The Head of the Household Honoured and Cautioned
Numbers 30:3-16
If a woman also vow a vow to the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father's house in her youth;…

The command contained in this section of the chapter secures a double result.

1. By specifying certain exceptions to the validity of the vow, it makes that validity all the more manifest where the exceptions do not obtain. Stating exceptions to a rule is only another way of stating the rule itself.

2. These exceptions relate to the interests of the household, to the preservation of its integrity, and, to this end, of the rights and authority of the person whom God has placed at its head. Moreover, that which secures the right of the father and the husband equally secures the interests of the daughter and the wife. Consider -

I. WHAT THIS COMMAND IMPLIED WITH RESPECT TO THE HEAD OF THE HOUSEHOLD. Let us take the relation of the father and daughter, similar things being true, mutatis mutandis, with respect to the husband and wife.

1. This command honoured parental authority. God had laid a solemn injunction on children to honour father and mother, and we see here how careful he was to honour the parental relation himself. He puts everything in the shape of a vow, everything which the daughter was otherwise free to choose, under the father's control He requires no reason to be given; the simple veto is enough, if only it be uttered at the appointed time. The father had a responsibility which the daughter had not, and it was fitting that God should give the father all possible help in meeting that responsibility.

2. This command required much watchfulness on the part of the father. To act rightly here demanded the whole compass of paternal duty. The father was not allowed to say that his daughter's vow was no business of his. He himself might not be a vowing sort of person, and therefore under no temptation to neglect a vow he was not likely to make. But even if indifferent to vows himself, he was bound to be interested in his daughter's welfare, and do his best to keep her from future difficulties. Her limited life hid many difficulties from her eyes. It was not for a father to expose himself in later days to reproach from the lips of his own daughter. It was not for him to run the risk of hearing her say, "Why did not your larger knowledge and experience shelter me from difficulties which my inexperience could not possibly anticipate?"

3. This command required much consideration on the part of the father. He must not let the vow pass without notice, and when he noticed it must be with proper consideration. While it was within his right to stop the vow, he might in stopping it be doing a very unfatherly thing, a thing very hurtful to the religious life of his daughter. As God had honoured him and undertaken to help him in his fatherly relation, he must honour that relation himself. That relation from which God expects so much must be prepared to yield much in the way of care and consideration. The father may think too much of his own wishes, too little of his daughter's needs, and too little of the will of God. The vow of the daughter might be a rightful, helpful, and exemplary one, a vow of the Nazarite indeed (Numbers 6:2). It was not enough, therefore, for the father to fall back on the mere assertion of authority. It is a serious thing to offend one of the little ones - a serious thing for any one to do; but how unspeakably serious when the hand which casts down the stumbling-block is that of a father!

4. This command required, in order to be fully complied with, sympathy with the voluntary spirit in religion. A father who felt that the services of religion consisted chiefly in exact external conformity with certain rules for worship and conduct would be very likely to stop his daughter's vow as mere whimsicality. But religion must go beyond obedience to verbal commands; it must aim at something more than can be put into even the most exact and expressive of them. Commands are nothing more than finger-posts; and the joys of hope and preparation during the journey are directed towards something lying beyond the last of the finger-posts, The father who would act rightly by all possible wishes of his children must be one who comprehends that experience of John: "We love him because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). He must be one who feels that love can never be satisfied with mere beaten tracks and conventional grooves. He must be such a one as appreciates the act of the woman who poured the precious ointment on the head of Jesus. If he be a man of the Judas spirit, grudging what he reckons waste, he is sure to go wrong. He will check his children when he ought to encourage them, and encourage when he ought to check. If God opens their eyes he will do his best to close them again, so that the blind father may go on leading the blind children, till at last both fall into the pit.


1. Their right to make a vow was itself secured. The command did not say that daughter and wife were to make no vow at all. They were as free to make a vow at any man in all Israel; and if it had not been for more important considerations connected with the household, they would also have been free to keep the vow. God would have us to understand that inferior and mutilated duties or privileges are no necessary consequence of a subordinate position.

2. A gentle and patient submission was recommended on the part of the daughter and the wife. The right to propose the vow being secured to every woman, it was no fault of hers, and would be counted no blame, if the father or husband cancelled it. The Nazarite vow might be thwarted in the very freshness of it, but the spirit of zeal which produced it needed not to grow languid. We cannot be hindered in the attainment of any good, save by our own negligence. God will meet us amid all restraints which untoward circumstances may impose upon us. The claims rising out of natural relations and the present needs of human society are imperative while they last, and must be respected. But they will not last for ever. "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matthew 22:30). - Y.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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;

WEB: "Also when a woman vows a vow to Yahweh, and binds herself by a bond, being in her father's house, in her youth,

Vows not to be Discouraged
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