Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The performance of vows by women
The chapter opens with the command (Numbers 30:2) that a man shall always observe a vow which he has made. But the rest of the chapter deals with vows made by women. The following rules are laid down:—(1) an unmarried woman living in her father’s house, or a married woman living with her husband, is bound to perform her vow only if the father or the husband respectively raises no objection at the time that he hears of the vow having being made (Numbers 30:3-8; Numbers 30:10-14); (2) a widow or a divorced woman must perform her vow (Numbers 30:9); (3) if the father, or husband, makes no objection at the time, but subsequently prevents his daughter, or wife, from performing her vow, the guilt rests upon him.
And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.
If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.2. Two kinds of pledges are here mentioned, a vow and an obligation. A vow is a promise to give something to God. Such votive offerings were frequent in times of danger or special need (cf. Genesis 28:20-22, Jdg 11:30 f.). In post-exilic times they would often consist in gifts to the temple (cf. Luke 21:5 ἀναθήματα). An obligation is a prohibition laid upon oneself, a pledge of abstinence; e.g from wine, as in the case of a Nazirite (ch. 6), or from food (1 Samuel 14:24, Acts 23:21); see also Psalm 132:3 f.
he shall not profane his word] To break a solemn promise is an act of profanation. The importance of keeping vows is emphasized in Deuteronomy 23:21 ff., Ecclesiastes 5:4 f.; cf. Matthew 5:33.
all that proceedeth out of his mouth] A vow is not a vow until it has been expressed in words (cf. Numbers 32:24, Jdg 11:35 f.). The Rabbis of a later time further enjoined in the Mishna that the mere utterance of words without a real intention is not binding. ‘No utterance is binding unless the mouth and the heart agree.’
If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father's house in her youth;3. in her youth] Old unmarried women are not mentioned. But since marriage was, in the eyes of a Jew, a religious duty, this class of women must have been very small, and would probably be subject to the same rule as widows.
And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.4. heareth her vow] i.e. comes to hear of it; Numbers 30:7-8 shew that it does not necessarily mean that he is present when she actually utters her vow.
But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.5. disallow her] lit. ‘oppose her,’ express disapproval.
And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;6. while her vows are upon her] If at the time of her marriage she was still bound by some vow or pledge of abstinence, which she had previously taken with her father’s approval.
And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.7, 8. When her husband comes to hear of it (see Numbers 30:4), he may then either annul it if he wishes, or by tacit approval allow it to stand.
But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her.
But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath;
And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.
But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the LORD shall forgive her.
Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.13. to afflict the soul] See on Numbers 29:7.
But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.
But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.15. If, after tacitly consenting at the time that he heard of the vow, he compels her at a later time to break it, then Jehovah will not (as in the foregoing cases) forgive, but the iniquity will rest upon the husband and not upon the woman.
These are the statutes, which the LORD commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father's house.