of heart, in the presentation of sacrifice, determined the value of the gift. This law has fever been repealed.
III. THAT FREEDOM OF CHOICE GIVEN IN THE FULFILMENT OF VOWS DID NOT CONTRAVENE THE PURPOSES OF THE LORD CONCERNING HIS WORK AND WORSHIP. The compensation paid in lieu of the original vow went to sustain the sanctuary services, and the Lord reserved to Himself some unalienable rights. Some things when devoted could not be withheld or withdrawn under any circumstances. He demanded a tenth of the produce of the land, and enforced His claim with righteous and unrelaxing rigour. Thus the preservation and perpetuation of Jehovah's worship were secured, and not left contingent upon the fickleness and uncertainty of human devotedness. Righteousness lies at the foundation of the Levitical economy; is the basis of natural and revealed religion. Leviticus is a witness to Christ and His gospel. In Him we have combined all that the law embodied — Altar, Sacrifice, Priest. Simplicity, and purity of aims, loftiest motives, deepest meanings, and incomparable excellence, lift the law and the gospel infinitely above all other religions of the world. The superiority to Jewish narrowness and bigotry, to human sinfulness and shortsightedness, demonstrate their divinity of origin, mutual dependence, absolute authority, undying vigour, and inestimable worth.
(F. W. Brown.)
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
II. Now it will hardly require any one of us to be very deep in controversial divinity to understand that if we are going to Christianise this type and turn it to the account of a modern religious experience, we shall be treading on most critical, though it may turn out very lawful and very instructive, ground. In a word, then, let us say we are now having no business whatever with an unregenerate man, nor any business whatever with the sacrifice of Christ as the only channel of his justification. The solitary topic of the text is a topic for men already in the covenant. Regeneration, and even justification, must be understood as settled already; and the vow-making of Leviticus must be looked upon wholly and solely as the service of the Christian, at peace with the law, but struggling with subsequent duties. Is there no difference? There is all the difference in the world between the terms on which the great God will take a man to heaven and the terms on which He will treat him when already in the covenant. In the former transaction the man may vow as he likes; he can pay nothing, and he is never asked to pay. In the latter transaction, where the former is finished, the man is commanded to pay, and struggles to pay; but, nevertheless, our point with you is that times without number he is unable to pay. The universal and the sad fact is that entire duty is what none of us can render. Even in the Church the law is too much for us. And what we have to do a hundred times a day, and all our lives long, is to fall back on the solitary and sufficient and omnipotent righteousness of Christ. We do greatly err if we limit the sacerdotal functions of Immanuel to the gaining us forgiveness at our conversion or the taking us to heaven when we die. We want a priest every moment; some one that is to furnish the balance of service and duty demanded by our profession, but never forthcoming. Those two men, Moses and Aaron, may be said to travel with the Christian every inch of his journey: Moses standing for what I ought to do and to be; Aaron standing for what I take refuge in as often as I come short or fall below, "If he be poorer than thy estimation." Which of us is not poorer than the Lawgiver's estimation? Can we pay what is due from us? We acknowledged, when first we believed, that we could do nothing of the kind. But remember that there is a power and a merit in the righteousness of Christ that continues at the disposal of the saint till the day of his death. Immanuel is certain to judge me, or, according to the text, to value me on other grounds than those of justice and of law: and the reason is that He has something to give me, something of His own. He is my Priest, and has business with the altar and the sacrifice, and under the gospel Christ is Himself all three. You who tell me my duty are only my lawgivers fresh from Mount Sinai. So is the Sermon on the Mount; so is my conscience; so is everything and every one, but Christ. But do you not see that if a Mediator, who for ever is holding up His righteousness on my behalf — if He values me my value alters? I am now not the bankrupt debtor who had not enough to pay, I am that debtor and some one else besides. I am a part of Christ. I bring now my poor offerings of duty, for I must still bring them, but I bring them covered with blood, and made worth something by blood. And, therefore, though I was not rich enough to pay what I owed as bare law sat and measured my resources, I can pay the uttermost farthing as soon as Jesus the Saviour adds His own Cross to my inheritance.
(C. H. Mackintosh.)
(J. Spencer.)- Incidents in Oriental history often read like parables. Men are moved by strange motives to do strange things; and the student from the west wanders in a maze of fancies and facts that are bewildering indeed. Thus it is that the early portion of a missionary's life in an eastern land teems with things that are unreal, and he is surrounded by fellow-men who seem in no true sense his fellows. There is so much that is inexplicable to him in their motives and conduct, that, until he gets a "clue to the maze," from a constant study of the religions that dominate their lives, his blunders are many, and sometimes even disastrous to his mission. The following is an instance of what I mean, and as it is recorded as an historical fact, will serve the purpose admirably: "Abd-al-Muttalib once vowed that if he should be so greatly blessed as to have ten sons, one should certainly be devoted to Allah. In process of time, the number was fulfilled, and the reluctant father gathered his offspring in the Kaaba, and cast lots for the one to be sacrificed. The lot fell upon Abdalla, the beautiful son of his old age. The sacrifical knife was solemnly prepared"; and, like Abraham, he stood ready for the awful deed. But the lad's sisters came to the rescue. They knew that the Arabs offered camels in sacrifice, and in their abounding grief they entreated their father to cast lots between their brother and ten of these valuable creatures. He consented; but, to their sorrow, the lot fell a second time on the favourite boy. The number of beasts was then doubled, and the lot cast again; but still it fell upon the lad. Time after time trial was made, as the sorrowing sisters and the troubled father became more and more desperate in their anxiety to save the dear one. At last one hundred camels had been proffered, and then, to their great joy, the lot fell upon the beasts. Abdalla was saved. God had set his own value upon the devoted boy, and when an equivalent was provided he was free. Arabs value highly the "ships of the desert"; for they are so essential to their mode of life. But a human being is more precious than many of them. This was recognised when ten camels were proffered; but until an unprecedented number had been Divinely sanctioned, the true worth of the man was not fully believed in. Thus, all the world over, man has had to learn the value of his fellow by degrees. Many have not learnt the lesson yet, because only man's Maker and Redeemer can aright estimate the worth of man, and reveal it to us. This He hath done in the gift of His Only-begotten Son, who took man's place. that the lot might fall upon Him as of more than equal value with the whole of our race.
(Memoir of Sir Francis Crossley.)
TopicsAccomplish, Anyone, Anything, Belonging, Clearly, Decision, Dedicate, Devoteth, Difficult, Equivalent, Estimation, Giving, Hast, Israelites, Makes, Maketh, Oath, Persons, Singular, Sons, Speak, Special, Utter, Valuation, Value, Valued, Values, Vow, Wonderful
Outline1. He who makes a singular vow must be the Lord's
3. The estimation of the person
9. of a beast given by vow
14. of a house
16. of a field, and the redemption thereof
28. No devoted thing may be redeemed
30. The tithe may not be changed
Dictionary of Bible ThemesLeviticus 27:1-7
LibraryList of Abbreviations Used in Reference to Rabbinic Writings Quoted in this Work.
THE Mishnah is always quoted according to Tractate, Chapter (Pereq) and Paragraph (Mishnah), the Chapter being marked in Roman, the paragraph in ordinary Numerals. Thus Ber. ii. 4 means the Mishnic Tractate Berakhoth, second Chapter, fourth Paragraph. The Jerusalem Talmud is distinguished by the abbreviation Jer. before the name of the Tractate. Thus, Jer. Ber. is the Jer. Gemara, or Talmud, of the Tractate Berakhoth. The edition, from which quotations are made, is that commonly used, Krotoschin, …
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
Circumcision, Temple Service, and Naming of Jesus.
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