Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Numbers 30

Numbers 30: Rules for Vows


This chapter covers rules for Israelites who took vows to the LORD, or otherwise obligated themselves with some type of pledge.
  • Verses 1–2 give the “level setting” rule: If a man made a vow to the LORD, or some other oath or pledge, he had to do everything he had vowed to do.
  • Rules for young women—that is, women who still lived at home—were different: If such a young woman were to make a vow, her father would have the ability to nullify it, if he wished. If he heard about the vow, and forbid it, it would become null and void, and the young woman would no longer be bound by it. The LORD would “release her” from her promise (verse 5).
    • If the father didn’t say anything, when he heard about the vow, then that would count as implicit agreement.
  • If a young woman made a vow, and then got married, her husband would then have the opportunity to nullify it, similar to the way her father could have. Just like with fathers, if the husband heard about the vow but didn’t say anything, that would count as implicit agreement.
    • The same rules would apply if a married woman made a vow; her husband would have the ability to nullify the vow, when he heard about it. And if he didn’t say anything, it would count as implicit agreement.
    • If a husband heard about a vow, and didn’t say anything about it at the time, but then later on nullified it, then he would become responsible for the vow, instead of her.
  • Any vow taken by a widow, or a divorced woman, would be binding on her.


You’ll have noticed that many of the rules in this chapter pertain specifically to women, whether they still lived at home, or were married, or were divorced/widowed. This is probably stating the obvious, but the reason has to do with the power structure of the Israelite society, when it came to gender. That is, the men had power, and the women didn’t. As with so many of the laws in the Old Testament, it’s disconcerting to read these rules, from the point of view of a 21st Century North American.

For some rules, in the Old Testament, you can read them and put yourself in the women’s position, and say to yourself, “well, in that scenario, where the woman had no power, this rule would actually protect them from abuse.” In this particular case, though, I’m not sure if it’s the women who are being protected, or the fathers/husbands who are being protected.

In other words, I don’t really understand the rules in this chapter. I mean, on the surface, there’s nothing too difficult to comprehend, but the intent behind the rules eludes me.

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