Numbers 30 and a Daughter's Marriage

As we see in Exodus 22, a father is required to act to refuse his daughter in marriage if she has been seduced. We have a similar scenario in Numbers 30 if she has been tricked into giving a promise. The daughter's vow stands unless the father actively annuls it. If he is passive for so much as a day after he hears of it, the vow stands. In the case of a marriage vow she would then have a husband who would be responsible for annulling vows instead.

The words "house" and "youth" are also key to understanding what is being addressed and what is simply left unsaid. As far as "father's house" I used to hold the opinion that it meant "household." The Hebrew word can clearly be used to mean either a wood and stone "house" or the members of one's family "household" depending upon context. However, the context in Numbers 30 prevents a meaning of "household" from making sense here.

Numbers 30:3 If a woman also vow a vow unto Yahweh, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;
6 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;
10 And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath;

If you look at verses 3, 6 and 10 especially, you can see that verse 3 is about a woman "in her father's house." That is still the context of the woman in verse 6 and her husband is the one that can annul her vow. This is what we might call the betrothal period. She is in her father's house but she is part of her husband's household. We then have the third scenario where she has moved into her husband's house in verse 10, so verse 6 is not referring to that. To be clear, verse 6 describes a woman whose spiritual authority is her husband, but she is still "in her father's house." Therefore the Hebrew word "beit" cannot mean her father's household in this instance, it can only mean his dwelling.

Leviticus 22:10 There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing. 11 But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat. 12 If the priest’s daughter also be married unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things. 13 But if the priest’s daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father’s house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father’s meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.

These rules for the priest's household, fully confirm what I pointed out in Numbers. The passage goes through the various people who might be living in the priest's house, but only allows those who are his slaves or part of his family to partake of the offerings. Someone who is sojourning in the priest's house, is not considered part of his household and cannot eat of the offerings. Since the priest's at-home, yet married, daughter (which essentially describes betrothal) is also forbidden to eat the offerings, it is apparent that she is in the position outlined in Numbers 30:6. She is not a household member like an unmarried daughter is, but is instead a sojourner staying in the house as a guest.

As far as the word "youth" the passage, the Hebrew word that used for it in Numbers 30 according to Strong’s, is found in 46 verses. Here are several examples that I thought best demonstrated the upper limit of the range that "youth" can mean.

Psalm 127:4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Proverbs 5:18 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
Ezekiel 23:3 And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity.
Ezekiel 23:8 Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt: for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her.
Joel 1:8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.

Also, Leviticus 22:13 quoted above. Among these we see that "youth" is up to at least some point of marriageable age, but what I would focus on is the passages where the word is used in the feminine. Each time in the prophets, it is directly correlated with virginity. Then, comparing Leviticus 22:13 with Numbers 30 there is a slight change. Rather than "in her youth" it says "as in her youth." This distinction is made right after saying that she is a "widow or divorced" which would not be virginal states. Overall, I think the case for "youth" being a reference more to her virginity than her age is pretty strong. Which, in some ways, actually takes age entirely out of the picture since a woman can be a virgin at any age.

Numbers 30 lists five classes of women: unmarried and in her father's house, betrothed and in her father's house, married in her husband's house, widowed, divorced. Besides the five classes I listed, I can think of two other classes. Those who are unmarried and not living in their father's house and those who are unmarried and their father has died. This last category is well represented by the daughters of Zelophehad.

Numbers 27:3 Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against Yahweh in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.
Numbers 36:6 This is the thing which Yahweh doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.

Here, with their father dead, the daughters of Zelophehad are permitted to "marry to whom they think best." In other words, their vows are going to stand as there is no one to give them in marriage. In essence, fatherless daughters are in the same category as divorcees and widows. This actually helps us deduce the principle for the last class of women who might make a vow.

In Numbers 30, the vow annulling rules are the same for a father and unmarried daughter as they are for a husband and wife. We see from the daughters of Zelophehad that the rules for an unmarried daughter whose father has died are the same as for a married woman whose husband has died, a widow. In each case, the father/daughter spiritual headship and husband/wife spiritual headship is perfectly parallel.

The last case, where an unmarried woman is not living in her father's house, when equated to marriage, can actually be divided in half. If the father sends her out of his house, then it is the same as divorce, so her vows would stand. If she leaves the house on her own, then it would be like a wife who may leave her husband's dwelling but is still married in the eyes of God. She is still part of her father's household while living in another house, which is the equivalent of the betrothed situation in Numbers 30:6 where the husband can annul her vow even though the wife resides somewhere else. Thus a father can annul the vows of an unmarried daughter who leaves his house as long as he did not send her away.

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