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Do not let your mouth cause your flesh

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to sin, nor say before the representative [of God]

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that it was an error.

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Why should


be angry at your voice

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and destroy

the work of your hands?

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Don’t sin with what you say regarding serious spiritual commitments. Do not tell the priest who is God’s representative for the sake of accountability that this falls under the category of an unintentional sin and you need to be released from your vow. Why would you put yourself in a situation where you know THE CREATOR AND RULER OF ALL THINGS will be angry with you for this vow you have spoken and not fulfilled? Why bring His anger and punishment on yourself, punishment which will likely set you back a great deal?



“Your flesh” (also “your skin”) means “your body” which means “you.” It was a form of speech in which one part was standing in for the whole. I use the word “flesh” in the translation column to show you what the Hebrew actually says and in the paraphrase column I jump right to the word “you” because that is the intent.

2: “the representative of God”

We know that priests were often involved in the process of making vows because vows often involved two trips to the tabernacle or temple. When one made a vow he was required to go to the tabernacle or temple and register that vow with a priest who wrote down the information about the vow including who it was, what the vow involved and the timeframe in which this was of be fulfilled. According to the notes in the NET Bible, if the date passed and the person did not show up again to offer the prescribed sacrifice that accompanied the fulfillment of the vow, a priest would go find that man and hold him accountable for his commitment.

This knowledge about how vows were handled is very helpful in determining the meaning of this phrase which otherwise would be difficult to translate. In fact, the translations in English are split on who this is referring to; some say “the angel,” some “the messenger,” and some “the priest.” The idea here is “don’t tell the person responsible for holding you accountable that it was a mistake.” Knowing how they handled vows tells us who that was – a priest. While the meaning of the word can offer several possibilities, the practice of vows narrows the possibilities down to one.

3: “error”

This is the same word used in the Law for “unintentional sins.” It is obvious that the person in this example is trying to get out of having to fulfill his vow, which you don’t do, you must fulfill it. It appears that he tries to absolve himself of responsibility by placing this matter under the category of unintentional sins, where it does not belong, and he is not free to place it there. Here this fictitious fellow wants to be spared from God’s wrath, but the only way to do that would be to fulfill what he has vowed. It is assumed that one only makes a vow if he has the means to fulfill it.


The Hebrew word literally means “sound” and is used of a human voice because that is how we usually make sounds in order to communicate. However, the word seems to refer to the sounds that are normally made by something, e.g. the sound that thunder makes, that sheep make, that cattle make, that an instrument makes. It can be a happy sound, a frivolous sound, an angry sound, or a warning, whichever is usually made by that person, animal, or thing.

5: “the work of your hands”

The language used here is strong, depicting the destruction of all that one has worked to accumulate. The Law does not prescribe what punishment will be assigned for failure to fulfill a vow. We are only told that God will be very displeased by it. God can punish in many ways, but He often allows natural consequences to come into play. Here if God chose to use natural consequences it would be that this person would become untrustworthy and people would not do business with him, and over time his wealth would dwindle.