Do Not Swear Falsely at All
The Pharisees in their tradition of their enactments, according to the Oral Law, interpreted the laws in the Torah as a permission to swear (even) falsely as long as the explicit Name, the Tetragrammaton, is not used in the vow. One can swear, therefore, falsely by heaven, by earth, even by Yerushalayim but not by the Name Yehovah. Hence, the rabbis banned the uttering of the Tetragrammaton as a fence around the Name against profaning it.
Yeshua, however, warns that it is forbidden to “swear in any matter falsely”. He says in the Sermon on the Mount thus,
Again, you have heard that it was said to those of long ago, ‘You shall not swear in my name falsely, and you shall return to YHVH your oath’. And, I say to you not to swear falsely* in any matter, neither in heaven, because it is Elohim’s throne; and nor in the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; nor in Yerushalayim, for it is the city of Elohim; and nor by your head because you are not able to make one hair white or black. But let your words ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and ‘No’ be ‘No’. Everything in addition to this is evil. (Mat 5:33-37, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew)
*Hebrew שָׁוְא shav, desolating; evil (as destructive), literally ruin; figuratively idolatry (as false), deceptive, in vain, falsely, lying. This word is omitted in the Greek text of Matthew.
This teaching on oath, He further expounded in Mat 23:16-20. In the Greek translation of Matthew, but not in the original Hebrew, the word “falsely” is entirely missed either by scribal error or taken out intentionally to give the notion that the Messiah had established new laws or “His own laws” for “the church” to follow. As we find in the following, the Hebrew text of Matthew, and elsewhere, is faithful to the Torah, while the Greek translation is either confusing or misleading. We have Scriptural proof of this in the Hebrew text of Matthew, as we argued in the articles Did Matthew mistake to quote Jeremiah? and Gap in the Fourteen Generations in Yeshua’s Genealogy.
And the Messiah ends with the chilling statement “Everything in addition to this is evil”, which is a paraphrase of the command of YHVH not to add to nor to take away from the Word (Deu 4:2).
Yeshua confirms this fundamental principle by bringing out the law in Lev 19:12 not to profane the Name of YHVH by swearing falsely, and whatever we vow we must do (see Deu 23:21-23).
And do not swear falsely by My Name and so profane the Name of your Elohim. I am Yehovah. (Lev 19:12)
A man cannot break his vow. The vow is valid regardless of whether it pertains to something mandatory or to something only permissible but not mandatory, as we go on reading in Numbers,
When a man vows a vow to Yehovah or swears an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he does not break his word. He does according to all that comes out of his mouth. (Num 30:2)
Our teacher Mosheh further expounded this law and said that when we make a vow to YHVH, we must not delay paying it, for He is certainly requiring it of us, and it shall be sin if we do not fulfill it. But Mosheh also made it clear that if we decide to abstain from vowing, it is not sin for us. But what has gone from our lips we must do, for we have voluntarily vowed to YHVH (see Deu 23:21-23).
In other words, we must be very careful when making a vow. The words that would come out of our mouths have meaning and weight, even though they are spoken voluntarily.
YHVH never lies, deceives, or breaks His promises, and so must we. To swear in the name of YHVH is to declare that we are acting in the character of YHVH. Contrary to this will be to desecrate the Set-apart Name of our Creator.
But when we take a vow before the Eternal, we must be careful what we vow for. In the vow, we have the free will to express ourselves, but one important principle must be clear: Scripture allows to prohibit what is permitted, but not to permit what is prohibited.
Vow or oath: which one to make
Throughout the Scripture two important words have been used to describe the legal status of taking promise: נֶדֶר neder, a vow and שְׁבוּעָה shevuah, an oath; from the word shevuah, Shabbat comes from. These are two different words, as we will explain next.
Neder is a vow from men to YHVH, as found in Gen 28:20, Gen 31:13, Jdg 11:30, 2Sa 15:7, Ecc 5:4). While shevuah, oath, from the verb שָׁבַע shava, literally to seven oneself, is from YHVH to men, (Gen 26:3, Deu 7:8, Psa 105:9, Jer 11:5), and between men (Jos 2:17, Eze 21:23, Neh 6:18). The meaning of shava comes from the common practice of making seven declarations when making an oath, hence, שְׁבֻעָה shevuah, means “seven” and “week”.
The declaration of making the oath seven times or doing seven things is meant to show the sincerity of the oath taken. What seven declarations did YHVH make when He took an oath before Israel? These are the seven promises in Exo 6:1-8 which are in the Preamble of the Wedding at Mount Sinai. At the heart of the Covenant are seven unconditional promises to the children of Israel:
Deliverance from the bondage in Egypt
- I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exo 6:6)
- I will free you from their bondage. (Exo 6:6)
The means of this deliverance
- I will redeem you with a stretched-out arm and with great judgments. (Exo_6:6)
- I will take you to Me for a people. (Exo 6:7)
- I will be your Elohim. (Exo 6:7)
Deliverance into the land
- I will bring you into the land sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Exo 6:8)
- I will give it to you for a heritage. (Exo 6:8).
Another pattern of seven “I will” statements, a set of seven declarations of blessings, which are an intricate part of the Covenant at Mount Sinai, is found in Lev 26:3-12.
What are the seven things Elohim did before having given them the Covenant? He led through seven tests before giving Israel the Covenant on the seventh day of third month (notice, all seven tests took place on Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, as we argued in chapters The Beginning of Months and The First Year at Mount Sinai of the present author’s book The Reckoning of Time):
- On the 10th of the first month: they were tested whether they would put the blood of the lambs on their door posts.
- On the 17th: they were tested whether they would rebel against Mosheh, when they were turned back to Pi Hahiroth.
- On the 24th: they were tested with bitter waters at Marah.
- On the 15th of the second month: exactly one month to the day after Israel departed from Egypt, they were tested when they had bread no more.
- On the 22nd: by giving them manna Elohim tested them whether they would keep the Sabbath commandment.
- On the 29th: the strife of Israel at Rephidim, when Israel tried YHVH for the lack of water.
- On the 6th of the third month: whether they would accept the Covenant.
The practice of swearing in the Name of the Most High, “As Yehovah lives”, is seen in the statements of King David and King Shlomo in 1Sa 20:3 and 1Ki 2:23, and elsewhere. This is a fulfillment of the Torah command to fear Yehovah, serve Him, and swear by His Name, but only in truth. We read,
Fear Yehovah your Elohim and serve Him and swear by His Name. (Deu 6:13)
If we fear His Name and serve Him, then we may swear by His Name, for if we fear His Name, we will be cautious with our vows and oaths, otherwise, we must not swear at all. (See also Deu 10:20).
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