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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Vow may be defined as a religious undertaking, either, 1. Positive, to do or perform; 2. or Negative, to abstain from doing or performing a certain thing. The morality of vows we shall not here discuss, but merely remark that vows were quite in place in a system of religion which so largely consisted of doing or not doing certain outward acts, with a view of pleasing Jehovah and gaining his favor. The Israelite, who had been taught by performances of daily recurrence to consider particular ceremonies as essential to his possessing the divine favor, may easily have been led to the conviction which existed probably in the primitive ages of the world, that voluntary oblations and self-imposed sacrifices had a special value in the sight of God. And when once this conviction had led to corresponding practice, it could not be otherwise than of the highest consequence that these sacred promises, which in sanctity differed little from oaths, should be religiously and scrupulously observed. Vows, which rest on a human view of religious obligations, assuming as they do that a kind of recompense is to be made to God for good enjoyed, or consideration offered for good desiderated, or a gratuity presented to buy off an impending or threatened ill, are found in existence in the antiquities of all nations, and present themselves in the earliest Biblical periods (; ; ; ). With great propriety the performance of these voluntary undertakings was accounted a highly religious duty (; ). The words of the last vow are too emphatic, and in the present day too important, not to be cited: 'Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay' (comp. , sq.; 76:11; 116:18). The views which guided the Mosaic legislation were not dissimilar to those just expounded. Like a wise lawgiver, Moses, in this and in other particulars, did not attempt to sunder the line of continuity between the past and the present. He found vows in practice; he aimed to regulate what it would have been folly to try to root out (, sq.). The words in are clearly in agreement with our remarks: 'If thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.'





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Vow'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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