Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Charam" - Devoted To Destruction (Leviticus 27:28-29)

The following quote is taken from

"However, in Leviticus 27:28-29, the Lord allows for no redemptions.  "Note also that any one of his possessions which a man vows as doomed to the Lord, whether it is a human being or an animal, or a hereditary field, shall be neither sold nor ransomed; everything that is thus doomed becomes most sacred to the Lord.  All human beings that are doomed lose the right to be redeemed; they must be put to death."  I must admit that I am a bit confused by this contradiction, but it might only apply to slaves in your possession.  Not that it makes any difference.  A human sacrifice is a human sacrifice, and it is just sick."

            Let's examine this passage in further detail.  In Leviticus chapter 27, it is detailing rules and regulations regarding the dedication of people or things to the Lord.  Verses 28-29 are as follows:

28 “‘But nothing that a person owns and devotes to the LORD—whether a human being or an animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD.  
29 “‘No person devoted to destruction may be ransomed; they are to be put to death."
            There are actually two categories being discussed in these verses.  The first part of verse 28 refers to gifts that have freely been made to God; such gifts could never be bought back; they were permanently dedicated to the Lord.   
            The last part of verse 28 through the end of verse 29 refers to a special case.  The Hebrew word used here is charam, meaning "the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering" [2].  Only God could decide when this type of devotion occurred, and it was always in response to a grievous sin that the person or people had committed against the Lord.
            For example, when the Israelites were travelling out of Egypt, the Amalekites attacked the weakest and most vulnerable people among them:Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). 
            In response to the Amalekites murdering the weakest of the Israelites who had fallen behind the others (the text seems to indicate that these included the elderly, the sick, and those with young children, although this is not specified), God determined that the Amalekites would be destroyed (1 Samuel 15).  He was, in essence, sentencing them to death for their crime.
            The term charam is only used when God sentenced a nation to death for such crimes; it was not something that could be determined by anyone other than God.  It was not, for instance, for a person to inflict upon a slave of theirs that had been dedicated to the Lord.  Such a person would spend the rest of their life in the Lord's service, and could not be bought back.  A person who was sentenced to death by God for their crimes could not be redeemed or bought back; they were to be executed. 

[1] Gesenius's Lexicon, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (translated by Samuel P. Tregelles), 1847
[2] Footnote in the Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT).  This term (charam) occurs in the following verses: Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 27:21, 28-29; Numbers 18:14; 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 7:2, 26; 13:15-17; 20:17; Joshua 2:10; 6:17-21; 7:1, 11-15; 8:26; 10:1, 28, 35, 37, 39-40; 11:11-12, 20-21; 22:20; 1 Samuel 15:3, 8-9, 15, 18-21.