Numbers 30: Vow Vetoes

If you knew that you were legally bound to every word you said, would it change how you spoke?

Because that how they rolled in Israel.

Ok, to be fair, they we legally bound to vows and pledges. But come on, how many times have you said something like, “If Joey says ‘uve‘ instead of ‘uvula‘ one more time, I swear I am going to snort chopped habañero peppers up my nose!”?

I may have accidentally got habañero pepper in my nose last night. I don’t recommend it.

Numbers 30 is about vows . . . if you haven’t figured that out already. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Men are always required to make good on their vows, or at least all that proceeds out of their mouths. Hopefully we are just talking about words here.
  • Women are held to the same standard only if their father or husband doesn’t veto it. And he only had a limited time to say something or she has to do what she said.

A Step Backwards?

It’s hard to read this and not think it is pretty sexist. Men ultimately have control over whether or not the women have to do what they say.

That feels like a step backwards from where we were in chapter 27.

But on the plus side, men can’t make women make a vow. They just have to approve it. And watch out fellas, if you don’t say anything but then change your mind later, too bad. You had your chance. You can’t tell her to stop.

So it is a bit sexist, but only for like the first hour. Then the guy loses any say in the matter.

Forgiveness and Guilt

If a woman’s vow is vetoed, she is not bound to it. And three times in the chapter we are told that God will forgive her.

This was a bit odd to me.

I usually think of forgiveness as something a person does for another when that other person has wronged them. But I guess is also is a releasing. A letting go.

God let’s the woman go. She is released from her vow.

Same with guilt.

I usually think that guilt is something bad. You did something naughty and now you are guilty. But here, it is just a consequence of making a vow. It seems to be value neutral.

Unless of course we entertain the possibility that it is unwise to even make a vow. Might God not actually want his people to do this?

After all, they need to be forgiven for their guilt because of vows.

Or I could be wrong.

What do you think? To vow or not to vow?

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3 responses

  1. Interesting! I think it seems He knows we only get ourselves in trouble by swearing vows as who are we to be able to ensure they’re kept – we can’t fortell what is in our future – that thought reminded me of Jesus in Matt 5

    “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one”

  2. I don’t usually look at this type of thing and think, “Sexist” because that would definitely be reading 21st century thought into it. I’m not saying I’ve got it figured out because I haven’t dug into, but I have to believe that this is some way of separating Israel from the other nations and improving the standing of women compared to those other nations.

    • I think you may be right. I forgot about that as I was writing. This does give women the dignity of making their own vows. The men eventually lose any say in the matter.

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