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30 Moses gathered the heads of the twelve Israelite tribes and explained vows.

The situation concerning vows with men is clear and straightforward: keep your word. With women, it’s more complicated. The promises made by women have certain restrictions that don’t apply to men’s vows: whatever a woman promises to God or others is subject to review by her father, if she still lives at home, or by her husband, if she’s married. Those men have the power to nullify her promises.

Moses: Whatever a man promises to God or others, whether a vow or a binding oath with a pledge, he must do. He is bound by his word: no excuses and no exceptions.

3-12 If a woman makes such a binding statement in the hearing of her father (if she’s not married) or husband (if she is married), and he keeps quiet, then the promise stands. But if her father or her husband (depending on her marital status) disapproves of what she said, then she’s not bound by whatever she promised, and the Eternal won’t hold it against her. If she gets married after making a vow or pledge (even a rash one) and her husband knows about it but says nothing, then she’s responsible for keeping those promises. But if her husband hears about some rash promise she made and says that he thinks it’s foolish, then he can erase any obligation she had to keep it. The Eternal will forgive her. A woman who’s not connected to any man—a widow or divorcée—must take full responsibility for keeping her promises.[a] 13 Now if a woman is already married and vows to undertake some kind of self-denial, fasting or the like, her husband has the power to either approve or reject it. 14 If he doesn’t say anything about it while she is doing it, then whatever she’s pledged to do is truly binding; he cannot come back later and change his mind about it. 15 If he does require her to break her promise while she’s doing it, then the punishment for breaking it will be on him, not her.

16 This is what the Eternal determined should be the rules for fathers or husbands evaluating a woman’s vows, whether she’s a youngster still living under her father’s roof or has married.

Footnotes

  1. 30:3-12 These verses have been rearranged to help clarify meaning.

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