דַּבֵּר אֶלבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אִישׁ כִּי יַפְלִא נֶדֶר בְּעֶרְכְּךָ נְפָשֹׁת לַיהוָה 27:2
Levi. 27:2 “Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them, ‘When someone will make a difficult vow of souls to the Lord, by your estimation,
וְהָיָה עֶרְכְּךָ הַזָּכָר מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְעַד בֶּן־שִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה וְהָיָה עֶרְכְּךָ חֲמִשִּׁים שֶׁקֶל כֶּסֶף בְּשֶׁקֶל 27:3
Levi. 27:3 then it shall be your evaluation. A male from age twenty years and up to age sixty years, then your evaluation shall be fifty shekels of silver in shekels of the sanctuary.’
The two verses 27:2 and 27:3, especially the former, are not simple to translate or interpret. For one example, commentators seem to think that the person being referred to by the second-person singular pronouns you and your in these two verses is Aaron. I imagine that they assume this because of the phrase “Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them....” The words that follow this phrase are assumed to be what Moses tells Aaron. I think not. I am in disagreement with the commentators’ assumption. Moses is told to speak to the children of Israel, not to Aaron. I assume that’s what he will do. But he is not doing it yet. At this point, God is instructing him as to what to say when he leaves Mount Sinai. There is an even stronger reason to disagree with the assumption of the commentators. The assumption is contradicted by v. 27:8. There if the one to whom these verses are referring is too poor to offer the evaluation, he is to be taken before the priest. But otherwise he is not taken before the priest. So the person God is referring to can’t be Aaron; but it also can’t be Moses (Moses will be doing the talking). Then it can only be the people, the children of Israel, as a single entity whom Moses is to address, or possibly a board of evaluation that will be set up in the future.
Then the question next arises as to who is to pay the evaluation. Is it the vow maker or the one for whom the vow was made? Because v. 27:2 says souls, not one soul, I have to assume that there could be more than one person involved. Therefore I believe the person making the vow, the only singular person appearing in these verses, is responsible for paying the evaluation.
There are other obscure phrases in v. 27:2: For one, what does “a difficult vow of souls” mean? Reading further down in the chapter, I have to conclude it refers to a vow made regarding others. Then the Hebrew verb from which I derive the adjective difficult is יַפְלִא, the eighth word in the verse. Its root can mean marvelous, wonderful, extraordinary, separate, beyond one’s power, and a hard or difficult thing. In some bibles this word is translated instead as to utter loudly or clearly. However, the verb in question appears six more times in the bible, and in all of these other instances, the most reasonable and usual translation relates to being difficult or marvelous.
Still more controversy: Some bibles translate v. 27:2 to imply a slightly different meaning. For example, one bible says “... When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the Lord by your estimation.” This is an accurate alternative translation, as it happens, and “the persons” are referred to in the next few verses.. What this translation seems to be saying is that any “singular” vow made by one person commits at least one other person or animal to the Lord. It’s hard to accept this interpretation. My translation says something close -- but it applies only to a vow that the person can’t fulfill, one that is too difficult. Therefore, a valuation of money is substituted.
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