A Biblical principle in Scripture is the sanctity of vows (Deuteronomy 23:21–22). Psalm 116:12, 14 also give us some insight regarding vows. A woman’s vows, in contrast to a man’s, are subject to certain qualifications, and four different cases are cited; an unmarried girl, under the jurisdiction of her father; a woman unmarried at the time of her vow but having entered marriage before the vow is fulfilled (Numbers 30:6); the widow or the divorced woman (Numbers 30:9); and finally the married woman (Numbers 30:10–12).
The point seems to be the headship of the man in the life of the family. When a woman married (Numbers 30:6–8), she passed from her father’s jurisdiction to her husband’s. In the case of a woman widowed or divorced, she was regarded as independent of them. In a day when we dislike authority, we see here the positive aspects. God cares for us to rescue us from rash promises we may make. The New Testament church did keep up the practice of vows (Acts 18:18,21:23).
In Numbers 31 God commands Israel to take revenge on Midian. This is for the incident with Balaam the incident mentioned in Numbers 25:1, in the story of Balaam. Midian was a threat to Israel’s existence as a people set apart to God. Balaam had shown the Midianites how to corrupt God’s people, so that the promised seed could be hindered from every coming to crust Satan. The corrupting influence of Midian threatened the line of promise.
Numbers 32 Reuben and Gad came to Moses requesting permission to make the land of Gilead on the east side of Jordan which came through the conquest of Sihon and Og (Numbers 21:21–35). The reason for their request was that they had large herds of cattle, and they saw that Gilead was ideal cattle country. Moses reacted angrily to this suggestion comparing it with the spirit of Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 13–14), when Israel was unwilling to go in to possess the land.
Moses feared another judgment like the earlier one. Reuben and Gad respond to Moses by letting him know that they had no intention of neglecting their responsibilities in the battles for the conquest of Canaan, and that they would go over to fight, but leave their wives and children in fenced cities in Gilead, then return to their families when the battles were over.
Moses granted their request with the strict condition of honoring their promise. This is somewhat reminiscent of the story in Genesis 13:10, when Lot lifted up his eyes toward the plain of Jordan and, seeing that it was well-watered everywhere, chose it for himself and his choice was in an environment that was spiritually and morally dangerous.
This choice was likewise fateful for Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh because in later years they were so vulnerable because they did not have the protection of the river that they did not want to cross. Have we opted for an easier, alternative way in spiritual things? Because of some attraction that has come to mean more to us than the kingdom of God?
Numbers 33 – Recorded here are 40 times Israel moved from one site to the next the Hebrew literally means “pluckings up,” which refers to the taking up of the tent-pegs before beginning the march from Rameses in Egypt (Numbers 33:3) and their arrival at the plains of Moab (Numbers 33:49).
The whole journey could have been done in little more than a month, but the first two years was to prepare Israel for the Promised Land and the battles that they were to fight. What seems implied is that the great part of their journeying was not really necessary, but was made necessary by their failure and sin.
1 Corinthians 10 tells us that Numbers is an illustration of our walk and we should ask ourselves if the story of our lives is at a standstill spiritually, although showing a great deal of movement and activity? Have we gotten anywhere in the past while?
In Numbers 34 we have the delineation of the land of Israel that they were to occupy. The inheritance given to Israel was larger and more extensive than they were ever able to possess, even in David’s and Solomon’s time. The tragedy is that by their failure to cast out their enemies according to Numbers 33:55-56. Israel failed to receive all that God had for them.
Israel never entered into their full inheritance because of their refusal to be thorough enough in dealing with their enemies, and because they were content with small things as Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were.
In much the same way when we allow the “enemies of our souls” to remain in our hearts and lives, or compromise and make pacts with them, they not only become irritants in our eyes and thorns in our sides but—much worse—they prevent us from possessing the true riches that God wills us to have, and from being what we could be, and were destined to be, for God. There is far more for us in the gift of that God has given us in Christ than ever we have yet appropriated or made our own. We are too easily satisfied.
Numbers 35 – The main part of the chapter concerns the Levites and the cities of refuge. The Levites were to have no inheritance since the Lord was their inheritance. They were to be dispersed throughout the land in forty-eight cities, the purpose of this dispersion, was that they might instruct Israel in the Law or teaching of the Lord (Deuteronomy 33:10).
This is a basic principle of those called to the ministry (2 Corinthians 6:10). From the Levitical cities, six were selected as places of refuge for those who had unwittingly committed man-slaughter. The cities are named in Joshua 20:1–9.
The provision was for the man who killed accidentally, not deliberately. The duty of avenging a killing fell to the nearest kinsman (Numbers 35:12); the cities of refuge was instituted to prevent wrongful vengeance. A man could flee to these cites for sanctuary, where an inquiry would be made to determine whether it was a deliberate murder or an inadvertent killing.
If it was accidental then the killer could find refuge and sanctuary in the city and be free from the fear of retribution, so long as he remained within its walls until the death of the high priest. If he ventured outside its protection, it was his own responsibility: he could be slain with impunity then, with none but himself to blame.
God’s Law stipulated that money would not get a person released from his action. God took very seriously the shedding of blood underlining the sanctity of human life. This is based on the fact that man is made in the image of God (Genesis 9:5–6).
The cities of refuge point us to the mercy of the Gospel. While there was no mercy and no provision for the murderer but human sin is rarely purely deliberate; most often it is ad mixed with something else—ignorance, weakness, or frailty. Consider the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34. Yeshua is the city of refuge where we might find sanctuary from the avenger, Satan (Proverbs 18:10).
Finally we end with final instructions concerning the daughters of Zelophehad which was first brought up in Numbers 27:1–11 where God made provision for their family rights when their were only daughters born and no sons. Certain problems could come from the provision made for them if the daughters marry outside their own tribe. The judgment was that the daughters of Zelophehad were to marry only within their own tribe, so that marriage would not jeopardize God’s provision and pattern for the division of the land among the twelve tribes.
This story gives us some significant lessons. Some marriages are unwise and harmful for the furtherance of the purposes of God in our lives and in His kingdom.
The prime consideration for the believer should be the kingdom of God and His purposes in our lives, just as in this case the primary concern was the preservation of the divine pattern for the division of the land. Nothing was to interfere with that, and the marriage of Zelophehad’s daughters was to fit in and harmonize with it.
No one ever suffers for putting God and His will first in his life (1 Sam. 2:30; Matthew 6:33), We also see that even if the persons concerned are both believers it still may not be is therefore necessarily right for them to marry. There are some circumstances where a marriage between two believers may not be best for the couple and the Kingdom of God. This is why premarital counseling is so important.