Sunday, February 23, 2014

Numbers 28-30 Vows and Women

From Numbers 28-30

Take a glance at the differing roles of men and women in Israel’s society.

Num 28.1-8 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Daily food (burnt) and drink offerings
Num 28.9-10 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Sabbath offerings
Num 28.11-15 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Monthly offerings
Num 28.16-25 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Passover (feast of unleavened bread) offerings
Num 28.26-31 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Feast of weeks offerings
Num 29.1-6 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Feast of trumpets offerings
Num 29.7-11 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Day of Atonement offerings
Num 29.12-38 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Feast of booths offerings
Num 29.39-40 Law; Worship and sacrifice; Summary statement, Moses exhorts
Num 30.1-16 Law; Vows,
Men (30.1-2),
Women under fathers care (30.3-5),
Women under husbands care (30.6-15),
Summary statement (30.16)
Passage and Comments
The chapter on vows I found interesting. I assume a vow is a spoken commitment to perform or abstain from some sort of action. It was probably taken in the tabernacle and made before the priesthood. Men are expected to uphold their vows, always.

In the historical context of these commands there was huge social pressure for women to bear male heirs to continue the family line. It was not uncommon for women to promise the LORD some sort of service in return for offspring. Sometimes they could make unwise vows before the LORD. Keeping this and male headship of the family in mind women could have their vows overruled by the head of their family.

[3] “If a woman vows a vow to the LORD and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house in her youth, [4] and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. [5] But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the LORD will forgive her, because her father opposed her. (Num 30:3-5)


[6] “If she marries a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, [7] and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. [8] But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the LORD will forgive her. (Num 30:6-8)

There is a different stance with widows and the divorced;

[9] (But any vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, anything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.) (Num 30:9)

Note the various situations it depicts women in;
1) Under the care of the fathers,
2) Under the care of their husbands,
3) Widowed after their husband died,
4) Divorced from their husband.

Possibly the women who were widowed or divorced returned to the care of their fathers, if he was still alive. There doesn’t seem to be much room to consider the place of independent and single women in this society. Obviously this has changed now.

As a general rule, the men take the responsibility for the vows of women in their household. They have the authority to make the vow null and void;

[15] But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity.” (Num 30:15)

Vows were serious business. They believed the LORD’s wrath would come upon them f they did not fulfill their promises.

Story of Israel
In 1 Samuel Hannah is a good example (1 Sam 1.1-28). If the LORD gave her a child, she promised to put him into  service in the priesthood. These laws above protected families from women who made vows in desperation. Having children was serious business and people occasionally make silly decisions.

Story of Jesus
Vows don't make a big appearance in the gospel. The passage however highlights the standing of men and women in Jewish culture. In Christ we all have the same standing. Male and female.

[25] But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, [26] for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. [27] For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. [28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:25-28)

I would take a complimentary stance on this passage. I expect we have differing roles in communities, churches and families. The New Testament still holds men responsible to take leadership in their communities, churches and families. In this way women can still be looked after by men, which seems to be one of the underlying premises of Numbers 30.