Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. Estimation. Hebrew is obscure, “Whoever has separated, or made a singular vow; the souls to the Lord according to thy estimation.” (Calmet) — Septuagint, “shall vow as it were the price of a soul to the Lord.” (Haydock) — The person or the beast shall belong to the Lord; but if it be redeemed, the priests shall fix a price, according to the following regulations. Whatever was vowed must be subject to these rules, or it shall remain for the service of the altar. The priests may sell it, if it be an impure animal. Those which were fit for sacrifice, were to be immolated, ver. 9, &c. No change of them was allowed, lest a worse should ever be substituted for a better; (Calmet) and because God is better pleased with things that are offered to him by vow. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Fifth. The parents might make a vow of their children. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. The estimation. Hebrew is pointed improperly, “thy estimation;” for the price was fixed already. The priest had leave to reduce it only in favour of the poor. (Houbigant) See ver. 2, and following.
Ver. 13. That offereth it. This addition of the Vulgate shews, that if any other purchased the animal, he would not have to give a fifth part more than the value. That only concerned the person who had made the vow, to punish him for his inconstancy, and that he might not have a desire to get possession again of what he had once consecrated to the Lord. If the beast was valued at 40 sicles, he would therefore have to pay 50. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. House. The Rabbins say this fifth part went towards repairing the temple. We may suppose it was laid on to indemnify the priests, for the loss which they sustained by selling a house, or a field, (ver. 16,) to the former owner; since if any other had purchased them, the priests would have been able to sell them again at the return of every jubilee. At that period, even the former proprietor would not obtain a title to possess them for ever; (ver. 21,) and therefore he would not need to pay any more than the stated value. (Tostat) (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Possession, or inheritance. If he had only purchased the field, he could not, by his vow, transfer the property of it to the priests beyond the year of jubilee, ver. 22. — Seed, not of the produce, which is uncertain. The goodness of the soil must also be considered. — Silver: which rent must be paid every year, except on those of rest, when the earth was not cultivated. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Consecrated. Hebrew, “a field of anathema,” devoted and separated from common uses for ever to the Lord. (Haydock) — Priests. They were bound to sell it from one jubilee to another to some of the same tribe, to which the person, who vowed it, had belonged. (Menochius) — In the new law, religious people often consecrate themselves and their effects to the service of God; and it would be a sacrilege to alienate them from such pious uses to any thing profane. They are anathéma, a deposit of offering to the Lord; while those who violate them, are anathema, accursed. (Haydock) (Tirinus)
Ver. 25. Obols. Hebrew, “gerah.” which were worth 1d.-2687; so that a sicle amounts to 2s. 3d.-375. (Arbuthnot.)
Ver. 26. First-born. Septuagint add “of beasts.” Men, though belonging to the Lord on that title already, (Exodus xiii. 2,) might still be more particularly consecrated to him by vow, as Samuel was. (Calmet) — A vow must be concerning some greater good to which we are not otherwise bound. Such vows are agreeable to God, and can never be broken without sin. See Genesis xxxi. 13 and 1 Timothy v. 12. (Worthington)
Ver. 27. Unclean, either on account of some blemish, or because it is of those species which cannot be sacrificed; such as the horse, camel, &c., which might nevertheless be vowed to the Lord, and sold for the benefit of his priests. — By thee. Moses and the succeeding priests. Many manuscripts read, with the Septuagint and Chaldean, “by him,” leaving the matter to the person’s conscience; but the printed Hebrew and Vulgate agree. (Calmet)
Ver. 28. Devoted. Hebrew, “anathema,” different from the other vows. In this case all that had life was slain, (or consecrated to God; Haydock) houses were demolished, the land belonged to the priests for ever, so that they could only let it out to laymen for a certain rent. Moses thus devoted the Amalecites to destruction; (Exodus xvii. 14) and Saul had orders to put in execution what he had denounced, 1 Kings xv. It is doubtful whether people could thus devote their children and slaves. Most authors suppose, that it was necessary that God or the nation at large should pronounce such a sentence, as was done with respect to Achan, Josue viii. See Numbers xxi. 2 and Judges xi. 31. (Calmet)
Ver. 29. Die. Grotius says, only public enemies and deserters could be thus devoted. Other men and women were only consecrated for ever to the divine service. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 30. Tithes. Abraham and Jacob paid tithes, out of devotion, Genesis xiv. and xxviii. 22. Moses first made a law on this subject, which began to be in force when the Hebrews had obtained quiet possession of Chanaan. The people paid them more exactly when they were determined to keep God’s law, and had pious princes at their head, 2 Paralipomenon xxxi. 5. At other times they were very negligent, Malachias iii. 10. This forced Esdras to appoint inspectors, Namnim, to collect them. The Pharisees affected a degree of exactitude in this respect, (Luke xi. 42 and Matthew xxiii. 23,) paying what some Jews do not suppose to be necessary, though our Saviour says it was. Since the destruction of the temple the Jews pay none. The first-fruits and tithes of wheat, barley, figs, raisins, olives, pomegranates, and dates, were required, though it be not certain what quantity of the first-fruits was given; some say between the 40th and the 60th part of the produce. Wine and wool were also to be offered. The tithes were taken after the first-fruits and the heaved oblations (thorume) were paid. They belonged to the Levites, and these gave a tithe to the priests, Numbers xviii. 28. See chap. xix. 24. The Eastern kings required a tithe of their subjects, for the support of their families, 1 Kings viii. 15. God does the like, Malachias iii. 10. The Persians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, and even the Arabs and Scythians, religiously paid their tithes in honour of their false gods. See Cyrop. iv. and Q. Curtius iv. 2.; Herodotus ii. 135.; Pliny, [Natural History?] xii. 14.; Mela. ii. 5, &c. The Romans often consecrate the tithes of their spoils to Hercules, as the Carthaginians did also. The Scythians sent them to Apollo. (Solin 27, &c.) (Calmet) — Scaliger and Amama dispose the tithes, and the oblations of the Hebrews, in the following order. Supposing a person’s annual produce amount to 6000 bushels, an oblation (thorume) of at least 100 was to be made to the priests: out of the remaining 5900, a first tithe of 590 belonged to the Levites, out of which they paid 59 to the priests. The residue, of 5310 bushels, paid a second tithe of 531, to be consumed in feasts in the temple, (a custom which the ancient Christians imitated in their love-feasts, called agape; Calmet) The original produce was thus reduced to 4779 bushels; and both the tithes amounted to 1121 and the oblation to 100. The thorume consisted of flour dressed, and of oil, wine (Amama) and wool, (Calmet) to be given to the priests on the feast of Pentecost, chap. xxiii. 15. It could not be less than the 60th part of the produce, (Ezechiel xlv. 13.) and it was necessary to pay it before any could be used in the family. Hence these oblations are often called first-fruits, and have been confounded with those sheaves which were to be offered at the beginning of harvest. (Amama)
Ver. 31. Of them. When the distance from Jerusalem was great, so that a person judged it more convenient to sell his tithes, and with the money purchase more for a feast in Jerusalem, (which the Rabbins call Zudui, Charisterion, grace or thanksgiving) he had to pay something additional, 12, for example, instead of 10. (Scaliger)
Ver. 32. Rod; on which was some red colouring, to mark the tenth animal as it passed through a narrow gate. If it was proper for sacrifice, its blood was poured out around the altar, and its flesh was returned to the giver. If it could not be offered in sacrifice, it was slain. The priest received none of the victim, no more than the paschal lamb. (Outram, sac. i. 11.) But a feast was made of flesh for the person’s friends, and he gave a portion to the poor and to the Levites. — The Lord, as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, in which the greatest part of the victim is consumed by the person who offers it. The priests have but a small share, chap. iii. (Calmet)
Ver. 34. Sinai. The laws specified in the ten first chapters of the following book, were given here also. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Of vows and tithes.
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, *saying:
2 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: The man that shall have made a vow, and promised his soul to God, shall give the price according to estimation.
3 If it be a man from twenty years old unto sixty years old, he shall give fifty sicles of silver, after the weight of the sanctuary:
4 If a woman, thirty.
5 But from the fifth year until the twentieth, a man shall give twenty sicles: a woman ten.
6 From one month until the fifth year, for a male shall be given five sicles: for a female three.
7 A man that is sixty years old, or upwards, shall give fifteen sicles: a woman ten.
8 If he be poor, and not able to pay the estimation, he shall stand before the priest: and as much as he shall value him at, and see him able to pay, so much shall he give.
9 But a beast, that may be sacrificed to the Lord, if any one shall vow, shall be holy,
10 And cannot be changed, that is to say, neither a better for a worse, nor a worse for a better. And if he shall change it: both that which was changed, and that for which it was changed, shall be consecrated to the Lord.
11 An unclean beast, which cannot be sacrificed to the Lord, if any man shall vow, shall be brought before the priest:
12 Who judging whether it be good or bad, shall set the price:
13 Which if he that offereth it will give, he shall add above the estimation, the fifth part.
14 If a man shall vow his house, and sanctify it to the Lord, the priest shall consider it, whether it be good or bad, and it shall be sold according to the price which he shall appoint.
15 But if he that vowed, will redeem it, he shall give the fifth part of the estimation over and above, and shall have the house.
16 And if he vow the field of his possession, and consecrate it to the Lord, the price shall be rated according to the measure of the seed. If the ground be sowed with thirty bushels of barley, let it be sold for fifty sicles of silver.
17 If he vow his field immediately from the year of jubilee that is beginning, as much as it may be worth, at so much it shall be rated.
18 But if some time after: the priest shall reckon the money according to the number of years that remain until the jubilee, and the price shall be abated.
19 And if he that had vowed, will redeem his field, he shall add the fifth part of the money of the estimation, and shall possess it.
20 And if he will not redeem it, but it be sold to any other man, he that vowed it, may not redeem it any more;
21 For when the day of jubilee cometh, it shall be sanctified to the Lord, and as a possession consecrated pertaineth to the right of the priests.
22 If a field that was bought, and not of a man’s ancestors’ possession, be sanctified to the Lord,
23 The priest shall reckon the price according to the number of years, unto the jubilee: and he that had vowed, shall give that to the Lord.
24 But in the jubilee, it shall return to the former owner, who had sold it, and had it in the lot of his possession.
25 All estimation shall be made according to the sicle of the sanctuary. *A sicle hath twenty obols.
26 The first-born, which belong to the Lord, no man may sanctify and vow: whether it be bullock, or sheep, they are the Lord’s.
27 And if it be an unclean beast, he that offereth it shall redeem it, according to thy estimation, and shall add the fifth part of the price. If he will not redeem it, it shall be sold to another, for how much soever it was estimated by thee.
28 *Any thing that is devoted to the Lord, whether it be man, or beast, or field, shall not be sold, neither may it be redeemed. Whatsoever is once consecrated, shall be holy of holies to the Lord.
29 And any consecration that is offered by man, shall not be redeemed, but dying shall die.
30 All tithes of the land, whether of corn, or of the fruits of trees, are the Lord’s, and are sanctified to him.
31 And if any man will redeem his tithes, he shall add the fifth part of them.
32 Of all the tithes of oxen, and sheep, and goats, that pass under the shepherd’s rod, every tenth that cometh shall be sanctified to the Lord.
33 It shall not be chosen neither good nor bad, neither shall it be changed for another. If any man change it: both that which was changed, and that for which it was changed, shall be sanctified to the Lord, and shall not be redeemed.
34 These are the precepts which the Lord commanded Moses, for the children of Israel, in Mount Sinai.
1: Year of the World 2514.
25: Exodus xxx. 13.; Numbers iii. 47.; Ezechiel xlv. 12.
28: Josue vi. 17. and 25.