Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.The rules by which vows were to be legally regulated, so far as their objects and their discharge were concerned, has been already laid down in Lev; but the chapter before us contains instructions with reference to the force of vows and renunciations. These are so far in place in connection with the general rules of sacrifice, that vows related for the most part to the presentation of sacrifices; and even vows of renunciation partook of the character of worship. The instructions in question were addressed (Numbers 30:1) to "the heads of the tribes," because they entered into the sphere of civil rights, namely, into that of family life.
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.At the head there stands the general rule, "If any one vow a vow to Jehovah, or swear an oath, to bind his soul to abstinence, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that has gone out of his mouth:" i.e., he shall keep or fulfil the vow, and the promise of abstinence, in perfect accordance with his word. נדר is a positive vow, or promise to give or sanctify any part of one's property to the Lord. אסּר, from אסר, to bind or fetter, the negative vow, or vow of abstinence. על־נפשׁו אסּר אסר, to take an abstinence upon his soul. In what such abstinence consisted is not explained, because it was well understood from traditional customs; in all probability it consisted chiefly in fasting and other similar abstinence from lawful things. The Nazarite's vow, which is generally reckoned among the vows of abstinence, is called neder in Numbers 6:2., not issar, because it consisted not merely in abstinence from the fruit of the vine, but also in the positive act of permitting the hair to grow freely in honour of the Lord. The expression "swear an oath" (Numbers 30:2; cf. Numbers 30:13) shows that, as a rule, they bound themselves to abstinence by an oath. The inf. constr., השּׁבא, is used here, as in other places, for the inf. abs. (cf. Ges. 131, 4, note 2). יחל, from חלל, for יחל, as in Ezekiel 39:7 (cf. Ges. 67, note 8), to desecrate (his word), i.e., to leave it unfulfilled or break it.
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;Numbers 30:3-15 contain the rules relating to positive and negative vows made by a woman, and four different examples are given. The first case (Numbers 30:3-5) is that of a woman in her youth, while still unmarried, and living in her father's house. If she made a vow of performance or abstinence, and her father heard of it and remained silent, it was to stand, i.e., to remain in force. But if her father held her back when he heard of it, i.e., forbade her fulfilling it, it was not to stand or remain in force, and Jehovah would forgive her because of her father's refusal. Obedience to a father stood higher than a self-imposed religious service. - The second case (Numbers 30:6-8) was that of a vow of performance or abstinence, made by a woman before her marriage, and brought along with her (עליה, "upon herself") into her marriage. In such a case the husband had to decide as to its validity, in the same way as the father before her marriage. In the day when he heard of it he could hold back his wife, i.e., dissolve her vow; but if he did not do this at once, he could not hinder its fulfilment afterwards. שׂפתיה מבטא, gossip of her lips, that which is uttered thoughtlessly or without reflection (cf. Leviticus 5:4). This expression implies that vows of abstinence were often made by unmarried women without thought or reflection. - The third case (Numbers 30:9) was that of a vow made by a widow or divorced woman. Such a vow had full force, because the woman was not dependent upon a husband. - The fourth case (Numbers 30:10-12) was that of a vow made by a wife in her married state. Such a vow was to remain in force if her husband remained silent when he heard of it, and did not restrain her. On the other hand, it was to have no force if her husband dissolved it at once. After this there follows the general statement (Numbers 30:13-16), that a husband could establish or dissolve every vow of performance or abstinence made by his wife. If, however, he remained silent "from day to day," he confirmed it by his silence; and if afterwards he should declare it void, he was to bear his wife's iniquity. עונה, the sin which the wife would have had to bear if she had broken the vow of her own accord. This consisted either in a sin-offering to expiate her sin (Leviticus 5:4.); or if this was omitted, in the punishment which God suspended over the sin (Leviticus 5:1).
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.
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.
And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;
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.
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.
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.
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.Numbers 30:16, concluding formula.