I. DEVOTED THINGS DIFFER FROM THINGS SANCTIFIED. 1. In that they may not be redeemed. (1) Things sanctified might be redeemed. The laws of estimation proceeded upon the recognition of this principle. (2) But it is otherwise with things devoted (see vers. 6, 21, 28). They are in the category of things “most holy,” which only may be touched by the priests. (3) Hence firstlings must not be sanctified (ver. 26). The reason is that they are already the property of God. They can neither be given to him nor redeemed from him. They were types of Christ, who is therefore called the “Firstfruits of every creature”—the Antitype of all the firstfruits. 2. Persons when devoted were doomed to die. (1) Such was the fate of the enemies of the Lord. The Canaanites as unfit to live were so devoted (see Exod. 22:19; Deut. 25:19; Josh. 6:17; 1 Sam. 15:3; 1 Kings 20:42). (2) Here is no reference to human sacrifices, as some have imagined. It is a question of justice and judgment upon the wicked. (3) But by a rash vow the innocent may suffer. Thus through the adjuration of Saul Jonathan’s life was imperiled (1 Sam. 14.). Jephthah’s vow compromised the life of his daughter (Judg. 11:30, 31, 39). The reading in the margin (ver. 31) is preferable. Jephthan could not make a burnt offering of anything unsuited to that purpose, and whatever else came forth he vowed not to sanctify but to devote. (4) The severity of God upon those devoted for their wickedness should admonish sinners of the formidableness of his anger in the great day of his wrath.
II. THE LAW CONCERNING TITHES. 1. These are now formally required. (1) They were originally vowed to God (see Gen. 14:19; 28:22). (2) The acts of the patriarchs bound their posterity. Hence Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek, being yet in the loins of Abraham (Heb. 7:9, 10). (3) Therefore God now claims them (vers. 30, 32). (4) The spirit of this law is still binding upon the spiritual seed of Abraham (see 1 Cor. 9:11; Gal. 6:6). 2. Things marked as tithes must not be exchanged. (1) The expression, “passeth under the rod.” is thus explained by the rabbins: “When a man was to give the tithe of his sheep or calves to God, he was to shut up the whole flock in one fold, in which there was one narrow door capable of letting out one at a time. The owner stood by the door with a rod in his hand, the end of which was dipped in vermilion or red ochre. The mothers of those lambs or calves stood without, and as the young ones passed out, when the tenth came he touched it with the colour, and this was received as the legitimate tithe.” (2) Here note the vicarious principle. When the tenth was taken, nine went free. Christ is our Tenth (see Isa. 6:13). (3) The tenth must not be exchanged for better or worse. Providence is presumed to have guided the rod. While Christ becomes the Substitute for mankind, no one can take his place.—J. A. M.