FREE-WILL OFFERING ("nedabah"):
A term applied to gifts presented out of the benevolence or religious impulse of heart of the giver, and not in fulfilment of any obligation, promise, or vow. It is used as the term for the contributions of Israel to the construction and furnishings of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex. xxxv. 29, xxxvi. 3); for the materials presented for the building of the First Temple (I Chron. xxix. 5b-9, 14); for the gifts for the support of the Temple service under King Hezekiah (II Chron. xxxi. 14); for the contributions toward the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, mentioned in the decree of Cyrus (Ezra i. 4); for the gifts of Israel in its own land toward religious services (Ezra iii. 5); and for the material wealth carried back by Ezra (viii. 28).
A free-will offering may be a burnt offering or a peace-offering (Ezek. xlvi. 12; Lev. xxii. 18, 21); the term is also used of promises or vows made by theworshiper (compare Deut. xxiii. 21-23; Ps. cxix. 108).
A further classification is made (Lev. vii. 11 et seq.) wherein the Peace-Offering includes the praise-offering ("zebaḥ ha-todah"), the votive offering ("zebaḥ, neder"), and the free-will offering ("zebaḥ nedabah"). The ceremonial of these offerings (Lev. vii. 29, 30, 34) provided that the fat parts should be burned as in the regulations of the Burnt Offering, but that the breast should be Aaron's and his sons' (verse 31), and the other flesh should be eaten only on the day of sacrifice in the case of the praise-offering, but also on the second day in the case of the votive and free-will offerings (Lev. vii. 16; xix. 5, 6). According to the general statement (Lev. xxii. 21, 22) the animal presented must be perfect, with no blemish. But in the next verse (23) an exception is made in favor of the free-will offering, which may have "anything superfluous or lacking" in its parts. In Lev. xxii. 18-21 there seem to be but two divisions of the peace-offering, namely, (1) the votive and (2) the free-will offering; while in Num. xv. 8 "peace-offerings" is apparently used as synonymous with "free-will offering" (compare verse 3).
Free-will offerings were made especially on great feast-days: (1) the Feast of Unleavened Bread (II Chron. xxxv. 7-9; compare xxx. 24), (2) the Feast of Weeks (Deut. xvi. 10; compare xxvi. 1-11), (3) the Feast of Tabernacles (Ezra iii. 4, 5; compare Num. xxix. 39; Lev. xxiii. 37, 38).
- Nowack, Handbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, 1894, ii. 238 et seq.;
- Benzinger, Hebräische Archäologie, 1892, pp. 445 et seq.