Thursday, April 17, 2008

Women Can't be Trusted to Swear Oaths: Numbers 28-30

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

Time for some more rules! God takes a chunk out of Moses's busy schedule to lay down the law. He orders daily, weekly, and monthly sacrifices to be conducted. The feasting rules are repeated: the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (nowadays we know these as Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot). Lots of offerings, sacrifices, etc. which don't seem worth going into detail to cover - except that it's worth noting that Sukkot sounds like one hell of a barbecue. God orders the following sacrifices to be made at the porta-temple: 71 bulls, 15 rams, 105 lambs, 8 goats, and a variety of grain and drink offerings to round out the field.

The most fun is reserved for a lengthy chapter on the swearing of vows. You'd think this would be unnecessary, since God dispenses with the rules for men pretty quickly: "when a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said." Simple enough, right?

Maybe, but the rules for women are necessarily more complex. This is because, as I already discussed in the context of the Levitican sex laws, most women are owned by men, and therefore special precautions have to be taken to protect the men from frivolous promises their unreliable women might make. For this reason, a father has the authority to nullify a promise made by his daughter; a husband has the authority to nullify a promise made by his wife. If the husband doesn't nullify the oath, he is assumed to have "confirmed" the oath. He becomes responsible for the oaths.

On the bright side, if your husband dies or leaves you, you're allowed to swear oaths independently.