Numbers 30: Vows

Vows, like the one Samson's mother took, could be taken to gain favor from God.


Photocredit: Jai Wicklund
This chapter outlines God's thoughts on vows. If a man were to vow to the Lord, or swear an oath, he was not to break his word. For a woman who vowed unto the Lord, the vow was only binding provided her father (if she was unmarried) or husband (if she was married) allowed her to fulfill the vow. Essentially, if a man overheard his daughter or wife making a vow and forbade it, God did not hold the woman to the vow. If God had not specified this, when men stood in the way of women, they would have been punished. No one could intervene in a widow or divorcee's vow. In the cases where women made vows and there was no objection, they too were expected to keep the vow. We know that God does not renege on His promises (imagine if He suddenly decided Jesus' blood wasn't good enough to cover our sins?). God expects us to do the same. The difference is that we aren't always capable of keeping our promises. I used to promise things to God all the time that later, I would realize I couldn't keep. We should think very seriously before we make these promises (any promises actually), not just say things because they sound good at the moment.


While the fact that women could be "overruled" by husbands or fathers gives some credibility to the theology that women are always to be submissive to a man, it actually only reinforces that women were to be submissive in manners relating to God. One thing that is often left out of the discussion is the matter of the needing a sacrifice for completion of a vow. In Numbers 6 we learned that after fulfilling a vow, a sacrifice was needed. Since women didn't technically own anything, they would have needed permission to complete this part of the vow. Basically, this would be like me offering someone a room in my parents' house; clearly, my parents would have the right to put a stop to this. If the matter didn't require a sacrifice (which is the case now that Jesus counts as our sacrifice), I wonder if women would have full freedom to commit to a vow, regardless of their husband or father's opinion. It is important to note that while women are given an out from their vows in the instance a man forbade their vow, they are never forbidden from making the vow in general.

The Vow

A vow generally had the form "I will [insert action] if God will [insert action]." An example is when Jacob promises to follow God if He will help Jacob prosper. These vows were bartering tools to gain something from God. Many of the vows taken in the Bible from women are for children. It is noted by some that it was not permissible for a person to make a vow that was against something in God's law (i.e. vowing to kill someone or to work during the Sabbath).Doing such a thing caused people to sin twice, once in making an unlawful vow and again in carrying out the action.[1]

Further Reading

  1. Vows and Vowing - Jewish Virtual Library
  2. Numbers 6: The Nazarite Vow


  1. "Numbers 30:2 Commentaries". Bible Hub. 2016

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