Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vows of Women

Numbers 30 discusses vows women make and how it related to males.  At first read, this chapter sounds pretty sexist, but on further reflection I'm not so sure.  We have to remember as we read chapters like this that women had very few, if any, rights in the ancient world.  They were little more than property, so any mention of rights or any talk of women as actual people is a significant thing.

So, Numbers 30 deals with how things should be handled if a woman makes a vow but her father/husband disapproves.  If that is the case, Numbers says that, "the Lord will forgive her."  Now again, at first that sounds rather insulting.  Forgive her...forgive her for what?  She didn't do anything wrong.  Well, that's precisely the point.  She didn't do anything wrong.  God wants the Israelites to know that even though they lived in a time where women had not rights and men could order them about, even order them to break a vow, men can't then turn around and hold that broken vow against the women.  That wouldn't be fair or just.  To go a step further, if the husband/father hears the woman take the vow, doesn't say anything, and then forces her to break the vow later, he will bear the guilt of the broken vow.  He will be held responsible.  The ancient Israelite woman does have rights, and although they may seem like rather pointless rights to us in our culture, they might have been rather shocking rights to Israel's neighbors.

Stopping point: Numbers 30

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