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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Numbers 30

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXX.

Of the vows and oaths of men and women: how far it is in the power of a father to disannul the vow of an unmarried daughter, or of an husband to disannul that of a wife.

Before Christ 1452.


Verse 1

Numbers 30:1. Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes i.e. the representatives of the people assembled together, Deuteronomy 33:5. 1 Chronicles 28:1. It is very likely that some case had been propounded to Moses about vows; concerning which, by the Lord's command, he here gives them such rules as might direct them for the future.


Verse 2

Numbers 30:2. If a man, &c.— That is, a person entirely master of himself, and actually endowed with reason. See Leviticus 27. The Jewish rabbis have advanced two excellent maxims upon this subject: the one, that a good man, who performs his duty, does well not to lay himself under the obligation of vows; the other, that we are not permitted to make any other vows than those which in their own nature tend to the glory of God. It is very evident, that vows respecting things lawful only must be here meant; and, probably, Moses principally refers to such persons as, intending to glorify God, made vows to offer some sacrifice of supererogation upon the feast days, or to afflict their souls on some other day than that of expiation. No vows nor oaths can bind to that which is unlawful. See Grotius de Jure B. & P. lib. 2: cap. 13 sect. 6. The determination of Philo upon this head is very just; that he who perpetrates any act of injustice upon account of his oath, adds one crime to another; first, by taking an unlawful oath; and then, by doing an unlawful action; therefore, such a one ought to abstain from the unjust action, and pray God to pardon him for his rash oath; an observation which clearly shews the iniquity of Herod's conduct, Matthew 14:9. Religious vows were common among all nations, wherein mankind seem to have considered God rather after the manner of men, than suitably to his own nature. We may observe, however, that the vows which we most frequently read of in the Old Testament, were only solemn resolutions of universal obedience to God. See Genesis 28:20. 2 Samuel 15:8. Isaiah 19:21. Jonah 1:16; Jonah 2:9. The solemn vows and resolutions which Christians come under by baptism and the Lord's supper are of this kind: and such holy renewals, and confirmations of our resolutions to obey God, are undoubtedly of great and perpetual use. Other vows serve only for a snare, and it is most prudent to omit them.

Break his word "Profane," says Dr. Beaumont, i.e. "not violate or break his promise. For the like phrases, see Psalms 55:20; Psalms 89:34. All that proceedeth, &c. signifies every word of his; as the phrase is explained, Luke 4:4 from Deuteronomy 8:3 and this of vows lawful, and in a man's power to perform."


Verses 3-8

Numbers 30:3-8. If a woman also, &c.— Two cases are next put, of persons who are under authority, and not entirely at their own disposal; and, by a very equitable law, it is determined, that their vows shall not stand, if disallowed by those under whose authority they are. The same law, founded in natural reason, extends to all under authority; nobody who is subject to another having any right to dispose of those things which are in that other's power. Puffendorf judiciously remarks, that this power was fitly reserved to parents, &c. lest women, in their imprudent years, should ruin themselves by vowing more than their fortunes could bear, and lest the paternal estate should be burdened by such vows. See his Law of Nat. and Nations, book 6: ch. 2 sect. 11.


Verse 6

Numbers 30:6. If she had—a husband This is better rendered by Houbigant, but the woman who is married, when she voweth a vow, &c.


Verse 9

Numbers 30:9. Every vow of a widow, &c.— Here again the case is put, of persons in their own power, who, being their own mistresses, might certainly dispose of themselves as they pleased.


Verse 10

Numbers 30:10. If she vowed in her husband's house i.e. If she who is a widow, or divorced, did make her vow during her husband's life, or before she was divorced. This sense, which is very natural, distinguishes this law from that in the 6th verse. The rabbis say, that if she was only betrothed, none could make her vow void, but her father and husband together.


Verses 13-15

Numbers 30:13-15. Every binding oath to afflict the soul By fasting, abstinence, or rather acts of mortification and self-denial. See Leviticus 16:24. Perhaps St. Paul had this passage in view, when he says, the wife hath not power over her own body. 1 Corinthians 7:4. The husband had it in his power to establish or make void the vows of the wife; but (Numbers 30:14-15.) the tacit or explicit consent of the husband to the religious vow of the wife, and of the father to the vow of the daughter, once freely given at the first making of it, was to establish and render it irreversible. Their silence, or not contradicting it, at the first proposal, was to be interpreted consent; nor was it in the husband's or parent's power to retract that consent, or hinder the performance of the vow in due manner; which if he did, he was to bear her iniquity; that is,

God would punish him, not her, for a breach of sacred faith. Houbigant renders this, after the Samaritan and LXX, he should bear his own iniquity: for, says he, there is no iniquity in the wife whom the husband permits not to perform her vow; the iniquity is his, who prevents the performance of it. But, according to the interpretation we have given them, there is no great difference.


Verse 16

Numbers 30:16. These are the statutes, &c.— These statutes were ordained for the good of families, for the support of order, economy, and necessary tranquillity, and for the prevention of superstition and vice.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 30:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/numbers-30.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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