Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Dues. The position which this chapter holds after the formal conclusion, Lev 26:46, suggests that it is of a supplementary character. There seems, however, no reason to doubt its Mosaic origin.
Rather, When a man makes a special vow which concerns thy valuation of persons to Yahweh, if thy estimation shall be of the male, etc. The expression "thy estimation" is addressed either to Moses or to the priest Lev 27:12 : it denoted a legal valuation. The vow of a person was perhaps most frequently made in cases of illness or danger, under the impulse of religions feeling, either in the way of thankfulness for blessings received, or of supplication for something desired. A man might dedicate himself, his wife, his child, or his bondservant. This might have been an old custom; but the Law ordained that he who had taken such a vow should pay a sum of money to the sanctuary, determined according to the age and sex of the person.
The relative values of the persons appear to be regulated according to an estimate of the probable value of their future work:
Ages Male Female From a month to five years of age 5 shekels 3 shekels From five years to twenty of age 20 shekels 10 shekels From forty years to sixty of age 50 shekels 30 shekels Sixty years of age and older: 15 shekels 10 shekels
As regards the shekel of the sanctuary, see Exo 38:24 note.
If he be poorer than thy estimation - Too poor (to pay) thy valuation. Compare Lev 27:7, Lev 27:11.
Sanctify - i. e. vow to devote. This law relates to houses in the country Lev 25:31, which were under the same general law as the land itself, with a right of redemption for the inheritor until the next Jubilee. See Lev 27:17-19. For houses in walled towns the right of redemption lasted for only one year Lev 25:29.
Some part of a field of his possession - Rather, a part of the land of his inheritance.
The seed thereof - i. e. the quantity of seed required to sow it properly. Thus the value of about 5 1/2 bushels (an homer) was about 6 pounds, 9 shillings, 2d. (50 shekels. See Exo 38:24.)
Devoted - See Lev 27:28 note.
On the shekel and the gerah, see Exo 30:13, note; Exo 38:24, note.
Devoted thing - The primary meaning of the Heb. word חרם chērem is something cut off, or shut up. Its specific meaning in the Law is, that which is cut off from common use and given up in some sense to Yahweh, without the right of recal or commutation. It is applied to a field wholly appropriated to the sanctuary Lev 27:21, and to whatever was doomed to destruction Sa1 15:21; Kg1 20:42. Our translators have often rendered the word by "cursed," or "a curse," which in some places may convey the right sense, but it should be remembered that the terms are not identical in their compass of meaning (Deu 7:26; Jos 6:17-18; Jos 7:1; Isa 34:5; Isa 43:28, etc. Compare Gal 3:13).
Of man and beast - This passage does not permit human sacrifices. Man is elsewhere clearly recognized as one of the creatures which were not to be offered in sacrifice Exo 13:13; Exo 34:20; Num 18:15.
Therefore the application of the word חרם chērem to man is made exclusively in reference to one rightly doomed to death and, in that sense alone, given up to Yahweh. The man who, in a right spirit, either carries out a sentence of just doom on an offender, or who, with a single eye to duty, slays an enemy in battle, must regard himself as God's servant rendering up a life to the claim of the divine justice (compare Rom 13:4). It was in this way that Israel was required to destroy the Canaanites at Hormah (Num 21:2-3; compare Deu 13:12-18), and that Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord Sa1 15:33. In all such instances, a moral obligation rests upon him whose office it is to take the life: he has to look upon the object of his stroke as under a ban to the Lord (compare Deu 20:4; Gal 3:13). Therefore, there can be neither redemption nor commutation.
It is evident that the righteousness of this law is not involved in the sin of rash or foolish vows, such as Saul's Sa1 14:24 or Jephthah's Jdg 11:30.
And it seems hardly needful to add that sacrifice, as it is represented both in the Law and in the usage of the patriarchs, is something very different from consecration under a ban, though a tiring to be sacrificed might come under the designation of חרם chērem in its wider sense. The sacrifice was always the offering up of the innocent life of a creature chosen, approved, and without spot or blemish.
Whatsoever passeth under the rod - According to rabbinical tradition, the animals to be tithed were enclosed in a pen, and as they went out one by one at the opening, every tenth animal was touched with a rod dipped in vermilion. Compare the margin reference.
For a more full explanation of what relates to tithes, see the margin reference and Gen 14:20; Deu 14:22, Deu 14:28.