“Since [God] could not swear by anyone greater, he swore by himself.”
1. How does Jehovah’s word differ from that of sinful humans?
JEHOVAH is “the God of truth.” (Ps. 31:5) Sinful men cannot always be trusted, whereas “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:18; read Numbers 23:19.) What he purposes for mankind’s benefit always comes true. For example, everything that God said he would do at the beginning of each creative epoch “came to be so.” Thus, by the end of the sixth creative day, “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.”
2. What is God’s rest day, and why did he “make it sacred”?
2 Having reviewed his creative works, Jehovah God announced the beginning of a seventh day
3. (a) After the start of God’s rest day, what rebellion took place? (b) How did Jehovah state his intentions to crush the rebellion?
3 After God’s rest day began, however, disaster struck. Satan, an angelic son of God, set himself up as a rival god. He told the first lie and deceived Eve so that she disobeyed Jehovah. (1 Tim. 2:14) Eve, in turn, got her husband to join the rebellion. (Gen. 3:1-6) Even at that low point in universal history when God’s truthfulness was being called into question, Jehovah did not see the need to confirm with an oath that his purpose would still come true. Instead, in words that would be understood in God’s due time, he simply stated how the rebellion would be crushed: “I shall put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He [the promised Seed] will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”
—A USEFUL LEGAL TOOL
4, 5. What legal tool did Abraham at times make use of?
4 At that early stage in human history, it is doubtful that swearing to the truthfulness of a matter was a necessary part of the vocabulary that God gave Adam and Eve. Perfect creatures who love God and imitate him do not need to make an oath; they always tell the truth and have complete trust in one another. But things changed with the introduction of human sin and imperfection. Eventually, when lying and deception were common among men, it became necessary for them to swear to the truthfulness of important matters.
5 Making oaths was a legal tool that the patriarch Abraham used to good advantage on at least three occasions. (Gen. 21:22-24; 24:2-4, 9) This occurred, for example, when he returned from defeating the king of Elam and his allies. The kings of Salem and Sodom came out to meet Abraham. Melchizedek, the king of Salem, was also “priest of the Most High God.” As such, he blessed Abraham and praised God for giving Abraham the victory over his enemies. (Gen. 14:17-20) Then, when the king of Sodom wanted to reward Abraham for rescuing the king’s people from the invading armies, Abraham swore: “I do lift up my hand in an oath to Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth, that, from a thread to a sandal lace, no, I shall take nothing from anything that is yours, in order that you may not say, ‘It was I who made Abram rich.’”
JEHOVAH’S SWORN PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
6. (a) What example did Abraham set for us? (b) How do we stand to benefit from Abraham’s obedience?
6 For the benefit of sinful mankind, Jehovah God has also made use of oaths by using expressions like “‘As I am alive,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.” (Ezek. 17:16) The Bible describes more than 40 different occasions when Jehovah God made sworn oaths. Perhaps the best-known example was in God’s dealings with Abraham. Over a period of many years, Jehovah had made several covenant promises to Abraham that when combined show that the promised Seed would descend from Abraham through his son Isaac. (Gen. 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:5, 18; 21:12) Then Jehovah put Abraham to a severe test, commanding him to offer up his beloved son. Without delay, Abraham obeyed and was about to sacrifice Isaac when an angel of God stopped him. Then God made this oath: “By myself I do swear . . . that by reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.”
7, 8. (a) For what purpose did God swear to Abraham? (b) How will Jesus’ “other sheep” benefit from God’s sworn promise?
7 Why did God swear to Abraham that His promises would come true? It was to reassure those who would become joint heirs with Christ, making up the secondary part of the promised “seed,” and to strengthen their faith. (Read Hebrews 6:13-18; Gal. 3:29) As the apostle Paul explained, Jehovah “stepped in with an oath, in order that, through two unchangeable things [his promise and his oath] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we . . . may have strong encouragement to lay hold on the hope set before us.”
8 Anointed Christians are not the only ones who benefit from God’s sworn oath to Abraham. By means of Abraham’s “seed,” Jehovah swore that people of “all nations of the earth [would] bless themselves.” (Gen. 22:18) Such blessed ones include Christ’s obedient “other sheep,” who have set before them the hope of everlasting life on an earthly paradise. (John 10:16) Whether your hope is heavenly or earthly, “lay hold” on it by continuing to live a life of obedience to God.
RELATED OATHS OF GOD
9. What sworn oath did God make when Abraham’s descendants were in slavery to the Egyptians?
9 Centuries later, Jehovah again swore with respect to the above-mentioned promises when he sent Moses to speak to Abraham’s descendants, who were then in slavery to the Egyptians. (Ex. 6:6-8) Referring to that occasion, God said: “In the day of my choosing Israel, . . . I lifted up my hand in an oath to them to bring them forth from the land of Egypt to a land that I had spied out for them, one flowing with milk and honey.”
10. What promise did God make to Israel after delivering them from Egypt?
10 Then, after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Jehovah made another sworn promise to them: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:5, 6) What a privileged position God thus offered Israel! It meant that if obedient, individuals from that nation could have the hope of being used by God as a kingdom of priests for the blessing of the rest of mankind. Later, in describing what he had done for Israel on that occasion, Jehovah stated: “I proceeded . . . to make a sworn statement to you and enter into a covenant with you.”
11. How did Israel respond to God’s invitation to come into a covenant relationship with him as his chosen people?
11 At that time, Jehovah did not oblige Israel to make a sworn oath that they would be obedient; nor did God force the Israelites into this privileged relationship. Instead, they said of their own free will: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” (Ex. 19:8) Three days later, Jehovah God made known to Israel what he would require of his chosen nation. First they heard the Ten Commandments, and then Moses related to them further commands that are recorded from Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33. What was Israel’s response? “All the people answered with one voice and said: ‘All the words that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.’” (Ex. 24:3) Then Moses wrote down the laws in “the book of the covenant” and read them aloud so that the whole nation could hear them again. After that, for the third time, the people vowed: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do and be obedient.”
12. What were the responses of Jehovah and of his chosen people to the covenant that had been established between them?
12 Jehovah immediately began to fulfill his side of the Law covenant by arranging for a tent of worship and a priesthood that made it possible for sinful humans to approach him. Israel, on the other hand, quickly forgot their dedication to God and “pained even the Holy One of Israel.” (Ps. 78:41) For example, while Moses was busy receiving further instructions on Mount Sinai, the Israelites became impatient and began to lose faith in God, thinking that Moses had deserted them. So they made a golden image of a calf and said to the people: “This is your God, O Israel, who led you up out of the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 32:1, 4) Then they held what they called “a festival to Jehovah” and bowed down and sacrificed to their man-made image. Upon seeing that, Jehovah told Moses: “They have turned aside in a hurry from the way I have commanded them to go.” (Ex. 32:5, 6, 8) Sadly, from then on Israel had a history of making vows to God that they later broke.
TWO ADDITIONAL OATHS
13. What sworn promise did God make to King David, and how does it relate to the promised Seed?
13 During the reign of King David, Jehovah made two more sworn promises for the benefit of all who obey him. First, he swore to David that his throne would last forever. (Ps. 89:35, 36; 132:11, 12) This meant that the promised Seed would be called “the Son of David.” (Matt. 1:1; 21:9) Humbly, David addressed this future descendant as his “Lord” because the Christ would occupy a superior position.
14. What sworn promise did Jehovah make concerning the promised Seed, and how do we benefit from it?
14 Second, Jehovah inspired David to foretell that this unique King would also serve as mankind’s High Priest. In Israel the kingship and priesthood were completely separate. The priests were from the tribe of Levi, and the kings were from the tribe of Judah. But concerning his illustrious future heir, David foretold: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): ‘You are a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!’” (Ps. 110:1, 4) In fulfillment of that prophecy, Jesus Christ, the promised Seed, now rules from heaven. Also, he serves as mankind’s High Priest by helping repentant ones to come into an acceptable relationship with God.
THE NEW ISRAEL OF GOD
15, 16. (a) What two Israels are referred to in the Bible, and which one has God’s blessing today? (b) What command did Jesus give his followers about the making of vows?
15 Because of rejecting Jesus Christ, the nation of Israel finally lost their favored status with God along with the prospect of ever becoming “a kingdom of priests.” As Jesus told the Jewish leaders: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:43) That new nation was born at Pentecost 33 C.E. when God’s spirit was poured out on about 120 disciples of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem. These became known as “the Israel of God” and soon numbered into several thousand made up of people from every nation of the then-known world.
16 Unlike natural Israel, God’s new spiritual nation has kept on bearing good fruit by its continual obedience to God. One of the commands that its members obey concerns the making of sworn oaths. Oath-taking was being abused when Jesus was on earth, with people swearing falsely or swearing about trivial matters. (Matt. 23:16-22) Jesus taught his followers: “Do not swear at all . . . Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No; for what is in excess of these is from the wicked one.”
Jehovah’s promises always come true
17. What questions will be considered in the next study article?
17 Does this mean that it is always wrong to make a sworn oath? More important, what is involved in letting our Yes mean Yes? These questions will be considered in the next study article. As we continue to meditate on God’s Word, may we be motivated to keep on obeying Jehovah. Then he, in turn, will delight to bless us forever in accord with his precious sworn promises.