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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Numbers 30

Introduction

Commands regarding vows ch. 30

The last chapter of Leviticus (ch. 27) contains instructions regarding how the Israelites were to handle vows under the Mosaic Law. In contrast this chapter deals with when and under what circumstances they could annul vows and when they had to remain in force.

"The reason for the nature of the pentateuchal laws may be that the Israelites assumed, with much of the culture around them, that vows were a legitimate expression of devotion to one’s god(s), hence only specific ordinances governing the vows were seen as necessary." [Note: Ashley, p. 574.]

Perhaps Moses included this section in this context of matters dealing with preparations for entering Canaan because in times of war people tend to make more vows. This is true of soldiers and their wives and children especially. Also vows are a kind of offering to God, so comment on them here is fitting in view of the previous discussion of offerings (chs. 28-29). A festival was an ideal time at which to discharge a vow.

Vows were voluntary promises to do or not do specified things if God would or would not do something else. They also expressed thanks when God had done something special. They usually involved fasting or abstaining from other lawful things or giving God some special gift or offering. Moses explained the basic principles governing vows first ( 30:2f>). The Israelites were to take their promises to God seriously and not break them (cf. 5:4-5f>). Then follow four cases, some of which constituted an exception to this rule. Others did not.

A girl or young woman living under the authority of her father had a responsibility to obey her father that was more important than her responsibility to keep a self-imposed vow ( 30:3-5f>). A woman who married a husband after she took her vow was to place the importance of her submission to her husband above her vow ( 30:6-8f>). Another person could not void a widow’s vow because she was directly responsible to God, not to her father or husband ( 30:9f>). A woman who took a vow after she became married was under the authority of her husband primarily and under the authority of the terms of her vow secondarily ( 30:10-12f>).

Another rule follows ( 30:13-15f>). A husband could annul his wife’s vow when he became aware of it, but if he did not annul it when he first became aware of it, it would remain in force.

"The assumed culpability of Adam in Genesis 3 may stem from the principle behind this law. In 3:6f>, Adam’s wife makes a rash decision in his presence: ’She took from the tree and ate and gave it to her husband who was with her.’ In view of this passage in Numbers, Adam’s silence in the narrative makes him culpable for his wife’s action." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 417.]

This section clarifies the important principle that one should not regard self-imposed religious obligations as more important than God-given duties.

"The matter of vowing a vow or making a pledge was taken very seriously in Israel. If the foundation of the faith was the immovable trustworthiness of God, no wonder a premium was put on being true to one’s promises in general." [Note: Maarsingh, p. 106.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 30". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/numbers-30.html. 2012.