Leviticus 27:1-3, “Now the Lord spoke to Moses (according to verse 34 this was also from Mount Sinai), saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the Lord, according to your valuation, if your valuation is of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old, then your valuation shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary.”
Up front Leviticus 27 is one of the more challenging sections to unpack for one reason: There is very little written on this chapter. Sadly, burn out become a significant factor.
You see by this point in most expositional studies of what is a difficult and cumbersome book the Bible teacher is ready to be done and move on to something else. Seriously, most audio commentaries you’ll find end up tagging this chapter onto the last one. If you doubt me, take some time this week to see how much commentary you can find on Leviticus 27!
From my perspective I think this is an unforced error. Aside from my desire to finish our series as strong as we began, it’s a fact any chapter containing 34 verses of God’s Word demands our attention. Aside from this, what many fail to see and what I hope to articulate this morning is how relevant and applicational this subject matter is in our day-in-age.
Broadly speaking, in Leviticus 27 God places a practical evaluation or monetary value on a person’s generosity. For example, let’s say you were moved to give a material possession to the Lord (an animal, home, or a field). The problem was that God was not exactly into stockpiling resources or having the priest maintain these type of offerings.
In this situation where you wanted to give a possession to God, the understanding was that you’d immediately buy it back so that the gift had a practical benefit towards the ministry. As we work our way through this text you’ll see in verses 9-13 God will address animals, in verses 14-15 He’ll address houses, and in verse 16-25 the Lord will address land.
Beyond material possessions, verse two sets the stage for a dynamic whereby you felt inclined to dedicate yourself to the service of God or one of your children. While the gesture was noble and commendable, the problem for most within Israel centered on the fact you weren’t a Levite and were therefore excluded from much of the work itself.
In this situation — and we’ll see how several physical characteristics would be factored into the equation — an evaluation of what you were worth would be determined and instead of serving God at the Tabernacle you’d make a monetary donation to support priests.
Look back at verse 2… “When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the Lord according to your valuation.” The situation being described here presents a “person” being dedicated to the Lord — specially to spend their life in the service of the Lord.
A great example of this type of vow being made is found in 1 Samuel 1-2 when a barren woman named Hannah comes to the Tabernacle and prays for the Lord to grant her a son. 1 Samuel 1:10-11 we read, “And Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.’” Her son would be a Nazarite.
As the story unfolds God heard her prayer and granted a son she named Samuel. According to her vow, once Sammy was weaned, she brings him to the Tabernacle and gives him to the High Priest Eli to serve. 1 Samuel 2:18-21 tells us that “Samuel ministered before the LORD, even as a child, wearing a linen ephod. Moreover his mother used to make him a little robe, and bring it to him year by year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, ‘The LORD give you descendants from this woman for the loan that was given to the LORD.’ Then they would go to their own home. And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD.”
In our text the assumption and what will be addressed in the verses to follow is this person for whatever reason isn’t actually able serve the Lord at the Tabernacle. For some they weren’t Levites. In more extreme situations — like a post-exile Judaism where people are scattered around the world — it would have been impossible to fulfill this particular calling.
In this dynamic where you wanted to dedicate yourself to the Lord, but practically couldn’t a “valuation” was made determining what your service would have been worth “according to the shekel of the sanctuary.” Then instead of service a monetary offering would be made.
On a side note… If you hear anyone definitively tell you they know the precise value of the “shekel of the sanctuary” in this Old Testament context, they’re misinformed. While we know the “shekel” was an ancient currency based upon the weight of gold, silver, or copper, no one can really say for sure what the actual value was at this point in human history.
The first example of how this works is presented for us in verse 3, “If your valuation is of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old, then your valuation shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary.” If you were a “male” ranging in age from “20 up to 60” the monetary evaluation determined your service was worth “50 shekels.”
It’s worth noting the “valuation” was solely determined by potential productivity regarding physical labor. Things like a person’s social position or talent wasn’t considered at all.
Leviticus 27:4-8, “If it is a female, then your valuation shall be thirty shekels; and if from five years old up to twenty years old, then your valuation for a male shall be twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels; and if from a month old up to five years old, then your valuation for a male shall be five shekels of silver, and for a female your valuation shall be three shekels of silver; and if from sixty years old and above, if it is a male, then your valuation shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.
But if he (the person making this vow) is too poor to pay your valuation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall set a value for him; according to the ability of him who vowed, the priest shall value him.”
Quickly recapping… If you were a “male” the value of your service broke down as follows: A month old up to 5 — “5 shekels of silver”, ages 5 to 20 — “20 shekels”, 20 to 60 — “50 shekels”, and if you were over the age of 60 your valuation was “15 shekels.” If you were a “female” a month old up to 5 — “3 shekels of silver”, ages 5 to 20 — “10 shekels”, 20 to 60 — “30 shekels”, and if you were over the age of 60 your valuation was also “10 shekels.”
Because value was solely determined by physical productivity, it makes sense both age and gender would play a role. What’s interesting is that while these verses presented a set of general guideline for evaluations, in the situation were you were unable to pay these specific prices, “the priests” could “set a value according to the ability” of that person to pay.
The first relevant point of application is that God views supporting the ministry financially as being equal to actually doing the work of the ministry! The Lord knew in His economy not everyone would be able to serve in a full time capacity or even capable. Amazingly, He created a dynamic where anyone could contribute and be apart of the work regardless.
In our New Testament context we know the Holy Spirit provides everyone gifts and abilities, but not all of these gifts serve the Church body in the same way. For example, the role of pastor / teacher is unique in that it demands an ample amount of time to study, pray, and prepare. The priest had a role in Israel, but they could only do this if the other 11 Tribes supported them. As God saw things one role wasn’t any more important than the other.
Another great example of this idea in motion is missions… You might have a heart for overseas missions, but presently aren’t able to quit your job, uproot your family, and go out into the mission field. Whether it be things like teenage kids or elderly parents that restrict your ability to travel into foreign lands, for some it simply might not be feasible.
And yet, what’s awesome about this particular passage is that it’s ok for you can still support the people who are able! You see everyone can be an equal apart of the ministry or mission by supporting ministers and missionaries. In God’s economy the person supporting the work will have an equal reward as those doing the work!
Leviticus 27:9-13, “If it is an animal that men may bring as an offering to the Lord, all that anyone gives to the Lord shall be holy. He shall not substitute it or exchange it, good for bad or bad for good; and if he at all exchanges animal for animal, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy.
If it is an unclean animal which they do not offer as a sacrifice to the Lord, then he shall present the animal before the priest; and the priest shall set a value for it, whether it is good or bad; as you, the priest, value it, so it shall be. But if he wants at all to redeem it, then he must add one-fifth to your valuation.”
When it came to the “animals” that were used “as an offering to the Lord” (lambs, goats, doves, pigeons, oxen, and bulls), because such gifts had a practical use in the Tabernacle they would be accepted and you didn’t have to purchase them back. The only stipulation to this dynamic was that if you set aside a specific animal to be given you couldn’t “exchange” that “animal for another” if something happened to an animal you were keeping.
Because “unclean animals” were absolutely useless around the Tabernacle for they could not be “offered as a sacrifice to the Lord” (examples would be horses or chickens), if you wanted to give one of these animals to the Lord “the priest would set a value for it” and you’d have to add 20% to that evaluation when you purchased the animal back.
Leviticus 27:14-15, “And when a man dedicates his house to be holy to the Lord, then the priest shall set a value for it, whether it is good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand. If he who dedicated it wants to redeem his house, then he must add one-fifth of the money of your valuation to it, and it shall be his.”
Since there were situations where a “house” could potentially have a use for the priests, such a gift could be accepted at face value. That said, if you wanted to retain that property, you’d have to pay whatever price the priest set as its value plus an additional 20%.
Leviticus 27:16-19, “If a man dedicates to the Lord part of a field of his possession, then your valuation shall be according to the seed for it. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. If he dedicates his field from the Year of Jubilee, according to your valuation it shall stand. But if he dedicates his field after the Jubilee, then the priest shall reckon to him the money due according to the years that remain till the Year of Jubilee, and it shall be deducted from your valuation. And if he who dedicates the field ever wishes to redeem it, then he must add one-fifth of the money of your valuation to it, and it shall belong to him.”
Regarding a person’s field… If you “dedicated to the Lord a part of a field” the valuation of the financial gift would be based upon what you were able to make from the harvest of that portion. For example, “a homer of barley seed” was to be “valued at fifty shekels of silver.” That said, if you ever decided to “redeem” the field back into your sole possession, you could do so by taking the normal valuation and adding another 20% on top of it.
Leviticus 27:20-21, “But if he does not want to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore; but the field, when it is released in the Jubilee, shall be holy to the Lord, as a devoted field; it shall be the possession of the priest.”
In the unique situation where for whatever reason a man “does not want to redeem the field or he’s sold it to another man,” when the Year of Jubilee rolls around which returned the land back to its original owner, the deed went to the priests. While the Levites were not given any land as a “possession,” these “devoted fields” would become the exception.
Leviticus 27:22-25, “If a man dedicates to the Lord a field which he has bought, which is not the field of his possession, then the priest shall reckon to him the worth of your valuation, up to the Year of Jubilee, and he shall give your valuation on that day as a holy offering to the Lord. In the Year of Jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to the one who owned the land as a possession. And all your valuations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs to the shekel.”
Again, God is covering all His bases… If you purchased a field and decided to dedicate it to the Lord, when the Year of Jubilee naturally returned the land back to its rightful owner, the priests would set an evaluation for the land you could pay in order to complete the offering.
When it comes to giving to the Lord material possessions there is an interesting application for our New Testament context… Obviously, there are some things you can donate that will meet a practical need within the ministry (mini-buses, toilet paper, beach houses). And yet, there are other things (broken down cars or old sofas) that would have a greater impact on the ministry if you simply sold them and donated the money.
In this set up God’s now going to list three things you couldn’t give and then repurchase back: (1) “Firstborn Animals.” (2) “Devoted Things.” (3) “Tithes!” Leviticus 27:26-27, “But the firstborn of the animals, which should be the Lord’s firstborn, no man shall dedicate; whether it is an ox or sheep, it is the Lord’s. (These animals were already set aside for the offerings. Now the exception…) And if it is a firstborn of the unclean animal, then he shall redeem it according to your valuation, and shall add one-fifth to it; or if it is not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to your valuation.”
Leviticus 27:28-29, “Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the Lord of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the Lord. No person under the ban, who may become doomed to destruction among men, shall be redeemed (those sentenced to capital punishment), but shall surely be put to death.”
In the Hebrew this word “devoted” can be translated as cursed thing. The idea is there were times when God would designated something to be utterly destroyed. In such a situation it was incumbent upon the people to obey the Lord and not attempt to circumvent things by giving a percentage back as an offering in spite of their blatant disobedience.
A perfect example of a “devoted offering” can be found in 1 Samuel 15. God commands King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Sadly, instead of being obedient, Saul kept back some of the spoils even sparing King Agag. When confronted by the Prophet Samuel, Saul says they “spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD.”
Samuel’s response, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying His voice? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
In our day this concept of the “devoted offering” could be applied to tithing to the church on income earned through unethical acts or through illegal means in an attempt to appease God. As if God was somehow ok with Tony Soprano shaking down people and running a strip club just because his wife Carmela gave a percentage to their Catholic Church!
Leviticus 27:30-33, “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.
(When herding a flock into the pen the sheep would literally pass “under a rob” in a single file line so that every tenth animal could be set aside for the Lord.) He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’”
Regarding “the tithe” or giving back to God a tenth of what He’s given to you — whether it be “of the seed of the land, fruit of the tree,” or “of the herd or flock” — these things were to be viewed by the people as God’s property and therefore “holy to the Lord.” Because the Tabernacle demanded sacrifices, there was no wiggle room when it came to clean animals.
That said… “If a man wanted to redeem any of his tithes” regarding the harvest — so let’s say you decided to withhold a tithe of your harvest in order to endure some type of crisis — this was permissible as long as you added 20% when you finally decided to give. While a loan made between Hebrew brethren had zero interest, borrowing from God required 20%!
Operating under the premise Ezra organized Leviticus to conclude with not only with these final three chapters with God speaking from Sinai as opposed to the Tabernacle but that he chose to end the book with this subject matter, something fascinating comes to the surface.
For 70 years Israel laid in ruins with the Hebrew people exiled throughout the Babylonian Empire. As we noted last Sunday this divine judgment had taken place largely because the people failed to obey virtually all of what God had said in the first 24 chapters of Leviticus!
By the time Ezra comes onto the scene 80 years earlier the Persian King Cyrus had already granted the Jews permission to turn to their homeland. In roughly 538 BC the first wave of around 50,000 exiles returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple.
Then in the year 458 BC Ezra would lead a second group numbering approximately 4,500 to beatify the Temple. It was at this point Ezra spearheads a spiritual revival of the people and in many ways re-institutes the Levitical procedures long forgotten. 10 years after this Nehemiah would lead a third wave with permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
For the minority of those exiles who returned the message of Leviticus was clear… In spite of their rebellion and judgment, they were still God’s people. In His grace He’d brought them back to the land restoring their rightful position. In response they needed to remember the essence of their relationship with Him was the Sacrifice He’d accept as atonement for sin.
And yet, I believe as Ezra was canonizing the Old Testament and organizing the writings of Moses into 5 individual books, he specially closes Leviticus with this chapter because the majority of the people still remained in exile. For those who couldn’t physically return to the land, Leviticus 27 provided relevant instructions how they could still contribute to the work.
Finishing out our travels in Leviticus… Leviticus 27:34, “These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.” For many of you you can now officially say you’ve read through the entire book of Leviticus!
It’s really interesting to me that in a book centered on holiness Leviticus ends with giving. You see God knew structuring the way His nation handled money was going to be paramount not only concerning the way they treated one other, but mostly how they related to Him. As Jesus rightly said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also!”
While it’s simply a truth not everyone has the time, ability, or calling to serve God in some kind of official capacity, we all have the ability to make money. The question then centers upon what we do with the resources God has provided? I’ve heard it said and I totally agree, “Money might be a terrible master, but it can be a wonderful servant.”
God specifically structured the Nation of Israel to revolve around the Tabernacle of meeting — the place He interacted with His people. Then He called out from amongst them the Levites commissioning them not to worry about their provisions, but to focus their energies on helping the people walk with Him. God then called everyone else to give of the things He’d given in order to insure the place of meeting and His servants could operate.
And yet, what’s fascinating about chapter 27 in particular is that while so much of what God has said about giving up to this point has been obligatory, He ends with something completely voluntary. Consider how everything discussed in this chapter from the dedicating of persons to the giving of property was first predicated by a free-willed expression of the individual. Nothing is mandated! All the Lord does is explain the right and wrong way we move forward when stirred to give as a pure response to all He’s given us!
Frankly, I can’t think of a more fitting climax to a book intending to establish The Precedent for Grace! As we close out this amazing book never forget the key to understanding Leviticus is not to view it as a list of things you should be doing, but to instead see it as God intentionally setting up the framework for the work Jesus would accomplish for you.
Every subject covered in Leviticus — whether it be these three chapters at the end where God spoke from Sinai or the 24 chapters before where He’s speaking from the Tabernacle — They all point to Jesus! Not only has Jesus paved the way for all of us to have a relationship with God, but it’s His work done on our behalf that naturally influences the way we live, order our lives, and treat each other! In Leviticus God establishes the precedent for grace as well as the way His grace really changes everything.
No Additional Links.