Troublesome Topic: Doesn’t the Law Value Men More than Women?

Leviticus chapter 27 explains the process for dedicating things (living and nonliving) to the Lord. Why would someone want to dedicate something to the Lord? Sometimes it was an act of gratitude for something special that God had done for them, and sometimes it was a plea for God to do something and in exchange the person promised to give something to God.

The first observation is that someone was dedicating himself or something he had, or a person under his authority, to the Lord. This situation was not forced upon him, nor did God ask for it, rather it was someone who said, “I want to say ‘thank you’ to God by giving something significant back to Him.”

They could dedicate various types of things: land, houses, animals, their time and labor or the time and labor of a family member or slave.

If a man dedicated land or a house, the priest would come out and estimate the value of said item. Then it would be sold, and the money would go to the maintenance and repair of the tabernacle.

If a man were dedicating a clean animal, he would take the animal to the tabernacle and it would be offered as a sacrifice. If a man were dedicating an unclean animal, he would take it to the priest who would calculate its value, then he would take the animal to a holding pen until it could be sold and the money would be used for the upkeep and repairs of the tabernacle. 

If the owner wanted to be the one to buy his land, house or animal back, he could do that for 120% of the value determined by the priest.

If a man dedicated himself, it meant he was willing to give his time and labor to serve God in some aspect of the tabernacle. However, most men were limited in what they could do because they were not Levites, and only Levites could serve in the tabernacle proper. The most likely task for a non-Levite would be hauling firewood, water, or offal (the entrails of sacrificed animals) to or from the entrance of the tabernacle. This was strenuous labor! In lieu of his time and labor, a man could give money which would go to the Levites who actually did the work, or to the repair and maintenance of the tabernacle. This was paid according to the prescribed amount based on age and gender.

This is where the valuation process entered the picture. In verses 1 through 8 of Leviticus chapter 27 the value of the labor of different people was prescribed based on how much work they could likely get done during the standard unit of time. We are not told in Scripture, but it appears that the standard unit of time was one year. See below.

Here are the prescribed valuations for their labor:

  1. Age 20 to 60   Male = 50 Shekels of silver, Female = 30 shekels
  2. Age 5 to 20     Male = 20 Shekels, Female = 10 shekels
  3. Ages 60+         Male = 15 shekels, Female = 10 shekels
  4. 1 mo to 5 yrs   Male = 5 shekels, Female = 3 shekels
  5. Less than 1 mo            = no payment
Go to footnote number

How long would it take for an average person in the Old Testament era to earn that much money? That is difficult to say with certainty. Based on someone’s research about the value of a shekel, it is possible that 50 shekels could have represented a year’s labor for an average wage-earning man in Old Testament times.

Go to footnote number

It was the labor, not the genders, that had different value.

In each of these categories, it was probably the prime worker that was in mind, e.g. the 19-year-old, not the 5-year-old, or the 4-year-old, not the 1-month-old.

Notice that a female of working age, 20 to 60, had her labor valued as more than that of a male of 19 or under, and twice as much as a male of 60 and over. That proves that this was not about different values for the genders, but only about the amount of physical labor each one could perform. In the advanced countries of our world today, many jobs do not require hard physical labor, but require other skills such as organizational skills, computer skills, mental acuity, dealing with people, etc. But Leviticus 27 was talking specifically about physical labor, so the redemption price was set accordingly.

You may also have noticed that children of 1 month to 5 years had a labor value assigned to them as well. Why? Most likely this was done so that if a father was so thankful that he wanted to dedicate his entire family’s labor to the Lord for 1 unit of time, there was a way to include the young children even though they were too small to do much work. The baby of less than one month could be dedicated but work value could not be estimated.

It was not really about the labor.

These numbers were just general assumptions. It was never intended that someone argue with the priest saying, “I’m actually stronger than most,” or “I can’t do that much, I have limitations that others don’t have.”

If they could not actually do the work for whatever reason, they could give money instead; this was called “redeeming.” They could redeem themselves (I know that sounds wrong, but in this context, it makes sense) or someone else could redeem them.

It was not really about the money.

If a person wanted to make such a vow but could not do the work and was too poor to pay the standard amount, the priest had the authority to lower those amounts depending on how poor the person actually was. So it wasn’t about the labor, and it wasn’t about the money; it was about someone’s desire to say “thank you” to God, or commit himself to God.

Other terms that sound close but were not

The Nazarite vow was a bit different than the type of dedication described here. It did not have a standard unit of time whereas this type of dedication did have.

“Devoted things” are very different than “dedicated things.” “Devoted” meant to irrevocably give something to the Lord; there was no redeeming it. This could be done with a good or bad result in mind. Things that were devoted to destruction (vs 29) could not be ransomed. If God had determined something needed to be destroyed and he “devoted” it to destruction, there was no turning back; it would definitely suffer that end.

What Did This Teach?

1. Vows were serious business so take them seriously.

2. If you want to say “thank you” to God, make it a good “thank you” that costs you something.

3. People do not have different value in God’s eyes; we all have souls that are equally valuable to God, and He proved that with a cross. However, when people want to say “thank you” using their labor, there is a difference in the amount of physical labor that different people can do.

The next lesson in the full series on Covenants is: So How Did This Work?



The shekel was a unit of weight and only became a monetary unit when applied to silver. 50 shekels was equal to approximately 1 ¼ pounds of silver.


Someone who writes for has calculated that an average person in New Testament times could earn 30 shekels of silver in about 4 months. The standard unit of time used to calculate the value of labor for the dedicated things described in Lev 27 was probably an easily measured period of time that made sense to everyone. We can probably say with confidence that 50 shekels represented anywhere from 6 months to a year’s wages for an average person in Old Testament times. While 6 months would fit more closely with the value of the shekel in New Testament times, it makes more sense to me that the period of time was probably one year. I arrived at my estimate for the Old Testament era by considering that the shekel may have lost value between the Old Testament era and the New Testament era, and wages had gone up to compensate for that loss. Thus 50 shekels may have been about 1 year’s wages during the Old Testament era.