In light of @dottard interesting posted response( https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/49820/19810 ) ----------------------------Excerpt of @dottard interesting posted response---------------------

Contracts in the Bible are of three types:

  1. Those initiated by God, eg, with Noah and all mankind, Abrahamic covenant, Israelite covenant, Levitical covenant, etc. This type is usually called a "Covenant".
  2. Those contracted between equal parties, eg, the agreement between Israel and the Gibeonites. This is usually called a Treaty (between nations), or a simply an agreement, eg, between David and Jonathon.
  3. Those initiated by a human to demonstrate piety toward God. These are usually called a vow; eg, the Nazarite vow (eg, Samson and others), Paul's vow to shave his head in Acts 21:24, etc.

Genesis 28:20-22 (NASB) 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I [a]take, and will give me [b]food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in [c]safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

I suppose I might be asking the obvious, but would Jacob's vow also fall into the 3rd contract category listed by @dottard ?

  • 2
    There are some who have said that the very act of making a 'contract' with God (involving payment) indicates that Jacob, at that point, was not (yet) in a state of faith but still in the bondage of legal works.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 11, 2020 at 12:42
  • 1
    @NigelJ - I often hear comments like that but I wonder. Are such comments meant to imply that once a person is "in a state of faith" (whatever that means) then good works are not required? or, that vows are banned or show a lack of faith? or, that it is no longer necessary to celebrate the communion? or, abstaining from robbery and murder would be too legalistic and demonstrate a bondage to legal works?
    – Dottard
    Aug 11, 2020 at 23:40
  • @Dottard He who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his own works as God did from His. Hebrews 4:10. Some have entered into this rest of faith. And some have yet to discover it.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 12, 2020 at 2:42
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    @Dottard Personally, I wouldn't like to say about Jacob's vow. I am in two minds about the passage. As to generally ----- Those who are of faith are 'zealous of good works'. They stand out as such. The work of faith and the labour of love. The unbelieving strive in legal works to attain a reward : and always fail. For their works are worthless. Whatsoever is not of faith : is sin. Romans 14:23.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 12, 2020 at 3:04
  • 1
    @NigelJ - we certainly agree about that.
    – Dottard
    Aug 12, 2020 at 3:05

2 Answers 2


If we read Bereishit (Genesis) 28:18-22, we find out that Yaqov (יַֽעֲקֹב֘) is making a Vow ( נֶ֜דֶר) after pouring oil on the stone - referenced later in Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:3.

[Bereishit 28:18] "And Yaqov arose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had placed at his head, and he set it up as a monument, and he poured oil on top of it." (וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם יַֽעֲקֹ֜ב בַּבֹּ֗קֶר וַיִּקַּ֤ח אֶת־הָאֶ֨בֶן֙ אֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֣ם מְרַֽאֲשֹׁתָ֔יו וַיָּ֥שֶׂם אֹתָ֖הּ מַצֵּבָ֑ה וַיִּצֹ֥ק שֶׁ֖מֶן עַל־רֹאשָֽׁהּ )

[Bereishit 28:22] " Then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me, I will surely tithe to You. " ( וְהָאֶ֣בֶן הַזֹּ֗את אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֨מְתִּי֙ מַצֵּבָ֔ה יִֽהְיֶ֖ה בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֑ים וְכֹל֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּתֶּן־לִ֔י עַשֵּׂ֖ר אֲעַשְּׂרֶ֥נּוּ לָֽךְ)

[Bamidbar 30:3] "If a man makes a vow to YHVH or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do." (אִישׁ֩ כִּֽי־יִדֹּ֨ר נֶ֜דֶר לַֽיהֹוָ֗ה אֽוֹ־הִשָּׁ֤בַע שְׁבֻעָה֙ לֶאְסֹ֤ר אִסָּר֙ עַל־נַפְשׁ֔וֹ לֹ֥א יַחֵ֖ל דְּבָר֑וֹ כְּכָל־הַיֹּצֵ֥א מִפִּ֖יו יַֽעֲשֶֽׂה )


In brief, "Yes", a vow falls into that third category of "votive" offerings. In Gen 28:20, the word translated (correctly) "vow" is נֶדֶר which BDB gives 6 meanings, the first few of which are reproduced below:

1 of personal service to ׳י Genesis 28:20; Genesis 31:13 (of Jacob at Bethel), 2 Samuel 15:7,8; (at Hebron); Leviticus 27:2 (P, any one), of Nazirite Numbers 6:2,5,21; Hannah's consecration of her son 1 Samuel 1:11, compare בר נדרי Proverbs 31:2.

2 in General of any kind of votive offerings or promised gifts to ׳י Numbers 30:3; Numbers 30:4; Numbers 30:5 (twice in verse); Numbers 30:6; Numbers 30:7; Numbers 30:8; Numbers 30:9; Numbers 30:10; Numbers 30:12; Numbers 30:13; Numbers 30:14; Numbers 30:15 (P) Deuteronomy 12:11,17,26; Deuteronomy 23:19; Deuteronomy 23:22; Isaiah 19:21; Nahum 2:1; Psalm 22:26; Psalm 61:6; Psalm 61:9; Psalm 65:2; Psalm 116:14; Psalm 116:18; Proverbs 20:25; Job 22:27; Ecclesiastes 5:3.

3 Jephthah's daughter as עולה Judges 11:30,39.

Thus, in Jacob's case in Gen 28:20ff, he makes a vow to pay a tithe of his income/increase. Note that this was not required of him by law or anything else, but it was a personal decision (in Jacob's case) to do so.

Later, under the Israelite theocracy, tithe was made a requirement (Deut 14:22) to support the Levitical priesthood.

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