What the scriptures say about
a solemn promise spoken and made to God
See: Covenants
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Numbers 30

VOWS [Easton's Bible Dictionary]

Voluntary promises which, when once made, were to be kept if the thing vowed was right. They were made under a great variety of circumstances (Genesis 28:20; Leviticus 7:16 [ Leviticus 22:18-23] ; Numbers 30:2-13; Deuteronomy 23:18; Judges 11:30,39; 1 Samuel 1:11; Jonah 1:16; Acts 18:18; 21:23).

VOWS [Smith's Bible Dictionary]

A vow is a solemn promise made to God to perform or to abstain from performing a certain thing. The earliest mention of a vow is that of Jacob. (Genesis 28:18-22; 31:13) Vows in general are also mentioned in the book of Job. (Job 22:27) The law therefore did not introduce, but regulated the practice of, vows.

Three sorts are mentioned:

1, Vows of devotion;
2, Vows of abstinence;
3, Vows of destruction.

1. As to vows of devotion, the following rules are laid down: A man might devote to sacred uses possessions or persons, but not the first-born of either man or beast, which was devoted already. (Leviticus 27:28)

(a) If he vowed land, he might either redeem it or not Levi 25,27.

(b) Animals fit for sacrifice if devoted, were not to be redeemed or changed, (Leviticus 27:9; 10:33) persons devoted stood thus: devote either himself, his child (not the first-born) or his slave. If no redemption took place, the devoted person became a slave of the sanctuary: see the case of Absalom. (2 Samuel 15:8) Otherwise he might be redeemed at a valuation according to age and sex, on the scale given in (Leviticus 27:1-7)

Among general regulations affecting vows the following may be mentioned:

(1) Vows were entirely voluntary but once made were regarded as compulsory. (Numbers 30:2; 23:21; Ecclesiastes 5:4)

(2) If persons In a dependent condition made vows as

(a) an unmarried daughter living in her fatherís house, or

(b) a wife, even if she afterward became a widow the vow, if

(a) in the first case her father, or
(b) in the second her husband, heard and disallowed it, was void; but,if they heard without disallowance, it was to remain good. (Numbers 30:3-18)
(3) Votive offerings arising from the produce of any impure traffic were wholly forbidden. ( 23:18)

2. For vows of abstinence, see CORBAN.

3. For vows of extermination ANATHEMA and (Ezra 10:8; Micah 4:13) It seems that the practice of shaving the head at the expiration of a votive period was not limited to the Nazaritic vow. (Acts 18:18; 21:24)

VOW [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]

vou (nedher; euche; 'iccar, found only in Numbers 30:6,8,10 and translated horismos, by the Septuagint:

A vow could be positive (nedher) and included all promises to perform certain things for, or bring certain offerings to, God, in return for certain benefits which were hoped for at His hand

(Genesis 28:20-22, Jacob; Leviticus 27:2,8; Numbers 30; Judges 11:30, Jephthah; 1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah; 2 Samuel 15:8, Absalom; Jonah 1:16, vows of heathen);
or negative ('iccar), and included promises by which a person bound himself or herself to abstain from certain things (Numbers 30:3).

Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find the making of vows regarded as a religious duty (Deuteronomy 23:22), but the fulfilling of a vow was considered as a sacred and binding duty (Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Judges 11:35; Ecclesiastes 5:4; compare Psalms 22:25; 66:13; 76:11; 116:18).

A vow was as binding as an oath (see OATH ) and therefore to be kept to the letter; and it was not to be lightly made (Proverbs 20:25).

A father could veto a daughter's vow, and a husband a wife's. If a husband did not veto a wife's vow, and then caused her to break it, the sin was his and not hers (Numbers 30, passim).

It seems that vows were considered binding only when actually uttered (Deuteronomy 23:23).

Persons, including one's self, animals, land and other possessions, could be vowed, but all these could be redeemed with money (see JEPHTHAH), which money was to be estimated by the priest, except in the case of a clean animal. In the case of land, houses and unclean animals a fifth part of the estimated value was to be added to make up the redemption money. In the case of land the sum was greater or smaller as the coming year of Jubilee was far off or near (Leviticus 27, passim). Nothing which was by nature holy could be made the object of a vow, e.g. firstlings, tithes, etc. (Leviticus 27:26,28,30); and, on the other hand, an abomination, e.g. the hire of a prostitute, could not be made the object of a vow (Deuteronomy 23:18). In Malachi 1:14 the offering of what was of less value than what had been vowed is vigorously condemned.

In the New Testament Jesus refers to vows only to condemn the abuse of them (Matthew 15:4-6; Mark 7:10-13; compare Talmud, Nedharim, and see CORBAN ). In Acts 18:18 (compare Acts 21:23-24) Paul desires to show his Jewish brethren that he is willing to keep the forms of Jewish piety so long as they do not clash with his Christian conscience (compare 1 Corinthians 9:21). For the vow of the Nazirite, see NAZIRITE .

Paul Levertoff

VOWS [Thompson Chain Reference]
# Examples of

    * Genesis 28:20
    * Numbers 21:2
    * Judges 11:30
    * 1 Samuel 1:11
    * Jnh 1:16
    * Acts 18:18
    * Acts 21:23
    * SEE Covenant 

# Sacred, to be kept

    * Numbers 30:2
    * Deuteronomy 23:21
    * Job 22:27
    * Psalms 50:14
    * Psalms 76:11
    * Ecclesiastes 5:4
    * Matthew 5:33 

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