N30: For the Men Only

Have you noticed a problem with some Christian men?

Do you think that the problem with some men today is that they are really boys in men’s bodies? Do you think that there is a reason why statistically there are more women in the church than men? Do you think that female pastors and elders may be partially the male gender’s fault? Do you know a number of young women that you would recommend to marry, but really can’t think of too many young men that you would recommend? Do you know Christian men that seem to sit back while their wives lead the family? Do you know a Christian man-child?

The state of Christian manhood does not look good.

Right between a bloody chapter on religious duties and a bloody chapter about a battle that resulted in the death of much of Midian’s population rests Numbers thirty (N30). N30 is about men and vow keeping. N30 seems to be a bit out place: We have religious duties that result in the slaughter of many lambs, bulls, and goats in twenty-nine. In thirty-one we have a chapter about the destruction of a people- including the smallest sons and non-virgin daughters. All of this is very “manly.” And then there’s N30.

Here’s the Eshelman 21st Century Paraphrase:

Men, if you make a vow, you cannot break your word.
If your daughter vows a vow and you hear it and say nothing- the vow stands.
If you oppose her vow, the vow is null and void.
If your wife vows a vow and you hear it and say nothing- the vow stands.
If you oppose her vow, the vow is null and void.

Do you think that in Moses’ day there were as many man-childs as there appears to be today? In the text there is a tension between vow keeping and keeping silent. Moses encourages the men to open their mouths and lead their families and keep their vows. Then, as now, there were men who were timid and scared of biblical headship. Let’s call them N30 men.

What would that look like in today’s context? Many men are happy to be Numbers 29 men who are well versed in the nuances of Reformed Theology. There are Numbers 31 men who are happy to talk about war and victory, even though it is mainly  via their Wii or PS3 (Play Station 4 is due out at the end of 2012). Yet, when it comes to practical godly leadership they are not walking in their responsibilities. Many men are not keeping their vows- ecclesiastical or familial. Some would rather quietly give up their biblical duty to lead than have to speak up (and maybe even speak out or speak against).

What do we call that?
Leadership by fear?
Passive “I don’t want to say no” leadership?
It’s N30 leadership.

Men, arise!

We have a church which needs men to be men. We have a culture that is dying because of N30 type men. We have daughters that don’t have fathers to look up to, and wives that have sitcom dads for husbands. Men, it’s time to realize that passive fearful headship is still headship… it’s just not biblical headship. It’s not headship that reflects how Jesus takes care of His church.

It’s not loving.
It’s not healthy.
It’s not wanted.
It’s N30.

Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church. Love your daughters and sons too. Love your church like Christ loves the Church. That’s going to require you to use some words and man up. So arise, man. Put down the game controller or tv remote and pick up your Bible. It’s time that we fight a real battle for a real King in a real Kingdom. Keep your vows… and as my wife and I tell our two-year old, “Use your big boy voice.”


  1. Tim Bloedow February 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Right on, Nathan. Particular to N30, my wife and I have both been very grateful a few times in the past for that passage. Please pray for us as we seek to do our part to make a difference on this score with our Courageous Manhood conference in April – http://titanic1912-2012.ca/ (website still under development, but mostly finished). I’m RP, of course, but our non-profit, non-denominational ministry ChristianGovernance is organizing the conf. Micah Ramsey is coming up to speak as are two ARP pastors, Jeff Kingswood from southern Ontario and John Shearouse from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  2. Jeff February 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    “In the text there is a tension between vow keeping and keeping silent.”

    I don’t get what you’re saying. The passage seems clear; if your wife or daughter makes a vow and you remain silent, then she is required to uphold that vow. How is that tension? The silence of a man, in this case, is a confirmation of her vow. That’s harmony; not tension. The tension occurs when the man rejects her vow and “he shall bear her iniquity.”

  3. Nathan Eshelman February 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Jeff, Tension does not have to be a negative. Tension can produce harmony (like in art). The tension is there between speaking up and not speaking at all. Both are applications of headship- one that produces a negation of the vow and one that produces a positive application of the vow.

    If you like the word “harmony” better, that works too.

  4. Jeff February 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Tension in art, like music, tends to be where something is discordant. Tension is also the bow strung and drawn. Life would be dull and boring without a tension mixed with harmony.

    That still brings to question why N30 is being used as an example of why our culture “is dying because of N30 type men.” Seems like Psalm 15 would be a better passage. N30 may be a specific application of headship regarding the father/husband being judge over familial matters. I don’t know what kind of oaths women were making back then, but apparently, tension was occurring because they didn’t know whether the woman’s oath with God superseded the head of the family’s judgment. Probably some arguments there and Moses had to make a ruling.

    Now, regarding the show Everybody Loves Raymond, I think it should be renamed “Everybody Thinks Raymond is Pusillanimous!” Whiston likes that word. I do now, too. 🙂

  5. Tammy February 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    i like this post. too many men are willing to let their wives and daughters be, when they really need to intervene and take responsibility. this and the last generation has made intervention to be inappropriate. i can think of many girls who would not have married the wrong man had their dad spoken up.

  6. Dave February 2, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    I think the important thing to explicitly state is that the leadership provided needs to be Christ-oriented and not anti-female-leadership-oriented.

    If men step up to leadership positions and simply rail against female leadership we haven’t advanced at all. Strong male leadership towards Christ is what we need.

    • Nathan Eshelman February 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

      Of course, Dave. That is a good point. I by no means am devaluing women or their great position in homes, churches, and society. The other side of this horse that we can fall off of is an extreme patriarchalism which leads to viewing our wives as of lesser value. Differing roles does not mean differing value.

  7. Kurt And-Shelley Fiech February 2, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Maybe it’s time that RPCNA switches its heavy emphasis on youth to a more logical emphasis on men – the head of the family and primary “missionary” to the children.

  8. kengsmith February 2, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    “I searched for a man,..but I found no one,” says Ezek 22:30. Richard Halverson, the late chaplain of the U S Senate, told of meeting with a man for lunch. In the conversation the man began to weep. Halverson inquired as to whether he had said something out of place. The man replied, “No, I just didn’t think you pastors had time for us men.” It revolutionized Halverson’s ministry.

    • Nathan Eshelman February 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      Wow. It is amazing how God will use us as we invest into the lives of others. Just as Titus 2 calls on older women to teach younger women, we men need to be investing into the lives of the younger men so that they see biblical leadership in action. Thanks for that word of wisdom, Pastor.

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