Wednesday, April 17, 2013


In the distress of their infertility, women were accustomed to praying to god. If they wanted to provide their prayers with more urgency, they could make a vow. So Hannah made a vow to YHWH at the regional sanctuary of Shiloh in order to conceive a son (1 Sam 1:11). Furthermore, the fact that the mother of Lemuel called him “son of my vow” (Prov 31:2) demonstrates that women’s vows designed to conceive a son were very common. We also know from Jer 44:25 that women in particular liked to make vows to their family goddess at home, although childbirth is not explicitly mentioned in this case. These vows made by women seem to have occurred so frequently and to have been so expensive that they could become a threat to a family’s property, and thus required male control. According to Numbers 30, a father or husband was allowed to invalidate the vow of a daughter or wife on the day that he first heard of it. The custom of poor women working as harlots in order to be able to pay their vows apparently was so common that it had to be strictly forbidden (Deut 23:18). Gen 25:21 also reports a case in which a husband formally interceded on behalf of his barren wife. Thus, private prayers and vows, especially those made by women, were important rituals of Israelite family religion.—Family and Household Religion in Ancient Israel and the Levant, page 271

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