A vow is a solemn promise made to God to perform or to abstain from performing a certain thing. The earliest mention of a vow is that of Jacob. (Genesis 28:18-22; 31:13) Vows in general are also mentioned in the book of Job, (Job 22:27) The law therefore did not introduce, but regulated the practice of, vows. Three sorts are mentioned: 1, Vows of devotion; 2, Vows of abstinence; 3, Vows of destruction.
As to vows of devotion, the following rules are laid down: A man might devote to sacred uses possessions or persons, but not the first-born of either man or beast, which was devoted already. (Leviticus 27:28) (a) If he vowed land, he might either redeem it or not Levi 25,27. (b) Animals fit for sacrifice if devoted, were not to be redeemed or changed, (Leviticus 27:9; 10:33) persons devoted stood thus: devote either himself, his child (not the first-born) or his slave. If no redemption took place, the devoted person became a slave of the sanctuary: see the case of Absalom. (2 Samuel 15:8) Otherwise he might be redeemed at a valuation according to age and sex, on the scale given in (Leviticus 27:1-7) Among general regulations affecting vows the following may be mentioned: (1) Vows were entirely voluntary but once made were regarded as compulsory, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. (Numbers 30:2; 23:21; Ecclesiastes 5:4) (2) If persons In a dependent condition made vows as (a) an unmarried daughter living in her father's house, or (b) a wife, even if she afterward became a widow the vow, if (a) in the first case her father, or (b) in the second her husband, heard and disallowed it, was void; but,if they heard without disallowance, it was to remain good. (Numbers 30:3-18) (3) Votive offerings arising from the produce of any impure traffic were wholly forbidden. (23:18)
For vows of abstinence, see Corban.
For vows of extermination Anathema and (Ezra 10:8; Micah 4:13) It seems that the practice of shaving the head at the expiration of a votive period was not limited to the Nazaritic vow. (Acts 18:18; 21:24)
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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