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Vows, which were not of divine appointment, but originated with men themselves, were solemn promises, made by persons to consecrate something to God, or to do something in his service and to his honour, which, without such promises, they did not feel themselves bound to do. The design of these vows was, in some cases, to express the thankfulness of those, who made them, to God; in others, to obtain favour and mercy from Him.
The earliest vow, of which we have any account in the Scriptures, is that of Jacob, mentioned in Genesis, 28: 22; and since it was observed by his posterity, it was of no little use in preserving the true knowledge of God. Other vows, it may well be supposed, cherished and increased pious feelings.
Moses, for religious purposes, confirmed the vows, which had been made in ancient times, and which having been observed in subsequent ages, had acquired a sort of prescriptive authority. But the making of new vows by individuals, he does not appear to have encouraged, although he insisted on a scrupulous fulfilment of them, when made, Deut. 23: 23, 24. It should be observed, however, that he permitted, in certain cases the redemption of a vow, (Lev. 27: 1–25.) and conferred the power on the father and the husband of annulling the vows of a daughter, or a wife, Num. 30: 2– 17.
Vows were uttered audibly, and as appears, from Num. 30: 3, 11, 14, were confirmed by an oath. Compare Deut. 24; 23. Judg. 11:35, 36. Ps. 66: 14. Matt. 15: 5.
Vows were either (1) affirmative, Son: strictly so called, by which property of various kinds, and men themselves might be consecrated to God, and which were capable of redemption, (with the exception of what was devoted by the vow, called in Hebrew Enri and of animals proper for sacrifices;) or (2) negative, by which abstinence was promised from certain things in themselves lawful, and which were denominated wr: }; -es, a restraint on the appetite. The principal among this last class of vows was that of the Nazarites.
§ 394. of Affin Mative vows. 497
§ 394. Or Affirmative Vows.
By Vows of this kind, not only property of various descriptions, as money, lands, houses, and animals clean and unclean, but servants also, sons, and the person himself, who made the vow, might be consecrated to God. These are all mentioned under a name common to any sacred gift, viz. TETR, Josephus, Antiquities, IV. 4, 4. Mark 7: 11.
Animals, which were fit for sacrifices and which were devoted to God by this vow, were to be sacrificed, but those, which were excluded from the altar, were to be sold according to the valuation of a priest; they could be redeemed, however, by the additional payment of a fifth part of the valuation. The men, who were thus devoted, became servants in the tabernacle or temple, unless they were redeemed.
Money, lands, and houses, which had been made the subjects of this vow, became the property of the tabernacle or the temple ; excepting that the land might be redeemed before the year of Jubilee, Lev. 27: 1–24.
Of the vow called Cherem. w
The vow, called p-ri, i. e. the accursed thing, was not introduced by Moses de novo, but was an ancient custom, which he thought proper to retain, in order that he might not deprive himself of the good, which at times might be expected to arise from giving an example of formidable severity, Exod. 17: 14. Num. 21:2. Deut. 2:32, 34. 3:1–8. 13: 14, 15. comp. Judg. 20:47, 48. If he vow of Cherem were uttered in respect to an enemy, it implied the widest destruction, and it was sacrilege for the conquering army to appropriate to itself any of the plunder, Josh. 6: 17–19. 7: 1, 26. In a few instances, it appears, that the flocks and some other of the spoils were not destroyed, Deut. 2:32, 34. 3: 1–8. Josh. 8:2. By the vow of Chercm, otherwise called the irrevocable curse, sometimes fields, animals, and individuals of the human species were devoted. It was designed, in its operation upon men, to bear only upon the wicked, who were thereby made an example to others. Compare 1 Sam. 14:24, et seq. Jephtha, 498 § 395. of Negative vows, The NAZARITE, Ete. e
therefore, in slaying his daughter in conformity with his rash vow, violated at least the spirit of the Mosaic Laws, Judg. 11:30–39.
§ 395. Of NegAtive Vows, the NAzARITE, etc.
A NEGAtive vow, as has already been stated, was a promise to abstain from certain things, admissible by law. Josephus says, (Jewish War, II. 15, 1.) that in his day, there were many, particularly those, who had been oppressed by sickness or by adverse fortunes, who vowed to abstain from wine, to go with the head shaven, and to spend the time in prayer for thirty days previous to their offering sacrifices. Compare Acts 18: 18. But the Nazarite, on the contrary, vowed to let the hair grow, to abstain not only from wine and all inebriating drink, but from vinegar likewise, to eat no clusters, and to beware of any contamination from corpses, bones and sepulchres. In some instances, the parents bound the child by the vow of a Nazarite, even before its birth. This was the case in respect to Samson and John the Baptist, Judg. 13: 2–5, 12–23. Luke 1: 13–15. This vow sometimes lasted through life, but, for the most part, was limited in its operation to a definite period. The customs relative to the Nazarite prevailed before the days of Moses, who in Lev. 25: 25. borrowed expressions from them, before the publication of his Law on the subject in Num. vi. If the Nazarite, whether male or female, (-t-. Ho".) for the vow might be made by either, was unexpectedly contaminated he was to be purified, not only in the manner already mentioned, but was required to shave off his hair, to offer, on the seventh day, two turtle doves or two young pigeons, the one for a sin, the other for a burnt offering, also a lamb of a year old for a trespass-offering, and to commence anew his Nazariteship, Num. 6: 9–12. When the time specified in the vow was completed, he offered a ram of a year old for a burnt-offering, a sheep of the same age for a sin-offering, a ram for a thank-offering, a basket of unleavened cakes, some of which were kneaded with oil, and some covered with oil; also a libation of wine. His hair was shaven off before the gate of the sanctuary, and cast into the fire, where the thank-offering was burning. He offered, as a wave§ 396. or PRAYERs. 499
offering to God, the shoulders of the thank-offering, and two cakes, one of each kind, which were both given to the priest.
He at length indulged himself once more in drinking wine at the feast, which was prepared from the thank-offering. As, in some instances, the Nazarites had not sufficient property to enable them to meet the whole expense of the offerings, other persons, who possessed more, became sharers in it, and in this way were made parties to the vow, Bereshith Rabba 90, Koheleth Rabba 7. Acts 21:23, 24.
§ 396. Of PRAyers.
Prayers, in the childhood of the human race, were nothing more, than the mere unspoken emotions, which were naturally inspired by reverence towards God, by fear, or by gratitude. It was not, till a subsequent period, that they were embodied in language, and that supplications were added to the exercise of these simple emotions, Gen. 12:8. 21:33. 24:26, 48.26:25. 32:9–12. Moses left the subject of prayer to the feelings of every individual, and made no arrangements in regard to it, further than to prescribe the benediction to be pronounced by the priest, Num. 6:24, 25; and a formulary, according to which the Hebrews, in their presentation of the first fruits, were to return thanks to God for the possession of the land of Canaan, Deut. 26: 3–10, 13–15. Our Lord's prayer (Matt. 6: 9–13.) is a selection of the most devotional and appropriate sentiments from the Jewish formularies, extant in his time. Compare WeststENII Nov. Test. at Matt. 6: 9–13. T. I. p. 323–326. The pious Hebrews, when they of fered their sacrifices, returned thanks to God in the words given them by Moses, and thereby kept alive in their bosoms the feelings of piety and devotion. Hymns were sung on particular occasions, accompanied with sacred dances and instruments of music, Exod. xv. Judg. v. Nothing is said of any other public devotional exercises, which may be called prayers, except in the following passages, 1 K. 8: 14– 21. 23–53. Ps. 72:20. Neh. 8: 6, and a few others, in which mention is made of the singing of Psalms in the Temple. Individuals, who prayed alone in private, uttered themselves aloud, as may be gathered from 1 Sam. 1: 12–15, compared 500 § 396. or paayers.
with Luke 18: 10–14. The Hebrews prayed in the attitude of standing, an attitude, which was observed in the Synagogue and in the ancient Christian church, and is to this day among oriental christians. It appears, that they sometimes kneeled likewise, 1 K. S. 54. 2 Chron. 6: 13. comp. 1 K. 19:18. Dan. 6: 10. Ezra 9: 5. Luke 22:41. Acts 7: 60; and sometimes prostrated themselves at full length on the ground, Exod. 34: S. 2 Chron. 29:29. Ps. 95: 6. Matt. 26: 39. They raised their hands to heaven, 1 K. 8:2. 2 Chron. 6: 13. Is. 1: 15; and sometimes smote upon their breasts, Luke 18: 13. Elijah, in a certain instance, inclined his body so much when he prayed, that his head touched his knees. Probably he was in a sitting posture with his knees bent, 1 K. 18:42. The Orientals of the present day do not, when in the exercise of prayer, confine themselves to one position, but often vary it. They are especially careful, however, when at prayers, to turn the face in a particular direction ; viz. the Jews and Christians towards Jerusalem, and the Mohammedans towards Mecca.
5 ( c.. The Mohammedans call this direction &\os Kebla or the front;
the Jews call it (viz. the direction towards Jerusalem,) Ho-3, **s-, i.e. the hind part; because the Sanctuary, towards which they turned themselves, was in the western or hind part of the Tabernacle and Temple. Compare 1 K. 8: 38, 42:44, 4S. 2 Chron. 6: 34, 38. Dan. 6: 11, 14.
The Kebla for the Mehestani or followers of Zoroaster, i. e. the front or point of the compass, towards which they turned themselves when they worshipped, was the East. Compare Ezek. S: 16.
Anciently there were no fixed hours for prayer. An argument can hardly be drawn from Ps. 57: 17, that three definite periods in a day were assigned to this duty. It is true, however, that Daniel, at a somewhat recent period, prayed three times a day, without doubt at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, i.e. according to our reckoning at nine, twelve, and three, which hours, it appears, were consecrated to prayer in the time of the Apostles, Acts 2: 15. 3: 1. 10: 9.