Numbers 30

Vows Made by Men

Num 30 deals with vows that are different than the vows discussed in Lev 27 and Num 6. The material is placed here after all the rulings of the offerings, but it could have been revealed to Moses at any time, such as the Nazirite vows, or the question of the daughters’ inheritance. The logic of placing it here may be that a festival was the ideal place for discharging a vow. For additional material on vows, see R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 465–66.
Moses told the leaders
Heb “heads.”
of the tribes concerning the Israelites, “This is what
Heb “This is the word which.”
the Lord has commanded:
If a man
The legal construction states the class to which the law applies, and then lays down the condition: “men [man] – if….”
makes a vow
The Hebrew text uses a cognate accusative construction to express this: “a man if he vows a vow.”
to the Lord or takes an oath
The expression is “swear an oath” (הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה, hishava shevuah). The vow (נֵדֶר, neder) was a promise to donate something of oneself or one’s substance to the Lord. The solemn oath seals the vow before the Lord, perhaps with sacrifice. The vocabulary recalls Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech and the naming of Beer Sheba with the word (see Gen 21).
of binding obligation on himself,
The Hebrew text hasלֶאְסֹר אִסָּר (lesor issar), meaning “to take a binding obligation.” This is usually interpreted to mean a negative vow, i.e., the person attempts to abstain from something that is otherwise permissible. It might involve fasting, or abstaining from marital sex, but it might also involve some goal to be achieved, and the abstaining from distractions until the vow is fulfilled (see Ps 132). The נֶדֶר (neder) may have been more for religious matters, and the אִסָּר more for social concerns, but this cannot be documented with certainty.
he must not break his word, but must do whatever he has promised.
Heb “according to all that goes out of his mouth.”


Vows Made by Single Women

“If a young
The qualification comes at the end of the verse, and simply says “in her youth.”
woman who is still living
The Hebrew text just has “in her father’s house” and not “who is still living,” but that is the meaning of the line.
in her father’s house makes a vow to the Lord or places herself under an obligation,
and her father hears of her vow or the obligation to which she has pledged herself, and her father remains silent about her,
The intent of this expression is that he does not object to the vow.
then all her vows will stand,
The verb קוּם (qum) is best translated “stand” here, but the idea with it is that what she vows is established as a genuine oath with the father’s approval (or acquiescence).
and every obligation to which she has pledged herself will stand.
But if her father overrules her when he hears
The idiom is “in the day of,” but it is used in place of a preposition before the infinitive construct with its suffixed subjective genitive. The clause is temporal.
about it, then none
The Hebrew “all will not stand” is best rendered “none will stand.”
of her vows or her obligations which she has pledged for herself will stand. And the Lord will release
The verb has often been translated “forgive” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV, NLT), but that would suggest a sin that needed forgiving. The idea of “release from obligation” is better; the idea is like that of having a debt “forgiven” or “retired.” In other words, she is free from the vow she had made. The Lord will not hold the woman responsible to do what she vowed.
her from it, because her father overruled her.

Vows Made by Married Women

“And if she marries a husband while under a vow,
Heb “and her vows are upon her.” It may be that the woman gets married while her vows are still unfulfilled.
or she uttered
The Hebrew text indicates that this would be some impetuous vow that she uttered with her lips, a vow that her husband, whether new or existing, would not approve of. Several translate it “a binding obligation rashly uttered.”
anything impulsively by which she has pledged herself,
and her husband hears about it, but remains silent about her when he hears about it, then her vows will stand and her obligations which she has pledged for herself will stand. But if when her husband hears it he overrules her, then he will nullify
The verb is the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive from the verb פָּרַר (parar, “to annul”). The verb functions here as the equivalent of an imperfect tense; here it is the apodosis following the conditional clause – if this is the case, then this is what will happen.
the vow she has taken,
Heb “which [she is] under it.”
and whatever she uttered impulsively which she has pledged for herself. And the Lord will release her from it.

Vows Made by Widows

“But every vow of a widow or of a divorced woman which she has pledged for herself will remain intact.
The Hebrew text says her vow “shall stand against her.” In other words, she must fulfill, or bear the consequences of, whatever she vowed.
10 If she made the vow in her husband’s house or put herself under obligation with an oath, 11 and her husband heard about it, but remained silent about her, and did not overrule her, then all her vows will stand, and every obligation which she pledged for herself will stand. 12 But if her husband clearly nullifies
The verb is the imperfect tense in the conditional clause. It is intensified with the infinitive absolute, which would have the force of saying that he nullified them unequivocally, or he made them null and void.
them when he hears them, then whatever she says
Heb whatever proceeds from her lips.”
by way of vows or obligations will not stand. Her husband has made them void, and the Lord will release her from them.

13  “Any vow or sworn obligation that would bring affliction to her,
The sentence uses the infinitive construct לְעַנֹּת (leannot, “to afflict”), which is the same word used in the instructions for the day of atonement in which people are to afflict themselves (their souls). The case here may be that the woman would take a religious vow on such an occasion to humble herself, to mortify her flesh, to abstain from certain things, perhaps even sexual relations within marriage.
her husband can confirm or nullify.
Heb “or her husband can nullify.”
14 But if her husband remains completely silent
The sentence uses the infinitive absolute to strengthen the idea.
about her from day to day, he thus confirms all her vows or all her obligations which she is under; he confirms them because he remained silent about when he heard them.
15 But if he should nullify them after he has heard them, then he will bear her iniquity.”
In other words, he will pay the penalty for making her break her vows if he makes her stop what she vowed. It will not be her responsibility.


16  These are the statutes that the Lord commanded Moses, relating to
Heb “between.”
a man and his wife, and a father and his young daughter who is still living in her father’s house.

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