THE THIRD COMMANDMENT: YOU SHALL NOT SWEAR FALSELY BY THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD; FOR THE LORD WILL NOT CLEAR ONE WHO SWEARS FALSELY BY HIS NAME. Deuteronomy 5:5; Tanakh Version, JPS
What does it mean to swear falsely? Is it just a matter of lying or is it more? If you promise to do something, is that the same as swearing to do so? I don’t think one would ever “swear” a promise. If you swear to uphold or protect something it is the same as taking an oath. An oath occurs between two or more people, groups or nations, and is a symbol of an agreement or covenant. For instance, marriage is a covenant, the terms of which are sworn to before an authority of some sort. One group or nation may swear an oath to protect and defend another, or they may make a covenant of peace with each other.
An oath was once considered unbreakable and an oath breaker was the lowest of creatures. The punishment for oath breaking could be exile or even death. Adding GOD to the mix means that when you swear before HIM you are making a very serious commitment to do as you say you will.
The Third Commandment as given in the King James Translation of the Bible gives a slightly different slant to the matter. Deuteronomy 5:11 reads:
THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN: FOR THE LORD WILL NOT HOLD HIM GUILTLESS THAT TAKETH HIS NAME IN VAIN.
The word “vain” as given here would probably be considered to mean “useless”, or “of no power.” If the oath is vain it is certainly falsely given.
In an age of casual promises and lies, oath breaking seems almost quaint to consider. But in the Third Commandment God says he will not clear the person who swears falsely by His Name, or will not find him guiltless. And HIS word is eternal.
Historically in Western Society it is customary for someone taking a public oath to place their left hand on the Holy Bible and raise their right arm “to the square.” In the United States of America ALL elected and appointed members of the government place their hand upon a Holy book to swear such an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” and also covenant with the people they serve that they will uphold and sustain the law according to the Constitution.
How seriously do those who take that oath mean it? Is it just pro forma these days? Do they even consider the consequences of swearing falsely? There seem to be so many liars and oath breakers in government that one must conclude most no longer take their oaths seriously.
Even Supreme Court members, the president, congressmen and other leaders denigrate the Constitution publicly and place their own judgments above those of the Founders and the Constitution with no accountability. Once again, in their presumption, we let them sell our national birthright for a mess of pottage. They have not yet met their retribution, which is in the hands of The Lord God.
We will all stand before the Judgment Seat and answer for our own oaths and covenants.
Do not swear or take an oath you are not prepared to keep. You cannot lie to God and not pay the price.