First, I have a confession to make. I finished reading this chapter last Sunday but couldn’t write my reading note then because I had a problem – the first four verses. See, it talks about the money to be paid by people who made vows to dedicate themselves to God. Apparently, they would give the money to the priests in place of themselves. The problem – and I think it is easy to spot once you’ve read the text – is that the price for women was less than that of men (!).
Now, I don’t fancy myself a feminist, but I am pessimistic. So whenever I read the Bible, I find it very easy to spot all the things that could be wrong. Anything that suggests that women might be less valuable to God or less of human beings or persons, are red flags for me because I’ve been reading about women in the Bible for a while and can’t get the issue out of my head (and also because I know it is simply untrue). My study has not led me to think less of God, (or the Bible) – on the contrary. Yet, when I see things like that, the warning flags in my head go off. I imagine some skeptic leaning over my shoulder and saying ‘So, the Bible says that women are less valuable than men…’
Actually, the text never says that. It simply requires less money to be paid if a woman is vowed to the Lord than a man. It does not give reason for that so the skeptic’s conclusion would be unwarranted. To be prepared for such an eventuality, however, and to set my mind at rest by finding an answer to the ‘why’ question, I went to find some commentaries.
According to the two of them (and one was extremely liberal), the money paid was the equivalent price of the work the individual would have been able to perform in the sanctuary. If this work was tedious, men would be better able to perform it than women. This also explains why children and old people were to pay even less – not because they were less valuable or less of human beings or persons, but because they could do less work; a simple explanation for a simple statement.
But what a scare! Now I can get on with my life and the rest of this note:
- Once again, God demonstrates his kindness by providing allowance for people who wanted to serve make such vows to him, but were too poor to provide the required money (27: 8).
- I find it interesting that if an animal was vowed to God, the owner could not substitute a good one for it if it was bad. He could buy it back if it was ceremonially unclean (by paying the priests 20% more than it was worth), but he could not substitute another one for it (27: 9 – 13). By contrast, the tithe of animals given to God as tithes could not be bought back (redeemed) even if the animal was bad (27: 32, 33). I wonder what the reason for this was. Does anyone have any ideas?