Study Guide

Leviticus Chapter 27

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Chapter 27

On Second Thought…

  • This chapter wraps everything up with even more details on these offerings and vows—as well as how you can get some of your gifts to God back.
  • Giving a gift to a religious group today is pretty easy. Dollar bills and credit cards are both okay, and apparently it even gets rid of any ethical obligation to tip the wait staff.
  • Now imagine a faithful Israelite donating his cows, crops, farmland, house or, um, slaves—and realizing afterward that without them he's going to go bust.
  • The writer of Leviticus provides some basic guidelines.
  • The 10% donation rule: Israelites have to give the Tabernacle ten percent of their cattle, flocks and harvest. The Torah calls this a tithe. Others might call it a tax. Any way they cut it, it's hard to carry.
  • The 20% buyback rule: an Israelite who changes his mind about a donation that can't be sacrificed can get it back by paying the priests what it's worth plus 20%.
  • God is so predictable.
  • Of course, the priests set the base price, and since they're the ones who benefit most for the transaction, it's probably not going to be cheap.
  • The technical term for this buyback is redemption, a word that will get a lot of play in the New Testament.
  • In addition, there's the nice 100% rule: there are some things you give to God that you can never buy back. For example, animals that can be sacrificed—sorry, they're toast.
  • And the naughty 100% rule: if you vow to crush, kill and destroy in God's name, no takebacks—even if Israel's sworn enemy leaves behind a sweet condo with an indoor pool, killer views, and a conscientious doorman.

Bringing It All Back Home

  • On the surface, these rules might seem kind of random, but the author really does use this chapter to call back to themes from the rest of the book. Here are a few of the big ones:
  • Promises and agreements matter. Messing up means having to make things right. Sometimes it's with a sacrifice or a 20% penalty. Other times God turns everyone into cannibals.
  • Economic justice. The 20% buyback rule can be lowered for poor people. Then again, not many poor people have stuff to donate or vow so it's a bit of a wash.
  • Priestly power. They sacrifice. They set prices. They get a cut of everything you make. It's good to be the priest.
  • Holy separation. Setting things apart keeps the community together, even if the rules don't always make sense.

The Never-Ending Story

  • The sacrifices are over. The key themes wrapped up. It's finally time to get to the book's true last verse.
  • Surprise! Once again, it's a callback to the beginning.
  • Did you know that Moses received these instructions from God near Mount Sinai to give to the people? What happened goes something like this…

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