Monday, July 20, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapter 27

Chapter 27
Summary:God speaks to Moses about putting prices upon vows to God for the people of Israel.

When a person makes a vow to God, the following amounts of money are to be paid:
  • 50 Shekels of Silver - for all males 20 - 60 years of age.
  • 30 Shekels of Silver - for all females 20 - 60 years of age.
  • 20 Shekels of Silver - for all males 5 - 20 years of age.
  • 10 Shekels of Silver - for all females 5 - 20 years of age.
  • 5 Shekels of Silver - for all males 1 month - 5 years of age.
  • 3 Shekels of Silver - for all females 1 month - 5 years of age.
  • 15 Shekels of Silver - for all males over 60 years of age.
  • 10 Shekels of Silver - for all females over 60 years of age.
If the person is too poor to pay these amounts then the person may present themselves before a priest, and the priest can then place a value upon them based upon what they can afford.

If it's an animal being sacrificed to God, then the deal may not be altered once it is given. A person may not attempt to alter or change the deal, substituting a better or worse animal, otherwise both animals will belong to God, and both must be slaughtered. If a person tries to sacrifice an "unclean" animal - one unfit for animal sacrifice - then the person shall present it to the priest, the priest will place a monetary value on the animal, and the person will have to pay that amount instead. If a person wants to redeem an animal that is fit for sacrifice, he will have to pay the full value of the animal (set by the priest) and add "a fifth part" (20% interest) to the value.

When a person wishes to sanctify their house to God, the priest shall place an estimate upon the house. If the person wishes to redeem their house, they will have to add "the fifth part" of the money (20% interest) to the value determined by the priest.

If a man donates part of his field to God, then the estimate shall be according to the amount of seed needed to sow the land. A piece of land that requires an homer (approximately ten bushels) of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. If it is donated in the "Year of Jubilee", then the full estimate will stand, but if he donates his field after the "Year of Jubilee" then the priest shall pay the person in accordance to the number of years remaining until the next "Year of Jubilee". If the man wishes to redeem his field, he shall add the "fifth part" (20% interest) to the estimate and the field will belong to him again. If he does not redeem his field, or if he has sold it to another man, he will no longer be able to redeem it. When the "Year of Jubilee" arrives, it will belong to God and shall be given to the priests.

If a man donates a field that he's bought, but is not part of his family's possession the priest shall estimate its worth in relation to the "Year of Jubilee", and the man shall immediately pay that estimation to God. In the "Year of Jubilee" the field shall return to its original owner.

All monetary estimations are to be made using the shekel of the sanctuary - worth twenty gerahs.

Firstborn oxen and sheep are not to be "sanctified", as they already "belong to God". The firstborn of an "unclean" animal - that is not fit for animal sacrifice - shall be redeemed based upon the priests estimation adding the fifth part (20% interest) to the estimate. If it is not redeemed it can be sold by the priest to someone else for the amount of the estimate. However, anything devoted to God - whether it is a person, animal, or land - shall not be sold or redeemed for they are considered "holy" to God. No one sentenced to death by God may buy their way out of their punishment - they must be put to death.

A tithe (a tenth) of the land, whether it is the seed of the land or fruit of the tree, belongs to God. If a man wants to redeem this tithe, he shall add a fifth part (20% interest) to the value of the crop. God also claims a tithe of all herds, flocks, and livestock, and a person is not to search for animals that are good or bad, nor can he change the deal or redeem these animals.

These are the commandments that God gave to Moses upon Mount Sinai.
Thoughts:This final chapter of Leviticus starts off troubling as God places a monetary value upon the people of Israel according to their sex and age.

Men 20-60 years of age are worth the most at 50 shekels, but women of the same age group are less important and therefore priced at 30 shekels. Boys aged 5-20 years are worth 20 shekels, while girls are only worth half that. Old men of 60 or older are worth 15 shekels, and old women are worth 10 shekels - the same price as girls 5-20. Babies aren't really worth too much coming in around 5 shekels for boys 1 month to 5 years old, and 3 shekels for girls. Fetuses and infants under a month old aren't worth anything apparently.

It's unclear how often these "taxes" are to be paid to the church, or they're simply a one time fee - but it seems that at the very least these fines are to be paid at least every time a person ages into the next "tax bracket". Peeking ahead to Numbers Chapter 1, we find that there's 603,550 men from the ages of 20 to 60 counted in the census. If we assume that 50 shekels might be even as little as one U.S. Dollar, the tabernacle would collect over half a million dollars just on the men alone(!) Assuming that there's just as many women, that would push the church's coffers up just short of a million bucks - and that's not adding the elderly, the children, and toddlers(!) It's probably safer to assume that 50 shekels was probably worth more to the bronze age Hebrews than one lousy U.S. dollar in 2009 AD, but even at a conservative estimate, that's a LOT of money lining the church's pockets - and would appear to be a "mandatory" fee by God unless you wished to suffer the wrath of breaking any of his "laws".

Next God moves on to animal sacrifices and states that the deal isn't to be altered. If you have to bring an ox to be sacrificed, you can't haggle to bring in another ox of lesser value or else God's going to take them both and make you slaughter both animals. If a person tries to sacrifice an "unclean" animal, then the priest can place a value on the animal, and the person can pay that monetary value instead - as "unclean" animals are not fit for sacrificing to God. God's rather picky about which animal's blood is fit to paint the altar in the tabernacle with. If somebody changes their minds about sacrificing an animal, they can pay the priest the full value - plus twenty percent interest tacked on - instead of slaughtering the animal.

God now lays out his plans for people donating land and houses to the church. Priests will estimate the value of a house, and if the person wants to redeem it he'll have to pay the full value plus twenty percent interest if he wants it back. If somebody donates land to the church, a priest will have to form an estimated value based upon how many crops the land can yield. If it's donated in the "Year of Jubilee", the full value of 50 shekels per each ten bushels of yield will stand, otherwise the value will be less depending on on how many years are left until the next "Year of Jubilee". If a man wants to buy the land back from the priests, he'll have to pay the full price plus twenty per cent interest before the next "Year of Jubilee" - unless he sells it to someone else. If he doesn't redeem it before the next "Year of Jubilee", then it will permanently belong to the church.

If a man donates a field that he's bought, but isn't part of his family's land, then the priest will determine its worth again by the years until the next "Year of Jubilee", but upon the next "Year of Jubilee" the land will go back to the original owner.

Firstborn oxen and sheep cannot be "sanctified", as God has already laid claim on their ownership. If someone donates an "unclean" animal and wants to redeem it, he'll have to pay the full estimated price plus twenty percent interest. Otherwise the priest can sell the animal to another person for just the estimated amount.

Nothing that has been deemed a mandatory sacrifice to God can be redeemed - this includes anyone sentenced to death by God's laws. You can't buy your way out of a capital punishment by paying 60 shekels (50 shekels + 20% interest).

By default God lays a claim on a tenth of everybody's crops, but these can be redeemed (bought back) by paying the full price plus twenty percent interest. God also claims a tenth of everyone's livestock, but unlike crops, these cannot be "bought back" from God - you've got to sacrifice them.

Once again, much like my thoughts on Leviticus Chapter 23 it seems quite suspect how much being a priest seems to be financially beneficial. Basically, priests get free food from a variety of grain and animal sacrifices, they reap over 30 million shekels simply from the male population aged 20-60 years old, and a tenth of everyone's crops and livestock by default.

When we tally up a lot of suspicious factors, like that no one is allowed to climb up Mount Sinai while Moses is chatting away with God, the massive amount of food and financial benefits the priests acquire, and that for some reason only members of Aaron's family get to be priests in the first place, it raises the question that if there's any truth behind the events portrayed in the bible, that it's not unreasonable to perhaps suspect that Moses and Aaron might have been making a lot of these rules themselves for their own benefit. It's certainly a more logical conclusion than attributing these "rules" and commandments to a supernatural being who really doesn't benefit in any real sense by collecting 50 shekels of silver per every male citizen between 20 and 60 years of age.

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