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Numbers 30:2-5

Context
30:2 If a man 1  makes a vow 2  to the Lord or takes an oath 3  of binding obligation on himself, 4  he must not break his word, but must do whatever he has promised. 5 

Vows Made by Single Women

30:3 “If a young 6  woman who is still living 7  in her father’s house makes a vow to the Lord or places herself under an obligation, 30:4 and her father hears of her vow or the obligation to which she has pledged herself, and her father remains silent about her, 8  then all her vows will stand, 9  and every obligation to which she has pledged herself will stand. 30:5 But if her father overrules her when he hears 10  about it, then none 11  of her vows or her obligations which she has pledged for herself will stand. And the Lord will release 12  her from it, because her father overruled her.

1 tn The legal construction states the class to which the law applies, and then lays down the condition: “men [man] – if….”

2 tn The Hebrew text uses a cognate accusative construction to express this: “a man if he vows a vow.”

3 tn The expression is “swear an oath” (הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה, hishavashÿvuah). 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).

4 tn The Hebrew text hasלֶאְסֹר אִסָּר (lesorissar), 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.

5 tn Heb “according to all that goes out of his mouth.”

6 tn The qualification comes at the end of the verse, and simply says “in her youth.”

7 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.

8 tn The intent of this expression is that he does not object to the vow.

9 tn The verb קוּם (qum) is best translated “stand” here, but the idea with it is that what she vows is established as a genuine oath with the father’s approval (or acquiescence).

10 tn The idiom is “in the day of,” but it is used in place of a preposition before the infinitive construct with its suffixed subjective genitive. The clause is temporal.

11 tn The Hebrew “all will not stand” is best rendered “none will stand.”

12 tn The verb has often been translated “forgive” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV, NLT), but that would suggest a sin that needed forgiving. The idea of “release from obligation” is better; the idea is like that of having a debt “forgiven” or “retired.” In other words, she is free from the vow she had made. The Lord will not hold the woman responsible to do what she vowed.



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