God’s law concerning taking Vows and Oaths: In Num 30:1-2, we read the following: “Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, "This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth”. It is evident that God takes vows and oaths very seriously. A vow (“neder”) is a pledge to do something. On the other hand, by means of an oath (“shavua”) one may either prohibit or require oneself to perform a particular act.
Vows and oaths were solemn promises made to God in reference to devoting oneself to God (Num 6:2), dedicating children to God (1 Sam 1:11), devoting property to God (Gen 28:22), offering sacrifices (Lev 7:16; Num 15:3) and afflicting our soul (Num 30:13). Vows and oaths were meant to be voluntary (Deut 23:21-22), and were required to be performed faithfully (Num 30:2) and without any delay (Deut 23:23). There were many instances of vows and oaths recorded in scripture: Jacob (Gen 28:20-22; 31:13), Israelites (Num 21:2), Jephthah (Judges 11:30-31), Hannah (1 Sam 1:11), David (Psalms 132:2-5), Jonah (Jonah 2:9) and Paul (Acts 18:18).
There are predominantly two aspects of God’s law concerning taking vows and oaths:
- If you make a vow or oath, DO NOT break it under any circumstances. "When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth” (Deut 23:21-23). “Make vows to the Lord your God, and pay them..." (Psalms 76:11)
- It is however BETTER NOT to take a vow or oath at all. “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?" (Eccl 5:4-6). “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt 5:33-37). “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," lest you fall into judgment” (James 5:12).