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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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a promise made to God, of doing some good thing hereafter. The use of vows is observable throughout Scripture. When Jacob went into Mesopotamia, he vowed to God the tenth of his estate, and promised to offer it at Bethel, to the honour of God, Genesis 28:22 . Moses enacts several laws for the regulation and execution of vows. A man might devote himself, or his children, to the Lord. Jephthah devoted his daughter, Judges 11:30-31 . Samuel was vowed or consecrated to the service of the Lord before his birth, by his pious mother Hannah; and was really offered to him, to serve in the tabernacle, 1 Samuel 1:21 , &c. If a man and woman vowed themselves to the Lord, they were obliged to adhere strictly to his service, according to the conditions of the vow; but in some cases they might be redeemed. A man from twenty years of age till sixty, gave fifty shekels of silver; and a woman thirty, Leviticus 27:3 . From the age of five years to twenty, a man gave twenty shekels, and a woman ten; from a month old to five years, they gave for a boy five shekels, and for a girl three. A man of sixty years old, or upward, gave fifteen shekels, and a woman of the same age gave ten. If the person was poor, and could not procure this sum, the priest imposed a ransom upon him, according to his abilities. If any one had vowed an animal that was clean, he had not the liberty of redeeming it, or of exchanging it, but was obliged to sacrifice it to the Lord. If it was an unclean animal, and such as was not allowed to be sacrificed, the priest made a valuation of it; and if the proprietor would redeem it, he added a fifth part to the value, by way of forfeit. They did the same in proportion, when the thing vowed was a house or a field. They could not devote the first born, because in their own nature they belonged to the Lord, Leviticus 27:28-29 . Whatever was devoted by way of anathema, could not be redeemed, of whatever nature or quality it was. An animal was put to death, and other things were devoted for ever to the Lord. The consecration of Nazarites was a particular kind of vow. The vows and promises of children were void, of course, except they were ratified either by the express or tacit consent of their parents. It was the same with the vows of a married woman; they were of no validity, except confirmed by the express or tacit consent of her husband, Numbers 30. But widows, or liberated wives, were bound by their vows, whatever they were.

Whosoever invokes the awful name of God to witness, any untruth, knowing it to be such, is guilty of taking it in vain. Our Lord did not mean to preclude solemn appeals to heaven, whether oaths or vows, in courts of justice, or in important compacts. For an oath, or appeal to the greatest of all beings, as the Searcher of hearts, to witness a transaction, and to punish falsehood or perjury, is necessary, for putting an end to all strife or controversy among men, to promote confirmation or security of property, Hebrews 6:16 . And it was sanctioned by the example of God, swearing by himself, Genesis 22:15; Hebrews 6:17-18; and by the example of the patriarchs and saints of old; thus Abraham swore by the most high God, Creator of heaven and earth, Genesis 14:22; the transjordanite tribes, by the God of gods, the Lord, Joshua 22:22 . And the law prescribed, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name," Deuteronomy 6:13 . And afterward, "All Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn unto the Lord with a loud voice, with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them; and the Lord gave them rest round about," 2 Chronicles 15:14-15 . And a highly gifted Apostle uses the following most solemn asseveration, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not," 2 Corinthians 11:31 . See the vows of the priests and Levites, to put away strange wives, Ezra 10:5; and to take no usury from their brethren, Nehemiah 10:29 , St. Paul also vowed a vow, which he performed, Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23 . Our Lord, therefore, reenacted the law, while he guarded against the abuse of it, by prohibiting all oaths in common conversation, as a profanation either of God's name, where that was irreverently used, or where any of his works was substituted instead of the awful and terrible name of the Lord, which the Jews, through superstitious dread, at length ceased to use, from misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 28:58 : "But I say unto you, Swear not at all," in common conversation, by any of your usual oaths, "neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, &c. For, by the detestable casuistry of the scribes and Pharisees, some oaths were reckoned binding, others not, as we learn from the sequel; thus, to swear by the temple, the altar, heaven, &c, they considered as not binding: but to swear by the gold of the temple, by the gift on the altar, &c, they considered as binding; the absurdity and impiety of which practice is well exposed by our Lord in Matthew 23:16-22 .

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Vow'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​v/vow.html. 1831-2.
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