- Vows & Dedication
- Devoted Things
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
What are rules without consequences?
In the final two chapters of Leviticus, God lays out the positive outcomes for the Israelites if they follow His commands, as well as, the negative repercussions of disobeying His commands. (This dichotomy can be seen throughout the Bible)
God promises the Israelites that their land will be fruitful if they follow His commands. In addition, He promises to bring them rain (a major concern in the desert), make them victorious against their enemies and keep dangerous creatures away from the land. God also promises abundance, His presence, and His respect. This is essentially the fulfillment of His covenant with Abraham—He is giving Abraham's numerous descendants land, abundance, victory, protections, and His presence, which sounds like a great nation to me.
Today, it is even easier to see how God's promise holds true. For instance, now we know that certain diseases or viruses are passed through sex. If two people wait until they're married to have sex and remain faithful to each other, the likelihood of them contracting STDs or STIs is virtually non-existent. If we do not covet the material goods, lifestyle, and/or relationships of other people, we are more likely to be content with ourselves and pursue our own goals; this is especially obvious in our celeb-crazed, social media filled lives of today. These are just the obvious rewards for following God's commands, this does not include any of the countless other perks that God can choose to bless us with at will.
God knew that the Israelites wouldn't be able to keep His law, so He had to warn them about what would happen when they disobeyed Him—just as He warned Adam and Eve that death would be the result of breaking His command in The Garden. Upon breaking the covenant, the Israelites would be given over to terror, consumption, and burning ague.
Consumption is what the ancients called tuberculosis, which is an infection of the lungs. Note that lifestyle factors that increase your risk of contracting tuberculosis or consumption include excessive drinking and drug usage, two pastimes God warns against.
Ague is similar to malaria and is accompanied by a fever. These definitely sound like things you don't want to befall you.
In addition to these physical punishments, God says that He would withdraw His protection of Israel, allowing their enemies to terrorize and rule over them. This is exactly what happens in the future when they are captured by Babylon (and later Rome). If they would not be obedient, God would not walk with them, which is definitely a situation to fear. There's a Bible quote that says, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) but if God is against you, the question is who can help you (and the answer is still no one—or perhaps an intercessor who calms God's wrath against you). God also lists a few tit for tat consequences. For example, if they did not honor the seven year sabbath of the land, the land would be desolate and fail to produce crops.
The Israelites would be chastised not once, but seven times for their sins. God was never one to dole out slap on the wrist punishment. I think one reason the penalty is so high for disobeying His commands is that the commands he gives are there for our well being. Many of the behaviors that God restricts put people at risk for diseases and infections, ruin relationships, and contribute to our overall unhappiness. For instance, if Israel disobeyed God's command concerning incest, there would be a higher infant mortality rate (one of God's punishments is futility sown seeds) along with more diseases and handicaps for those that survive (other punishments God mentioned).
God ends His discussion of punishment with the reminder that they could always return to Him. If they were to confess their sins and the sins of their fathers which led them astray and approach God with a humble heart, God would remember the covenant. I think one of the keys here, for people today particularly, is God's requirement of a humble heart. We live in a world of "sorry not sorry," where people dole out meaningless apologies all the time. If you don't actually feel bad about your action and you don't actually feel bad about disobeying God, your apology is meaningless. The most common case of this I witness is when Christians utter "Lord forgive me" before doing something they know is wrong; if you truly were repentant and loved the Lord you would resist the temptation (or be praying for help to resist the temptation). The Israelites could be comforted to know that while God would withdraw His hand to allow tragedy to befall them, He would never let them be utterly destroyed.
Vows & Dedication
If a person made a vow, a price was set for them to redeem themselves (or release them from the vow).
Between 20 and 60 years old, a man was estimated at 50 shekels of silver and woman at 30 shekels. Between 5 and 20 years old, a man was estimated at 20 shekels of silver and woman at 10 shekels. Between one month and 5 years old, a man was estimated at 5 shekels of silver and woman at 3 shekels. For those 60 or above, a man was estimated at 15 shekels of silver and a woman at 10 shekels. I speculate that these values coincide with the freedom and ability to carry out the vow. A woman had less freedom, which could hinder her from keeping her vow, thus a lower redemption fee if she were unable to continue the vow. My study Bible suggests that the value is placed on the type of work the dedicated person would be performing. Since men in their prime age would have been doing the most heavy lifting, replacing them would be more costly, hence the higher redemption price.
If a person was poor, the priest was come up with a more suitable value for that person's redemption.
Animals could be given for dedication, too, even unclean animals. It seems as though God didn't want them to exchange animals, but if they did it was to be "beast for beast," I assume this means a cow for a cow as opposed to a goat for a cow. Unclean beasts were to be redeemed at a value set by the priest plus 1/5 the price.
Houses were another object people could dedicate to God. This, too, was estimated at a value by the priest and then could be redeemed for the estimated value plus 1/5 of the estimated value.
Crops had more rigid redemption values. An homer of barley could be redeemed for 50 shekels. The land itself was a little tricky in that it could switch hands during the Year of Jubilee. It could be redeemed for the estimated value plus 1/5 of the estimated value, or, if it was dedicated to God but sold anyway (or unable to be redeemed), it went to the priests.
The first born of each animal was already promised to God, so the Israelites couldn't dedicate one of them to God (that would be like me giving you something you already own as a present). Unclean animals could be redeemed, but if they weren't redeemed, they were to be sold.
Devoted things were like dedicated things, they could be man or beast, but it was permanent (also known as a solemn vow). Devoted things were considered most holy to God and could not be redeemed. Attempting to redeem or sell such an animal or a person was punishable by death.
The last thing God discusses, is tithing. The Israelites were to tithe from their harvest and their herd. God specifies that 10% of the herd, flock, or "whatsoever passeth under the rod" were to be tithed. To redeem such a tithe, one had to pay the estimated value plus 1/5 of the estimated value.
A few interesting thoughts come to mind when discussing tithes. From this passage in Leviticus, we can see that the Israelites were essentially sharecroppers (with better rights and wages). God owned the land, so they owed Him a portion of everything they amassed from the land. It may be tempting to use this as an excuse to not tithe, but Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 14. Melchizedek was a priest before Israel and the Levites. This means tithes are neither bound to God owning the land of Israel (technically God owns everything anyway, so that would be a moot point anyway), nor the Israelite covenant.
References and Footnotes
- The Gale Group, Inc. "Tuberculosis". Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine via The Free Dictionary. 2008
- "Ague". Dictionary.com. 2008
- Thomas Nelson Publishers. KJV Study Bible. pg 248-250. 1988
Other Pages to View