Moses establishes the laws of making a vow. The Bible clearly states that a vow is a very serious thing and is not to be taken lightly (see Eccl. 5:4-6).

“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” (Eccl. 5:4-6)

The Vow: Neder or Issar?

A vow in the biblical sense is a pledge or promise made to God. The first biblical reference to a vow involves Jacob, who dreamed of a ladder stretching from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending upon it. Jacob understood that this vision indicated God’s favor upon the place he was sleeping, and he named the site “Bethel,” meaning “House of God.” Jacob also made a vow to God that if the Lord would bless him, he would return the tithe (the tenth) back to the Lord (see Gen. 28:10-22).

There are two types of Hebrew vows. One is called a neder and the other issar. The neder vow is when a man vows a vow unto God. The issar vow is when a man swears an oath to bind his soul with a bond. We would say that tithing is a neder vow and marriage between a man and a woman is an issar vow.

One of the strongest vows in the Bible was the Nazarite vow. A Nazarite vow could be a voluntary vow or a commanded vow. For example, two men in the Bible were to be Nazarites from their mother’s womb—Samson and Samuel (see Judg. 13:1-7; 1 Sam. 1:11). According to Numbers 6, a Nazarite vow consisted of three parts.

1. A Nazarite was never to drink wine or strong drink (Num. 6:3)
2. A Nazarite was never to use a razor to shave his hair (Num. 6:5)
3. A Nazarite was never to touch a dead body, human or animal (Num. 6:6)

Samson is a prime example of someone who broke a Nazarite vow. He attended a seven-day feast (believed to be a wedding feast) where no doubt people were drinking wine. Yet he arose and accomplished a great feat through the anointing of the Spirit (see Judg. 14:10-20). He had touched the carcass of a lion (see Judg. 14:8-9) and the jawbone of a donkey (see Judg. 15:15-17). Touching a dead body was forbidden in the vow, yet the Spirit of God touched him again. Finally, he rested in Delilah’s lap and under pressure revealed the final aspect of his vow to God (never to shave his hair). Delilah subsequently cut his hair, breaking the third part of the vow (see Judg. 16:1-19). When Samson awoke, he assumed the Lord would continue to anoint him; however, the Spirit departed from him (see Judg. 16:20). God had extended His mercy through two acts of vow breaking, but when the third and final commandment of the vow was broken, God was no longer obligated to anoint Samson.

Foolish Vows

The most foolish vow in the Old Testament took place when a judge named Jephthah vowed that if God would help him defeat the descendants of Ammon in battle, the first thing to come out of his house following the conflict would become a burnt offering unto the Lord (see Judg. 11:30-31). After a great victory, Jephthah returned home and his only child, a daughter, met him. She was dancing with a tambourine because of her father’s victory. Then, the judge remembered his foolish vow. Jephthah knew the power of the vow. He said, “I have opened my mouth unto the Lord and I cannot go back” (Judg. 11:35). The reason this vow was so serious is that he made a neder vow to God.

The most foolish vow in the New Testament took place when a renegade band of forty men with a hateful agenda “bound themselves with an oath” that they would not eat or drink until they killed the apostle Paul (Acts 23:21). The conspiracy was exposed, and Paul was secretly escorted out of the city (see Acts 23:20-35). Did these forty men eventually starve to death? Probably not. When they realized that Paul was in safe hands, away from their reach, almost certainly they went back to eating and drinking. Their death vow was made in the heat of the moment. This foolish vow was not made to God, but was made among forty men who bound their souls together. This is an issar vow; a foolish vow made to men, which is not bound by the Holy Spirit, can be repented of. Vows made directly to God, however, are serious and should never be treated lightly.

Vowing to God

Many people make vows to God in times of trouble. For example, when a child is ill or in an accident, parents may tell God, “Let my child live, and we will serve you and attend church.” Others may have a companion dying and will cry out, “God, heal my companion. I can’t live without this person. If you do, I will follow you!” Some end up in prison and tell the Lord, “Get me out and I will minister to others.” A businessman about to go bankrupt may promise God, “If you will save and prosper my business, I will tithe and support your work.”

Sometimes the child recovers, the loved one is healed, the prisoner is released, and the business is saved, but within a few months, the people forget the vow that they had made to the Lord. People do not realize that the Holy Spirit takes the promises they make very seriously.

Your promises are not mere words but are equal to a sacrifice laid on the altar for transgression under the Old Covenant.

From Page 316 of the Perry Stone Hebraic Prophetic Old Testament Study Bible

Share This