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Votive Offerings


The L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When a person makes an explicit vow to the L ord concerning the equivalent for a human being, 3the equivalent for a male shall be: from twenty to sixty years of age the equivalent shall be fifty shekels of silver by the sanctuary shekel. 4If the person is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels. 5If the age is from five to twenty years of age, the equivalent is twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female. 6If 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. 7And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the equivalent for a male is fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels. 8If any cannot afford the equivalent, they shall be brought before the priest and the priest shall assess them; the priest shall assess them according to what each one making a vow can afford.

9 If it concerns an animal that may be brought as an offering to the L ord, any such that may be given to the L ord shall be holy. 10Another shall not be exchanged or substituted for it, either good for bad or bad for good; and if one animal is substituted for another, both that one and its substitute shall be holy. 11If it concerns any unclean animal that may not be brought as an offering to the L ord, the animal shall be presented before the priest. 12The priest shall assess it: whether good or bad, according to the assessment of the priest, so it shall be. 13But if it is to be redeemed, one-fifth must be added to the assessment.

14 If a person consecrates a house to the L ord, the priest shall assess it: whether good or bad, as the priest assesses it, so it shall stand. 15And if the one who consecrates the house wishes to redeem it, one-fifth shall be added to its assessed value, and it shall revert to the original owner.

16 If a person consecrates to the L ord any inherited landholding, its assessment shall be in accordance with its seed requirements: fifty shekels of silver to a homer of barley seed. 17If the person consecrates the field as of the year of jubilee, that assessment shall stand; 18but if the field is consecrated after the jubilee, the priest shall compute the price for it according to the years that remain until the year of jubilee, and the assessment shall be reduced. 19And if the one who consecrates the field wishes to redeem it, then one-fifth shall be added to its assessed value, and it shall revert to the original owner; 20but if the field is not redeemed, or if it has been sold to someone else, it shall no longer be redeemable. 21But when the field is released in the jubilee, it shall be holy to the L ord as a devoted field; it becomes the priest’s holding. 22If someone consecrates to the L ord a field that has been purchased, which is not a part of the inherited landholding, 23the priest shall compute for it the proportionate assessment up to the year of jubilee, and the assessment shall be paid as of that day, a sacred donation to the L ord. 24In the year of jubilee the field shall return to the one from whom it was bought, whose holding the land is. 25All assessments shall be by the sanctuary shekel: twenty gerahs shall make a shekel.

26 A firstling of animals, however, which as a firstling belongs to the L ord, cannot be consecrated by anyone; whether ox or sheep, it is the L ord’s. 27If it is an unclean animal, it shall be ransomed at its assessment, with one-fifth added; if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold at its assessment.

28 Nothing that a person owns that has been devoted to destruction for the L ord, be it human or animal, or inherited landholding, may be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the L ord. 29No human beings who have been devoted to destruction can be ransomed; they shall be put to death.

30 All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the L ord’s; they are holy to the L ord. 31If persons wish to redeem any of their tithes, they must add one-fifth to them. 32All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the L ord. 33Let no one inquire whether it is good or bad, or make substitution for it; if one makes substitution for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy and cannot be redeemed.

34 These are the commandments that the L ord gave to Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.

26. Only the firstling of the beasts. Here a caution is interposed, that none should offer what is already the property of God. For since men are so greatly given to ostentation, and therefore in testifying their piety whitewash two walls, as the saying is, out of the same pot, God provides against this sin by forbidding the first-born to be offered to Him, since that would be to present stolen goods to Him. The sum is, that they should not, by consecrating to God what is already due to Him, steal from Him in their fictitious liberality what is consecrated and not their own. Nor let us be surprised at this law, because this ambition is almost natural to us all, to desire to lay God under obligation by the empty appearance of liberality, and therefore to seek for various grounds of boasting of religious duties, which, after all, are nought. And, undoubtedly, if this restraint had not been put upon the Jews, they would have aimed at the reputation of double zeal by this deceitful oblation, nor would they have scrupled, under the pretext of offering, to deprive God of what was His own.

30. And all the tithe of the land. In these words God shews that in assigning the tithes to the Levites, He ceded His own rights, inasmuch as they were a kind of royal revenue; and thus He bars all complaint, since otherwise the other tribes might have murmured on being unduly burdened. He therefore appoints the priests as His receivers, to collect in His name what could not be refused without impious and sacrilegious fraudulency. In the provision that, where the tithes are redeemed by a money payment, a fifth part should be added to their value, the object is not that the Levites should make a gain of the loss of others; but, because the owners of property craftily aimed at some advantage in this commutation of corn for money, frauds are thus prevented whereby something would be lost to the Levites by this deceptive exchange. On the same grounds He commands that the animals, whatever they might be, should be given as tithe, and does not permit them to be redeemed by money, since, if the choice had been free, no fat or healthy animal would have ever come to the Levites. Therefore, in this law a remedy was applied to avarice and meanness, and not without good cause; for if the proverb be true, that “good laws spring from evil habits,” 216216     See Tacitus Ann. 15:20. “Usu probatum est, patres conseripti, leges egregias, exempla honesta, apud bonos ex delictis aliorum gigni, etc." it was necessary that so covetous and ill-disposed a people should be restrained in the path of duty by the utmost severity. And although such careful provision was made for the Levites, yet there was scarcely any period in which they did not suffer from want, and sometimes they wandered about half-starved; nay, after the return from the Babylonish captivity, the memory of so great a blessing did not prevent a part of the tithes from being surreptitiously withheld from them; as God complains in Malachi 3:8. Whence it appears that it was not without purpose that the people were so imperiously enjoined to pay them.

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