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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 30



Verse 1

1. Heads of the tribes — Directions concerning vows were addressed, not to individuals but to the heads of the tribes, because family rights were involved as well as the interests of the individual. In the last two chapters were laws for required duties, but in this are statutes concerning voluntary acts which individuals, having freely vowed, were bound to perform. The purpose of these statutes was to prevent the making of rash vows, to annul such as were improper, and to sanction the performance of such as were advisedly made.

Verse 2


2. A vow is a religions promise unto the Lord. For the different kinds see Leviticus 27, introductory note. Alms promised to the poor were also, by the interpretation of the rabbins, comprehended under vows, on the principle that the poor stand in place of the Lord. Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 26:11.

To bind his soul with a bond — Literally, bind his soul to abstain, that is, not to do a thing. The Nazarite’s vow is indicated by another word — neder. Numbers 6:2, note. In what the abstaining consisted is not explained, because it was well understood from traditional customs; in all probability it chiefly consisted in refraining from food and other lawful things. Acts 23:12.

He shall not break his word Profane his word. Slackness or needless delay was also prohibited. Deuteronomy 23:21. The time and place of paying vowed sacrifices was at the great feasts, before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle. Leviticus 1:3; Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Deuteronomy 16:16-17. Impossible vows are to be repented of, and wicked vows are to be broken. Acts xxiii, 21.

Verse 3

THE MAID’S VOW, Numbers 30:3-5.

3. If a woman vow — Both Judaism and Christianity recognise the religious nature and rights of woman, in marked contrast to the denial of those rights by paganism. Even girls in their minority are here recognised as capable of assuming religious obligations.

In her youth — Not in her childhood. The Hebrew canons thus define youth: “A young man, the son of twelve years and one day, and a young woman, the daughter of eleven years and one day, who vow either vows of abstinence or of consecration, they examine and question. If they know to whose name they have vowed, then their vows are established; but if they know not, then there is nothing in their vows or words.” This examination they are subject to during one year; afterward their vows are binding without examination, except that the daughter’s may be annulled by the father in accordance with the law.

Verse 4

4. Her father… hold his peace — Keep silent and interpose no objection. The principle involved is, that the father and the daughter are one in responsibility, and the undisclaimed vow of the daughter becomes positively obligatory upon the daughter, and permissively obligatory upon the father. The absence of a similar law respecting the son in his minority, together with the following statute placing the wife’s vow under the arbitration of her husband, marks an imperfect stage of religious freedom which culminated in the perfect emancipation of woman by Christ. Galatians 3:28.

Verse 6

6. If she had at all a husband — The words “at all” are a poor translation of the Hebrew idiom for becoming a wife by betrothal while still in her father’s house for ten months or a year longer. During this period the control of her vows is no longer in her father’s power, but in her husband’s, and her unfaithfulness in this pre-nuptial period was, like adultery, punishable with death. Whether the vow was made before or after the betrothal it was under the control of her husband, and it might be dis-allowed by him as soon as he heard of it, either before or after marriage. Yet the Hebrew doctors say that the period of betrothal is under the joint control of the father and the affianced husband.

Verses 6-8


Here the affianced husband seems to sustain to the wife the same relation, in the matter of vows, as the father does to the daughter.

Verse 9


Such a vow must be paid, because both the widow and the divorced wife are free from the law of the husband and the father also. According to the rabbins, marriage to a second husband before the vow is performed has no effect upon the vow. It is not in his power to make it void.

Verses 10-16

THE VOW OF THE WIFE, Numbers 30:10-16.

In this case the silence of the husband cognizant of the vow gives consent, but his immediate protest annuls the obligation.

13. To afflict the soul — This was usually done by fasting. Leviticus 16:29, note. The Jewish teachers infer from this verse, that although the father may annul all the vows of his daughter, yet the husband only has authority over his wife’s vow to afflict her soul.

14. From day to day — His power to make void his wife’s vow expired after the day that he heard it. Numbers 30:8.

15. He shall bear her iniquity — The punishment for the broken vow of his wife. A sin offering must be presented by him to expiate her sin.

Leviticus 5:4-13, notes. If this is omitted he must bear the penalty.

Leviticus 5:1, note. “From which we learn,” says Jarchi, “that he who is the cause of offence unto his neighbour shall come in his stead unto all punishments.”


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Numbers 30:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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