Numbers 30-31:18

Sunday Evening Bible Study

May 3, 1998


The Israelites are right on the verge of entering into their Promised Land.

The last time they were right on the edge of entering in, they were discouraged by the reports of giants, and they didn’t think they could trust God to take care of them.

So they’ve spent the last 40 years, wandering in the wilderness as God has been transforming them from a bunch of complaining slaves, into a lean, mean, fighting machine.

Now, after having taken the second census in the wilderness, they’re beginning to get a "refresher course" on the basics of their worship, beginning last week with a reminder of some of the basic offerings, and now we’ve begun a review of the major feasts.

Numbers 30

:1-2 A man's vow

:2 a vow … an oath to bind his soul

A "vow" (neder) was a promise to do something

A "oath to bind" was a promise not to do something

Sometimes it was made in kind of a "deal" with God.

GEN 28:20-22 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father's house in safety, then the \Lord\ will be my God. 22 "And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house; and of all that Thou dost give me I will surely give a tenth to Thee."

Sometimes a vow was made simply to devote yourself to God for a period of time.

NUM 6:2-3 "Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the \Lord,\ 3 he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh or dried grapes.

There have been some famous Nazirites:

Samson, Samuel the prophet, John the Baptist.

Paul seems to have taken a Nazirite vow for a period of time.

ACT 18:18 And Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.

:2 he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth

Lesson #1:

Be a person of your word.

One of the reasons people swear an oath or take a vow is to help people believe what they’re saying, kind of like putting your hand on the Bible in court and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. It’s like the person who says, "May God strike me dead if I’m not telling the truth".

The Pharisees were notorious for their oaths, which were made on the least provocation. Yet they made mental reservations within their oaths. It they wanted to be relieved of oaths they had made by heaven, by the earth, by Jerusalem, or by one's own head, they could argue that since God Himself had not been involved, their oaths were not binding.

Jesus said,

(Mat 5:33-37 KJV) Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: {34} But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: {35} Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. {36} Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. {37} But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

What Jesus is trying to get across is that you should be a person of your word.

You shouldn't have to go through some elaborate oath to convince someone that you are telling the truth.

If you say, "Yes, I will", that should be enough.

Your life should be enough to validate your word.

James said,

JAM 5:12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment.

Lesson #2:

Be careful what you promise.

(Prov 20:25 NLT) It is dangerous to make a rash promise to God before counting the cost.

Take the time to consider what you're doing.

Make sure you are going to be able to fulfill your promise.

If you promise your kids a trip to Disneyland tomorrow, you'd better come through with it. Better to wait until just before you go to promise!

My kids are getting better and better at reminding me what I promise. I’m learning to get better and better at only promising what I know I can keep.

God wants us bound together in love, learning to trust one another, and this doesn’t happen when we lie or break promises to each other.

(Eph 4:25 KJV) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

If you borrow money, you had better really be sure you are going to pay it back. Credit cards. Bankruptcy.

(Eccl 5:4-5 KJV) 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. {5} Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

:3-5 A young girl's vow

:4 and her father hears her vow

A Dad has a responsibility over his daughter.

If a daughter makes a foolish commitment, a dad had the ability to nullify it.

:6-8 wife’s vow

:6 if she had at all an husband

A husband assumes his wife's responsibilities.

A husband could get his wife out of a foolish vow.

Interestingly enough, it doesn't seem like a wife could get her husband out of a foolish vow.

It doesn't seem fair to me!

This goes to prove an idea I've had about the relationship between a man and his wife from the Scripture.

In our passage we see that a man is stuck with his word. Nobody gets him out of it.

A woman on the other hand can be bailed out by her husband.

I believe that what God's intent all along is for husbands to finally learn how to make good decisions.

1PE 3:1-2 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any {of them} are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

I have learned by observation that it appears that the female of the species makes decisions easier than do the male. They also make decisions better.

What can happen in a marriage though is that after the husband makes his fourth or fifth Bozo decision, a wife is going to have the temptation to just move in and do it the right way.

The husband may put up a fight, but usually it ends up that he just gives up.

And he becomes a wimp at making decisions.

Gals, God wants you to help train your husbands to make good decisions.

Sometimes that means letting him make a few Bozo decisions, and then having to pay for them as well. God is going to keep him at his word.

But the best way to learn to make good decisions is to have the support behind you that even if you make a stupid decision, you're going to be loved anyway.

It doesn't mean that you don't offer advice or give your opinion. But after a few stupid mistakes in a row, when your husband sees that you were right, hopefully he's going to wise up and listen to your opinion. At least if you don't keep rubbing it in his face.

:9-12 A married woman's vow

:9 a widow ... divorced

Just as the man, she had to stick to her word.

:10 in her husband's house

If a woman made a vow after she was already married, her husband was allowed to nullify the vow.

1SA 1:11 And she made a vow and said, "O \Lord\ of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thy maidservant and remember me, and not forget Thy maidservant, but wilt give Thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the \Lord\ all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."

It's interesting to note that Elkanah did not nullify Hannah's vow! Samuel was born and ended up being raised in the tabernacle.

:13-16 When the husband waits too long to say "no".

:14 if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day...

If a husband heard about a vow that his wife made, and simply doesn't say anything about it, but then later on down the road decides that it's wrong, too bad! It's too late! He has to pay the price of her vow!

He’s watching the ball game on TV. She tells him she’s going shopping for a new wardrobe. He nods his head and grunts. A month later he gets the VISA bill and gets upset. Too bad. He should have said something earlier.


Don't let things go unsaid!

We need to keep communication clear between us.

If I have a problem with something you're doing, I need to begin talking about it, and not wait until it becomes a bigger problem.

(Eph 4:25-32 KJV) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. {26} Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: {27} Neither give place to the devil. {28} Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. {29} Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. {30} And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. {31} Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: {32} And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Note the concepts of speaking to each other, and anger.

Sure, maybe there are times when we need to let each other cool down over problem situations, but don't let it go forever.

Come back and resolve the issue!

David's example:

David's son Amnon raped David's daughter Tamar.

Here was David's response:

2SA 13:21 Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry.

That's it. That's all we're told that David did. He just got angry.

Well, Tamar's full brother, Absalom didn't settle with that. He let his bitterness build up inside for two years. Then he finally plotted and killed his half-brother Amnon.

If you let things go unsaid, you will pay a price later on, just as in these vows.

Numbers 31

:1-12 Destruction of Midian

:1 the LORD spake unto Moses,

There’s going to be some rough stuff in this next chapter. You’re going to ask questions like, "Why?". Keep in mind through all this, that this is God’s idea here. Not Moses’.

:2 Midianites

General background:

The Midianites were the descendants of Abraham through his second wife, Keturah (Gen.25:2). They divided into five family groups (we'll see "five kings")

They lived in the southern area of Canaan, in the desert.

Moses fled to Midian when he killed the Egyptian, and he married a Midianite woman, those father, Jethro, was a priest of the Midianites (Ex.2)

Recent history:

Israel has just come away from a confrontation with the alliance of the Moabites and the Midianites.

The Moabites and the Midianites had hired Balaam to curse Israel. (Num.22-25)

When he was unable to lay a curse on Israel, he came up with a brilliant idea. He counseled the Moabites and Midianites to send in their foxy young girls to seduce the Israelite men into having sex and following after their gods with them. Then God would get mad at them and the Moabites and Midianites would come out victorious.

24,000 Israelites died from the plague that followed.

After this was all over, God said:

NUM 25:16-18 Then the \Lord\ spoke to Moses, saying, 17 "Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; 18 for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor, and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of the leader of Midian, their sister who was slain on the day of the plague because of Peor. "

After the instructions that came in Numbers 26-30, it's time to take up this unfinished business with Midian.

:2 Avenge the children of Israel

(Rom 12:17-19 KJV) Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. {18} If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. {19} Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Is this contradictory to what Moses is going to do?

Absolutely not!

When the scripture says "Never take your own revenge", it doesn't mean that vengeance will never be taken. It only means that you better be sure that you aren't taking YOUR revenge. Let God handle the matter.

In our passage, God has decided that it's time for vengeance to come against the Midianites. God has decided. God has ordered.


Let God be the judge.

If you are in doubt whether or not the vengeance is yours, don't!

Keep in mind, I'm not too sure how Moses must have felt. After all, these are the people of his father-in-law and his wife!

:2 afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people

If I were Moses, I might be tempted to take a long time to take vengeance against the Midianites.

If you got a notice from heaven that you only had 10 days left to live, how would you spend the next ten days?

Moses himself would write –

(Psa 90:10-12 KJV) The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. {11} Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. {12} So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.


Always be ready.

What if you only had a few days left?

:5 twelve thousand armed for war

Keep this in mind. Israel is going to only be fighting with 12,000 men!

:7 they slew all the males

It's going to look like they are going to completely wipe out the Midianites, but not so.

The Midianites appear to have been a nomadic people, wandering about in groups.

Probably what happened was that they only wiped out the Midianites in their immediate vicinity, or else there were some people who somehow escaped.

By Judges 6, the Midianites had grown so strong that they overpowered Israel, and Israel lived in fear of them. That is, until God raised up Gideon.

:8 Balaam also …they slew with the sword

Even though we last saw Balaam heading for home at the end of Numbers 24, we find that he either never made it, or else decided to come back.

He's caught with the Midianites.

:13-18 Women killed, purification from war

:15 Have ye saved all the women alive?

The women were the ones who caused the problems in the first place.

It was the Midianite women who led the Israelite men into fornication and idol worship.


God likes to deal with the root issues

When I go out into our backyard and pick weeds, if I don't get the root out, the weed will be sure to come back. If I use my weeder and get the whole ugly root out, then that baby's gone!

Sometimes we get into "housecleaning" moods.

We go around and try to tidy up our lives.

But it's not uncommon for us to kind of work ourselves around the very things that are causing the messes in our lives in the first place.

God has a habit of getting to the root of the matter.

When a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he should do to obtain eternal life, Jesus reviewed the Ten Commandments with him. The young man said that he had kept all these. Then Jesus said –

(Mat 19:21 KJV) Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Jesus knew what the man's real problem was. It was that his money was more important to him than God was. He got to the root issue.

It's like having a headache. The doctor does tests and determines you need new glasses. Do you just keep taking Tylenol for the headache, or do you go to get new glasses?

It's kind of like an alcoholic who has been losing clients in his business because he keeps showing up late to appointments. So he buys himself an alarm watch, he gets a new daytimer, he gets a new beeper, and he tries to get organized. But he really needs to just quit drinking.

Has God been trying to point out a root problem in your life?

:17 kill every male among the little ones ...

We can have a hard time with this. I do. Killing all the male children? Sounds pretty cruel.

But male children grow up to be warriors who take their own revenge.

Look at it from another perspective:


God doesn't take kindly to those who oppose us.

(Zec 2:8 KJV) For thus saith the LORD of hosts … for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.

God considers us as the "apple of His eye".

If anyone comes against us, it's like poking God in the eye. Watch out!

Sometimes we need to not be so mad at the people who oppose us, but instead to look at them with compassion, and pray for God's mercy on them instead of the judgement they are going to face.