Exodus 20:7 MEANING

Exodus 20:7
(7) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.--The Hebrew is ambiguous, as is to some extent the English translation. Most modern critics regard the phrase used as forbidding false swearing only; but some think that it forbids also "profane" or "vain swearing." Our Lord's comment in the Sermon on the Mount favours the view that false swearing alone was actually forbidden by the Law, since He proceeds to condemn profane swearing on His own authority: "But I say unto you" (Matthew 5:34). False swearing is among the greatest insults that man can offer to God, and, as being such, is naturally forbidden in the first table, which teaches us our duty to God. It is also destructive of civil society; and hence it is again forbidden in the second table (Exodus 20:16), which defines our duties to our neighbour. The laws of all organised States necessarily forbid it, and generally under a very severe penalty. The Jewish Law condemned the false witness to suffer the punishment which his evidence was calculated to inflict (Deuteronomy 19:19). The Egyptians visited perjury with death or mutilation. The Greeks were content to punish it with a heavy fine, and ultimately with the loss of civil rights. The Romans, in the more ancient times, inflicted the death penalty. It was generally believed, alike in Egypt, in Greece, and in Rome, that the anger of the gods was especially provoked by this crime, and that a Divine Nemesis pursued those who committed it, and made them suffer for their sin, either in their own person or in that of their posterity.

The Lord will not hold him guiltless.--Punishment will assuredly overtake the perjured man, if not in this life, then in another. Jehovah will vindicate His own honour.

Verse 7. - Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. It is disputed whether this is a right rendering. Shav in Hebrew means both "vanity" and ,'falsehood;" so that the Third Commandment may forbid either "vain-swearing" or simply "false-swearing. It is in favor of the latter interpretation, that our Lord seems to contrast his own prohibition of unnecessary oaths with the ancient prohibition of false oaths in the words - "Ye have heard that it hath been said by" (or "to") "them of old time - Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shelf perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you - Swear not at all" (Matthew 5:33-34). It is also in favour of the command being levelled against false-swearing, that perjury should naturally, as a great sin, have a special prohibition directed against it in the Decalogue, while vain-swearing, as a little sin, would scarcely seem entitled to such notice. Perjury has always been felt to be one of the greatest both of moral and of social offences. It implies an absolute want of any reverence at all for God; and it destroys civil society by rendering the administration of justice impossible. There has been a general horror of it among all civilised nations. The Egyptians punished perjury with death. The Greeks thought that a divine Nemesis pursued the perjured man, and brought destruction both upon himself and upon his offspring .(Herod. 6:86). The Romans regarded the perjurer as infamous, and the object of Divine vengeance in the other world (Cic. De Leg. 2:9). The threat contained in the words - "The Lord will not hold him guiltless" - may be taken as an argument on either side. If viewed as equivalent to "the Lord will punish severely" (Kalisch), it accords best with the view that perjury was intended; if taken literally, it would suit best a lesser sin, of which men ordinarily think little.

20:3-11 The first four of the ten commandments, commonly called the FIRST table, tell our duty to God. It was fit that those should be put first, because man had a Maker to love, before he had a neighbour to love. It cannot be expected that he should be true to his brother, who is false to his God. The first commandment concerns the object of worship, JEHOVAH, and him only. The worship of creatures is here forbidden. Whatever comes short of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship, breaks this commandment. Whatsoever ye do, do all the glory of God. The second commandment refers to the worship we are to render to the Lord our God. It is forbidden to make any image or picture of the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any creature, image, or picture. But the spiritual import of this command extends much further. All kinds of superstition are here forbidden, and the using of mere human inventions in the worship of God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship, that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness. All false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, all profane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It matters not whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-like things break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour, or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. The form of the fourth commandment, Remember, shows that it was not now first given, but was known by the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Six days are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglect the service of God, and the care of our souls. On those days we must do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbath day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; for the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, Mr 2:27; but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence in any form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this day holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, but not a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. The advantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it only to the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affords for taking care of the soul, show the excellency of this commandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and in it. The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited to the seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day.Thou shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain,.... Make use of the name Lord or God, or any other name and epithet of the divine Being, in a light and trifling way, without any show of reverence of him, and affection to him; whereas the name of God ought never to be mentioned but in a grave and serious manner, and with an awe of the greatness of his majesty upon the mind. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan restrain this to swearing by the name of the Lord; and so the Jewish writers generally interpret it either of swearing lightly, rashly, or falsely; and to this it may very well be extended, though not limited; and so forbids, as all profane oaths; imprecations, and curses by the name of God, which the mouths of wicked men are full of, so swearing by it in matters trivial, and of no importance; for swearing even by the name of the Lord ought not to be used but in matters of moment and consequence, for the confirmation of a thing, and putting an end to strife, and where a matter cannot be determined and decided without an appeal to God. And great care should be taken that a man swears to that which is true, and not false; for false swearing, or perjury, is a very grievous sin, and as it is strictly forbidden, it is severely punished by the Lord, as follows; see Leviticus 19:12, this is the third command, and the reason enforcing it follows:

for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name is vain; will not look upon him as an innocent person, and treat him as such; will not acquit and discharge him as just and righteous; but on the contrary will consider him as a guilty person, a profaner of his name, and a transgressor of his law, and will condemn and punish him, if not in this world, yet in the world to come; and so the Targum of Jonathan, by way of explanation, adds,"in the day of the great judgment;''see Malachi 3:5.

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