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Vows Made by Men

30 [a] Moses told the leaders[b] of the tribes concerning the Israelites, “This is what[c] the Lord has commanded: If a man[d] makes a vow[e] to the Lord or takes an oath[f] of binding obligation on himself,[g] he must not break his word, but must do whatever he has promised.[h]

Vows Made by Single Women

“If a young[i] woman who is still living[j] in her father’s house makes a vow to the Lord or places herself under an obligation,

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  1. Numbers 30:1 sn Num 30 deals with vows that are different than the vows discussed in Lev 27 and Num 6. The material is placed here after all the rulings of the offerings, but it could have been revealed to Moses at any time, such as the Nazirite vows, or the question of the daughters’ inheritance. The logic of placing it here may be that a festival was the ideal place for discharging a vow. For additional material on vows, see R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 465-66.
  2. Numbers 30:1 tn Heb “heads.”
  3. Numbers 30:1 tn Heb “This is the word which.”
  4. Numbers 30:2 tn The legal construction states the class to which the law applies, and then lays down the condition: “men [man]—if….”
  5. Numbers 30:2 tn The Hebrew text uses a cognate accusative construction to express this: “a man if he vows a vow.”
  6. Numbers 30:2 tn The expression is “swear an oath” (הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה, hishavaʿ shevuʿah). The vow (נֵדֶר, neder) was a promise to donate something of oneself or one’s substance to the Lord. The solemn oath seals the vow before the Lord, perhaps with sacrifice. The vocabulary recalls Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech and the naming of Beer Sheba with the word (see Gen 21).
  7. Numbers 30:2 tn The Hebrew text hasלֶאְסֹר אִסָּר (leʾsor ʾissar), meaning “to take a binding obligation.” This is usually interpreted to mean a negative vow, i.e., the person attempts to abstain from something that is otherwise permissible. It might involve fasting, or abstaining from marital sex, but it might also involve some goal to be achieved, and the abstaining from distractions until the vow is fulfilled (see Ps 132). The נֶדֶר (neder) may have been more for religious matters, and the אִסָּר more for social concerns, but this cannot be documented with certainty.
  8. Numbers 30:2 tn Heb “according to all that goes out of his mouth.”
  9. Numbers 30:3 tn The qualification comes at the end of the verse, and simply says “in her youth.”
  10. Numbers 30:3 tn The Hebrew text just has “in her father’s house” and not “who is still living,” but that is the meaning of the line.