The Law Concerning Vows. B. C. 1490.
1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak 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. 3And 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. 4And 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. 11And 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: 12And the priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad: as thou valuest it, who art the priest, so shall it be. 13But if he will at all redeem it, then he shall add a fifth part thereof unto thy estimation.
This is part of the law concerning singular vows, extraordinary ones, which though God did not expressly insist on, yet, if they were consistent with and conformable to the general precepts, he would be well pleased with. Note, We should not only ask, What must we do, but, What may we do, for the glory and honour of God? As the liberal devises liberal things (Isaiah 32:8), so the pious devises pious things, and the enlarged heart would willingly do something extraordinary in the service of so good a Master as God is. When we receive or expect some singular mercy it is good to honour God with some singular vow.
I. The case is here put of persons vowed to God by a singular vow, Leviticus 27:2. If a man consecrated himself, or a child, to the service of the tabernacle, to be employed there in some inferior office, as sweeping the floor, carrying out ashes, running of errands, or the like, the person so consecrated shall be for the Lord, that is, "God will graciously accept the good-will." Thou didst well that it was in thy heart, 2 Chronicles 6:8. But forasmuch as he had no occasion to use their service about the tabernacle, a whole tribe being appropriated to the use of it, those that were thus vowed were to be redeemed, and the money paid for their redemption was employed for the repair of the sanctuary, or other uses of it, as appears by 2 Kings 12:14, where it is called, in the margin, the money of the souls of his estimation. A book of rates is accordingly provided, by which the priests were to go in their estimation. Here is, 1. The rate of the middle-aged, between twenty and threescore, these were valued highest, because most serviceable a male fifty shekels, and a female thirty, Leviticus 27:3,4. The females were then less esteemed, but not so in Christ for in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, Galatians 3:28. Note, Those that are in the prime of their time must look upon themselves as obliged to do more in the service of God and their generation than can be expected either from minors, that have not yet arrived to their usefulness, or from the aged, that have survived it. 2. The rate of the youth between five years old and twenty was less, because they were then less capable of doing service, Leviticus 27:5. 3. Infants under five years old were capable of being vowed to God by their parents, even before they were born, as Samuel was, but not to be presented and redeemed till a month old, that, as one sabbath passed over them before they were circumcised, so one new moon might pass over them before they were estimated and their valuation was but small, Leviticus 27:6. Samuel, who was thus vowed to God, was not redeemed, because he was a Levite, and a particular favourite, and therefore was employed in his childhood in the service of the tabernacle. 4. The aged are valued less than youth, but more than children, Leviticus 27:7. And the Hebrews observe that the rate of an aged woman is two parts of three to that of an aged man, so that in that age the female came nearest to the value of the male, which occasioned (as bishop Patrick quotes it here) this saying among them, That an old woman in a house is a treasure in a house. Paul sets a great value upon the aged women, when he makes them teachers of good things, Titus 2:3. 5. The poor shall be valued according to their ability, Leviticus 27:8. Something they must pay, that they might learn not to be rash in vowing to God, for he hath no pleasure in fools, Ecclesiastes 5:4. Yet not more than their ability, but secundum tenementum--according to their possessions, that they might not ruin themselves and their families by their zeal. Note, God expects and requires from men according to what they have, and not according to what they have not, Luke 21:4.
II. The case is put of beasts vowed to God, 1. If it was a clean beast, such as was offered in sacrifice, it must not be redeemed, nor any equivalent given for it: It shall be holy, Leviticus 27:9,10. After it was vowed, it was not to be put to any common use, nor changed upon second thoughts but it must be either offered upon the altar, or, if through any blemish it was not meet to be offered, he that vowed it should not take advantage of that, but the priests should have it for their own use (for they were God's receivers), or it should be sold for the service of the sanctuary. This teaches caution in making vows and constancy in keeping them when they are made for it is a snare to a man to devour that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry, Proverbs 20:25. And to this that rule of charity seems to allude (2 Corinthians 9:7), Every man, according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give. 2. If it was an unclean beast, it should go to the use of the priest at such a value but he that vowed it, upon paying that value in money, and adding a fifth part more to it, might redeem it if he pleased, Leviticus 27:11-13. It was fit that men should smart for their inconstancy. God has let us know his mind concerning his service, and he is not pleased if we do not know our own. God expects that those that deal with him should be at a point, and way what they will stand to.