Yes, Yes; No, No; Men are men; Women are Women. Numbers 30 – part 1

(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.

  • Yosef

(Part 2 will show up in a couple days.)

What do the Sacrifices from the “Old Testament” have to do with Today? (Numbers 28-29)

Most Christians, when asked what they know about the sacrificial system will respond in one of these ways:

“They were done away with by Jesus’ death.”

“They were a burden.”

“They only atoned (covered over) sin.”

And this is almost always done so with a dismissive tone as if the sacrificial system was something bad and God did good to get rid of it.  Would you be surprised to hear that none of the above statements (with a partial exception for the first) are true, and that such statements hide some wonderful truths that Christians would be well to pay attention to.

Let’s start with a fundamental difference between Christianities point of view about the “Law of God” and the Jewish point of view.  Christians look at a law such as “don’t eat blood” and say, “I have to obey that?!”  It is a burden that has to be followed.  The Jewish point of view (including Yeshua’s point of view) would say, after having an opportunity to eat meat with the blood still in it, but not doing so, “I got to worship God by not eating blood just now.”  I hope you can get a glimpse of how fundamental this difference is as it affects you entire view point of the “old Testament.”

So, back to the sacrificial system.  Looking at Numbers 28 to 29, there is a long list of sacrifices to be given and instructions on how (this is just one place in the “Law” where sacrifices are discussed).  Note a few things.

First, the vast majority of the sacrifices have nothing to do with sin.  Nothing. 

This is true for all sacrifices.  There are sacrifices of thanksgiving, praise, finishing vows, and ritual purity (which is not about sin).  There are some sacrifices for sin.  Most are for the community (such as all those in the Numbers 28-29 passage).  There are some for individuals (such as in Leviticus 6:4-6).  Many of the sacrifices for sin are for ‘unintentional’ sin.

There are no sacrifices (with very few exceptions) for deliberate sin!  Consider King David and his sin with Bathsheba.  There was no sacrifice for that!

God forgave sin when people repented (actively turned from the sin).  This is the same in the “Old Testament” as in the “New.”  Consider 1 John 1:9,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)

“But what about Jesus’ sacrifice?” you may ask.

Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice “takes away the sin of the world,” just as it is written of him.  That includes the sin that we don’t even know about, or we don’t even realize is sin (such as following age old traditions that are completely accepted within Christianity but not accepted by God).  But even with Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice, we need to repent when we sin.

Lastly there are a couple important lessons to learn from the sacrificial system.  Note that God required that the animals sacrificed be “without blemish.”  In other words, it was to be one of the best animals.  And He was very specific about how it was to be done.  No pagan practices were involved.

When we worship God, do we give our best?  How often do we buy something new for those in need instead of giving old stuff (which is good, but not worship as God sets forth).

If we can learn anything from the sacrificial system, it is this: Give our Best in all our worship of God, and worship Him as He wants.

[Note: ‘Worship’ here is not limited to singing, but in every facet of life where we can be obedient to Him, including in our helping others.]

  • Yosef

Christianity and “The Law”

Christians have a variety of responses to the “Law of God.”  Almost all of which come down to saying that the Law, either in its entirety or parts of it, do not apply to Christians.  But what exactly is being rejected.

These past weeks, according to the Jewish scripture reading schedule, the first chapters in the book of Leviticus have been read.  These chapters deal with the sacrificial system and various other laws.  These chapters, though, are what most Christians think of as “The Law”, and so are most often ignored, including by those returning to the “Hebrew Roots of their Faith.”  Is there anything in these chapters worth looking at?

These chapters reveal a great deal about God’s character and how he wants us to live.  But you need to look closely.   In these chapters we see several principles come to light.  One is the idea of “Holiness.”   The definition of “holy” is “set apart”.  It does not mean what we typically envision, which is something with some sort of mystical power or some specially pious person.  It means something set apart for service to God.