A Womans Vows - RR181AF58

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: A Womans Vows
Course: Course - Numbers; Faith, Law, and History
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 58
Length: 0:42:17
TapeCode: RR181AF58
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Numbers Faith, Law, and History.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

Let us worship God. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. O come, let us sing unto the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. Let us pray.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, again we come into thy presence knowing that all good things come from thee, that we have no hope apart from thee, and that underneath all the experiences of life are thine everlasting arms. Give us grace, therefore, to trust in thee, to know that thou art closer to us than we are to ourselves, that there is not a thought, nor an atom of our being unknown to thee. Give us grace to hear thy word and by thy spirit, to grow in thy service. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Our scripture is Numbers 30:1-16. A Woman’s Vows. “And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded. 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. 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; 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. 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. And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; 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. [00:03:42]

But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he

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. But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her. And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; 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. 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. Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void. 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. But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity. 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.”

The law here with respect to vows is, of course, case law. It has implications with respect to authority generally. As it reads, it concerns first men who are of age and independent. Then second, daughters and wives, and third, women who make a vow while married but no longer are married, and fourth, widows and divorced women. Now this is obviously a law of far-reaching implications because here alone, in the law, do we find the statement in verse 1, “And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel.” Usually, Moses is commanded to speak to the children of Israel. Obviously, we have a law of importance and different in kind. It is spoken to those in authority and to be applied by them.

The issue is vows to the Lord. This can be a simple matter, as in verse 13, a vow to afflict the soul, which almost always meant fasting for a religious reason, whether for a day, or several days or longer. The reference in these vows is not to obedience to God’s law, but to some observance, or service, beyond that which is commanded. It can be a vow that if God does thus and so, I will give this or that, or so much to the Lord. This is made very clear in Deuteronomy 23:21-23. “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.” This tells us more clearly what is involved. A man or a woman may be moved with gratitude to do something or give something to the Lord’s work above and beyond what the Lord requires. This can mean, as in verse 13, fasting. It can mean a freewill offering of money or of service. [00:08:56]

God gives this law, first to encourage all such vows

God gives this law, first to encourage all such vows, and second, to regulate them so that godly order is not disrupted. Too often, people seek to serve God in ways disruptive of order and of godly authority. As a result, this law is given to provide a law to men and to women.

Now first, the assumption of verse 2 is with respect to men who are heads of households. Any vow they make to the Lord is not conditioned upon the authority of a superior authority. This means that a vow by a young man or a dependent adult, can be disannulled by the head of the household. No man can disannul a law of God, but a freewill vow to give something which can afflict the husband or the father or household heads, whoever they may be, which can afflict or affect, or have any adverse affect upon them, requires approval. If, however, the head of a family makes a vow to the Lord, he is bound unconditionally to do it.

We have forgotten such vows, since World War 2 in particular. They were not too common before that, but they existed. Before that time, at least in rural California, give the drought and the depression, some farmers would ask for God’s blessing, and they would vow to give a certain sum at the end of the harvest. This tells us two things. First, the kind of vow I have cited is a conditional one. It is a recognition that no man can control all the factors of his life, as with a farmer, weather and a depressed economy.

Rash vows are thus unwise. Our Lord refers precisely to this in Matthew 5:33-37, where he says, “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” Our Lord is here commenting on our text, on Numbers 30. [00:12:36]

Also, on Leviticus ...

Also, on Leviticus 19:12, which says, “And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God. I am the Lord.” Now, the Quakers never were interested in the law, but wherever they found a passage which suited them, they used it, and they used our Lord’s words to say that one should never swear at all. Well, they took our Lord’s words simplistically and ignorantly. Our Lord was not abolishing Numbers 31 or Deuteronomy 23:21-23. He was indicting false and rash vows. When we come to Deuteronomy, we will see the implications it has for the subject of contracts. The Christian version, as with the farmers cited, has been a realistic vow that realizes that no man is in control of all factors.

As a result, the Christian formula has been “So will I do so help me God.” The words “so help me God,” recognize man’s dependence on God’s providence. This fact tells us a great deal about the meaning of freewill vows. All are dependent on a higher authority. A man may have no other man over him when he vows, but he must be mindful of the laws of Leviticus 19:12, and Deuteronomy 23:21-23. The vows our Lord condemns are boastful ones. They abuse the prerogatives of God and they assume an autonomous power which is fictitious. So what we see here and in our Lord’s words, as well as in the related laws, is the contingent nature of all living. In present Jewish practice, on the Day of Atonement, a man disavows all unfulfilled vows in order to escape judgment. He says, in effect, “I vowed, but there was no way as things changed that I could keep my vows.”

In its meaning, however, the law stresses the freewill nature of all such vows and the fact of contingency. The head of a family has the power to disannul a vow made by a wife or a daughter. He must judge as to whether or not her vow is governed by rash zeal rather than by sound faith. He must use godly judgment, not to stifle faith, but to keep it stable and healthy, and this means that the man, while in vowing, may have no other man over him, must necessarily see God as over him. His vow must be realistic. He cannot vow in anyway to damage the family, nor to assume that he is independent of family responsibilities. To illustrate, it was not uncommon for Medieval men to vow to make a certain pilgrimage if God answered their prayer, and very often, such a pilgrimage left their family in serious trouble. [00:16:50]

Now, let me make a very modern analogy

Now, let me make a very modern analogy. It’s not necessarily of a religious character nor is it formally a vow, but I have known of instances of women who decided to go on a diet and lose ten pounds, or fifteen, or whatever, and they insisted on putting the whole family on a diet because they could not bear to see them eat when they were skimping. Now, this is the kind of rash vow that is here forbidden, and this is why all vows are under authority. No woman has a right to do that to her family, and no man has a right to do anything that will damage his family, because he wants to do something, as with Medieval men, to go on a pilgrimage, irrespective of what their family faced when he left.

There is another aspect to this law which is very important. The priests, and by clear implication, the church, are given no determining power in any controversy about vows. This did not keep churches from entering into this area. About a century ago, the Reverend Robert A. Watson of Britain, commented on this chapter in these words, “It would have been well if the wisdom of this law had ruled the church, preventing ecclesiastical dominance in family affairs. The promises, the threats of a domineering church have, in many cases, introduced discord between daughters and parents, wives and husbands. The amenability of women to religious motives has been taken advantage of, always indeed with a plausible reason, the desire to save them from the world, but far too often, really for political ecclesiastical ends, or even from the base motive of revenge.”

So, what this had reference to was a woman did not have the right say, “I’m going to give so much to the church above and over any tithe my husband may give.” She did not have that right nor could the church ask it of her. The authority of the husband is also strictly limited. According to verse 15, when the wife makes a vow, the husband must express his dissent at once. He cannot, at a later date when he is angry with her, reach back in time to disannul her vow. When our Lord says that our communication be yea, yea, nay, nay, he means no man, because he is angry with his wife, can go back on his word on a vow or anything else. He cannot say, “I swore you could do it, I just said ‘yea,’ or ‘nay.’” And our Lord says, “That’s the way your communication should be. Your word should be as good as a legal bond. There can be no retroactive veto by a husband or father without guilt before God. [00:20:38]

Our Lord also, in Matthew ...

Our Lord also, in Matthew 15:3-9, condemns the voiding of the duty to care for one’s parents on the grounds that the necessary funds for their support have been vowed to God. This is using God’s name to break God’s law. The ancient rule was that silence gives consent. A man could, according to rabbinic law, ask for as much as twenty-four hours to consider his wife’s or daughter’s vow. Beyond that, his silence gave consent, and this is a premise that is still with us. A vow is a promise to God. This is why our Lord says it is wrong to swear by heaven or the temple or anything at all, since the seriousness of a vow or a promise to God is enough. Ecclesiastes 5:4 warns, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it, for He hath no pleasure in fools. Pay that which thou hast vowed.” Since nothing can be greater than God, any vow made to him needs to sworn validation, and to violate it is to be a fool.

A vow was normally accompanied by a sacrifice, according to Leviticus 7:16, and being enabled to keep a vow should be a cause for thanksgiving, according to Psalm 50:14. Vows could be made by a people. In Numbers 21:2, Israel vowed that if God delivered their enemies into their hands, they would destroy their cities. In Judges 11:30-31, we have a related vow by Jephthah, but a rash one, in that it led him to believe that keeping a vow could require sin, which was a sin on his part. In 1 Samuel 1:11, we see Hannah vowing to give her son to the Lord if God gave her a son. Both Jephthah’s and Hannah’s vows were personal, but they involved more than themselves. As Wenem pointed out, we see vows and fasts in the New Testament, in Matthew 6:16, Mark 2:20, Acts 13:2, 18:18, and 21:23, so our Lord’s words in Matthew 5:33-37 did not abolish vows. [00:23:41]

The reason why the husband or father had oversight

The reason why the husband or father had oversight where a family was concerned, where a wife or a daughter made a vow, was to prevent something that could harm family life. This meant similarly, that the head of the household had to be responsible, not only to annul rash vows, but to avoid himself any rash vows that would harm the family. Commenting on Deuteronomy 23:21-23, Calvin wrote, “On this point then, God justly rescues His name from contempt, and to this end demands that what has been promised to him should be paid, but inasmuch as superstitious people apply this or rather rest it indiscriminately to all vows, their error must be refuted so that we can understand the genuine meaning of Moses. The papists would have all vows kept without exception because it is written, ‘Thou shalt not slack to pay whatsoever hath passed your lips,’ but a definition of vows must first be given, or at least we must see what vows are lawful and approved by God, for if all vows must be effectually kept, however rashly made under the law, it would have been right to kill their sons and daughters, to erect altars to idols, and thus, under this pretext, the whole law of God would have been entirely brought to naught. Wherefore, distinction between vows must be laid down, unless we wish to confound right and wrong. This then is the first point, that nothing can be properly vowed to God except what we know to be pleasing to Him, for if to obey is better than sacrifice, nothing surely can be more absurd than to indulge ourselves in the liberty of serving God, each according to his own fancy. If a Jew had vowed that he would sacrifice a dog, it would have been sacrilege to pay that vow, since it was forbidden by God’s law, but inasmuch as there is an intermediate degree between that which God has expressly prescribed and forbidden, it might be objected that it was allowable to make a vow in respect to things which are called indifferent. My reply to this is that since the principle ought always to be maintained by the godly, that nothing is to be done without faith. It must ever be considered whether a thing is agreeable to God’s word. Otherwise, our zeal is preposterous.” [00:27:10]

What the law here closely guards against is foolish

What the law here closely guards against is foolish pretentions to holiness made by people who make vows that are sanctimonious foolishness. God makes clear what He requires. He welcomes the grateful gifts above and over tithes, duties, and legitimate obligations. He does not permit pretentious piety and pretentious holiness. These texts guard against any claim to legitimacy in acts of foolishness. This is why the chapter and law are addressed to the clan heads. Because the sanctity of vows, of contracts, on every level of life, must be respected, and however slight, say a girl’s vow to God may be, and however trifling a matter, it is still a matter of importance, and it must be subjected to the review of the father to prevent foolishness and pretentious holiness. Let us pray.

Our Father, thy word is truth, and thy word tells us that our communications with thee and with one another must be governed by the sanctity of our word. We pray, our Father, that in this day of lawlessness, where men’s words in thy presence and to thee and to one another have become empty wind, thou wouldst by thy spirit use us to once again restore the sanctity of the word of godly men. IN Christ’s name. Amen. Are there any questions about our lesson? Yes?

[Audience] Mr. Bush {?} what breaking the word means. [00:30:33]

[Rushdoony] Yes, and I think this represents something

[Rushdoony] Yes, and I think this represents something very important in our national life because we have, for the past generation and further back, seen this kind of campaign pledge routinely broken. I believe the reaction of the people to Bush’s statement, “Read my lips,” is important. First, it meant, that when he spoke they trusted him. Second, it meant that their reaction to his breaking of his word was a moral matter, a sense of moral outrage, and I do believe it is one of the more encouraging things of the past few years that people not only reacted as they did, but have not forgotten it. Now, some years ago, a man in politics told me one of the laws of politics is it is very, very rare for the public to remember what a politician has done beyond ninety days, and that the sole exception up until now, was Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, but now suddenly we have another exception, one of a very notable sort, because it was the kind of promise that has been routinely made. If one goes back and reads the campaign speeches of Franklin Delanor Roosevelt and his statements against federal spending, and against a growing bureaucracy, you realize there was a great deal of decay right then and there in the thirties, that people never held the violation of his promises against him. Are there any other questions or comments?

[Audience] Well, the later generations will hold his breaking of the vows.

[Rushdoony] Oh yes. I don’t believe that, in the days to come, men like Wilson and Roosevelt, and their successors, they’ll be thought of any differently than the succession of degenerate emperors of latter day Rome.

[Audience] Bush is probably an angel compared to Rom.

[Rushdoony] Well, we’ll see what history has to say about these men, but I don’t believe it will be very favorable.

[Audience] Bush, he hasn’t magnetized, he hasn’t hypnotized the nation like Roosevelt did.

[Rushdoony] No, I think people are waking up out of their dream that the state is God walking on earth, and that the state can save them. Are there any other questions or comments? Yes? [00:34:19]

[Audience] I want to preface this question through

[Audience] I want to preface this question through the fact that I believe that without predestination, before knowledge, we can all be God. But I need help on the fact that when God spoke with Samuel about the world of people wanting a king, and Samuel giving them every reason why they should not want a king, at the same time God finally says, “Alright, we’ll give them a king,” and he selects the king Saul. Then Saul turns bad, and God says to Samuel, “I repent of the fact that I made Saul king, we will have another king, David.” Did Arminius, or Paladius, or any of those men use this to destroy predestination?

[Rushdoony] No. For this reason, what it means, words change their meaning, and certain words have multiple meanings of which one drops out with time. God ordained, knowing that Israel deserved punishment. Saul was their king, and in 1 Samuel 8, Samuel tells them what God told him to tell them, exactly what a king would do to them, and how they would be taxed in a way they never had been, and how it would be a tax not only upon their assets, but upon their children. Their children would be taken. So, they were warned, but God gave them, in His wisdom, that punishment which they needed, so they would be prepared to receive his appointed man. Now, when it says God repented of this or that, it doesn’t mean He repented as we repent. It means that God felt it was time to change His course. The word has multiple meanings and in the English, we have only one, and this often leads to problems as we read the Bible. For example, Paul warns us to avoid every appearance of evil. Now, the way this has been read by many churchmen is that you are to avoid anything that looks bad, even though it may be good, and that isn’t what it means. It means avoid every manifestation, every appearing, in actual form, of evil. It doesn’t say don’t do something that somebody might think is wrong even though it’s good. It isn’t telling you to pay attention to the opinions of other peoples, because people want respectability and they may frown on something which God commands and which is godly. It says avoid the presence, the appearing in power, the appearing in activity of evil. Steer clear of that. So it is there, in Samuel and in Kings that God tells us He repented of this and that as it does in Genesis, but the word “repent” is not to be construed as we do, being sorry that you did something. It means you now change your course. You’ve done something for a particular reason for a time. Now you change your course. This is why some translators have tried to give different words for what the King James does, but none are satisfactory because languages are different, and languages sometimes don’t have words that will convey what is intended. [00:39:38]

Now, modern English is really biblical language

Now, modern English is really biblical language. It is Hebraic to the core. It has been profoundly influenced, so that our language has been reshaped by biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek, but there’s still points where there are problems. One is that there is three words for love, in Koine, or New Testament Greek. One is eros, for erotic love, another is philio for friendly, neighborly love, then agape, which is a word which existed in the Greek but was not used. Apparently was just sitting there, some have said, waiting for the New Testament to be written. It means, in effect, the grace of God, undeserved love that He gives to us. Now, the last chapter of John where our Lord is speaking to Peter, He is using philio and agape, and we miss the point there a great deal because we have only one word. So, we have to realize this as we read the Bible. There are times when there are perplexities and these arise precisely because of the limitations of language.

Our time is really over now, so we’ll have to conclude with prayer.

Our Father, we thank thee that thy word is truth and thy word instructs us, guides us, and protects us when we give heed unto thee. Make us ever joyful in thy word, guide us by thy spirit and make us a power in this, thy creation. And now go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you this day and always. Amen. [00:42:04]

End of tape

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