Numbers 29-30

Good morning! In today’s passage we get further instructions concerning festival sacrifices, and then hear about when the vows of women may be maintained or broken. Both chapters highlight ways of maintaining devotion to God, but the latter one involves obedience to men as well.

Chapter 29 continues the list of festival offerings from yesterday, and all these occur within weeks of each other. The seventh month is full of extra celebrations, culminating in the eight-day Festival of Booths, with massive offerings on each day. These are only different from the other festivals in terms of their number—the kind of offerings stay the same, as does the instruction that they should be added to the daily offerings. Thinking about all these sacrifices, I’m left wondering how much these offerings were shared with the full Jewish populace? Would this season of special offerings have been a time when all who wanted could have meat to eat, were all these offerings reserved for the priests and Levites, or were they each burned fully on the altar? I hope that the first option was the practice—it would mean at least one time a year when everyone could look forward to having enough to eat, regardless of status or wealth. There certainly sounds like enough sacrifice to go around!

Chapter 30 makes it clear that men’s vows are binding—no ifs, ands or buts. However, for women the disapproval of their father or husband has the power to nullify their vow. Widows and divorced women (i.e. those women who “belong” to no man) also have the power to make fully binding vows. I wonder what these vows would have been like. Probably some were those which make one a Nazirite (see Numbers 6), but perhaps they also included other vows in order to bring about a certain blessing. (Here I’m thinking of the prophet Samuel’s mother Hannah, who makes a vow to dedicate her first son to God if her prayers for a child were answered.) This chapter recognizes some power for women to set their own course with promises, but their ability to make and keep vows is limited by the overruling power of fathers or husbands, men with whom they live. It’s remarkable to think of these guidelines in connection to the strong female characters we have already encountered and will yet read about in the Bible. Many of those women were single, widowed or divorced—a testament to how the “disadvantage” of those undesired states might actually have freed them to be greater than they would have under the thumb of some man. Happy reading!

Read Numbers 29-30.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Numbers 31-32. Thanks for reading!

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