Vows and Oaths

Numbers 30:2-17

The Torah delineates the laws of vows in this passage. Any promise made in God’s name is legally binding, and one who violates such an oath, whether it is a commitment to do or refrain from something, is liable before God.


There is an exception, however. Should a woman make a vow, it can be undone by another. If she lives under her father’s roof, he can annul her vow on the day he hears of it. Likewise a husband. However, if her father or husband hears of her commitment and says nothing, she is responsible for whatever she swore. Should she neglect to observe her oath, she is considered guilty.


If her husband reacts after the moment he hears of his wife’s vow and, on the power of his word she violates her commitment, he is liable for her sin.


Finally, a widow or divorcee’s oath cannot be undone.


The Israel Bible points out how important one’s word is on the basis of this chapter. Just as God keeps His promises to us, we are expected to fulfil our promises. Today we can see proof of God fulfilling His promise to return His people to the Land of Israel. We hope to see the fulfillment of the rest of His promise of peace in the near future.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

This is one of many instances where the Torah seems to give precedence or power to men over women yet, just last week, we saw evidence, with the daughters of Zelophehad, that women are valued equally. Why, then, do you think a father or husband is given the authority to reverse a woman’s vows?

Comments ( 11 )

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  • Pauline Graham

    Hi, I would say that with a woman, her father if unmarried is her headship, her spiritual covering as head of the household. As her head he can sever the vow she made. The same when she marries, her husband is her headship and her spiritual covering, thus he can also sever her vow.

  • Herman Arentsen

    Individually men and women are of equal responsability. (just as I mentioned in the part of Zelophehad's daughters.)
    In a group the responsability for the whole is for men to lead/to fight, to decide. (group = family/people/nation) So to say leadership over more than just oneself. Moreover here is spoken of "vows". These will affect a whole group and may represent (vows!) the will of HaShem and are giving direction and formation of the future world. It should be discussed first if this was really the will of HaShem. The father represents the Holy One in his group. Is the vow into the direction of HIM or not ? That's why sometimes he can annul some vows.

  • Susan Jackson

    ((Today we can see proof of God fulfilling His promise to return His people to the Land of Israel))
    According to the Isreal bible the return of his people to the land of Israel has not happen yet they are still scattered the only thing that is happening now it the awaking of his people of who they are Ha shem is going to clean the land of Israel and Jerusalem of all the impostors and fraud lying people who call themselves Jewish and Israelite's that are not.

    • Damian Sco

      And who do you say are Jews then?

  • Phyllis Pearson

    In the case of an unmarried woman, her father, and for a married woman her husband both men are responsible before Hashem for the women in their family. A bit like the watchman on the tower…. the father/husband has the final word and will be required to answer one day to Hashem for the time he upheld that responsibility or not. For me, I am grateful that my husband takes this responsibility seriously, he is my covering.

  • Michael

    I don’t believe this simply a matter of dependency. A family, as any other “corporate” entity must have one person who make the ultimate decisions about the management lf that entity. In the viewpoint of familial structure envisioned in the Torah that role is given to the husband. This does not mean that the Torah values women less. Were that the case the Torah would have given the husband the right to nulify the wife or daughter’s vow at any time. I think one may reasonalby assume that a (wise) husband or father would only annul a vow AFTER a disdiscussion with his wife or daughter. That same (wise) head of the household would only override the vow if the subject matter of the vow would be definitely harmful to the family and the person making the vow would be adamant about it.

    • Diana Brown

      I agree with your point that HaShem is about Order and the proper administration of that order. He is head of all and the men are the heads of their households. Therefore they are responsible to ensure that no hasty vows are made by their family members.

  • Ruth

    The main clause in the passage is that the woman is under ones roof, that is, she’s dependent. Her irrational decision will most likely have negative impact on the family. The clause did not apply to women only but also to dependent persons.

    • Diana Brown

      I agree with your point that a hasty vow opens the door to sin.

    • Angela B

      Hi Ruth, just to correct you, it is not to all dependent persons, it is to female dependents and married women, that is why for instance it doesn't apply to widows and divorced women; I believe it also doesn't apply to unmarried women living outside of her father's house.

      • Angela B

        … living outside their father's house. Neither does it apply to young men living under their father's house. I would therefore think it is because the male has authority over the female as the head, the head is the one that takes responsibility.

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