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30. 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. 2If 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. 3If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth; 4And 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. 5But 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. 6And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; 7And 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. 8But 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. 9But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her. 10And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; 11And 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. 12But 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. 13Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void. 14But 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. 15But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity. 16These 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.

3. If a woman also vow. He now proceeds to the point of which he proposed to treat, i.e., that vows made by persons who are not their own masters do not hold good; and he mentions two cases. For, in the first place, he teaches that if a daughter, whilst living with her father, has vowed anything without his knowledge, it is of no force. He lays down the same rule, if the father, hearing the vow, has disallowed it; but if he has held his peace, it is declared that his silence is equivalent to consent. Hence we gather that all those who are possessed of power do not do their duty unless they frankly and discreetly express their opposition whenever anything displeases them; since their connivance is a kind of tacit approbation. In the second place, he treats of married women, whose vows, made in the absence or with the disapproval of their husbands, he commands to be of none effect; but if the husbands have known of them, and been silent, he obliges their performance. For many deceptions might have thus arisen; since it is usual with many when they wish to gratify their wives, to conceal their opinion for the time, but, when the period of actual performance arrives, to elude what may have been promised. But unless they use their privilege in proper time, God would have them bear the punishment of their servile indulgence and dissimulation; but because women are often urged to deceive by their levity and inconstancy, this danger is also anticipated. It may also happen 326326     The Lat. is, “Accidet ut mulier in vidaitate viro non subjecta, praecipiti zeli fervore voveat, eo mortuo retractet specioso praetextu, quia tunc libera non erat, nec sui juris.” The Fr., “Il adviendra qu’une femme estante en sujection de mari, vouera par une ardeur hastive de zele, le marl trespasse, elle prendra honneste couverture de se retracter, d’autant qu’elle n’estoit pas libre pour lors.” I have translated the latter, not being able to understand the original, nor to reconcile them. that a woman, when subject to her husband, may make a vow in the precipitate fervor of her zeal, and when he is dead, may retract it under the specious pretext that she was not then free and her own mistress; the same thing may occur when a divorced woman shall bind herself, and then when she has married, shall appear to herself to be released. Since instances of this wicked change of mind are too frequent, no wonder that this special precaution should be added, to prevent frauds. Wherefore God declares that the period when the vow was made is to be considered, so that they are no less liable than as if their condition had remained the same. He therefore condemns to the performance of their vow those women who have been emancipated from their fathers’ authority by marriage, and also who have been set free by death or divorce; yet it appears from the last verse of the chapter, that two exceptions, modifying the general law, are here peculiarly treated of.


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