March 3

Numbers 30-31


A Time of Discipline…the People Wandering      Numbers 20:14-31, cont’d.


Numbers 27-30       The People Instructed, cont’d.


Numbers 30:1-16-The law concerning vows...for a man, a young woman, a woman who is being married, a widow, or a divorced woman.  A father has authority over his daughter concerning a vow that she takes…whether, or not to allow it.  And a husband has the same authority over his wife.


A vow is often thought of as a human act alone, but in the Bible a vow is made before God alone. The Hebrew noun neder comes from the verb nadar meaning “to vow” or “to dedicate.” A vow may be one in which a person promises to perform an act (Gen. 28:20–21; 31:13; Numbers 21:2–3) or to refrain from something (Ps. 132:1–4). No one needed to make a vow, but once made, it was binding. While a person could swear to a person or to God, they could vow only to God. In the Old Testament, the Lord saw and heard all vows; not honoring a vow was therefore a grave sin. Both the wise man of Proverbs (Prov. 20:25) and the wise Preacher in Ecclesiastes warned against making a vow rashly or delaying its fulfillment (Eccl. 5:4–5).

Vows played an important part in Israel’s worship, especially with regard to individual commitment to the Lord. In Isaiah 19:21, the prophet envisions a time when Egypt will show allegiance to the Lord not only by offering sacrifices and offerings, but also by making and keeping “vows” to Him as their God (Isa. 19:21). Vows were made in times of distress, but also in times of blessing and rejoicing (Lev. 23:38; 1 Sam. 1:21). When God performed an action described in a vow, not only sacrifices were promised to God, but also public praise and thanks could be offered (Pss. 40:6; 50:12–15; 69:30–31).

Of the thirty-three verses in the Pentateuch where neder occurs, nineteen are in the book of Numbers. In the Nazarite vow, while there were certain prohibitions, the stress was upon the individual’s consecration to the Lord during the time of the vow (Numbers 6:2–8). Vows were part and parcel of Israel’s worship (Numbers 15:3). Numbers 30 is solely about “vows” and neder is mentioned in twelve of the sixteen verses. As stated earlier, the person who makes a vow must not break his or her word (Numbers 30:2). Failing to honor one’s vows was a sin (Deuteronomy 23:22). It was considered better not to make a vow than to make it and not keep it (Eccl. 5:4–6); simply saying, “I made a mistake by making the vow” was no excuse.

The seriousness of taking a vow is as significant today as it was in the time of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Paul made a vow and considered it binding upon himself to keep it. He may have carried out the vow as thanks to God for being delivered from mortal dangers. He then had his head shaved at Cenchrea marking the end of the vow (Acts 18:18). Paul later joined in the rites necessary for four Jews who had made vows. He accompanied these Jewish Christians to demonstrate that he had not rejected the essence of the Law of Moses.

Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 200). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software


  1. Instructions Regarding Vows (Numbers 30:1–16)

Three principles govern this section of Numbers: (1) vows are binding; (2) a vow or pledge must be reported to one’s immediate superior; and (3) persons in authority can cancel commitments made by subordinates. Thus, a father could overrule the vow of an uNumbersarried daughter, and the Lord would release her from that vow. A husband could nullify the vow of his wife. If, however, the father or the husband said nothing immediately after hearing of the vow, then the terms of the vow stood. The woman was obligated to fulfill the terms of her vow. Any vow taken by a woman living alone (e.g., a widowed or divorced woman) was binding.

Smith, J. E. (1993). The Pentateuch (2nd ed., Nu 30:1–16). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.


Numbers 31             The Enemy Defeated (Midian)


Numbers 31:1-7-God sends the army of Israel to punish Midian for causing Israel to fall into sexual sin and worshipping Baal (cf. 25:16-18).

Numbers 31:8-13-They killed every male, all the kings, and Balaam.

Numbers 31:14-18-Moses was angry that they did not kill the women, because they were the very ones that had led Israel into sin (:16).  So, he commands the soldiers to kill every woman who has had sex, and every male child, but spare the virgin girls.  This can be a very difficult passage to understand.  However, it should be remembered that while it can be said of man that he cannot be certain about which women may, or may not, have been involved in the temptation of Israel to sin, or which ones might be involved to do so in the future…that cannot be said of God.  He is omniscient and sovereign.  He knows all things and rules over all things.  It is at this point that we must submit to His decision.  It is not the right decision for God to make…but, because God makes that decision it is right.  He is God.


  1. They were severely reproved for saving the women alive. It is very probable that Moses had commanded them to kill the women, at least this was implied in the general order to avenge Israel of the Midianites; the execution having reference to that crime, their drawing them in to the worship of Peor, it was easy to conclude that the women, who were the principal criminals, must not be spared. What! says Moses, have you saved the women alive? v. 15. He was moved with a holy indignation at the sight of them. These were those that caused the children of Israel to commit this trespass; and therefore, 1. It is just that they should die. The law in case of whoredom was, The adulterer and adulteress should surely be put to death. God had put to death the adulterers of Israel by the plague, and now it was fit that the adulteresses of Midian, especially since they had been the tempters, should be put to death by the sword. 2. “It is dangerous to let them live; they will be still tempting the Israelites to uncleanness, and so your captives will be your conquerors and a second time your destroyers.” Severe orders are therefore given that all the grown women should be slain in cold blood, and only the female children spared.

Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 231). Peabody: Hendrickson, Logos Bible Software


Numbers 31:19-24-Directions for purification of the soldiers and the spoil are given.


III. They were obliged to purify themselves, according to the ceremony of the law, and to abide without the camp seven days, till their purification was accomplished. For, 1. They had imbrued their hands in blood, by which though they had not contracted any moral guilt, the war being just and lawful, yet they were brought under a ceremonial uncleanness, which rendered them unfit to come near the tabernacle till they were purified. Thus God would preserve in their minds a dread and detestation of murder.

Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 231). Peabody: Hendrickson, Logos Bible Software


Numbers 31:25-47-Directions for dividing the spoil are given.

Numbers 31:48-54-Not one soldier died in the battles so they brought an offering to the was a "memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD."


Prayer: Lord, I confess to You that I struggle with the death of these women and children.  I wonder why they must all die.  But I am reminded of two things.  First, my knowledge of people and events is limited.  However, You know all things.  Second, my perception of sin is distorted…I fail to see it properly in comparison to Your absolute holiness…so I fail to judge it properly.  I trust You, Father.  Your judgment is righteous and I accept Your decision.


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