Special Events in the *Jewish Calendar
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Leviticus chapters 23 to 27
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible, except for the words in brackets (…).
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
This chapter contains a list of the holy days for the *Jewish people. They include the important *Jewish holidays which are usually in April, June and October. And there is the *Sabbath Day, which is in every week through the whole year.
All of these holy days and special times are still important for the *Jews today.
Date in our Calendar
7th day of every week (our Saturday)
The day of the full moon, in March or April
Exodus chapter 12
The week after the *Passover
During the week of *Unleavened Bread
Second Harvest (*Pentecost)
(Also called Shavuoth.)
50 days after the *Passover (so, during May or June)
Day of *Trumpets
(Also called Rosh Hashana or the *Jewish New Year’s Day).
The day of the new moon before the Tent Parties and Final Harvest (during September or October)
Day of *Atonement
(Also called Yom Kippur)
9 days after the Day of *Trumpets
Leviticus chapter 16
Tent Parties and Final Harvest
(Also called Tabernacles, Sukkoth, or the Feast of Shelters)
6 months after the *Passover (so, during September or October)
Here are some notes on each of these special times.
Verses 2-3 The *Sabbath. This is the 7th day of the week, our Saturday. The word ‘*sabbath’ means ‘day of rest’. It is a special opportunity for God’s people to *worship him each week. In Genesis 2:3, God made the *Sabbath (or 7th day) very special. After he created the world, he himself rested on that day. When the *Jews went from Egypt to *Israel, God provided their food. He gave them a special, extra amount of the food called manna before each *Sabbath, Exodus 16:22-30. He did that so that they were able to rest and to *worship him on the *Sabbath. So they did not even have to make food or to collect food on the *Sabbath. (Manna was something like bread that God sent from heaven.)
The *Jews could only do simple jobs on the *Sabbath. They could not do any of their usual work whatever. It was their special day to *worship God. They rested from their work so that they had time to *worship him.
Most Christians *worship God on the 1st day of the week, that is, Sunday. They do this because Jesus became alive after his death on a Sunday. That is why many Christians keep Sunday as a *Sabbath. They do not work on this day. Instead, it is their special day for rest and *worship.
Verses 4-5 The *Passover. This was a most important time for the *Jews. It was during March or April. In it, the *Jews remembered the event just before God freed them from Egypt.
God allowed a terrible trouble to happen in Egypt. We call that event ‘the 10th *plague’. The oldest son in every family in Egypt died, in just one night. But God told each *Israelite family to kill a *lamb and to put its blood round their door. When God saw the blood, he would ‘pass over’ that house. That is why the day was called the *Passover. On that day, God saved the *Israelites from death (Exodus chapter 12).
The *Passover is important for Christians, as well as *Jews. But Christians call it ‘Easter’. Jesus died on the Friday before Easter day. The Bible calls Jesus: ‘the *lamb of God, who takes away the *sins of the world.’ On Easter Sunday, Jesus became alive again after his death.
Verses 6-8 The Time of *Unleavened Bread. People usually add *yeast to bread to make it ‘rise’. They do this before they cook it. ‘*Unleavened’ means that there is no *yeast in the bread. Thus, it does not ‘rise’ or ‘get bigger’. Bread that does not rise is flat.
At the Time of *Unleavened Bread, the *Jews remember the events immediately after the first *Passover. God led them out of Egypt at once. He did it so quickly that there was not even enough time for their bread to rise. They had to work hard like slaves when they lived in Egypt. But God made them free at once. That was the time when the *Jews became a nation.
Verses 9-14 The First Harvest. There are several types of grain. The first one that becomes ripe in Israel is called barley. Ruth 1:22 tells us that Naomi returned home ‘at the start of the barley harvest’. The priest had to hold up (or wave, verse 11) a bundle of barley plants in front of the *LORD. This was also called a ‘*wave offering’. It was God who provided all the crops in the *Israelites’ new country. God gave them that country after they left Egypt. And that country (Canaan, afterwards called Israel) had good land. So, by this ceremony, the *Israelites gave the first grain of each harvest back to God. And with it, they gave a *whole offering (chapter 1) and a *corn offering (chapter 2).
Verses 15-21 *Pentecost and the Second Harvest. The word ‘*Pentecost’ means ‘50th’. If we include the first and last days, this means 7 weeks. Here, the harvest is for grain that we call wheat. People use it to make bread. *Pentecost was a special occasion at the beginning of the wheat harvest. Again, it reminded people that their food came from God.
*Pentecost is very important for Christians. They sometimes call it ‘the church’s birthday’. It was on the day called *Pentecost that God sent his *Holy Spirit. You can read about that event in Acts chapter 2.
Verse 22 The *Israelites should not just thank God for their harvest by means of a ceremony. Also, they should thank God by means of the way that they harvested their crops. They should leave some food in the fields so that poor people and foreigners would find something to eat. They should always remember to provide for poor people. Ruth 2:7-8 describes how people did this.
Verses 23-25 Day of *Trumpets. Today we make *trumpets from a metal called brass. And we use them to make music. The *Jews did not use brass. They made their *trumpets from the *horns of animals like cows. *Horns grow on the heads of these animals. Numbers 10:1-10 also mentions silver *trumpets. The *Jews used the *trumpets to sound an alarm. Also, they sounded *trumpets on any important national occasion.
The Day of *Trumpets was at the beginning of the 7th month in the *Jewish calendar. As the 7th day of the week was special and holy, so was the 7th month. The Day of *Atonement, Tent Parties and Final Harvest happened during this month. The *trumpets reminded people about these things:
The *trumpets should remind the *Israelites that, in the future, God will rule his people as their king. Each year, God dealt with his people’s *sins on the Day of *Atonement. But at a future time, God will deal with all *sin. He will come to live among his people.
For Christians, this should remind them about Jesus’ return. He has promised to come back to this world. He will overcome *sin, death, and the devil’s power. And Jesus will rule with the authority and power of God the Father.
Verses 26-32 The Day of *Atonement. Leviticus chapter 16 tells us what the chief priest did on the Day of *Atonement. He put blood into the most holy place, as a special *sacrifice, so that God would forgive the people’s *sins.
Here we read what the ordinary people did. The words ‘to *atone’ mean ‘to make at one’. (In other words, to be united as friends with God.) It was the day when people were sorry for their *sins. They saw their *sins as God saw them. They were ‘at one’ with God, in other words, they agreed with his opinion. Christians believe that *atonement can only happen by the death of Jesus. His death means that now we do not have to offer the gifts in the Book of Leviticus.
Verses 27, 29 and 32 contain the rule that the *Jews must not eat on this day. In fact, the *Hebrew words are much stricter than what appears in our translation. People should not do anything to give themselves pleasure. See our notes on 16:29-31.
This day is not usually a Saturday, so it would not normally be a *Sabbath. But the *LORD told the people that it would be a day for rest, like the *Sabbaths (verse 32).
Verses 33-43 Tent Parties and Final Harvest. This was the time when the *Jews gathered the last of the harvest from the fields and gardens. They also remembered that God had ‘gathered’ them at last from Egypt. They lived in tents as they went from Egypt to *Israel. To remember this, they lived in shelters or tents for a week during September or October. But they did not make their ‘tents’ for this week from animal skins, as people usually did. Instead, they used the branches of trees to make ‘tents’ (that is, shelters). That is why verse 40 refers to various trees, like the *palm tree and the *willow. This time became a really happy party. The *LORD will complete all that he is doing for his people. And that is a wonderful reason to be joyful in front of the *LORD.
For Christians, the harvest is a very important occasion. It is the time when Christians thank God for their food. But each church chooses a different day in Autumn for this event. Many churches put fruit, food and flowers in the church and they have a happy ceremony. They thank God for all the good things that he provides. Afterwards, Christians take the fruit, food, and flowers away. They give these things to poor people, to ill people, or to old people who live near the church. So Christians share the good things that God has given to them.
Jesus told some parables (stories) about the harvest. For him, the harvest described well the events at the end of the present age. For example, see the story in Matthew 13:24-30, which Jesus explained in Matthew 13:36-40. He described how weeds and wheat may grow together in the same field until the harvest. But at the harvest, the farmer separates them. He destroys the weeds and he saves the wheat. And so, at the end of the age, God will be the judge of everyone. He will save the people who belong to him. But he will punish the people who serve the devil.
1. Read Genesis 1:1 to 2:3, which tells us about the origin of the *Sabbath. Here are some other verses about the *Sabbath: Numbers 28:9 and 28:19; Leviticus 24:5-9; Numbers 15:32-36; Nehemiah 10:31 and 13:15-22.
2. Read the Book of Ruth, which refers to the First and Second Harvests of grain.
3. Read Exodus chapter 12, which tells us about the first *Passover.
4. Read Acts 2:1-4. It tells us what happened at *Pentecost to the first Christians.
Verses 2-4 The *lampholder, which held the lamps in God’s house, had 7 branches. This means that there were 7 lamps on it. The *oil is from a plant called the olive. People would burn it to provide light. These rules are also in Exodus 27:20-21. They pressed the *oil with their hands. This means that it was very pure. It did not make much smoke.
Verses 5-9 Exodus 25:30 refers to the special bread. Only the priests could eat this special bread, Matthew 12:4. We call it the ‘show bread’ because it ‘shows’ various things.
· It ‘shows’ that there were 12 *tribes (or large families) in *Israel. So it showed that God was with his people.
· The *frankincense reminded (or ‘showed’) people what God had done for them. *Frankincense is a sticky material that people get from trees. It has a sweet smell.
· They made the bread from the best flour. People must do everything as well as they can for God.
The priests put the bread on the table each *Sabbath Day. The *Sabbath Day was the 7th day of the week.
Verses 10-12 The word ‘*blasphemy’ means ‘a bad thing that someone says against God’. The *Israelites locked the man in a prison. Then they waited for the *LORD to say what to do with the man.
Verses 13-16 and 23 The *LORD said that the man must die. The people must take him outside the camp and they must kill him there. This meant that the camp itself remained *clean. So this is what the people did.
Verses 17-22 The law here means this. If someone does damage, he must undo the damage as far as possible. If a man kills another man on purpose, the killer must die. God did not allow a murderer to pay money in order to save his life (Numbers 35:31). But for other types of damage, the person who caused the damage must pay. So if a man kills an animal, he must give another animal to the owner.
Verse 20 contains a very important and well-known law. It is called ‘an eye for an eye’. When a person causes damage to someone else, he is responsible for it. So that person’s punishment must have a proper relationship to the damage that he caused.
Some Bible students think that the person responsible must suffer the same damage. For example, if the person damages someone else’s eye, his own eye must suffer damage. But *Jewish Bible students do not agree. They say that there is no record of any such punishment ever in *Jewish history. Numbers 35:31 shows that people paid money as a punishment (but not for murder). So ‘an eye for an eye’ really means this: There is a more severe punishment if the damage is worse. The punishment is less severe if the damage is minor. And the judge must deal with everyone alike, whether they are important or not.
Jesus referred to this law in Matthew 5:38-42. He explained it and he emphasised it. The purpose of the original law was to put a limit on the person’s punishment. But Jesus said that God’s people should not show cruelty, but kindness. They should want to forgive other people. And they should not even want all that they have a legal right to claim. Jesus said words that mean this: ‘You must not even fight back.’
1. Read about Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:1-21. Notice verse 3, where the *LORD’s lamp is still burning. This house of God was in Shiloh, not in Jerusalem. The *LORD had several houses before the *Israelites built his house in Jerusalem.
2. Study these verses. Christians should be like a light at all times: Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 5:8; Philippians 2:15.
3. Read about the occasion when David and his soldiers ate the ‘show bread’, in 1 Samuel 21:1-7 and Mark 2:25-26.
This chapter continues the list of special times and days that began in Leviticus chapter 23. As well as *Sabbath Days, there must be *Sabbath Years. Also, after 7 *Sabbath Years, there must be a very special year on the 50th year. This is called a *Jubilee Year. All this is about freedom. On the 7th year, the land is free from seeds and harvests. On the 50th year, people are free. The idea of the *Jubilee Year reminds the *Jews of these things.
· The *LORD had made them free from Egypt.
· The land belonged to the *LORD, and the *Jews could not always own it.
· The *Jews must trust God to provide their food.
· The land itself must be free from seeds and harvests in some years.
So the *Jews had to prepare for *Sabbath Years and *Jubilee Years. They had to keep enough food for them. Life would be simple in the *Sabbath Years, as it was on the way from Egypt to *Israel. Most people would not live through more than one *Jubilee Year.
These rules about *Sabbath Years and *Jubilee Years help us to understand the real meaning of the *Sabbath. The *Sabbath is not only about a pause from our usual work. It is about the special time when we *worship God. And especially, it is about the rest and the freedom that God gives to his people (Hebrews 4:9-11).
Real Christians have already started to receive that rest and freedom (Matthew 11:28-30). But this is just the beginning. In the future, God will defeat all his enemies (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). And then he will establish his rule in the New Jerusalem. There God’s people will always have perfect rest and freedom as they *worship him (Revelation 21:1-5).
But only the people who really are God’s people will know that rest and freedom. The freedom that God gave in the *Jubilee Year was only for God’s people, the *Israelites. God gave them freedom because, as he said, ‘They are my servants’ – verses 42 and 55.
We do not know whether a proper *Jubilee Year has ever happened. The Bible does not mention any such occasion. The *Jubilee Year was part of God’s perfect plan for the *Israelites. But perhaps it will not happen until God has created the New Earth. Then he will live among his people. And all these things will be possible.
Verses 1-7 The *Sabbath Day was the 7th day in the week. It reminded people that God rested on the 7th day. This was after he had made everything. So the *Sabbath for the land was every 7th year. And it was a year when the land rested. In other words, people did not plant their usual crops. The agricultural workers did not do their usual work. People did not harvest and store crops from the land. So in this year, the people would have more time for rest and for *worship.
*Vineyards were the gardens where people produced fruit. The fruits were called *grapes. They grow on plants called *vines. People made wine from *grapes. The rule about the *Sabbath Year also included other fruits. The *Jews could eat any fruit that grew. But it must be fruit that they had not sown. This would remind them of their journey from Egypt. They could not gather crops during the *Sabbath Year. So ‘all that (the land) gives you’ means the food that they ate fresh from the fields. They could eat it immediately, but they could not store it.
Verses 8-13 The *trumpet is a musical instrument. Today, we make them out of a metal called brass. During Moses’ life, people made ‘*trumpets’ from the *horns of animals. These *horns grew on the animals’ heads. The *Hebrew word for these ‘*trumpets’ was ‘yobel’. We get our word ‘*jubilee’ from this *Hebrew word ‘yobel’. The *Jews could not harvest what grew in their fields that year (verse 11). They had to eat what grew in the year before the *Sabbath Year (verse 12).
The *Jubilee Year began on the Day of *Atonement (see Leviticus 23:26-32). So it began when God forgave his people’s *sins. And during that year, God gave freedom to all his people. They returned to the places where their families lived. If they had sold their family’s land, God gave the land back to them again. God was making these things right again. And this should remind us that, in the future, God will make everything right.
Verses 14-18 It is against God’s law to carry on business in an unfair manner. We could translate part of verse 14 like this. ‘If you sell property to a man in your country, do not cheat him.’ Numbers 36:9 tells us that in the *Jubilee Year, land must go back to its original owner. Leviticus 25:24 also says this. The buyer did not own the land permanently. The land really belonged to God. He lent it to the people when they came into *Canaan. *Canaan was the old name of countries that we now call Palestine and *Israel. If the people wanted to remain in this land, they had to obey God.
Verses 19-24 So that people would not worry about food in the *Jubilee Year, God made them a promise. Remember, a *Jubilee Year followed a *Sabbath Year. That meant that the people would need food for 2 years. This would make the people trust God’s promises in verses 21-22.
Verses 25-28 The *Hebrew word for ‘relative’ is *goel. A *goel is a member of your family. There is a list of possible *goels in verses 48 and 49. Because a brother, uncle or cousin buys the property, it remains in the family. In the *Jubilee Year, the poor man could claim back his property. He could even claim it then if the *goel had not bought it back. The price to buy back the property before the *Jubilee Year depended on the number of years until then.
Verses 29-31 This is an exception to the *Jubilee Year rule. The reason is that in a city with walls there are no fields. And the *Jubilee Year rule is only about the return of the land.
There is a good reason for this exception. Some people, who were not *Israelites, would join the *Israelites. Those people would live in the cities. They should obey God’s law and they should believe God. Then God accepts them as *Israelites. But the law about the *Jubilee Year is completely fair. So those people do not lose their homes. Their right to live in the cities in Israel is a permanent right.
However, the agricultural workers would live outside the city walls. They had to live near the land where they worked. So when God gave the land back to the original families, he gave them houses to live in, too.
Verses 32-34 There were 13 *tribes, or large families, that came out of Egypt with Moses. Each *tribe contained *descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob. One of these sons, Joseph, had two *tribes. They were called by his sons’ names, Ephraim and Manasseh. 12 of the *tribes had land in *Canaan. One *tribe, called Levi, had no land. Instead, they had homes in 48 cities in *Canaan. The priests belonged to this *tribe. And the other members of this *tribe helped the priests. They were the *Levites. The cities were called ‘*Levites’ cities’. Most of the *Jews possessed land. The *Levites’ possession was houses. Outside their cities, the *Levites also had fields, which they could not sell. The *Levites had two important jobs to do:
· They had to help the priests in the house of God.
· They had to teach the people God’s laws and rules.
Verses 35-38 The ‘brother’ may mean a real brother, or a member of the same *tribe. James tells Christians to do the same for other (poorer) Christians, James 2:15-16.
Verses 39-46 The master must deal with the poor man as a wage earner. He is not a slave. In the 7th year, such a man could go free, Deuteronomy 15:12. If a *Jubilee Year came earlier, the man could go free then. However, if the man or woman or child is a foreigner, the rules are different. They will never be free.
Verses 47-55 Here is a list of ‘*goels’. The note on verse 25 explains the word ‘*goel’. If you are the poor man, the list starts with your brothers. They are close to you. Then uncles, either your mother’s or father’s brothers. Then your cousins. We do not really know where the list ended! The price depended on:
· how many years there were until the *Jubilee; and
· how many years the poor man had served.
Again, the owner must deal fairly with the man whom he is hiring. This is because the *Israelites are really God’s servants. This becomes clear every *Jubilee Year.
1. Read Matthew 6:33. Compare it with the ideas of *Sabbath Years and *Jubilee Years.
2. Read Isaiah 5:8 and Amos 2:6. Do these verses seem to show that people did not obey the rules in Leviticus 25:1-24?
3. Read the stories in the Bible about *goels. They are in Ruth chapters 1 to 4 and Jeremiah chapter 32.
4. Read Joshua chapter 21 to find where the 48 *Levites’ cities were.
Verses 1-2 An idol is an image that people *worship. People made stones with special shapes that they *worshipped. Verse 1 repeats Leviticus 19:4 and the second (2nd) of the 10 commands in Exodus 20:4-6. The 4 words for *idols in this verse include every type of false god. Verse 2 repeats the fourth (4th) of the 10 commands, Exodus 20:8-11 and Leviticus 19:30. All this emphasises that the *LORD God is the greatest God. He is the only real God. His people must *worship him and only him.
Verses 3-10 People beat corn in order to clean it, so that it stores well. They would start to beat the corn in April. And they started to gather the *grapes in October. So here, the *Israelites would beat their corn from April until October. This was a very long time to carry out that work. It did not usually take them so long to do it. But here, the reason for all this work was good news! It was because the harvest was so plentiful.
People use *grapes to make wine. Wine was important. Water often contained something that gave people diseases. But wine was safer to drink. So the promise was for plenty of bread and wine. They would even throw some of it away at the end of a year! But they had to obey God first. They would also be able to protect themselves against enemies. A *sword is a long knife that soldiers used. The wild animals were probably dangerous animals, for example lions and bears.
Verses 11-13 God reminds them about these things.
· Who he is.
· What he has done for them.
God also promises that he will live among them. His house was later the building called the temple, which Solomon built in Jerusalem. This temple was the building where the *Israelites *worshipped God.
People used to put wooden bars on animals when they had heavy work to do. And people sometimes did this to prisoners and slaves too. But here the word seems to be a word picture. In Egypt, the *Israelites had to work hard like slaves. But God made them free! The wooden bars did not still push them down. They did not still have to do heavy work for other people. ‘Stand up straight’ means that they could walk easily.
Verses 14-17 God had promised to help and to protect his people if they obeyed him. But if not, God promised that he would punish the people. ‘My face will be against you’ means this. God will consider his people to be his enemies, not his friends. The people’s bodies become too hot because they are ill.
Verses 18-20 The proud attitude here is not a good thing, but a bad thing. It made them feel as if they did not need God. So the sky would be like iron. That word picture means that there would be no rain. The ground would be as hard as metal. The people could not dig in it. So there would be few crops or fruits. There are several references to ‘7 times’ in this chapter. It probably means ‘very much more’.
Verses 21-26 If the people continued not to obey God, worse things would happen.
· Wild animals would kill their children. These animals would include lions and bears. They lived near Jericho when David was king, 1 Samuel 17:34-36 and 2 Kings 17:25.
· Their enemies would kill them. These enemies lived in the countries round *Judah and *Israel. There are examples in Judges 2:11-15, 2 Kings 17:18-20 and Isaiah 10:5-11.
· There would be bad diseases that would make people die. The diseases would kill many people. Also, their enemies would kill them.
· There would not be much food. One oven would contain bread for 10 families. That is not enough to satisfy their hunger. So they would remain hungry.
Verses 27-33 If they continued not to obey God, even worse things would happen!
· They would have so little food that they would even eat their children. There are examples in 2 Kings 6:28-29 and Lamentations 2:20.
· God would destroy their high places. These were places usually at the top of hills, where people *worshipped their false gods. They burned *sacrifices to these gods on the *altars.
· God would also empty the places where they *worshipped him. He also would empty their land. Even their enemies would be surprised to see this.
· The *Israelites would have to live in other countries. God would scatter them with his *sword. ‘God’s sword’ means the *swords of the enemies that God sent against his people.
Verses 34-35 The land should have rested during the *Sabbath Years. (See Leviticus 25:1-7.) ‘Rested’ means that people did not work on the land. The *Sabbath Years should have happened every 7th year. But when the *Israelites were in *exile, the land would get its rest! ‘*Exile’ means away from home, where God had scattered his people.
Verses 36-39 The ‘country will eat you’ is an *Hebrew way to say this. ‘You will die in the country’. Exodus 20:5 says that God will punish people and their *descendants. That is why God adds their fathers’ *sins to their *sins.
Verses 40-42 ‘Fathers’ here means fathers, grandfathers, and earlier members of the same family. ‘Hearts’ really means ‘minds’. The *Israelites believed that you thought with your heart. The *Hebrew words for hearts in verse 41 include a description of the attitude of their hearts. So our translation says, ‘Their hearts are like the hearts of people who do not belong to me.’ We could say, ‘Their hearts did not behave as *Israelites should behave.’ The promises or *covenants that God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are in Something to do number 3.
Verses 43-45 The people did not obey God’s laws. Therefore the land did not rest on the *Sabbath Years. But now it can rest! But although the people *sinned, God promised not to destroy their families completely. God’s people, the *Israelites, would continue to exist. In the end, he would again rescue them and he would bring them back to their own country.
Verse 46 This verse probably refers to the whole Book of Leviticus.
1. Study the 10 commands in Exodus 20:1-17. Compare Exodus 20:5 with Leviticus 26:39.
2. Read Isaiah chapter 11, which describes some of the New Earth to us. The New Earth will be where God lives among his people.
3. Study the *covenants that God made with:
· Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3 and Genesis 15:1-21.
· Isaac, Genesis 26:24.
· Jacob, Genesis 35:9-15.
Verse 2 A person can make a special promise to the *LORD. That promise may be to give someone else (for example, a son or daughter) to the *LORD. Then, that other person would serve the *LORD in a special way.
Bible students do not agree about the purpose of the payment in verses 2-8. There are two main ideas:
(1) Perhaps this payment was to buy back the person from the *LORD. Bible students who think this give the example of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11:34-40. Jephthah gave his daughter to the *LORD. Afterwards, he wanted to change his mind. If these Bible students are right, then Jephthah had to pay this money instead. But the Book of Judges seems not to describe the mere payment of money.
(2) Perhaps the person who gave the gift had to pay money too. The other person would work for God for his whole life. This is what happened to Samuel in 1 Samuel 1:21-28. If these Bible students are right, then it was not possible to buy back a person from the *LORD.
Verses 3-7 A *shekel is a weight. It is 0.4 of an ounce (12 grams). Women had a lower value because they were not as strong as men. The people whom someone promised to give to the *LORD would help the priests in God’s house. The priests would train the children how to help them. In countries near to *Israel, people *sacrificed children to their false gods. The *LORD did not allow this in *Israel.
Verse 8 Here ‘the person’ means the person whom someone is *offering to the *LORD. This person must stand in front of the priest. The priest will decide how much the poor man can afford to pay.
Verses 9-10 When someone promises to give something to God, God accepts that gift immediately. It belongs to God even before the giver hands it over to the priest. So the giver cannot change his mind before he hands the animal over. He cannot give a different animal instead. If he tries to do that, then both animals belong to God.
The gift may be an animal that God accepts as a *sacrifice. Then the giver cannot ever buy that animal back. When he promised it, God accepted it. When God accepted it, the animal became holy. So the man must give that particular animal as a *sacrifice. God will not accept any payment or any other animal instead of it.
Verses 11-13 This man gave an animal that God does not accept as a *sacrifice. For example, the man may have given a *donkey or a horse. So the priest cannot *sacrifice it. Usually the priest would sell it for its proper value. The money would be for God’s house.
But perhaps the giver was sorry that he promised to give that animal. For example, perhaps it was his favourite horse. God allows the giver to buy back his animal. But the giver must know that he has done something wrong. He has taken back the animal that he gave to God. So he must pay an extra 20% (per cent), that is, one fifth. This is like the rules for the *guilt offering (see Leviticus 5:16 and 6:5).
Verses 14-15 *Dedicate means ‘to put away from daily use and to make holy’. Probably the priests would use such a house to live or to work in. Again, a man must add an extra 20% (per cent) to the price if he wants to buy his house back. He has to pay the extra money because he has done something wrong. He has taken back a gift that he gave to God.
Verses 16-21 A person could give some of his family’s land to the *LORD. Usually, the family would own again any land that they sold. It would become their land again in the *Jubilee Year (chapter 25). But if someone gave land to the *LORD, it would become permanently the *LORD’s, in the *Jubilee Year. However, until the *Jubilee Year, the giver could buy back the land. He had to pay an extra 20% (per cent) because he has done something wrong. He has taken back something that he gave to God.
The *Hebrew word for ‘50 gallons’ is ‘homer’. It is close to 50 gallons (220 litres) in size. ‘Homer’ means ‘*donkey’. A *donkey is a small horse. A homer of seed is what a *donkey can carry. Two things are not clear and they are a puzzle to Bible students.
· Who does work on the field that the man has *dedicated to the *LORD? Does the man who *dedicated the field work on it? Then perhaps, he gives the harvest to the priests. Or do the priests work on the field? Bible students are not sure about the answers.
· Who sells the field to somebody else in verse 20? Is it the man or the priests? Again, Bible students are not sure about the answers. Perhaps this is about land that the man has already sold. Usually, he would own the land again in the *Jubilee Year. But the man has given his rights over the land to the *LORD, so he cannot buy the land back. So in the *Jubilee Year, the land will become the *LORD’s.
Verses 22-25 These are the rules for a temporary gift of land to the *LORD. When someone had bought land, he only owned it until the next *Jubilee Year. Then the land went back to the original owner in the *Jubilee Year. So if the buyer gave this land to the *LORD, his gift was a temporary gift. He gave only the use of the land (or its harvests) until the *Jubilee Year.
Verses 26-27 The first young animal that a cow or a sheep has belongs to the *LORD, Exodus 13:2 and Exodus 34:19-20. That animal is the ‘*first-born’ of its parent. So nobody can give that animal to the *LORD; it is already his.
If the *first-born animal is *unclean, for example, a *donkey, the owner can buy it back from the *LORD at birth. Exodus 34:20 says that the owner must give a *lamb to the *LORD. That is the price to buy back the *first-born *donkey. If the owner does not want to buy back the *donkey, he must kill it.
Afterwards, the owner may decide to give again that *first-born *donkey to the *LORD. The owner would not be giving the *donkey for *sacrifice. The only animals that the priests *sacrificed were cows, *bulls, sheep and goats. The priests could sell the *donkey to someone else. Or, perhaps the owner might want to buy it back again. He must pay the extra 20% (per cent), because it is wrong to take back a gift from the *LORD.
Verses 28-29 The word ‘*devote’ means more than ‘*dedicate’. To *devote something to the *LORD is a very serious matter. Sometimes a person could buy back something that he had *dedicated to the *LORD. But nobody can buy back the things that someone *devotes to the *LORD. Such things belong wholly and completely to the *LORD. They are not only holy, they are most holy for the *LORD.
It seems that often, the people destroyed these things completely in order to hand them over to the *LORD. (See Joshua 6:17-19). This happened at certain battles (see 1 Samuel 15:17-23).
*Jewish Bible students think that verse 29 is about a judge’s decision. A judge could decide that a person must die because of his crime. So the judge would *devote that person to the *LORD, so that the person must die. And nobody could pay for the person to go free.
When the judge made that decision, he handed the person over to the *LORD. A judge would only make that decision for the worst crimes. For example, perhaps the person had killed someone on purpose. Or perhaps the person had decided on purpose that he would fight against the *LORD. (See Leviticus 24:13-17.)
Verses 30-33 A *tithe is one tenth, or 10% (per cent). The farmer’s *rod was a stick. He used it to guide and to protect his animals. Verse 32 seems to describe how he might count his animals. He would cause them to pass, under his *rod, through a narrow place. Then he could count each one in turn. And every tenth animal belonged to the *LORD. That animal was holy. So it was not possible to give another animal instead of it. But it was possible for a person to buy back some of his *tithe of grain or fruit. When someone did that, he was taking back a gift from the *LORD. So he had to pay the extra 20% (per cent) in addition to the value of the gift.
Verse 34 God gave these rules to the *Israelites because he wanted to have a relationship with them. He wanted to forgive their *sins so that they could have *fellowship with him. God wanted his people to be able to *worship him in the beauty of *holiness.
1. Read 1 Samuel 1:11 and 1 Samuel 1:21-28. That passage is about Hannah, who *dedicated her son Samuel to the *LORD.
2. Read the stories in Joshua 6:17; Joshua 7:1-15; Deuteronomy 13:13-19; and 1 Samuel chapter 15. They are about things and people that someone *devoted to the *LORD.
3. Look for the farmer’s *rod in Psalm 23.
altar ~ a special table where the priests burned *incense, grain and animals.
atone ~ to forgive.
atonement ~ another word for what happens when God forgives us. After God forgives us, we are ‘at one’ with him. In other words, we are united as friends (or have friendly relations) with him.
blasphemy ~ bad words that a person says against God; an insult against God.
bull ~ the male animal of the same kind as a cow.
Canaan ~ the old name for the countries afterwards called *Israel and *Judah.
clean ~ suitable for God or for God’s people. A clean person could go to God’s house to *worship him.
corn offering ~ a gift of grain to the *LORD. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
covenant ~ the special promise or agreement that God made with the *Jews.
cut off ~ to give someone a punishment that separates that person from his family or nation. That punishment may be death. But it may be to force that person to live abroad.
dedicate ~ to put something away from daily use and to make it holy or special.
descendant ~ members of your family who live after you live.
devote ~ to give something completely and permanently to God. This word means more than ‘*dedicate’; it is a much more serious promise. Often when people devoted something to the *LORD, they destroyed that thing completely.
donkey ~ an animal that is like a small horse.
Egyptians ~ people who come from Egypt; Egypt is a country in north Africa.
exile ~ the time when the *Israelites had to live in Babylon.
fellowship ~ a special type of friendship between God and his people. Or, the special type of friendship that God’s people have with each other.
first-born ~ the first baby that is born in a human family. Or, the first young animal to be born to its mother.
first fruits ~ the first fruits or grains that you pick each year.
frankincense ~ a sticky material that has a sweet smell; people get it from trees. They use it as *incense.
gerah ~ a measurement that is 1/20th (5%) of a *shekel.
goel ~ a member of your family who had to carry out special duties on your behalf. For example, the goel had to pay for your freedom if you became a slave. And he had a duty to buy back your family property if you had to sell it.
grapes ~ fruits that people use to make wine.
guilt offering ~ an *offering by someone who is responsible for certain wrong acts. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke.
holiness ~ the quality of somebody who is *holy, or very, very good.
holy ~ very, very good; only God is really holy. Or, a description of something that belongs to God.
horn ~ hard material that grows on the heads of some animals like cows and goats. Or, the points that were on the corners of the *altars.
idol ~ an image that people *worship; a false god.
incense ~ a material that gives a good smell when people burn it.
Israel ~ the name of the country where the *Jews went to live, especially the northern part of that country.
Israelites ~ the *LORD’s people whom Moses led out of Egypt. Afterwards, they lived in the countries called *Judah and *Israel.
Jewish ~ a word that describes *Jews and what they do.
Jews ~ another word for the *Israelites.
Jubilee Year ~ a special year that happened once at the end of each period of 50 years.
Judah ~ the name of the southern part of the country where the *Jews went to live.
lamb ~ a young sheep.
lampholder ~ an object that holds a lamp.
Levite ~ a member of the *tribe of Levi.
LORD ~ a special name for God. In the *Hebrew Bible it translates YHWH. YHWH probably means ‘he is always alive’. So the word LORD (which means ‘master’) is not a proper translation.
meeting tent ~ the special tent where God met with Moses. The priests could enter it to *worship; they burnt *sacrifices on the *altar in front of it.
offering ~ gift.
oil ~ a type of oil that comes from an oily fruit called the olive. People used this oil in their food and they burnt it in lamps.
palm ~ a type of tree.
Passover ~ the special day when the *Israelites remembered that God led them out of Egypt.
peace offering ~ a gift to thank God. This *offering is about *fellowship with God and his people. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
pentecost ~ 50th. The Day of Pentecost was a special party at the beginning of the wheat harvest. It was 50 days after *Passover.
plagues ~ bad things that happen to people. The ‘10 Plagues’ were 10 punishments that the inhabitants of Egypt suffered. This happened at the time of Moses.
rod ~ a stick that farmers used to protect and to guide their animals.
Sabbath (Day), Sabbath (Year) ~ the 7th day of the week; or the 7th year during a period of 7 years. The 7th day was a special day for rest and *worship. People did not work on that day.
sacrifice ~ something that people burned on an *altar for God; or to burn on an *altar for God. People also gave sacrifices to false gods.
shekel ~ a weight that is 0.4 of an ounce (12 grams).
sin ~ to do wrong things; not to obey God’s rules. Or, the things we do when we sin. Evil thoughts, words and deeds are all sin, whether we do them on purpose or not.
sin offering ~ an *offering by a person who is guilty of particular types of *sin. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
sword ~ a long knife that soldiers used.
tithe ~ one tenth or 10% (per cent).
tribe ~ a very large family.
trumpet ~ a musical instrument.
unclean ~ unsuitable for God or for God’s people. When someone was unclean, that person was unable to *worship at God’s house.
unleavened ~ something that contains no *yeast. The Time of Unleavened Bread is a special holiday that begins immediately after *Passover. It lasts for a week. During the week, the *Jews do not eat bread that contains *yeast.
vine ~ a type of bush. The fruit of a vine is the *grape.
vineyard ~ a garden or field where people produce *grapes.
wave offering ~ a gift that the priest waves in front of the *LORD.
whole offering ~ an *offering that the priests burned completely on the *altar. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
willow ~ a type of tree.
worship ~ to praise someone (usually God). You tell him that you believe him to be very, very great. Also, you love him and you will obey him.
yeast ~ the substance that makes bread ‘rise’, that is, to get bigger in the oven.
The Interlinear NIV *Hebrew-English Old Testament/John R Kohlenberger III/Zondervan
The Holy Bible (English Version for the Deaf)/Baker Book House
Word Biblical Commentary on Leviticus/John E Hartley/Nelson
Leviticus/R K Harrison/Inter-Varsity Press
© 2010, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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