Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Leviticus 27

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by thy estimation.

3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.

4 And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.

5 And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

6 And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.

7 And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

8 But if he be poorer than thy estimation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall value him; according to his ability that vowed shall the priest value him.

9 And if it be a beast, whereof men bring an offering unto the LORD, all that any man giveth of such unto the LORD shall be holy.

10 He shall not alter it, nor change it, a good for a bad, or a bad for a good: and if he shall at all change beast for beast, then it and the exchange thereof shall be holy.

11 And if it be any unclean beast, of which they do not offer a sacrifice unto the LORD, then he shall present the beast before the priest:

12 And the priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad: as thou valuest it, who art the priest, so shall it be.

13 But if he will at all redeem it, then he shall add a fifth part thereof unto thy estimation.

14 And when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy unto the LORD, then the priest shall estimate it, whether it be good or bad: as the priest shall estimate it, so shall it stand.

15 And if he that sanctified it will redeem his house, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be his.

16 And if a man shall sanctify unto the LORD some part of a field of his possession, then thy estimation shall be according to the seed thereof: an homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver.

17 If he sanctify his field from the year of jubile, according to thy estimation it shall stand.

18 But if he sanctify his field after the jubile, then the priest shall reckon unto him the money according to the years that remain, even unto the year of the jubile, and it shall be abated from thy estimation.

19 And if he that sanctified the field will in any wise redeem it, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be assured to him.

20 And if he will not redeem the field, or if he have sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed any more.

21 But the field, when it goeth out in the jubile, shall be holy unto the LORD, as a field devoted; the possession thereof shall be the priest's.

22 And if a man sanctify unto the LORD a field which he hath bought, which is not of the fields of his possession;

23 Then the priest shall reckon unto him the worth of thy estimation, even unto the year of the jubile: and he shall give thine estimation in that day, as a holy thing unto the LORD.

24 In the year of the jubile the field shall return unto him of whom it was bought, even to him to whom the possession of the land did belong.

25 And all thy estimations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall be the shekel.

26 Only the firstling of the beasts, which should be the LORD's firstling, no man shall sanctify it; whether it be ox, or sheep: it is the LORD's.

27 And if it be of an unclean beast, then he shall redeem it according to thine estimation, and shall add a fifth part of it thereto: or if it be not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to thy estimation.

28 Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD.

29 None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.

30 And 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 unto the LORD.

31 And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.

32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.

33 He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

34 These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.
In a break from the usual septomania, this chapter is brought to you by the number 3/5.

As we reach the 3/5 mark of the Pentateuch, we learn that women are worth 3/5 as much as a man. Hell, that's as much as a Southern slave!

They say the Bible is full of Good News, and this chapter is just that for women of a certain age: after sixty years old, women become worth a whole 2/3 of a man. That's pretty generous, given that women are twice as dirty as men.

Bargain hunters should note that from five-to-twenty years old, females are priced at a discounted rate of 1/2 a male. Smart shoppers compare!

What's unclear is what these valuations mean. Verse #2 speaks of a "singular vow," where "the persons shall be for the LORD by thy estimation."

Apparently, people can be conscripted to the Lord. It's not immediately obvious whether His holy price schedule represents just a buyback price, or a sale price as well. And the currency is silver, in denominations defined by the tabernacle.

In any event, if people are "poorer than thy estimation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall value him; according to his ability that vowed shall the priest value him." Assuming we're talking buyback, this is a blessing to the poor, that they can buy their way out of slavery to the Lord at a discounted rate. The Lord is merciful!

If, instead of a person, it's a critter of the offering type being proffered, it becomes de facto holy. It can't be modded (not even "legs off, fins on, simple metal tube through the back of his head so it could breath, bits of gold paint, make good"?) or replaced. And if you do replace it, both the original and the shemp become holy.

If it's an unclean, non-offering type of beast, the priest values it. And if you want to buy it back, you have to add a 20% premium (take my fifths, please!).

If you give houses to be holy (we can watch the white doves go), the priest estimates those, too, and the usual 20% buyback premium applies.

If you give the Lord a part of your field, the estimates are based on the seeds (unlike NCAA brackets, where the seeds are based on the estimates). An homer of barley seed (Mmm, barley seed! Hey, didn't that used to be "omer"?) is worth the price of a man (or 1.67 women).

There's fine print about transactions in and around jubilee years, yadda, yadda, yadda.

YHWH reminds us that firstborn animals are already his. You won't get any consecration credit for tendering those beasts.

As to what kind of profit or non-profit venture we're dealing with here, note that if you don't buy back an unclean beast, "then it shall be sold according to thy estimation." Are the other offerings, including perhaps the people, being sold like lemon squares at a bake sale?

Other translations of verse #28 ("Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD) clarify that some of these people, animals, and fields are "devoted" for destruction. These earmarked victims cannot be bought back, they "shall surely be put to death."

Whatever is tithed is holy, so holy that it can be bought back with a 20% vig.

Every tenth creature in a herd or flock becomes the Lord's holy property, as determined by when they pass under a rod. That's regardless of the quality of the designated beast. Again, if you try to replace it with another, you've just committed the replacement and the original.

And, for the last time in this Godforsaken (or at least frequently abominable) chapter, we hear that "These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai."

3 comments:

dr sardonicus said...

Happy Whatever-the-heck-it-is you call it around here.

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy said...

Thank you Dr. S., and a happy one of those to all who want to be happy today and in that way!

That inspires me to repost here a comment I made on Corrente, thanks!

Anonymous said...

As you seem to have noticed, the Holiness Code ended in the previous chapter, making this chapter somewhat peculiar, a bit like "and they all lived happily ever after. That's it. The end. Forever. On Tuesday, they went shopping...". The Holiness Code was originally independent, but when it was added into the bible, it was the Priestly Source's law code; the priestly source's narrative originally continued on after chapter 26 with the events after Sinai. However, later Aaronid writers kept adding their own laws onto the text, pushing the events after Sinai later and later; this chapter, like the chapters at the beginning of Leviticus, is one of those additions.

What this chapter refers to are promises to dedicate a specific something to Yahweh. The Hebrew term happens to translate as "vow", making it seem a bit confusing. Specifically, this chapter is about buying the dedicated thing back ("redeeming"). In the earlier law codes, once something was dedicated to Yahweh, it was forever; the Aaronids obviously saw a money-making opportunity in allowing "redemption". The financial scheme seems to be based on the tresspass offering, in which an extra 1/5 was paid back.

Vows concerning people originally meant people that were to be sacrificed (eg. Jephthah's daughter - in the Book of Judges), but in later times it came to mean people that were dedicated to religious service (such as people who spend their lives sewing religious garments, and other kinds of service or slavery).

A Homer is NOT an Omer. An Omer is 1/10 an Ephah, but a Homer is 10 Ephah; ie. 1 Homer = 100 Omer. The Omer was a later addition into the measurement system; the old system was sexadecimal, and thus based on 3s, 4s, and 6s (4 log = 1 Cab, 6 Cab = 1 Seah, 3 seah = 1 ephah), exactly like the Babylonian (Sumerian) system. The Egyptian system, on the other hand, was decimal, and when Egyptian influence increased - just before the Priestly Source was written - an attempt was made to decimalise the Israelite measurements, by adding the Omer awkwardly into the system (10 Omer = 1 Ephah, but also 1 Omer = 1.8 Cab). The Homer is another later addition to decimalise the system.

Verse 25 is another note about the measurement system. The weight system was also changed from completely sexadecimal (60 shekels = 1 mina, 60 mina = 1 talent) to partly decimal (50 shekels = 1 mina, 60 mina = 1 talent). You can see this change in Ezekiel, which explicitly describes the mina as 50 shekels. Here, verse 25 is going on about the gerah, a decimal unit inserted into the system later; they first had the bekah, worth 1/2 a shekel, and then added the gerah, which was worth 1/10 bekah, ie. 1/20 shekel.

The older shekel/mina/talent system was very international (the Hebrew term isn't actually "talent", but "kikkar") but it came in two versions, namely the "royal" and "common" versions, each of which had different weights for the shekel; there was also the word "light" which could be prefixed to mean "half", so there came to be "heavy shekel" and "light shekel" (the latter being half a "heavy shekel") in each of the "royal" and "common" versions. The "common heavy shekel" was the system in day-to-day use.

Firstlings, of course, always belong to Yahweh; here it adds that any ritually impure animals can be bought back, but not things which are ritually pure. And the Aaronids have also added a tithe of everything else.