Could you explain why Leviticus 27:29 says a person set apart had to be put to death?


I am doing a Bible study about Jephthah, and I really liked your article.  I did have one question about the verses in Leviticus which spoke about redeeming or ransoming something devoted to destruction.  In Leviticus 27:29, it says, "No one who may have been set apart among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death"  I was wondering could this mean 1. any human devoted to destruction could be put to death, 2.  this was referring to war when God commanded that everything was devoted to destruction (enemies), or 3. a person who tried to ransom or redeem something devoted to destruction was to be put to death?  I don't really have the access to the original language, so I'm not sure about exact translation.  Any insight you could offer would be great.


Verse marks sometimes come in poor places. Perhaps if we group Leviticus 27:28-29 in this fashion, it will be clearer:

"Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart to the LORD out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed.

Anything devoted to destruction is most holy to the LORD. No one who may have been set apart among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death."

There are two categories of things being discussed. In the first part of Leviticus 27:28 it is talking about things a person gives to God. These things cannot be sold or bought back after they have been freely given.

The second part deals with things God (not man) has devoted to destruction. The Hebrew words are cherem (noun) and charam (verb). They refer to something devoted to the ban. "Its basic meaning involves taking things or people out of ordinary use and devoting them irrevocably to God. ... Whatever was put under the ban was either to be devoted to the Lord's service permanently or destroyed." [The Complete Biblical Library]. Both "devoted to destruction" and "set apart" are the same Hebrew word, that is why these two statements belong together.

The destruction of Jericho done under a ban (Joshua 6:17-19). That is why nothing was to be taken from Jericho, except what was to be used in the Lord's service. Achan and his family were killed for violating this ban. The Amalekites were destroyed under the ban as well (I Samuel 15:3), which is why Saul was punished for leaving the king and some animals alive.

What the law stated in Leviticus 27:28-29 is that any person under the ban could not be bought back (redeemed). He had to be put to death.

Jephthah's daughter, by the way, fell under the first half of Leviticus 27:28. The Hebrew word cherem is not used anywhere in her story. Jephthah had voluntarily devoted his first born daughter through his vow. Since she had already been redeemed as the first born child, she could not be bought back. Her dedication to God was made permanent, so she would serve the Lord the rest of her life.

Thank you for your quick response. That helped a lot.