As mentioned, every contribution means “to lift off” and signifies elevated or set apart for holy purposes. It can be from the earth’s produce (Num. 15:19–21) or of plunder from war (Num. 31:29, 41, 52). People can use it of tithes (Num. 18:24, 26–29) or material for the Tabernacle (Exo. 35:5, 21, 24), and even of the half-shekel (Exo. 30:13–16).

In sacrifices, it is the shoulder of the peace offering (Exo. 29:27; Lev. 7:34; Num. 6:20).

These diverse items are all in some sense dedicated to Yahweh. So, the târumah is never offered “before” Yahweh, but always “to Yahweh.” It was a dedication without ritual outside the sanctuary, achieved by oral declaration (Jdg. 17:3) or physical activity (Lev. 27:32). In general, Numbers 5: 9-10 stressed that each gift becomes the personal property of the priest to whom it is given and does not, therefore, belong to the priestly community as a whole.

The passage’s context is about the righting of wrongs within the community, the kind of wrong in which damage has been done, and loss is persistent. Confession, full restitution, and an additional payment of 20% are required of the guilty party, in addition to the ram of atonement.

If the man is dead and no next of kin can pay, then the money, along with the ram and other offerings, automatically goes to the priest.

In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you can find how the neglect of the priesthood support hurt priestly practice and morale. There is still great relevance of such law in the post-exilic context. The degree to which the church could enforce the 20% norm was immaterial; the principle mattered.

In verses 9–10, there is a concern to protect individual priests’ rights and prevent favoritism. The author uses the compensation question to affirm the community’s principle of proper priestly support through the system of sacrifices and offerings. For the moment, the principle is sufficient.


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