Numbers 30-36: We want Messiah to give us rest from our dumb oaths and vows

“’Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:33–37 NASB)

Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus the Christ) emphasized that vows and oaths are not to be taken lightly. Why then did the Holy One of Israel give instructions about vows and oaths? Part of it is our distance from the original language and meanings of these words. Another part is we aren’t seeing the lessons from Heaven in these instructions, namely, that just as the LORD promises to give a land of rest to Israel, so too, should those who make promises be as faithful to them.

The dual Torah reading מטות Matot (“tribes,” Numbers 30–32) and  מסעי Massei/Mase’y (“journeys of,” Numbers 33–36) take us to the end of the 40 years of wandering judgment against the rebellious first generation post-Mitzraim (Egypt).

“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the word which the LORD has commanded. “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:1–2 NASB)

Let’s not be hasty

In Judaism, once a young man reaches 13, he is bound to his vows, whether they are good, bad or indifferent, and his father can’t overrule them. As I see it, Scripture establishes the age of 20 as the age of adulthood, rather than 13. Nonetheless, Scripture does tell us that that once a man becomes an adult, he is bound to keep his vows.

Is it good to have your vows and oaths overruled by someone else? Yes, when they’re hasty or stupid, of course we would like for someone to overrule them. Even though this section starts with a reference to a young woman, this “young woman” is a symbol of the Bride of Christ. God as our Father and Messiah Yeshua, as our Husband, can overrule our hasty vows.

This tells us that we must be careful of the words that come out of our mouths.

Western culture enforces a radical equality of men and women to the point that widows with children are ignored and even cast aside by the extended family, particularly on the husband’s side of the family. The first thing widows are asked before their husband is even buried is “Do you have life insurance?” They are expected to take care fend for themselves after their husband and father is buried. Western culture cares little about making sure that children in that scenario keep a warm familiar connection to their prior generations. Subscribing to can’t replace that.

Hasty vows and broken vows not only affect the person who makes it, but the community at large. Look at the terrible example of Achan. He stole items from the city of Jericho which were under the ban. His greed and thievery didn’t just affect his family but the entire nation. Achan’s greed caused the death of many soldiers in the very next battle a few days later.

Nullifying a hasty vow can have consequences but breaking a valid vow has even worse consequences.

The conquest of Midian

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people.’” (Numbers 31:1–2 NASB)

This was Moses’ last major military mission on God’s behalf. I respect the fact that he didn’t postpone this. He immediately planned the mission and ensured God’s judgement against Midian was done. The men of Israel went out and conquered the nation of Midian with God’s strength.

“Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. And Moses said to them, ‘Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.’” (Numbers 31:14–16 NASB)

In both Midian and Israel, a married woman’s primary loyalty was to their husband’s house, not to her parent’s house. If Israel had allowed the widows of Midian to survive, they would have continued raising their sons to be loyal to their father’s line, the widows would have continued their loyalty to their husband’s line. The idolatry, debauchery and adultery of Midian could not be allowed to infiltrate Israel. That is why Moses had to kill all the widows and males of Midian.

The reason the young women of Midian were spared is that they could be raised in Israel and would be raised to be loyal to the house of their future husband, who would be Israelite, not Midianite.

We will see echoes of this in Moses’ later instruction about the inheritance of daughters in which they were allowed to inherit their father’s estate as long as they agreed to marry men within their late father’s clan.

As believers, we will inherit eternal life, the Kingdom of God. But what that entails may differ from one person to another, or from one tribe to another. Each believer’s inheritance will be unique to them. They will be similar but not the same.

Each tribe had a particular function and task within the nation. Our inheritance from God will also be unique to us and how we can be of service to God. It is not transferable from one person to another either.

The conquest of the Eastern side of the Jordan

“Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon, the land which the LORD conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” They said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan.”” (Numbers 32:1–5 NASB)

This was not a part of the Promised Land. The land on the other side of the Jordan was not divided by lot, they had to fight for and earn it. The Promised Land, on the other hand, was divided by lots. Yet, God did allow several Cities of Refuge to be established on the other side of the Jordan.

As God expands His Kingdom, it is not by lot, but by conquest.

What is a ‘Sabbath’s day journey’?

In the First Century, this was about 8,000 cubits, roughly 2 miles. It’s a fancy way of saying, “Don’t leave your city.” It’s not in the Torah, but derived from it. Our “place” is not just our house. They did not have cities the size of L.A. or New York back then.

This seems innocuous but it’s not.

“And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place.” (Luke 24:13–14 NASB)

Yeshua kept all the man-made traditions that did not violate the Torah. The Jews in the first century and even before, worked hard to build synagogues in every village so people didn’t have go to very far to fellowship on Shabbat.

Summary: Tammy



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