(Due to the length of this post, it is split over two postings. This is part 1.)
Numbers chapter 30 is perhaps one of the more ignored chapters of the Bible. In our culture today this chapter is considered antiquated and degrading to women. Why? Because it makes a clear distinction between men and women, and there can be no argument about it. But this distinction between the roles of man and woman is not a new topic for this chapter; it occurs throughout the Bible. Many will try to discount such chapters by saying that it was for those cultures back then when women were viewed as under men. One commentary (Mathew Henry Commentary) even goes so far as to say that women didn’t own anything, so they couldn’t be held to a vow. Oh, I forgot to mention, Numbers 30 has to do with taking vows. This chapter makes a big deal about taking vows. Why? This first part of the post deals with vows. The next part deals with why men and women are treated differently.
Yeshua (Jesus) makes the statement, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37 (ESV)
Taking a vow (in colloquial language, ‘swearing to do something’) is taken very seriously by God. One of the “10 Statements” (10 Commandments) states, ‘do not take the name of Yehovah (the LORD) your God in vain.’ I know most of Christianity views this as only having to do with saying His name (which most Christians don’t actually even know), but this statement has long been viewed as having two separate meanings. The first is that if you take a vow, be sure to keep it! (Numbers 30:2). [The second does have to do with misusing His name.]
If you make a vow to Yehovah (the LORD) your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for Yehovah (the LORD) your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. Deuteronomy 23:21-22 (ESV).
Yeshua (Jesus) was simply restating what was already written: don’t swear to do something and then don’t do it! God does not like that. Better not to swear (vow) at all.
This command has nothing to do with being unsure about doing something (and I have heard people use those words of Yeshua (Jesus) to try and say that you can’t ever be unsure or doubt). No! The words have to do with taking vows (swearing).
It is such an important topic to God that many of the sacrifices that God proscribed have to do with completing vows (and weren’t for sin). In “those days”, a vow would often sound like, “As Yehovah (the LORD) lives, I …”. People would use His name in their vow. Today, the equivalent would be something like this, “I swear to God …” or “I promise to do…”. So, don’t do it! Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. To vow (swear / promise) and not do it is a sin against God! It even applies to how we speak to our children. So let’s watch our speech for this reason (as well as other reasons highlighted in scripture).
This may not seem like an important topic for today, but that is only because it is ignored, and as seen in Numbers chapter 30, the vow topic highlights the difference between men and women.
The fact that men and women are being treated differently in this scripture section is dealt with in part 2 of this posting.
(Part 2 will show up in a couple days.)