M'Cheyne Bible Reading Notes

Numbers 30 – Binding our soul with vows and oaths…..

Nimbers 30 is a curious chapter on vows. As we look at this remember what the NT says about making these.

There are 11 verses in this chapter that use the term soul, vows are binding and we should also note the qualifier in the women’s vows verses “hold/held his peace”, where the father or husband must disallow her vow immediately when he hears it, else it can not be revoked.

There are curious connections to the soul and to the concept of a man having a kind of veto power of women God has placed in his care…daughters, wives. The text does not give corresponding power to the woman over the man.

This may not be politically correct today.

Looking at these two aspects we read what John Gill writes.


The clarity is seem here, with the description of proper vows and the added seal of the oath of “soul binding”.

If a man vow a vow unto the Lord,…. Which must be in a thing that is lawful to be done, which is not contrary to the revealed will and mind of God, and which may tend to the glory of God, the honour of religion, the service of the sanctuary, the good of a man’s self or of his neighbour; or in things purely indifferent, which may, or may not be done, without offence to God or man; as that he will not eat such a thing for such a time, or he will do this or the other thing, as Jarchi observes; who moreover says, that he may forbid himself what is forbidden, and forbid what is free and lawful; but he may not make free or lawful what is forbidden, that is, he may not vow to do a thing which is contrary to the law of God, such a vow will not stand: and he was to be of such an age before he could make a vow that would be valid; according to the Targum of Jonathan, he must be thirteen years of age; it is said in the Misnah (p),”a son of twelve years and one day, his vows are examined; a son of thirteen years and one day, his vows are firm, and they examine the whole thirteenth year before that time; although they say we know to whose name (or on whose account) we vow or consecrate, their vow is no vow, nor their consecration no consecration; but after that time, though they say we know not to whose name (or, on whose account) we vow or consecrate, their vow is a vow, and their consecration a consecration:”

or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; to his vow adds an oath for the greater confirmation of it, and to lay himself under the greater obligation to perform it:

Jesus taught that oaths are not necessary.

Mat 5:33  Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

Mat 5:34  But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

Mat 5:35  Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

Mat 5:36  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

Mat 5:37  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

James writes the same …Jas 5:12  But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

In the Hebrew vows and oaths are defined by Strongs.

A primitive root; to promise (positively, to do or give something to God): – (make a) vow.

Feminine passive participle of H7650; properly something sworn, that is, an oath: – curse, oath, X sworn. A primitive root; properly to be complete, but used only as a denominative from H7651; to seven oneself, that is, swear (as if by repeating a declaration seven times): – adjure, charge (by an oath, with an oath), feed to the full [by mistake for H7646], take an oath, X straitly, (cause to, make to) swear.

Matthew Henry provides the best commentary on the subject.

I. The case of a daughter in her father’s house: and some think, probably enough, that it extends to a son likewise, while he is at home with his father, and under tutors and governors. Whether the exception may thus be stretched I cannot say. Non est distinguendum, ubi lex non distinguit – We are not allowed to make distinctions which the law does not. The rule is general, If a man vow, he must pay. But for a daughter it is express: her vow is nugatory or in suspense till her father knows it, and (it is supposed) knows it from her; for, when it comes to his knowledge, it is in his power either to ratify or nullify it. But in favour of the vow, 1. Even his silence shall suffice to ratify it: If he hold his peace, her vows shall stand, Num 30:4Qui tacet, consentire videtur – Silence gives consent. 

Hereby he allows his daughter the liberty she has assumed, and, as long as he says nothing against her vow, she shall be bound by it

But, 2. His protestation against it shall perfectly disannul it, because it is possible that such vow may by prejudicial to the affairs of the family, break the father’s measures, perplex the provision made for his table if the vow related to meats, or lessen the provision made for his children if the vow would be more expensive than his estate would bear; however, it was certain that it was an infringement of his authority over his child, and therefore, if he disallow it, she is discharged, and the Lord shall forgive her, that is, she shall not be charged with the guilt of violating her vow; she showed her good-will in making the vow, and, if her intentions therein were sincere, she shall be accounted better than sacrifice. 

This shows how great a deference children owe to their parents, and how much they ought to honour them and be obedient to them. It is for the interest of the public that the paternal authority be supported; for, when children are countenanced in their disobedience to their parents (as they were by the tradition of the elders, Mat 15:5Mat 15:6), they soon become in other things children of Belial. If this law be not to be extended to children’s marrying without their parents’ consent so far as to put it in parents’ power to annul the marriage and dissolve the obligation (as some have thought it does), yet certainly it proves the sinfulness of it, and obliges the children that have thus done foolishly to repent and humble themselves before God and their parents.

II. The case of a wife is much the same. As for a woman that is a widow or divorced, she has neither father nor husband to control her, so that, whatever vows she binds her soul with, they shall stand against her (Num 30:9), it is at her peril if she run back; but a wife, who has nothing that she can strictly call her own, but with her husband’s allowance, cannot, without that, make any such vow. 1. The law is plain in case of a wife that continues so long after the vow. If her husband allow her vow, though only by silence, it must stand, Num 30:6Num 30:7.

If he disallow it, since her obligation to that which she had vowed arose purely from her own act, and not from any prior command of God, her obligation to her husband shall take place of it, for to him she ought to be in subjection as unto the Lord; and now it is so far from being her duty to fulfil her vow that it would be her sin to disobey her husband, whose consent perhaps she ought to have asked before she made the vow; therefore she needs forgiveness,Num 30:8

2. The law is the same in case of a wife that soon after becomes a widow, or is put away. Though, if she return to her father’s house, she does not therefore so come again under his authority as that he has power to disannul hew vows (Num 30:9), yet if the vow was made while she was in the house of her husband, and her husband disallowed it, it was made void and of no effect for ever, and she does not return under the law of her vow when she is loosed from the law of her husband. This seems to be the distinct meaning of Num 30:10-14, which otherwise would be but a repetition of Num 30:6-8

But it is added (Num 30:15) that, if the husband make void the vows of his wife, he shall bear her iniquity; that is, if the thing she had vowed was really good, for the honour of God and the prosperity of her own soul, and the husband disallowed it out of covetousness, or humour, or to show his authority, though she be discharged from the obligation of her vow, yet he will have a great deal to answer for. 

Now here it is very observable how carefully the divine law consults the good order of families, and preserves the power of superior relations, and the duty and reverence of inferiors. It is fit that every man should bear rule in his own house, and have his wife and children in subjection with all gravity; and rather than this great rule should be broken, or any encouragement given to inferior relations to break those bonds asunder, God himself would quit his right, and release the obligations even of a solemn vow; so much does religion strengthen the ties of all relations, and secure the welfare of all societiesd, that in it the families of the earth are blessed.

Note this opens to a large discussion both the command to children to honor parents and submission in marriage, for another day.

Pastor Ganger has a good sermon on the first of these.

Ephesians 6:1-4 – Children Obey Your Parents – 1/3/16 PM Play


Men and Vows

Num 30:1  And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.

Num 30:2  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.

Women and Vows

Num 30:3  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;

Num 30:4  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.

Num 30:5  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.

Num 30:6  And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;

Num 30:7  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.

Num 30:8  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.

Num 30:9  But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.

Num 30:10  And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath;

Num 30:11  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.

Num 30:12  But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; thenwhatsoever 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.

Num 30:13  Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.

Num 30:14  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.

Num 30:15  But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.

Num 30:16  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.

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