King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Numbers 30

Vows to be kept. (1,2) The cases wherein vows might be released. (3-16)

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Vows to be kept

1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.

2 If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

The cases wherein vows might be released

3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;

4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.

5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.

6 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;

7 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.

8 But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her.

9 But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.

10 And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath;

11 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.

12 But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the LORD shall forgive her.

13 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.

14 But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.

15 But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.

16 These are the statutes, which the LORD commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father’s house.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 3. Oath, to do something commendable, shall observe his promise, whether any body has heard him or not. The Rabbins pretend, that if the vow be not expressed in words, it is not obligatory. But this is only true before men, who cannot subject their fellow creatures to punishment for internal faults. H. — The obligation of a vow or oath is founded upon common honesty, which requires that we should comply with our lawful promises; and, though all properly belong to God, yet, as he does not strictly require us to do every good work which may be in our power, we may, by vow, testify our desire to please and honour him the more. Some of the Rabbins have very loose sentiments with respect to vows, which they look upon as no better than building an altar, or immolating a victim upon the high places. It is sufficient, they say, to observe the law, apud Fagium. C. — Luther was desirous of introducing the same loose morality among Christians. But we need not ask, what the Rabbins said, or Luther, &c. But what does God and his Church assert? The Scripture repeatedly commends prudent vows; and those who can persuade themselves that they can infringe such solemn promises without offence, will be little solicitous about keeping their word to a fellow creature, unless when interest, or fear of shame, force them to do it. H. — He who makes a vow to abstain from any thing lawful, would be guilty of sin if he should observe it afterwards. S. Aug. q. 56. W.

Ver. 4. Girl in age, not 12; or, if more, at least not married, nor out of her father’s house, v. 17. For either of these conditions rendered a girl incapable of binding herself irrevocably. The father, or all who had the care of her, might rescind her vow, provided they did it as soon as it came to their knowledge, or on the same day, v. 15. Boys under 13, were under similar restrictions. Grotius. — Wives, and, in general, all who are under subjection, could not dispose of themselves without the consent of their superiors, as their want of prudence, &c. might have otherwise injured what belonged, in some measure, to another. H. — The law, therefore, submits their case to the decision of their immediate judges. C. — But if the thing, which a person vowed, was already of strict obligation, as to fast on the day of expiation, (Lev. xxiii. 29,) no one could presume to hinder his wife from complying with this double duty. W.

Ver. 7. Husband, whether she live with him, or with her father; whether she be only espoused, or the marriage be consummated. Women often staid for some time at their father’s house after they were married; and, in this case, some people say that either her father or her husband might disannul her vow. But others allow this right only to her husband. Bonfrere. See v. 11. C.

Ver. 14. It. The Rabbins restrain this law to fasting and abstinence. But the Hebrew seems more general, (v. 13,) “every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may ratify or annul.” The vows of abstinence are most common, and generally more disagreeable to husbands. C. — S. Augustine (q. 59,) thinks it unreasonable that the husband should have a control over the vows of continency in his wife, any more than she could have over him, in this particular, as their rights are equal: he seems inclined to allow him to annul the vows of abstinence only. Indeed this seems to be the meaning of afflicting the soul, which is done by submitting to various restraints, required on days of fasting. See Lev. xxiii. 27. H. — In things which could nowise hurt the parent or husband, many believe, that the person who had made a vow, was bound to perform it secretly, even though the superior had declared his dissent. But with respect to fasting, pilgrimages, &c. which could not be performed without his knowledge, it does not seem that they were under any farther obligation, even though the superior should retract what he had connived at for a whole day. In doubtful cases inferiors must not refuse to obey. The sin lies at the door of him who exercises his authority in an improper manner. Lyran. T. v. 16.

Ver. 15. Day. Heb. “from day to day.” If he has not given his decision on the first day when the vow came to his knowledge, unless he asked for a delay, as some allow, the person was bound to perform what she had promised. C. — Immediately. Heb. “in the day,” which seems to restrict the power of annulling the vow to a single day, v. 4. It would be unreasonable for the person to be kept long in suspense; and the law of God requires that we should not defer to perform our vows. Eccles. v. 3. 4. H.

Ver. 16. That. Sept. “the day.” If he retract his consent, he shall incur all the guilt. S. Aug. q. 59. The woman need not be under any disquietude, as the fault is not in her. C. — If a person had made a rash vow, he might obtain a dispensation from the tribunal of three judges, or from a doctor of the law, who would enjoin him to offer the sacrifice for ignorance, to punish his levity. See Seld. Jur. vii. 2. Those who break their vow are to be scourged among the Jews, which shews that they do not, in general, approve the sentiments of those Rabbins whom Fagius, a Protestant, alleges, v. 3. They make a distinction between vows and promises confirmed by an oath, v. 11. The former change the nature of a thing, according to them; so that, if a person should vow not to wear the phylacteries ordained by Moses, he must comply, though not if he had only promised on oath to refrain. But this distinction is absurd. No vow or oath can bind any person to transgress the law of God. H.