Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
…Weekly Torah Portions. And sometimes we’ll mention the portions from the prophets or from the New Testament in our study and examination, trying to encourage our brothers and sisters in Korea, especially, but also around the world to keep reading the Word of God. There is nothing that replaces the Word of God itself.
That’s what’s inspired. Not the pastors, not the preachers, not the priests, but the Word of God itself is inspired. The way the apostle Paul tells Timothy, all scriptures were inspired, were spirit-filled, and they’re profitable for correction and for reproof, and for edification of the men of God to do all good works.
So, yes, the Torah is inspired by God. It is the foundation of everything else that follows it. It is the foundation for the books of Joshua and Judges and Samuel and Kings and all the prophets. Everything is based on the Torah. And if you don’t know the Torah, don’t study the Torah, ignore the Torah, you are very likely not to understand the Gospels because everything is based on that foundation.
So, we have arrived toward the end of the Book of Numbers. The portion is called Mattot, which is Numbers 31:1 to Numbers 32:42, and our portion from the prophets is from Jeremiah 1:1 to Jeremiah 2:3. And from the new Testament, connected with all of this, is from the Sermon on the Mountain of Yeshua, in Matthew 5:33 to 5:37. So the name Mattot means the tribal organization that ran the affairs of the camp of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.
In English, we start reading from verse one of chapter 30:
“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded.’”
When you start anything in this kind of language, it means that you are about to enter into some kind of controversial issue. And what Moses is talking about here, now, in this Torah portion, has not stopped being controversial. And in our time, and in our day in the 21st century it’s even more controversial than it was in the days of Moses himself.
What is the controversy? According to this portion of the Torah, if a man, a male… verse three of chapter 30 of the Book of Exodus, “If a male takes a vow to the Lord (makes a promise that is contractual with the Lord and swears with an oath and binds himself)…”
A vow is not something that somebody else binds you. You bind yourself to do something for the Lord or for somebody else in the community, for the community itself. Then you have bound yourself and you are as a human being. And as a male, the fact that you bound yourself, you cannot unbind yourself. You made a vow, you made a promise to God and you are obligated to the nth degree to keep your promise to God.
And if you don’t, horrible! Because you will pay for it dearly, for making a promise to God and not keeping it.
Now, we know that Yeshua taught… Let’s look at the text from the New Testament, from Matthew 5:33. Yeshua is speaking to a crowd sitting on the side of a mountain near the sea of Galilee. Yeshua Himself is sitting.
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely but shall perform your oath to the Lord.’ But I say to you do not swear at all, neither by heaven for it is God’s throne, nor by earth for it is his foot stool, nor by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king, nor shall you swear by your head because you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, for whatever is more than that is from the evil one.”
That’s the teaching of Yeshua, and it’s not only the teaching of Yeshua. There were other great rabbis around the period of Yeshua, around the 1st century BC/AD that said very similar things. That’s the wise thing to do.
Why take an oath? Why swear when you don’t have to swear? Say yes, yes, no, no. Keep your word. Why is Yeshua teaching this? Because from our Torah portion we discovered that it was a very serious thing to make a vow before the Lord.
We will see later on that Paul made a vow and he had to keep that vow. And when he was trying to be discouraged in Jaffa, by the believers in Jaffa, by a prophet named Agabus, not to go to Jerusalem because he is going to get arrested in Jerusalem.
Paul says, “Even if I die, I have to go to Jerusalem.” Even at the pain of death. Because he realized as a man there is no way that he can get released from the vow that he had taken. No way.
So Yeshua is teaching, “Don’t take a vow.” Of course, don’t take a vow unless you have to. Because if you go to court and the court wants you to take a vow and say that you’re going to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, you have to do it. By your own choice, from your own free will. If you don’t have to take a vow for some legal reason, don’t take a vow. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. That’s good enough for everybody.
Now, this gets complicated in the Book of Numbers. Going back to Numbers 30. What’s the complication in the Book of Numbers? That man takes a vow nobody can release him from that vow. He has to keep his vow. And if he doesn’t, God will reckon with him. But what about a woman that takes a vow?
Verse 3 of chapter 30 of the Book of Numbers:
“Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord and binds herself by some agreement, while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow, the agreement by which she has bound herself and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand and every agreement which she has bound herself by shall stand.”
In other words, if a woman, a young woman still in her father’s house, didn’t get married yet, doesn’t have a husband, makes a vow and her father hears that she made a vow and he shuts up and doesn’t intervene, her vow stands just like a man and nobody can release her.
But verse 5 of chapter 30:
“But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears that none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand and the Lord will release her because her father overruled her aye.”
We are living in the 21st century, my dear brothers and sisters. We have women’s liberation, equality. In this case, the woman has an advantage over the man. An advantage that if a man makes a vow, if a young man makes a vow, an old man makes a vow, a young boy after 13 years old makes a vow, he has to keep his vow. Not a woman, not a girl. Her father can release her from that vow. If he does it immediately on that same day.
Ah, what an advantage that is. Wonderful advantage. Wonderful advantage. Now, if the woman is married and she’s no longer under her father’s authority in the house, she’s now under her husband’s authority in the house, the husband has the same right as her father. If he hears his wife make a vow then immediately he can annul that vow as her head.
The New Testament teaches us in 1 Corinthians 11, that the head of a woman is her husband. Just like the head of Christ is the father, and Christ is the head of man, and the head of a woman is her husband. So her husband has the same right as her father to annul her vow.
What a privilege; what a privilege. I know that my mother was badly damaged in a work accident. She was badly burned. She had more than 40 surgeries. She was hospitalized for two years in the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. And when she got released from the hospital, after two years and more than 40 surgeries, she took a vow.
There was a crippled boy in the neighborhood. And her vow was to support that boy, to send him to university, to pay for his studies, to buy him a car so that he could get around as a crippled person with a wheelchair in the car, and get educated all the way to doctorate.
She did it. She kept her vow. She did for him what she didn’t do for me, for that Moroccan boy. She kept her promises because God had released her, healed her, saved her out of death to a new life. And finally she also became a believer. A wonderful, strong believer, even stronger than I was. Than I am, I should say.
So there is equality and inequality in the relationship of God, to men and to women. Women are in advantage not a disadvantage, that they can make vows, promises, and their head, whether their father or their husband, can release them from these promises. That is a great advantage and we men don’t have that advantage. We don’t have that advantage.
Yes, this is the portion of Mattot. One before the last portion in the Book of Numbers. What else do we have in Mattot? What else do we have in this section of the Torah? Our situation as believers in the 21st century. I’m jumping from verse 6 to verse 16 of chapter 30 of Numbers:
“These are the statutes, the laws, which the Lord commanded Moses between a man and his wife, between a father and his daughter in her youth, in her father’s house.”
In other words it’s a divine law that God has provided a gateway for women and daughters from making emotional decisions and taking vows and making promises by allowing the father or the husband of a woman to release her from these promises. Yes, the Torah takes account of the differences and the advantages that women have over men. And I think that that’s wonderful. I think that it is just, and it is kind, and it is beneficial for both the men and the women to know this biblical truth. That if a man makes a vow, he has to keep it.
Paul told Agabus in Jaffa, “I will go to Jerusalem. Even if I die going to Jerusalem, I have to do it.” Because he took a vow. Now it’s a very interesting situation. I want to go to the Book of Acts 18, and look at this vow that Paul has taken and try to understand Acts 18. And we are going to read from verse 18 on.
Paul is in Asia Minor, and he has gone to visit Aquila and Priscilla, and he wants to sail to Syria. And, by the way, the word Aquila, you know what Aquila means? In Latin and in Greek, Aquila is an eagle, the bird with the big wings. The eagle is Aquila. So he visited with them. And then he goes to Cenchreae, which is the port of Corinth.
He was with Aquila and Priscilla, and he went to the port, and he took a ship, and he went to Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem. And he entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews in Ephesus. And when they had asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent. He didn’t agree. And he told them shalom, goodbye.
And listen to these words. I’m reading from the New King James.
“I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem, but I will return again to you, God willing.”
And he sailed from Ephesus toward the land of Israel. He lands in Caesarea. Not the Caesarea in the land of Israel, but the Caesarea in Asia Minor. And from there, he goes to Antioch in Syria, spent some time there with the region of Galatia and Phrygia. Not Syria. He goes to Caesarea, in Turkey, in Asia Minor, and then he spends time in Galatia and Phrygia in order to strengthen there the disciples of Yeshua.
We already see that there were disciples all over the Middle East, in Turkey, in Greece, in Syria, in the city of Acre, Ptolemais. On the way, he’s traveling by boat from one city on the coast to the other, ‘til he gets to Jaffa, then he cuts inland. And this is what he says in verse 21, in the King James Version:
“But took leave of them saying, ‘I must, by all means, keep this coming feast in Jerusalem but I will return again to you, God willing.’”
So let me start with the God willing. We are commanded by the letter of James, Jacob. Whatever we decide to do, to always say “God willing” in Turkish, in Arabic. In the land of Israel we say In sha’Allah, God willing. Everything that we do, we decide to go here, to go there, to buy this, to do… We always say, “God willing, we will do it.” which is a command in the letter of James.
But I’ve never heard pastors and preachers and elders. I don’t remember any time, over 60 years of ministry, a Christian leader say, “God willing. I will go to Israel, God willing. I will buy a car, God willing. I will buy a tie, God willing.”
No, they don’t do that, folks, but it’s a command. It’s a good command. It’s a right command. So Paul says, “God willing, I will return. But now I must go to Jerusalem.” But if you look in other English translations of this text, Acts 18:21, they circumcised the text in the NIV. And in some of the other texts, they circumcised the text.
Why? Because they didn’t understand Paul in Galatians 4. They thought he was talking about the Jewish feast. He was not talking… He was talking about the Roman pagan feast there, in verse 8-10 of Galatians 4. And since they were already… they cut themselves off from the Old Testament and from the Law of Moses they decided to circumcise Paul’s text.
He took a vow, and he kept that vow, and he came to Jerusalem, and he paid for the vow, and he released some of the other young men, the seven Gentile young men that accompanied him from their vows as well and paid them the fees of being released from the vow. Hallelujah folks.
The Torah is speaking loud and clear, even today, even through the Book of Acts and even through the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon of the Mountains and the Word of Yeshua. Yes, it’s all one book, all written by the Holy Spirit. And we are blessed to have this revelation for us today to hear and obey. God bless you all. Amen.
This video and transcript originally appeared on Netivyah and reposted with permission.