Biblical Principle #272: Vows and the Headship Principle

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Principle

The Law of Moses allowed Israelite fathers and husbands to overrule vows of daughters and wives under certain conditions.

Explanation

GOD told Moses He would release daughters and wives from their vows under certain conditions.

Daughter and Father

4 And if a woman vows a vow to the Lord or binds herself to an obligation while in the house of her father, while in her youth, 5 and her father hears of her vows and her obligations that she has bound herself to with respect to her soul, and her father keeps silent about it, then all her vows will be in effect, and all the obligations about which she has bound herself with respect to her soul remain in effect for her. 6 But if her father, disclaiming, disclaims on whatever day he hears of all her vows and the obligations about which she has been bound with respect to her soul, they will not remain in effect, and the Lord will excuse her because her father disclaimed.

Numbers 30:4-6 LES2

Wife and Husband

7 And if she becomes a man’s wife and her vows are still on her according to the assertions of her own lips, concerning which she has bound herself with respect to her own soul, 8 and if her husband hears and keeps silent with respect to it on whichever day he hears, then accordingly will all her vows be in effect and her obligations that she has bound herself to with respect to her soul will stand. 9 But if her husband firmly refuses on the day he hears, all her vows and her obligations that she has bound herself to with respect to her soul will not stand, because her husband disclaimed her vows from her, and so the Lord will excuse her.

Numbers 30:7-9 LES2

Widow or Divorced Woman

10 And the vow of a widow and of a divorced woman, whatever she vows with respect to her soul will remain in effect for her. 11 And if, while in the house of her husband, her vow or obligation was made with respect to her soul by means of an oath, 12 and if her husband hears and keeps silent with respect to it and does not refuse her, then all her vows will stand, and all her obligations that she has bound herself to with respect to her soul will be in effect with respect to her. 13 But if her husband, voiding, voids them on the day that he hears, everything that came out of her lips with respect to her vows and with respect to the obligations, the ones with respect to her soul, will not remain in effect for her; her husband canceled them, and the Lord will clear her.

Numbers 30:10-13 LES2

So, what do we make of all of this?

We have previously established the headship principle, which is essentially that GOD has placed the husband as head over his household. As such, in GOD’s view, the husband has final decision-making authority for how things will be in his house.

This may not be politically-correct or popular today, but GOD does not care about that. GOD created all things, has all wisdom, and designed proper order for healthy operations. (Mankind clearly doesn’t know what we’re doing because we’ve been trying it our way and look at the mess we’ve made.)

Under the Law of Moses, what we see is that, to GOD, what mattered was the head of household’s immediate reaction to learning of their daughter or wife’s vow. Did they immediately reject their loved one’s choice or did they respond with indifference initially?

Why would this matter to GOD? Probably because GOD wanted the individual to fulfill their vow even when things went unfavorably for them.

It is easy to picture scenarios where the father or husband initially is indifferent about the vow their daughter or wife made, but then, later on, concludes—accurately or inaccurately—that the vow is bringing unfavorable consequences upon the individual, couple, or family as a whole, and therefore needs to be reneged.

If this happened, it would be easy to see how GOD would be displeased or angry with someone who vowed and then wanted to disavow later because of perceived misfortune.

As we have previously established, and Solomon put it:

4 It is better that you should not vow, than you should vow and not pay. 5 Suffer not your mouth to lead your flesh to sin; and say not in the presence of God, It was an error: lest God be angry at your voice, and destroy the works of your hands.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 Brenton LXX Third Revised Edition

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