The Oath


“Is not my word like fire- declares the Lord; and as a hammer that break  the rock in pieces”. (Jer. 23,29)

Once, the human words, our words, were harder than stone. God’s word has stayed the same as it was, but our human words have become worn out and thinner.

People got bound by words once. There was no need for paper, seals and signatures, to verify something that had already been verified hundreds of times. People got killed-they did not break their word.

Today, when all sorts of things have devaluated, the words have also become cheap. Everywhere and on every side there are floods of empty and false words, seas and oceans of unnecessary speaking and talking nonsense. So, the word lost its hardness and weight. Therefore one reaches for something harder and more stable, for warranty which gives back their meaning and their sense to our words.Therefore we swear and take an oath.

It would be better for us to follow God’s will which forbids us to spend words easily: “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’  But I say to you, make no oath at all, said Christ.  But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. ” (Mt. 5, 22-37)

Strictly speaking, to take an oath is a necessary evil. However, there are times when Church approves taking the oath: army oath, priestly oath, the appointed Church leaders oath, court oath, and others. “It is when the higher interests of a community are in question, and then Church takes part in that process in the legal and determined way. “Breaking and violating the oath is the great sin by which the very foundations of healthy human relations are undermined”. Unfortunately, there is more and more of this among us. A man takes the oath, and, while the word is still flying in the air, while it has not still evaporated, he is already creating and hatching another thought.

One should be very careful when he opens his mouth toward the Lord, and how he handles words. There is no place for joking with God. “When you make a promise to the LORD your God, don’t put off making good on it, because the LORD your God will certainly be expecting it from you; delaying would make you guilty”, (5. Mos.23,21) the Holy Scripture warns. “You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised. ” (5. Mos. 23,23)

Here is an example from Holy Scripture, the Old Testament-and there are plenty of them-how to keep the given word and fulfill the taken oath.
In a crucial moment for the chosen people, before a heavy fighting with the enemies, the sons of Ammon, the leader of the Israelite people, judge Jephthah, took the oath to God , and said: If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering. So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand. He struck them…with a very great slaughter; so the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.

When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing; now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said: Alas, my daughter, You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.

So she said to him: My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.

She said to her father: Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions. Then he said: Go. So he sent her away for two months, and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity.  At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made, and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel  that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year .” (Judges. 11, 30-40)

The oath was kept even when taken by the help of a trick. Inhabitants of Gibeon became friends of  Israelite’s sons by tricking them. And when they found out this, they started the dispute what to do. But nothing could be done but to obey the oath.” This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.”  (Joshua 9, 20)

In the Old Testament, many litigations and dilemmas were solved by the oath. The oath was the warranty of every possible dispute. The oath was the irrevocable sentence when there was no other way to reach the truth. If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.  If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods… If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing itThen shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good. (Ex 22:7-15)

In the fourth book of Mosses, chapter five, we can find how the sensitive issue of “love doubt” was solved by the oath.

If a husband doubted, with or without reasons, his wife’s honesty, the rule of Mosses’ law was that the husband should bring his wife to a priest, and the priest would put her “in front of the Lord”. Than he would take some holy water in a clay pot and some dust from the floor in the tent and pour it into the water. “And having put the woman in front of the Lord, let the priest uncover her head and put on her hands a memory gift which is the love doubt gift; and let the priest hold in his hand some bitter water, which bears the curse. And let the priest administer the oath to the woman and tell her: If nobody has slept with you, and if you did not stray from your husband to impurity, let this bitter water ,which bears the curse, do no harm to you. But if you have strayed from your husband and desecrate yourself … should the Lord cast a spell on you and put you for curse among your people making your thigh fall down and your belly swell. ”

And it really happened so. However, if the woman was  innocent and pure, nothing happened to her; she would even have children of her own after that.

Let us repeat and bear in mind: do not play games with God. Therefore, a man should avoid taking a false oath, as if it is a poisonous snake; the Lord hates all these, as he himself witnesses about that.(Zac. 8, 17)

The Lord takes under his wing the men of character, honest people who keep their word. “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD, and who may stand in His holy place?” ask us a prophet of God, King David. And he answers himself: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation. “(Ps. 24, 3-5)

God equalizes the perjurers with the greatest sinners, sorcerers and adulterers, through the mouth of prophet Malachi. “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely… says the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 3, 5) To such people, the Lord promises himself and swears on himself with these words: “As I live, surely My oath which he despised and My covenant which he broke, I will inflict on his head. I will spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare. “(Jez. 17, 19-20)

Therefore , when we take an oath and invoke God as a witness, we should be very careful not to say easily a heavy word, so that it would not fall upon our heads with all its weight.