The value of people’s vows (Lev 27:1-27:8)

“Yahweh spoke to Moses.  ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when a person makes an explicit vow to Yahweh concerning the equivalent for a human being.  The equivalent for a male from twenty to sixty years of age shall be fifty shekels of silver, by the sanctuary shekel.  If the person is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels.  If the age is from five to twenty years of age, the equivalent is twenty shekels for a male, and ten shekels for a female.  If the age is from one month to five years, the equivalent for a male is five shekels of silver, and for a female the equivalent is three shekels of silver.  If the person is sixty years old or over, then the equivalent for a male is fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.  If any cannot afford the equivalent, they shall be brought before the priest.   The priest shall assess them according to what each one making a vow can afford.”

What do you do when you made a vow, and then you find out that you cannot keep it?  This strange appendix tries to deal with this problem by putting a financial number on the value of the person who makes the vow.  In order to redeem your vow or get out of it, you would pay a fee to the sanctuary, using the sanctuary silver shekel.  However, as in most cases there are exceptions that can be brought to the priest, who would assess them according to what they could afford.  In fact, each age and sex had a different value, showing the importance of one group over another.  Here the values assigned by this section of Leviticus, according to what Yahweh said to Moses:

1)      Male – 20-60 = 50 shekels;

2)      Female – 20-60 = 30 shekels;

3)      Male – 5-20 = 20 shekels;

4)      Female – 5-20 =  10 shekels;

5)      Male – 1 month – 5 =5 shekels;

6)      Female – 1 month – 5 = 3 shekels;

7)      Male – over 60 = 15 shekels;

8)      Female – over 60 = 5 shekels;

A word about this pay scale equivalent, perhaps this is where the 3/5th rule in the USA constitution about slaves came from.  Women are worth 3/5 of men if they are under 5 years old and 20-60 years old.  However, they are worth less, only 1/2 if between 5 and 20, and only 1/3 if over sixty.  Age is the other discriminatory factor as the 20-60 year old male is so much more valuable than the younger or older male.  There is a clear financial value of women at between 30%-60% of the value of men.  This has persisted down to the present day. However, the age factor is larger, between 10%-40%.

The curses or punishments (Lev 26:14-26:46)

“But if you do not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes and abhor my ordinances so that you will not observe all my commandments, and you break the covenant, I in turn will do this to you.  I will bring terror on you, consumption, and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away.  You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.  I will set my face against you.  You shall be struck down by your enemies.  Your foes shall rule over you.  You shall flee even though no one pursues you. If in spite of this you will not obey me, I will continue to punish you again sevenfold for your sins. I will break your proud glory.  I will make your sky like iron and your earth like copper.  Your strength shall be spent to no purpose.  Your land shall not yield its produce.  The trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.”

The reverse is true also. If you do not obey Yahweh and his commandments, he will punish you here and now.  The following curses will be on you:

1)      Terror will be upon you;

2)      Consumption will visit you;

3)      Fever will waste your eyes;

4)      Life will slip away;

5)      You will sow your seed in vain;

6)      Your enemies shall eat your crop;

7)      You will be struck down my your enemies;

8)      Your foes shall rule over you;

9)      You shall flee even though no one is pursuing you;

10)  Yahweh will punish you sevenfold for your sins;

11)  Yahweh will break your proud glory;

12)  Yahweh will make your sky like iron;

13)  Yahweh will make your earth like copper;

14)  Your strength shall be spent to no purpose;

15)  You land shall not yield its produce;

16)  The trees of the land will not yield their fruit;

“If you continue hostile to me, and will not obey me, I will continue to plague you sevenfold for your sins.  I will let loose the wild animals among you.  They shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock.  They will make you few in number.  Your roads shall be deserted.”

If you continue you disobedience further evil shall come upon you:

1)      Yahweh will plague you sevenfold for your sins;

2)      Yahweh will let loose wild animals against you:

3)      They will destroy your children;

4)      They will destroy your livestock;

5)      You will be few in number;

6)      Your roads shall be deserted.

 “If in spite of these punishments you have not turned back to me, but continue hostile to me, then I too will continue hostile to you.  I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.  I will bring the sword upon you, executing vengeance for the covenant.  If you withdraw within your cities, I will send pestilence among you. You shall be delivered into enemy hands.  When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven.  They shall dole out your bread by weight.  Although you eat, you shall not be satisfied.”

1)      Yahweh will strike sevenfold;

2)      Yahweh will bring the sword against you;

3)      Yahweh will execute vengeance for the covenant;

4)      Yahweh will send pestilence among you;

5)      Yahweh will deliver you into enemy hands;

6)      You shall lack bread;

7)      You shall eat and not be satisfied.

“But if, despite this, you disobey me, and continue hostile to me, I will continue hostile to you in fury.  I in turn will punish you myself sevenfold for your sins.  You shall eat the flesh of your sons.  You shall eat the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars. I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols.  I will abhor you.  I will lay your cities waste.  I will make your sanctuaries desolate.  I will not smell your pleasing odors.  I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. You, I will scatter among the nations.  I will unsheathe the sword after you.  Your land shall be desolation.  Your cities shall be a waste.”

If you continue to disobey, Yahweh will continue to bring his sevenfold fury upon the Israelites with several punishments:

1)      You shall eat the flesh of your sons;

2)      You shall eat the flesh of your daughters;

3)      Yahweh will destroy your high places;

4)      Yahweh will cut down your incense altars;

5)      Yahweh will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols;

6)      Yahweh will  abhor you;

7)      Yahweh will lay your cities waste;

8)      Yahweh  will may your sanctuaries desolate;

9)      Yahweh will not smell your pleasing odor;

10)  Yahweh will devastate the land;

11)  Your enemies will be appalled at how bad it is;

12)  Yahweh will scatter you among the nations;

13)  Yahweh will unsheathe the sword against you;

14)  Your land shall be in desolation;

17)  Your cities will be a waste.

 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies.  Then the land shall rest and enjoy its Sabbath years.  As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were living on it.  As for those who survive, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies.  The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight.  They shall flee as one flees from the sword.  They shall fall even though no one pursues.  They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, even though none pursues.  You shall have no power to stand before your enemies.  You shall perish among the nations.  The land of your enemies shall devour you.  Those who survive shall languish in the land of your enemies. They shall languish because of the iniquities of their ancestors.

Your land will enjoy its Sabbath years because it is desolate.  Those who survived shall suffer also:

1)      They will be faint of heart;

2)      They will flee from the sword;

3)      They will fall even though no one pursues them;

4)      They will stumble over one another;

5)      They will have no power to stand against enemies;

6)      They will perish among the nations;

7)      They will be devoured by the land;

8)      They will languish in the land of their enemies.

 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me.  Moreover, they continued hostile to me, so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies.  If then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob.  I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham.  I will remember the land.  The land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its Sabbath years by lying desolate without them.  They shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances.  They abhorred my statutes.  Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them.  I am Yahweh their God.  But I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God.  I am Yahweh. These are the statutes and ordinances and laws which Yahweh established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses.”

All these curses, like the blessings, are for the here and now and not some after life promise or punishment.  They have sinned and they must suffer punishment or curses.  However there is redemption.  If they confess their iniquity and that of their ancestors, if they are humble and want to make amends, Yahweh will remember his covenant with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham and how he brought them out of Egypt.  Yahweh will not break his covenant with them.  This is a two way covenant.  Yahweh expects the Israelites to keep his commandments.  He will then keep his promise that he gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  There should be no confusion.  These are the commandments that Yahweh gave to Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.

The blessings (Lev 26:3-26:13)

“If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, I will give you your rains in their season.  The land shall yield its produce.  The trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  Your threshing shall overtake the vintage.  The vintage shall overtake the sowing.  You shall eat your bread to the full and live securely in your land.  I will grant peace in the land.  You shall lie down and none shall make you afraid.   I will remove dangerous animals from the land.  No sword shall go through your land. You shall give chase to your enemies.  They shall fall before you by the sword.  Five of you shall chase to a hundred.  A hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand.  Your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.  I will look with favor upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you.  I will maintain my covenant with you.  You shall eat old grain long stored.  You shall have to clear out the old to make way for the new.  I will place my dwelling in your midst.  I shall not abhor you.  I will walk among you.  I will be your God.  You shall be my people.  I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more.  I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”

If you follow all Yahweh’s statutes and commandments faithfully, blessings will come to you.  You will have a happy existence if you follow Yahweh’s commands since Yahweh is a strong God who has already done things for you.  Here are your blessings:

1)      Rains will come in their season;

2)      The land shall yield good produce;

3)      The trees of the field will yield their good fruit;

4)      Your trashing shall last beyond your vintage;

5)      The vintage shall last beyond your sowing;

6)      You shall eat your bread to the full;

7)      You will live securely in your land;

8)      You will have peace to the land;

9)      No one shall make you afraid;

10)  All dangerous animals will be removed;

11)  No one shall go through your land;

12)  You shall give chase to your enemies as they shall fall by the sword;

13)  5 of you will chase a 100;

14)  100 of you will chase 10,000;

15)  You will be fruitful and multiply;

16)  You will maintain my covenant with me;

17)  You shall eat old grain long stored up;

18)  Yahweh will live in your midst;

19)  Yahweh will not abhor you;

20)  Yahweh will  walk among you;

21)  Yahweh will be your God;

22)  You shall be Yahweh’s people;

23)  You will be slaves no more;

24)  Your yoke has been broken so that you will walk erect.

Conclusion (Lev 26:1-26:2)

“You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no carved images or pillars.  You shall not place figured stones in your land to worship at them.  I am Yahweh your God.  You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary.  I am Yahweh.”

Clearly, Yahweh is Yahweh.  Therefore there will be no idols, no carved images, no pillars, and no figured stones in your land where you worship at.  This last figured stones may be an admonition against the patriarchs who built stone altars for Yahweh.  You keep the Sabbath and worship at the sanctuary.

Relatives and slaves (Lev 25:35-25:55)

“If any of your kin fall into difficulties and become dependent on you, you shall support them.  They shall live with you as though resident aliens.  Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God.  Let them live with you.  You shall not lend them your money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit.  I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.”

If any of your relatives fall into difficulties and become dependent on you, you shall support them as though they were resident aliens.   You cannot take interest from them or profit from them while they are living and eating in your house.  Yahweh will provide.

If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves.  They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers.  They shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.  Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority.  They shall go back to their own family.  They shall return to their ancestral property.  They are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt.  They shall not be sold as slaves are sold.  You shall not rule over them with harshness, but shall fear your God.  As for your male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves.  You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land.  They may be your property.   You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.  These you may treat as slaves.  But as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.”

If any of your dependents want to sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves.  They can be hired or bound laborers until the Jubilee year.  Then you free them because they are God’s servants since he brought them out of Egypt.  You cannot sell them as slaves.  However, you may acquire male and female slaves from the nations around you and the aliens residing with you and their families.  The human slaves of other nations are treated like your property and your possessions for your children.  There is nothing wrong with slavery, just not for your own people. As for relatives, they can work for you, but not as slaves.

“If resident aliens among you prosper, and if any of your kin fall into difficulty with one of them and sell themselves to an alien, or to a branch member of the alien’s family.  Then after they have sold themselves they shall have the right of redemption.  One of their brothers may redeem them, or their uncle, or their uncle’s son may redeem them.  Anyone of their family who is of their flesh may redeem them.  If they prosper they may redeem themselves.   They shall compute with the purchase the total from the year when they sold themselves to the alien until the jubilee year.  The price of the sale shall be applied to the number of years.  The time that they were with the owner shall be rated as the time of a hired laborer.  If many years remain, they shall pay for their redemption in proportion to the purchase price.  If few years remain until the jubilee year, they shall compute thus.  According to the years involved they shall make payment for their redemption.  As a laborer hired by the year they shall he be under the alien’s authority, who shall not rule with harshness over them in your sight.  If they have not been in any of these ways, they and their children with them shall go free in the jubilee year.   For to me the people of Israel are servants.  They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt.  I am Yahweh your God.”

If any of your relatives sells himself to a resident alien, a brother, uncle, or cousin should redeem him.  If he prospers, he should redeem himself.  The purchase price for redemption should be based on how close you are to the Jubilee Year, using the pay scale and concept of a hired laborer. Once you hit the Jubilee Year he would be free.  The children of Israel are true servants of Yahweh and no one else.

Exchange of property (Lev 25:23-25:34)

“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity.  For the land is mine.  With me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.”

There are rules about how property changes hands.  All the land belongs to Yahweh.  You are just aliens and tenants on the land that you hold.

“If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold.  If a man has no one to redeem it, but then prospers and finds sufficient means to do so, the years since its sale shall be computed and the difference shall be refunded to the person to whom it was sold.  The property shall be returned. But if there are not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee.  In the jubilee it shall be released.  The property shall be returned.”

If someone has a difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin should buy it back.  If there is no near relative, but the person later prospers, he can get his property back if he pays for what happened in the meantime.  Otherwise, he could wait for the Jubilee year when he gets his property back.  It seems to be me that there might be a lot of strange transactions in the years leading up to the Jubilee year.

“If anyone sells a dwelling house in a walled city, it may be redeemed  until a year has elapsed since its sale.  The right of redemption shall be one year.  If it is not redeemed before a full year has elapsed, a house that is in the walled city shall pass in perpetuity to the purchaser, throughout the generations.  It shall not be released in the jubilee.  But houses in villages that have no walls around them shall be classified as open country.  They may be redeemed.  They shall be released in the jubilee.” 

 There are different rules for those living in walled cities.  A dwelling house in a walled city can be redeemed within a year.  After that, this house is then exempt from the Jubilee redemption.  After one year the house goes in perpetuity to the purchaser.  On the other hand, houses in villages that have no walls around them are classified as open country.  They are released in the Jubilee year.   A house in a city is yours forever when you own it for over a year, but in the country area, the purchase can be reversed in the Jubilee year.

“As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites shall forever have the right of redemption of the houses in the cities belonging to them.  Such property as may be redeemed from the Levites, houses sold in a city belonging to them, shall be released in the jubilee.  The houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel.  But the open land around their cities may not be sold.  That is their possession for all time.”

The Levite houses in their cities can be redeemed at any time, as well as during the Jubilee year.   However, the open land around their cities may not be sold for that is a perpetual possession.

Divine guarantee (Lev 25:20-25:22)

“Should you ask, ‘what shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’  I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will yield a crop for three years.  When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating from the old crop.  Until the ninth year, when its produce comes in, you shall eat the old.”

Of course, they were worried about what to eat during this double Sabbath.  Yahweh said that he would bless them so that the 6th year harvest would last until the 9th year.  Don’t worry, be happy and enjoy your Sabbath year and Jubilee year.