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God’s Word for You

Numbers 30:10-16 bearing the burden

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 17, 2022

10 If, while she is still in her husband’s house, she took a vow or put herself under an obligation with an oath, 11 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows will stand, and every obligation under which she has put herself will stand. 12 But if her husband does indeed nullify them on the same day that he hears about them, then whatever came from her lips concerning her vows or her obligation will not stand. Her husband has nullified them. The Lord will forgive her.

The idea here is that a husband could nullify a wife’s vow if he felt it was inappropriate or unwise. But he had to speak up on the same day that he heard about it. If he found out about it but said nothing for a few days, then the vow was binding.

13 Her husband may allow or nullify every vow or every oath in which she undertakes an obligation to deny herself.

In this verse we have an interesting Hebrew expression. It is the verb ‘anah, translated here “to deny.” In the regular or base stem of the Hebrew verb (qal) it means to “bend down, be afflicted” (Psalm 119:67), and in the passive stem (nifal) it means “to be humbled” (Isaiah 58:10). Here, in a special intensive (piel) stem, it can mean “to make yourself humble” or “deny yourself” (by denying needs or fasting, Leviticus 16:29). If it was the wife’s intention to deny herself such as by fasting or abstaining from sex for a set time, her husband could either allow or nullify her vow (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:5).

14 But if her husband indeed says nothing to her from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or all her obligations, which are binding on her. He has allowed them, because he said nothing to her on the day that he hears about them. 15 But if he nullifies them later than the day he hears about them, then he will bear her responsibility. 16 These are the statutes which the Lord commanded Moses about vows pertaining to a husband and his wife, or a father and his daughter during her youth while she still lives at her father’s house.

This final section of the chapter shows that a husband who changed his mind about his wife’s vow could not nullify it. If he tried, he would bring the vow onto himself, and in order to keep it (which might be physically impossible) he would have to pay a sin offering at the tabernacle. This is clear from verse 15, “he will bear (lit. “lift”) her responsibility.” Man cannot shift responsibility of sin, but the head of the family would carry the burden if his own decision (or indecision) caused the burden.

When any of us thinks about carrying the burden of our sin, the thought is overwhelming. Who could ever carry the burden of his guilt? “We groan and are burdened” (2 Corinthians 5:4). “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalm 38:4). But God has compassion, he has had mercy on us. “You are a shield around me… you lift up my head” (Psalm 3:3). And while each one of us may receive what is due him for the things he had done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10; Ecclesiastes 3:16), the blood of Jesus has atoned for the bad, the failures, the mistakes, and the missed opportunities. We will stand before God fearlessly and confident in the judgment (1 John 4:17). We put our faith in our Savior, and know with absolute certainty that his perfection covers us, and it is with this robe of Jesus’ righteousness that we enter into eternal life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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