Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words 
Nâdar ( נָדַר , Strong'S #5087), “to vow.” This verb occurs in Semitic languages (Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Aramaic). In Phoenician-Punic inscriptions the verb and also the noun derived from it frequently denote human sacrifices and in a more general sense signify a gift. In the Old Testament nâdar occurs 31 times.
The distribution of the verb is over the entire Old Testament (narrative, legal, poetic, but more rarely in the prophetic books). Beyond the Old Testament the verb occurs in the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinic Hebrew, medieval and modern Hebrew. However, its usage declined from post-Exilic times onward.
Both men and women could “vow” a vow. Numbers 30 deals with the law concerning vows; cf. Num. 30:2: “If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond …”; and Num. 30:3: “If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond.…”
The Septuagint has euchomai (“to wish”).
Neder ( נֶדֶר , Strong'S #5088), “vow; votive offering.” This noun occurs 60 times in biblical Hebrew and is often used in conjunction with the verb (19 times): “… Any of thy vows which thou vowest …” (Deut. 12:17). Modern versions compress the noun and verb into one idiom: “Or whatever you have vowed to give” (NIV), or give a technical usage to the noun: “Or any of your votive offerings which you vow” (RSV).
The vow has two basic forms, the unconditional and the conditional. The unconditional is an “oath” where someone binds himself without expecting anything in return: “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people” (Ps. 116:14). The obligation is binding upon the person who has made a “vow.” The word spoken has the force of an oath which generally could not be broken: “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 [everything he said] " (Num. 30:2). The conditional “vow” generally had a preceding clause before the oath giving the conditions which had to come to pass before the “vow” became valid: “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will [watch over me] … , so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God … and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Gen. 28:20-22).
“Vows” usually occurred in serious situations. Jacob needed the assurance of God’s presence before setting out for Padan-aram (Gen. 28:20-22); Jephthah made a rash “vow” before battle (Judg. 11:30; cf. Num. 21:1-3); Hannah greatly desired a child (1 Sam. 1:11), when she made a “vow.” Though conditional “vows” were often made out of desperation, there is no question of the binding force of the “vow.” Ecclesiastes amplifies the Old Testament teaching on “vowing”: “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it.… Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.… Neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error” (5:4-6). First, “vow” is always made to God. Even non-lsraelites made “vows” to Him (Jonah 1:16). Second, a “vow” is made voluntarily. It is never associated with a life of piety or given the status of religious requirement in the Old Testament. Third, a “vow” once made must be kept. One cannot annul the “vow.” However, the Old Testament allows for “redeeming” the “vow”; by payment of an equal amount in silver, a person, a field, or a house dedicated by “vow” to the Lord could be redeemed (Lev. 27:1-25).
This practice, however, declined in Jesus’ time, and therefore the Talmud frowns upon the practice of “vowing” and refers to those who vow as “sinners.”
Neder signifies a kind of offering: “And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and [contributions] of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings …” (Deut. 12:6). In particular the word represents a kind of peace or “votive offering” (Ezra 7:16). It also is a kind of thank offering: “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! … Perform thy vows …” (Nah. 1:15). Here even Gentiles expressed their thanks to God presumably with a gift promised upon condition of deliverance (cf. Num. 21:1-3). Such offerings may also be expressions of zeal for God (Ps. 22:25). One can give to God anything not abominable to Him (Lev. 27:9ff.; Deut. 23:18), including one’s services (Lev. 27:2). Pagans were thought to feed and/or tend their gods, while God denied that “vows” paid to Him were to be so conceived (Ps. 50:9-13). In paganism the god rewarded the devotee because of and in proportion to his offering. It was a contractual relationship whereby the god was obligated to pay a debt thus incurred. In Israel no such contractual relationship was in view.
The Israelites’ unique and concrete demonstrations of love for God show that under Moses love (Deut. 6:4) was more than pure legalism; it was spiritual devotion. God’s Messiah was pledged to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin (Ps. 22:25; cf. Lev. 27:2ff.). This was the only sacrifice absolutely and unconditionally acceptable to God. Every man is obliged to pay the “vow” before God: “Praise waiteth for thee, O God in Zion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.… Unto thee shall all flesh come” (Ps. 65:1-2).
The Septuagint has euche (“prayer; oath; vow”).
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
a promise made to God, of doing some good thing hereafter. The use of vows is observable throughout Scripture. When Jacob went into Mesopotamia, he vowed to God the tenth of his estate, and promised to offer it at Bethel, to the honour of God, Genesis 28:22 . Moses enacts several laws for the regulation and execution of vows. A man might devote himself, or his children, to the Lord. Jephthah devoted his daughter, Judges 11:30-31 . Samuel was vowed or consecrated to the service of the Lord before his birth, by his pious mother Hannah; and was really offered to him, to serve in the tabernacle, 1 Samuel 1:21 , &c. If a man and woman vowed themselves to the Lord, they were obliged to adhere strictly to his service, according to the conditions of the vow; but in some cases they might be redeemed. A man from twenty years of age till sixty, gave fifty shekels of silver; and a woman thirty, Leviticus 27:3 . From the age of five years to twenty, a man gave twenty shekels, and a woman ten; from a month old to five years, they gave for a boy five shekels, and for a girl three. A man of sixty years old, or upward, gave fifteen shekels, and a woman of the same age gave ten. If the person was poor, and could not procure this sum, the priest imposed a ransom upon him, according to his abilities. If any one had vowed an animal that was clean, he had not the liberty of redeeming it, or of exchanging it, but was obliged to sacrifice it to the Lord. If it was an unclean animal, and such as was not allowed to be sacrificed, the priest made a valuation of it; and if the proprietor would redeem it, he added a fifth part to the value, by way of forfeit. They did the same in proportion, when the thing vowed was a house or a field. They could not devote the first born, because in their own nature they belonged to the Lord, Leviticus 27:28-29 . Whatever was devoted by way of anathema, could not be redeemed, of whatever nature or quality it was. An animal was put to death, and other things were devoted for ever to the Lord. The consecration of Nazarites was a particular kind of vow. The vows and promises of children were void, of course, except they were ratified either by the express or tacit consent of their parents. It was the same with the vows of a married woman; they were of no validity, except confirmed by the express or tacit consent of her husband, Numbers 30. But widows, or liberated wives, were bound by their vows, whatever they were.
Whosoever invokes the awful name of God to witness, any untruth, knowing it to be such, is guilty of taking it in vain. Our Lord did not mean to preclude solemn appeals to heaven, whether oaths or vows, in courts of justice, or in important compacts. For an oath, or appeal to the greatest of all beings, as the Searcher of hearts, to witness a transaction, and to punish falsehood or perjury, is necessary, for putting an end to all strife or controversy among men, to promote confirmation or security of property, Hebrews 6:16 . And it was sanctioned by the example of God, swearing by himself, Genesis 22:15; Hebrews 6:17-18; and by the example of the patriarchs and saints of old; thus Abraham swore by the most high God, Creator of heaven and earth, Genesis 14:22; the transjordanite tribes, by the God of gods, the Lord, Joshua 22:22 . And the law prescribed, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name," Deuteronomy 6:13 . And afterward, "All Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn unto the Lord with a loud voice, with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them; and the Lord gave them rest round about," 2 Chronicles 15:14-15 . And a highly gifted Apostle uses the following most solemn asseveration, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not," 2 Corinthians 11:31 . See the vows of the priests and Levites, to put away strange wives, Ezra 10:5; and to take no usury from their brethren, Nehemiah 10:29 , St. Paul also vowed a vow, which he performed, Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23 . Our Lord, therefore, reenacted the law, while he guarded against the abuse of it, by prohibiting all oaths in common conversation, as a profanation either of God's name, where that was irreverently used, or where any of his works was substituted instead of the awful and terrible name of the Lord, which the Jews, through superstitious dread, at length ceased to use, from misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 28:58 : "But I say unto you, Swear not at all," in common conversation, by any of your usual oaths, "neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, &c. For, by the detestable casuistry of the scribes and Pharisees, some oaths were reckoned binding, others not, as we learn from the sequel; thus, to swear by the temple, the altar, heaven, &c, they considered as not binding: but to swear by the gold of the temple, by the gift on the altar, &c, they considered as binding; the absurdity and impiety of which practice is well exposed by our Lord in Matthew 23:16-22 .
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
A vow was a promise that a person made to God to do something (or not to do something), usually in return for God’s favour ( Numbers 21:1-3; 1 Samuel 1:11; Psalms 56:12-13; Psalms 132:1-5). In some cases, however, a vow was not concerned with some specific blessing from God, but was purely an act of devotion by which a person offered to God worship and service ( Numbers 6:1-8; Psalms 61:8; Psalms 65:1; Psalms 76:11; cf. Acts 18:18; see also Nazirite ).
All vows were voluntary, but once made they had be kept. A vow was as binding as an oath, and a broken vow brought God’s judgment ( Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Ecclesiastes 5:4-6; see Oath ). Therefore, a person was not to make a vow in haste, but was to consider carefully what it involved ( Proverbs 20:25
To protect people from the consequences of rash vows, Israelite law placed a special responsibility upon the head of the household. If he heard his wife or daughter make a rash vow, he could cancel it, provided he acted immediately he heard the vow. If he at first allowed the vow then later changed his mind and forced the person to break it, God held him responsible for the broken vow (Numbers 30). Normally, once a vow had been fulfilled, the person was released from it by a ceremony that involved offering a sacrifice of dedication ( Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:26; Psalms 50:14; Psalms 66:13).
The Levitical law set out details concerning the sorts of things people could vow to God and the way they could offer them. If the offering they vowed was a person, they could not offer the person as a sacrifice, but had to buy back (redeem) the person by a payment of money to the sanctuary. The priests estimated the amount of money according to the usefulness of the person offered ( Leviticus 27:1-8).
Animals, houses and land that were vowed to God usually became the property of the sanctuary. The priests were free to decide whether to use the vowed articles or sell them. If people vowed an article then later wanted to keep it for personal use, they could buy it back from the sanctuary at a price estimated by the priests. However, they had to add a fine of one fifth of its value, since they were keeping for themselves something they had vowed to God ( Leviticus 27:9-27).
If the priests caught people being dishonest, such as trying to offer an inferior animal instead of the one they had vowed, they lost both ( Leviticus 27:10). No one could vow to God anything that belonged to God already, such as the firstborn of animals ( Leviticus 27:26; Leviticus 27:28-29).
Misuse of the system
The Israelite regulations for vows should have made people aware of the need for complete honesty, sincerity and devotion to God. Yet some people soon found ways of using the system deceitfully and for their own benefit. They used the making of vows to hide treachery ( 2 Samuel 15:7-10), immorality ( Proverbs 7:14) and selfishness ( Malachi 1:14).
A well known example of the misuse of vows concerned the Jews of Jesus’ time. People would vow their possessions (or money) to the temple in such a way that, when they died, the goods became the property of the temple. The goods were ‘corban’, meaning ‘given to God’. Having promised the things to God, the owners said they were no longer free to give them to anyone else, not even to needy parents. But they themselves continued to enjoy the use of those things as long as they lived. As usual, Jesus condemned such people, for they cunningly used the details of legal regulations to excuse them from more important responsibilities ( Mark 7:9-13).
Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
To be taken voluntarily; but when taken to be conscientiously fulfilled ( Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Ecclesiastes 5:5; Nehemiah 1:15; Psalm 1.14; Proverbs 20:25). The Nazarite however was often dedicated froth infancy by the parent. (See Nazarite .) For instances (See Jacob ( Genesis 28:20-22 with Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:1-4). (See Jacob .) Vows were of three kinds:
(1) vow of devotion, Neder ;
(2) of abstinence, 'Esar (See Corban );
(3) of destruction, Cherem ( Ezra 10:8; Micah 4:13) (See Anathema .)
A man could not devote to sacred uses the firstborn of man or beast, as being devoted already ( Leviticus 27:26). The law of redeeming vowed land is given ( Leviticus 27:15; Leviticus 27:24; Leviticus 25:27). An animal fit for sacrifice could not be redeemed; any attempting it had to bring both the animal and its changeling ( Leviticus 27:9-10; Leviticus 27:33). An animal unfit for sacrifice, adding a fifth ( Leviticus 27:12-13).
A devoted person became a servant of the sanctuary ( 2 Samuel 15:8). The vow of a daughter or a wife was void if disallowed by the father or husband, otherwise it was binding ( Numbers 30:3-16). The wages of impurity was excluded from vows ( Deuteronomy 23:17-18); "dog" means "Sodomite" ( Micah 1:7). In Ashtoreth's and the Babylonian Mylitta's worship prostitution for hire devoted to the idol was usual ( Leviticus 19:29; 2 Kings 23:7). The head was shaven after a vow ( Acts 18:18; Acts 21:24).
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
A promise made to God of doing some good thing or abstaining from some lawful enjoyment, under the influence of gratitude for divine goodness, of imminent danger, the apprehension of future evils, or the desire of future blessings. To fulfill a vow binding one to sin, was to all sin to sin; but no considerations of inconvenience or loss could absolve one from a vow, Psalm 15:4 Malachi 1:14 . Jacob, going into Mesopotamia, vowed the tenth of his estate, and promised to offer it at Beth-el, to the honor of God, Genesis 28:20-22 . Moses enacted several laws for the regulation and execution of vows. "If thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee; that which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform," Deuteronomy 23:21,23 Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 .
The vows of minors, etc., were not binding without the consent of the head of the family, Numbers 30:1-16 . A man might devote himself or his children to the Lord, Numbers 6:2 . Jephthah devoted his daughter, Judges 11:30-40; and Samuel was vowed and consecrated to the service of the Lord, 1 Samuel 1:11,27,28 . If men or women vowed themselves to the Lord, they were obliged to adhere strictly to his service, according to the conditions of the vow; but in some cases they might be redeemed, Leviticus 27:1-34 . These selfimposed services were more in keeping with the ancient dispensation, in which outward sacrifices and observances had so large a share, than with enlightened Christianity. See Corban , and NAZARITES.
King James Dictionary 
1. A solemn promisemade to God, or by a pagan to his deity. The Roman generals when they went to war, sometimes made a vow that they would build a temple to some favorite deity, if he would give them victory. A vow is a promise of something to be given or done hereafter.
A person is constituted a religious by taking three vows, of chastity, of poverty, and of obedience. Among the Isrealites, the vows of children were not binding, unless ratified by the express or tacit consent of their father. Numbers 30 .
2. A solemn promise as the vows of unchangeable love and fidelity. In a moral and religious sense, vows are promises to God, as they appeal to God to witness their sincerity, and the violation of them is a most heinous offense.
1. To give, consecrate or dedicate to God by a solemn promise. When Jacob went to Mesopotamia, he vowed to God a tenth of this substance, and his own future devotion to his service. Genesis 28 .
When thou vowest a vow, defer not to pay it. Ecclesiastes 5 .
2. To devote.
VOW, To make vows or solemn promises. He that vows, must be careful to perform.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words 
denotes also "a vow," Acts 18:18; 21:23 , with reference to the "vow" of the Nazirite (wrongly spelt Nazarite), see Numbers 6 , RV; in James 5:15 , "prayer". See Prayer.
Webster's Dictionary 
(1): ( n.) Specifically, a promise of fidelity; a pledge of love or affection; as, the marriage vow.
(2): ( n.) To give, consecrate, or dedicate to God, or to some deity, by a solemn promise; to devote; to promise solemnly.
(3): ( n.) A solemn promise made to God, or to some deity; an act by which one consecrates or devotes himself, absolutely or conditionally, wholly or in part, for a longer or shorter time, to some act, service, or condition; a devotion of one's possessions; as, a baptismal vow; a vow of poverty.
(4): ( n.) To assert solemnly; to asseverate.
(5): ( v. i.) To make a vow, or solemn promise.
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary 
A solemn and religious promise or oath. (
See OATH.) It is more particularly taken for a solemn promise made to God, in which we bind ourselves to do or forbear somewhat for the promoting of his glory. Under the Old Testament dispensation, vows were very common, Judges 11:1-40 : Numbers 30:1-16 : But in the New Testament there is no command whatever for the observation of them. Hence it is supposed that vows belong more to the ceremonial law than to the Gospel; and that we are to be more dependent on divine grace to keep us, than to make resolutions and vows which we do not know that we shall be able to perform; and we certainly ought not to vow any thing but what we are able to perform.
Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary 
We meet with numberless circumstances in the Old Testament Scripture respecting vows. It is our happiness, however, under the New Testament dispensation, that we are brought under no particular ordinance concerning them. The dedication of the heart to the Lord doth not come under the article of a vow, because, in a believer, the offering the soul to God in Christ is in the Lord's strength. A vow in man savours of human strength too strongly to come under the character of the gospel dispensation.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
( נֶדֶר , Neder, a technical word for the idea; Εὐχή , a prayer, as sometimes rendered) defined as a religious undertaking, either,
1. Positive, to do or perform; or,
2. Negative, to abstain from doing or performing a certain thing. Vows rest on a human view of religious obligations, assuming, as they do, that a kind of recompense is to be made to God for good enjoyed, or consideration offered for good desiderated, or a gratuity presented to buy off an impending or threatened ill. They were quite in place in a system of religion which so largely consisted of doing or not doing certain outward acts, with a view of pleasing Jehovah and gaining his favor. The Israelite, who had been taught by performances of daily recurrence to consider particular ceremonies as essential to his possessing the divine favor, may easily have been led to the conviction which existed probably in the primitive ages of the world, that voluntary oblations and self-imposed sacrifices had a special value in the sight of God. When once this conviction had led to corresponding practice, it could not be otherwise than of the highest consequence that these sacred promises, which in sanctity differed little from oaths, should be religiously and scrupulously observed. Before a vow is taken there may be strong reasons why it should not be made; but when it is once, assumed, a new obligation is contracted, which has the greater force because of its voluntary nature, a new element is introduced, which strongly requires the observance of the vow, if the bonds of morality are not to be seriously relaxed. For example, a person may be of opinion that total abstinence is in itself not a virtue nor of general obligation, but he cannot doubt that "breaking the pledge," when once taken, is an act of immorality that cannot be repeated without undermining the very foundations of character; whence it obviously appears that caution should be observed, not only in keeping, but also in leading men to make, pledges, vows, and promises.
The practice of making vows, i.e. incurring voluntary obligations to the Deity, on fulfillment of certain conditions, such as deliverance from death or danger, success in enterprises, and the like, is of extremely ancient date, and common in all systems of religion. The earliest mention of a vow is that of Jacob, who, after his vision at Beth-el, promised that in case of his safe return he would dedicate to Jehovah the tenth of his goods, and make the place in which he had set up the memorial stone a place of-worship ( Genesis 28:18-22; Genesis 31:13). Vows in general are also mentioned in the Book of Job ( Job 22:27). With great propriety the performance of these voluntary undertakings was accounted by the Hebrews a highly religious duty ( Judges 11:35; Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). The Words of the last text are too emphatic, and in the present day too important, not to be cited: "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay" (comp. Psalms 66:13 sq.; Psalms 76:11; Psalms 116:18).
Among instances of heathen usage in this respect the following passages may be cited: Jeremiah 44:25,: and Jonah 1:16; Homer, Ii. 1, 64, 93; 6:93, 308; Odyss. 3, 382; Xenoph., Anab. 3, 2, 12; Virgil, Georg. 1,436; Aen., 5, 234; Horace, Carm. 1. 5,13; 3, 29, 59; Livy, 22:9, 10; Cicero, Att. 8:16; Justin, 21:3-a passage which speaks of immoral vows; Veil. Pat. 2, 48.
I. Jewish Vows. — The law, therefore, did not introduce, but regulated the practice of vows. The views which guided the Mosaic legislation were not dissimilar to those just expounded. Like a wise lawgiver, Moses, in this and other particulars, did not attempt to sunder the line of continuity between the past and the present. He found vows in practice; he aimed to regulate what it would have, been folly to try to root out ( Deuteronomy 23:21 sq.). The words in Deuteronomy 23:22 are clearly in agreement with our remarks: "If thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee" (see Am. Presb. Rev. Jul', 1867). The Bible speaks of three kinds of vows, for each of which the Heb. has a distinctive term: namely, vows of Devotion in general ( נֶדֶר , Neder, properly so called); vows of Abstinence ( אֵָסר , Esdr, or אַסָּר , Issar, Numbers 30:3 sq.); and those of Destruction ( חֶרֶם , Cherem, Ἀνάθεμα ) . In the present article we confine our attention to vows of the first class only, referring the other two classes to CORBAN and ANATHEMA. (In the treatment of this part of the topic we chiefly follow the abstract of the Levitical statutes found in Smith, s.v.)
(I.) As to vows of the first class ( Neder ) , the following rules are laid down in the Jewish law: A man might devote to sacred uses possessions of persons, but not the first-born either of man or beast, which was devoted already ( Leviticus 27:26). (See First-Born).
1. If he vowed Land, he might either redeem it or not. If he intended to redeem, two points were to be considered (1) the rate of redemption; (2) the distance, prospectively and retrospectively, from the year of jubilee. The price of redemption was fixed at fifty shekels of silver for the quantity of land which a homer of barley (eight bushels) would suffice to sow ( Leviticus 26:16; see Knobel Ad Loc. ) . This payment might be abated under the direction of the priest according to the distance of time from the jubilee year. But at whatever time it was redeemed, he was required to add to the redemption-price one fifth (twenty per cent.) of the estimated value. If he sold the land in the meantime, it might not then be redeemed at all, but was to go to the priests in the jubilee year ( Leviticus 26:20). (See Land).
The purchaser of land, in case he devoted and also wished to redeem it, was required to pay a redemption price according to the priestly valuation first mentioned, but without the additional fifth. In this case, however, the land was to revert in the jubilee to its original owner ( Leviticus 27:16; Leviticus 27:24; Leviticus 25:27; Keil, Uebr. Arch. § 66, 80).
The valuation here laid down is evidently based on the notion of annual value. Supposing land to require for seed about three bushels of barley per acre, the homer, at the rate of thirty-two pecks, or eight bushels, would be sufficient for about two and a half or three acres. Fifty shekels, twenty-five ounces of silver, at five shillings the ounce, would give £ 6 vs.; and the yearly valuation would thus amount to about £ 2 per acre.
The owner who wished to redeem would thus be required to pay either an annual rent or a redemption price answering to the number of years short of the jubilee, but deducting sabbatical years ( Leviticus 25:3; Leviticus 25:15-16), and adding, a fifth, or twenty percent in either case. Thus, if a man devoted an acre of land in the jubilee year, and redeemed it in the same year, he would pay a redemption price of 496 =43 years value; +20 percent = £ 103 4s., or an annual rent, of £ 2 8s.; a rate by no means excessive when we consider (1) the prospect of restoration in the jubilee; (2) the undoubted fertility of the soil, which even now, under all disadvantages, sometimes yields a hundred fold (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 297).
If he refused or was unable to redeem, either the next of kin (Goel) came forward, as he had liberty to do, or, if no, redemption was effected, the land became the property of the priests ( Leviticus 25:25; Leviticus 27:21, Ruth 3:12; Ruth 4:1, etc.).
In the case of a house devoted, irrespective of the land it occupied, its value was to be assessed by the priest, and a fifth added to the redemption- price in case it was redeemed ( Leviticus 27:15). Whether the rule held good regarding houses in walled cities, viz. that the liberty of redemption lasted only for one year, is not certain; but as it does not appear that houses devoted but not redeemed became the property of the priests, and as the Levites and priests had special towns assigned to them, it seems likely that the price only of the house, and not the house itself, was made over to sacred uses, and thus that the act of consecration of a house means, in fact, the consecration of its value. The Mishna, however, says that if a devoted house fell down, the owner was not liable to payment, but that he was liable if he had devoted the value of the house (Esrakin, 5, 5).
2. Animals fit for sacrifice, if devoted, were not to be redeemed or changed, and if a man attempted to do so, he was required to bring both the devotee and the changeling ( Leviticus 27:9-10; Leviticus 27:33). They were to be free from blemish ( Malachi 1:14). An animal unfit for sacrifice might be redeemed, with the addition to the priest's valuation of a fifth, or it became the property of the priests ( Leviticus 27:12-13). (See Offering).
3. The case of Persons devoted stood thus: A man might devote either himself, his child (not the firstborn), or his slave. If no redemption took place, the devoted person became a slave of the sanctuary (see the case of Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:8; Michaeis, § 124, 1, 166. ed. Smith). (See Nazarite). Otherwise he might he redeemed at a valuation according to age and sex, on the following scale ( Leviticus 27:1-7)
1. A male from 1 month to 5 years old, 5 shekels
2. From 5 years to 20 years, 20 shekels
3. From 20 years to 60 years, 50 shekels
4. Above 60 years, 15 shekels
1. Females from one month to 5 years, 3 shekels
2. From 5 years to 20 years, 10 shekels
3. From 20 years to 60 years, 30 shekels
4. Above 60 years, 10 shekels
If the person were too poor to pay the redemption-price, his value was to be estimated by the priest, not, as Michaelis says, the civil magistrate ( Leviticus 27:8; Deuteronomy 21:5; Michaelis, § 145, 2, 283).
(II.) Among general regulations affecting vows of this class, the following may be mentioned:
1. Vows were entirely voluntary, but once made were regarded as compulsory, and evasion of performance of them was held to be contrary to true religion ( Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21; Ecclesiastes 5:4). 2. If persons in a dependent condition made vows as an unmarried daughter living in her father's house, or a wife, even if she afterwards became a widow, the vow, if in the first case her father, or in the second her husband, heard and disallowed it, was void; but if they heard without disallowance, it was to remain good ( Numbers 30:3). Whether this principle extended to all children and to slaves is wholly uncertain, as no mention is made of them in Scripture, nor by Philo when he discusses the question ( De Spec. Leg. § 6, 2, 274, ed. Mangey). Michaelis thinks the omission of sons implies absence of power to control them ( § 83, 1, 447).
3. Votive offerings arising from the produce of any impure traffic were wholly forbidden ( Deuteronomy 23:18). A question has risen on this part of the subject as to the meaning of the word כֶּלֶב , Kileb, "dog," which is understood to refer either to immoral intercourse of the grossest kind, or literally and simply to the usual meaning of the word. The prohibition against dedication to sacred uses of gain obtained by female prostitution was doubtless directed against the practice which prevailed in Phoenicia, Babylonia, and Syria, of which mention is made in Leviticus 19:29; Baruch 6:43; Herod. 1, 199; Strabo, p. 561; August. De Civ. Dei, 4 :10, and other authorities quoted by Spencer ( De Leg. Hebr. 2, 35, 566). Following out this view, and bearing in mind the mention made in 2 Kings 23:7, of a practice evidently connected with idolatrous worship, the word keleb has been sometimes rendered cincedus; some have understood it to refer to the first-born, but Spencer himself, 2, 35, 572; Josephus, Ant. 4:8, 9; Gesen. Thesaur. 2, 685, and the Mishna, Temurah, 6:3, all understand dog in the literal sense. (See Dog).
Vows in general and their binding force as a test of religion are mentioned, Job 22:27; Proverbs 7:14; Psalms 22:25; Psalms 50:14; Psalms 56:12; Psalms 66:13; Isaiah 19:21; Habakkuk 1:15.
(III.) Certain refinements on votive consecrations are noticed in the Mishna, e.g.:
1. No evasion of a vow was to be allowed which substituted a part for the whole, as, "I vowed a sheep, but not the bones" ( Nedar. 2, 5).
2. A man devoting an ox or a house was not liable If the ox was lost or the house fell down; but otherwise, if he had devoted the value of the one or the other of these.
3. No devotions might be made within two years before the jubilee, nor redemptions within the year following it. If a son redeemed his father's land, he was to restore it to him in the jubilee ( Erakin, 7 :3).
4. A man might devote some of his flock, herd, and heathen slaves, but not all these ( Erakin 8:4).
5. Devotions by priests were not redeemable, but were transferred to other priests ( Erakin, 8:6).
6. A man who vowed not to sleep on a bed, might sleep on a skin if he pleased (Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 673).
7. The sums of money arising from votive consecrations were divided into two parts, sacred (1) to the altar; (2) to the repairs of the Temple (Reland, Ant. 10:4).
It seems that the practice of shaving the head at the expiration of a votive period was not limited to the Nazarite vow ( Acts 18:18; Acts 21:24).
II. Christian Vows. The practice of vows, though evidently not forbidden, as the above case of Paul ( Acts 18:18) serves to show, does not seem to have been at all common in the apostolical Church. With the civil establishment under Constantine, however, and especially under the growing influence of monasticism, it early gained extensive and powerful prevalence. Bingham cites the ecclesiastical instances and regulations chiefly affecting church property and religious orders (Christ. Aniq. bk. 16: 150, 7: § 9), but they apply mostly to medieval times.
"There is some difference of opinion respecting the origin and extent of monastic vows. Some authors affirm that they were made legally binding and indissoluble as early as the Council of Chalcedon; but the more general opinion is that, though considered obligatory in foroa conscientice, according to their nature, no civil disability or irreversible obligation was incurred by them till the time of Boniface VIII, late in the 13th century. The three solemn vows, as they are termed, of the monastic orders are poverty, chastity, and obedience, to which others are occasionally annexed by certain religious orders. For example, the fourth vow of the Jesuits places every member at the absolute disposal of the Roman pontiff, to be employed by him in whatever service may be thought most to the advantage of the Holy See. The earliest lawful age for embracing the monastic profession has varied at different periods and in different countries; it was fixed by the Council of Trent at sixteen years, before which period no religious vow is of any legal validity. Within the first five years the vow may be protested against on the ground of want of consent, insufficient age, or irregularity of novitiate; but after the expiration of that period it is held to be indissoluble. Certain extraordinary vows for instance, that of pilgrimage to Rome — can only be dispensed with by the pope; others may be relaxed by the intervention of the ordinary of the diocese." (See Monasticism).
In the Church of Rome the subject of vows assumes extraordinary proportions. "The objects of these engagements among Catholics are very various; but they are drawn, for the most part, from what are called the evangelical ‘ counsels,' in contradistinction to ‘ precepts' or ‘ commands' — the most ordinary subject of vows being the so-called ‘ evangelical' virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Pilgrimages, however, acts of abstinence, or other self-mortifications, whether of the body or of the will, special prayers or religious exercises, are frequently made the object of vows; and there is another large class of more material objects, as the building of churches, monasteries, hospitals, and other works of public interest or utility, to which mediaeval Europe was indebted for many of its most magnificent memorials of piety and of art. Vows, in the Roman Church law, are either ‘ simple' or ‘ solemn.' The principal difference between them consists in the legal effects of the ‘ solemn' vow, which, where the subject of such vow is chastity, renders not merely unlawful, but null and void, a marriage subsequently contracted. A ‘ simple' vow of chastity makes it unlawful to marry, but, except in the Jesuit Society, does not invalidate a marriage, if subsequently contracted. Catholics acknowledge in the Church a power of dispensing in vows; but this is held to be rather declaratory than remissory, and it is not acknowledged in the case of vows which involve any right of a third party. Bishops are held to possess the power of dispensing in simple vows generally; but the power of dispensing in solemn vows and in. certain simple vows as, for example, that of absolute and perpetual chastity, and of the greater pilgrimages is reserved to the pope. The practical operation of the canon law regarding vows has evidently been much modified, even in Catholic countries, since the French Revolution, and the subsequent political changes; but this must be understood to regard chiefly their external aid purely juridical effects. So far as concerns their spiritual obligation, the modern Roman theology recognizes little, if any, change." See Wetter und. Velte, Kircleni-Lex. s.v.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
vou ( נדר , nedher ; εὐχή , euchḗ ; אסּר , 'iṣṣār , found only in Numbers 30:6 , Numbers 30:8 , Numbers 30:10 and translated ὁρισμός , horismós , by the Septuagint: A vow could be positive ( nedher ) and included all promises to perform certain things for, or bring certain offerings to, God, in return for certain benefits which were hoped for at His hand ( Genesis 28:20-22 , Jacob; Leviticus 27:2 , Leviticus 27:8; Nu 30; Judges 11:30 , Jephthah; 1 Samuel 1:11 , Hannah; 2 Samuel 15:8 , Absalom; Jonah 1:16 , vows of heathen); or negative ( 'iṣṣār ), and included promises by which a person bound himself or herself to abstain from certain things ( Numbers 30:3 ). Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find the making of vows regarded as a religious duty ( Deuteronomy 23:22 ), but the fulfilling of a vow was considered as a sacred and binding duty ( Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Judges 11:35; Ecclesiastes 5:4; compare Psalm 22:25; Psalm 66:13; Psalm 76:11; Psalm 116:18 ). A vow was as binding as an oath (see Oath ) and therefore to be kept to the letter; and it was not to be lightly made ( Proverbs 20:25 ). A father could veto a daughter's vow, and a husband a wife's. If a husband did not veto a wife's vow, and then caused her to break it, the sin was his and not hers (Nu 30, passim ). It seems that vows were considered binding only when actually uttered ( Deuteronomy 23:23 ). Persons, including one's self, animals, land and other possessions, could be vowed, but all these could be redeemed with money (see Jephthah ), which money was to be estimated by the priest, except in the case of a clean animal. In the case of land, houses and unclean animals a fifth part of the estimated value was to be added to make up the redemption money. In the case of land the sum was greater or smaller as the coming year of Jubilee was far off or near (Lev 27, passim ). Nothing which was by nature holy could be made the object of a vow, e.g. firstlings, tithes, etc. ( Leviticus 27:26 , Leviticus 27:28 , Leviticus 27:30 ); and, on the other hand, an abomination, e.g. the hire of a prostitute, could not be made the object of a vow ( Deuteronomy 23:18 ). In Malachi 1:14 the offering of what was of less value than what had been vowed is vigorously condemned.
In the New Testament Jesus refers to vows only to condemn the abuse of them ( Matthew 15:4-6; Mark 7:10-13; compare Talmud, Nedhārı̄m , and see Corban ). In Acts 18:18 (compare Acts 21:23 , Acts 21:24 ) Paul desires to show his Jewish brethren that he is willing to keep the forms of Jewish piety so long as they do not clash with his Christian conscience (compare 1 Corinthians 9:21 ). For the vow of the Nazirite, see Nazirite .
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Vow may be defined as a religious undertaking, either, 1. Positive, to do or perform; 2. or Negative, to abstain from doing or performing a certain thing. The morality of vows we shall not here discuss, but merely remark that vows were quite in place in a system of religion which so largely consisted of doing or not doing certain outward acts, with a view of pleasing Jehovah and gaining his favor. The Israelite, who had been taught by performances of daily recurrence to consider particular ceremonies as essential to his possessing the divine favor, may easily have been led to the conviction which existed probably in the primitive ages of the world, that voluntary oblations and self-imposed sacrifices had a special value in the sight of God. And when once this conviction had led to corresponding practice, it could not be otherwise than of the highest consequence that these sacred promises, which in sanctity differed little from oaths, should be religiously and scrupulously observed. Vows, which rest on a human view of religious obligations, assuming as they do that a kind of recompense is to be made to God for good enjoyed, or consideration offered for good desiderated, or a gratuity presented to buy off an impending or threatened ill, are found in existence in the antiquities of all nations, and present themselves in the earliest Biblical periods . With great propriety the performance of these voluntary undertakings was accounted a highly religious duty . The words of the last vow are too emphatic, and in the present day too important, not to be cited: 'Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay' (comp. , sq.; 76:11; 116:18). The views which guided the Mosaic legislation were not dissimilar to those just expounded. Like a wise lawgiver, Moses, in this and in other particulars, did not attempt to sunder the line of continuity between the past and the present. He found vows in practice; he aimed to regulate what it would have been folly to try to root out (, sq.). The words in are clearly in agreement with our remarks: 'If thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.'
- Vow from Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words
- Vow from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- Vow from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Vow from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Vow from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- Vow from King James Dictionary
- Vow from Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words
- Vow from Webster's Dictionary
- Vow from Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
- Vow from Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary
- Vow from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- Vow from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Vow from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature