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%.

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