Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:1-2)
In relationship to the notion of bringing offerings and gifts unto the LORD, the Bible now addresses the sanctity of vows and oaths. In Hebrew thought, a vow can prohibit something for a person that the Torah allows or it can obligate a person to do something that the Torah does not require. In either case it is a solemn promise to consecrate something to God or to consecrate one’s self to His service in a specific manner. One example that comes to mind is the vow Hannah made to the LORD regarding her yet-to-be-born son: “If You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your handmaid and … give to Your handmaid a man child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head” (1 Samuel 1:9-11).
Whether a positive vow — one where a person pledges to do something in God’s service — or a negative one — one where a person pledges to refrain from certain things — the stated goal must be completed. In fact, the Hebrew word for “oath” is related to the Hebrew word that means, “complete, full” implying that the person who makes the vow is “incomplete.” Consequently, that person needs to submit themselves to the terms of the vow in order to be whole. For instance, if someone has struggled with something in times past that may not necessarily be Biblically illegal, nevertheless, they may vow to refrain from that particular thing in order to be more of what God has called them to be.
In the end, the message is that we should be faithful to do whatever it is we said we would do. We should not treat a vow or oath flippantly which means a) God is paying attention to what we say so b) we should measure our words before saying them. The Bible is very clear about this. In fact, the phrase “break his word” is more literally translated as “profane his word,” which is to say “ignore” what we have said. In short, we should be people of our word because we represent One who is always faithful to His. How does it look to proclaim the praises of the God who always keeps His Word if we can’t be trusted to keep our word? And so, we’ll close with this admonition: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
Blessings and Shalom,