|"Samuel Dedicated by Hannah" by Frank Topham|
I have been reading the Old Testament again, this time to mark the women in it and because Cedar Fort asked me to do a book on the women of the Old Testament. It won't be out for several years still, but I figured I'd better start studying. The last several weeks I have been in the book of 1 Samuel, which begins with the story of Hannah.
I've always loved Hannah's story and have been impressed not only with her faith and her integrity, but also with her relationship with her husband Elkanah. He is exceptionally good and compassionate to Hannah in her trial, telling her, "Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons? " (1 Sam. 1:8) Those words indicate to me that Elkanah was trying to remind Hannah that her worth as a woman was not dependent upon her ability to bear children and that she had innate worth, no matter what her situation. In addition Elkanah was unwavering in his support of Hannah's promise to the Lord to dedicate their son Samuel to the Lord's service in the temple.
As I studied Hannah's story this time I made a connection I hadn't made before about the type of vow that Hannah made to God, and how Elkanah's support was crucial in her being able to fulfill it. In Numbers 30 it outlines the Mosaic law pertaining to vows made to the Lord. Both men and women were allowed to make vows, or personal covenants to God, but the situations were a bit different for women than for men. For men the law stated,
"If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." (Numbers 30:2)
For women the law was very similar but gave several exceptions. For example if a woman was in her youth, and still in her father's house, she could swear a vow but she would only be held to it if her father allowed her to keep her vow. In Numbers 30:3-4 it says,
"And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.
But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her."
If a woman was married the law was similar. She could make a vow, but the Lord would only hold her to it if her husband supported her in her vow. Numbers 30: 6-8