In Lev 27 we learn that a person could choose to make a vow of dedication, but instead of providing their own life, they could pay the equivalent of their work's worth. For instance, I might want to dedicate my female servant to the temple, if so then I could keep my servant and pay a fee equal to her work. The fee chart worked like this; more money for men, less for women, more money for those who were in the "prime" physical fitness of life, less for the elderly and the young. (See previous post to read entire passage).
It's hard to read that women were "worth less" than men, without assuming women are "worthless." We bring a belief that money = power and that power = worth, both of which are suspect in terms of the
If not, then the questions needs answering, "Why would a woman's service be worth less money?" In terms of service to the Lord in the temple, women could not do as much, not necessarily because they were the "weaker vessel" as Philip pointed out in the comment below, but because women could not be priests, could not be outfitted (Ex. 28), could not be consecrated (Ex. 29), could not make daily offerings (Ex. 30). Women were not permitted to be in God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.
But this male priesthood did not prevent God from interacting with all he loved, we know God interacted, communed, even anointed women as he did with Hagar, Deborah and Huldah. We know God even draws Gentile women, as he did with Ruth (See Carolyn Custis James' The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules). And since Jesus came, we know that God allows women to do all the work that had been limited to Jewish, Levite males. For instance, women are included in the priesthood of all believers, we are even able to "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:5). Women are dedicated for service as priests, outfitted to be priests, fellow ministers of the gospel with men (Eph 4:11-12). We can even enter the Holy of Holies. "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb 10:19 & 22).
Therefore, this male dominated priesthood was only for a while, a shadow or type of the things to come, not a rule grounded in nature or creation. So why do we have this Old Testament period of male-priestliness? Not because women were less in value but because the priests had to be male to prepare the world for the Great High Priest, who came as a male. But why did God choose to incarnate as a male? I believe God wanted to come as the 2nd Adam not a 2nd Eve. So God set up a temple system with arrows all over pointing towards the way God would incarnate, as a male, helping people expect the Son in flesh.
I looked up Lev 27 in The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary a resource I'd highly recommend for hearing a woman's voice on Scripture. Dr. Susan M. Pigott (associate professor of Old Testament at Hardin-Simmons University) makes note that since only Levite males were allowed to serve in the Temple, people who wanted to serve had to donate money in the place of their physical volunteering. In contrast to other religious practices, this laid out rules preventing human sacrifice and provided a means to give in a really sacrificial way. By giving much money you were earning the privilege of offering your time and wages and essentially being a "living sacrifice." (Rom 12:1).
Even more interesting is Dr. Pigott's note that the value system outlined in Leviticus 27 is not chauvinistic. Notice that it is a combination of age+gender, not just gender (as one commenter also discovered-see comments for Part I). So a 1-5 year old male is worth less than a 5-20 year old woman. This makes sense. A 5 year old girl could do more work than a 3 year old boy. So males were not essentially worth more money than females, if they were a male of any age would always be worth more than a female of any age.
The point, Dr. Pigott writes, is that both men or women’s vows of dedication were accepted, a big deal in a patriarchal society. Both could give to the Lord. I see in this passage the broad outline for the future, when God tells us through Paul that he values both genders as unique image-bearers. "For there is neither male or female, for you are all one in Christ" (Gal 3:28). We are all valuable priests, living sacrifices, ministers and fellow-witnesses of Jesus.