“Committed Vows”

Judges 13:2-25

by Mark Huey

Within Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) there are a number of topics described, which to many readers seem to be largely unrelated. First, a census of the three Levitical clans (Gersonites, Merarites, and Kohathites), which are responsible for assembling, dismantling, and transporting the Tabernacle, is conducted—and they are given their specific tasks and assignments.[1] Next, some specific laws for the priests to maintain purity in the camp of the Israelites are detailed.[2] This is followed by the law of jealousy, which is to deal with any adultery or suspected adultery among the people of Israel.[3] The instructions regarding what a Nazirite vow is to be, are explicitly delineated.[4] Within Naso is the spiritually and theologically important Aaronic Benediction,[5] and our parashah concludes with a description of the dedication of the Tabernacle and the offerings presented by each of the twelve tribes.[6]

With what appears to be a random selection of subjects, the Jewish Sages chose to focus upon the Nazirite vow by choosing a complimentary Haftarah passage from Judges 13. We encounter important aspects of the life of Samson, who could be the most well known Nazirite in the Bible. Do recall how one who makes a Nazirite vow will be separated out to the Almighty for a specific period of time:

“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, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin. All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long. All the days of his separation to the LORD he shall not go near to a dead person. He shall not make himself unclean for his father or for his mother, for his brother or for his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD’” (Numbers 6:2-8).

In the case of Samson, he was actually chosen to be separated unto the Lord prior to his conception. Unlike the voluntary choosing by a man or woman to make a Nazirite vow, Samson was selected for a special work of deliverance. His barren mother was directed to actually avoid wine, any kind of alcohol, or the unclean before her pregnancy:

“Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:3-5).

The contrast between the voluntary choice of an Israelite man or woman making a Nazirite vow to the Lord for a specified period of time—and the involuntary choice of another, in this case Samson’s parents—needs to be considered. From the time of conception, Samson effectively had a lifelong vow imposed upon him, which would later be manifested in the great abilities he would possess as a result of his separation.[7] Yet, even though Samson’s parents would have followed the instructions enabling him to be separated as a Nazirite, the account of Samson in Judges demonstrates that he very much retained his own free will, which allowed him to make decisions for himself. Sometimes based on the recorded testimony, the choices Samson made were detrimental.[8] However, despite poor choices that ultimately compromised his strength, he was still used by the Lord to ultimately deliver Israel from the Philistines.[9]

As you consider various aspects seen in Naso describing Ancient Israel’s service toward the Lord, purifying the camp (especially from the sin of adultery) and making vows or commitments to Him—reflecting on what transpired in the life of Samson becomes quite a contrast. Was he not plagued by dallying with women in adulterous situations (Judges 16:1-2)? Did he not succumb to the lure of sweet honey in the carcass of a lion, touching the dead and becoming ritually unclean (Judges 14:8-9)? Did not the lure of Delilah allow him to be compromised with his hair being shorn, reducing his strength (Judges 16:19)?

What was Samson’s problem? Was it the fact that his commitment to his parentally-imposed vows was not truly a willful choice that he made for himself? You have possibly known of individuals who have a testimony of being “dedicated” to the Lord by their parents, either prior to conception, during pregnancy, or perhaps during their early months of infancy. While the parents’ intentions for the person are honorable and perhaps even inspired by the Holy Spirit—this does not necessarily mean that the children who are affected by those commitments are going to absolutely and faithfully adhere to their parents’ desire for upstanding spirituality.

Instead, what is required is a wholehearted desire from the individual to take personal responsibility for his or her own life in being dedicated to the Lord. It does not matter if one takes a Nazirite-type vow for a season. What is most important is that a person is individually convicted of sin and comes to a free will choice in recognizing Yeshua the Messiah as Savior. Any parent or mentor can pronounce a word of blessing over a small child, but such a word can only be realized when a grown child has made his or her own life decisions to follow the Lord. The Scriptures are replete with examples of how serious it is for people who make vows, swear commitments, or take an oath:

  • “Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This is the word which the LORD has commanded. If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth’” (Numbers 30:1-2).
  • “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised” (Deuteronomy 23:21-23).
  • “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7).
  • “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD’ [Leviticus 19:12]. But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING [Isaiah 66:1]. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil” (Matthew 5:33-37).

In each of these references there is a notation about one’s vow or swearing coming forth from the mouth, lips, speech, or voice. We see that when someone makes a vow or swears in the name of the Lord, he or she voluntarily makes a statement which originates from the heart and enters into the world through spoken language. God is very concerned about this practice, and His warnings are to not make a vow unless you really are willing and able to perform it. Yeshua’s reference to Leviticus 19:12 in His Sermon on the Mount is most serious, as one who fails to complete a vow or commitment will actually have profaned the name of God:

“You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:12).

Yeshua’s admonition was that it would be better to not make a vow or swear, unless you are willing and able to fulfill it. Instead, the Messiah simply instructed to let one’s speech be known by “Yes” and “No.”

This reminds me of a few things which have occurred in my life as a Believer in Yeshua. I can specifically recall a psalm from King David which admonished a person to honor his word by swearing to his own hurt:

“A Psalm of David. O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend, in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; he swears to his own hurt and does not change; he does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15:1-5).

I believe that if you have made a commitment to someone by your words, you are obligated by the Scriptures to honor it, regardless of the consequences. Years ago when our family was guided to sell many of our assets and move as missionaries to Honduras, I told a number of people what our intentions were. Originally we were going to buy a large tract of land with the intention of subdividing it and selling off smaller tracts, and others made the decision to also move. When we realized that this venture was taking an unexpected twist and coming to an abbreviated termination, instead of changing my word, I fulfilled my obligation—despite the cost of the alteration of plans. For some reason or another, the concept of “swearing to your own hurt” resonated in my spirit. I fulfilled the obligations I made to the best of my ability and in my fear of the Lord.

Additionally, during our years of ministry, we have had a number of people who have told us that they wish to regularly support our efforts with their finances. Sometimes when this occurs we have seen just the opposite take place, as such individuals may only give our ministry a few offerings. Despite what at the time appears to be a sincere desire to support the Lord’s work, many have been unable to fulfill their commitments. On a few occasions I have had to call a number of people on the phone and verbally release them from their broken vows. In my heart, I do not want anyone to be penalized for failing to honor a commitment—so instead I simply forgive and release such people. We do, after all, serve a very merciful God.

Perhaps you can also think of times when you either received a vow or made a vow, which somehow had been altered or changed. Perhaps you might have even taken a Nazirite-type vow in order to separate yourself from the world so that you might perform some specific work for the Lord and press into Him. It is perfectly legitimate to make a commitment to be intensely separated unto Him for a set period of time. However, whether you make such a vow, or any decision you might make, do so with some serious thought and contemplation. So many of the vows or oaths we take are done rashly, without us carefully considering their long-term effects. I know that given some of the decisions that I have made in the past—that I am much more careful today with the kinds of commitments I make personally, and most especially on behalf of Outreach Israel. (I also have some trusted persons in Margaret and John, who serve alongside me in ministry, who are quite quick to issue a challenge if they think I have made a poor choice!)

Ultimately, the most important commitment any one of us has ever made is that sacred confession “Yeshua is Lord!” (Romans 10:9). At one point in your life, you must have bent your knee and confessed with your tongue that Yeshua is the Redeemer (cf. Philippians 2:10; Isaiah 45:23)! The commitment to be a follower of Messiah is not something your parents, siblings, spouse, or close friend or mentor can do for you. It is a personal vow that provides spiritual regeneration and eternal life. Cherish the moment you welcomed Yeshua into your heart forever!


[1] Numbers 4:1-49.

[2] Numbers 5:1-10.

[3] Numbers 5:11-31.

[4] Numbers 6:1-21.

[5] Numbers 6:22-27.

[6] Numbers 7:1-89.

[7] Judges 14:1-15:20.

[8] Judges 16:1-27.

[9] Judges 16:28-31.

This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.