Devotional Readings

Leviticus 5 – Soul Sin by Oaths and Swearing

Curious passage reading today. Note this appies to false witness more than general cursing.

Seems to apply in the realm of fake news, and poltical lies and coverups today.

Lev 5:1 And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.

Lev 5:4 Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.

Lev 5:5 And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
Lev 5:6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned,…..

Details of the reqired offerings follow in the text.

John Gill writes that these are not our common curses, profanities, or taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Leviticus 5:1

And if a soul sin,…. The soul is put for the person, and is particularly mentioned, as Ben Melech says, because possessed of will and desire:

and hear the voice of swearing; or cursing, or adjuration; not of profane swearing, and taking the name of God in vain, but either of false swearing, or perjury, as when a man hears another swear to a thing which he knows is false; or else of adjuration, either the voice of a magistrate or of a neighbour adjuring another, calling upon him with an oath to bear testimony in such a case; this is what the Jews (r) call the oath of testimony or witness, and which they say (s) is binding in whatsoever language it is heard:

and is a witness; is able to bear witness to the thing he is adjured about:

whether he hath seen or known of it; what he has seen with his eyes, or knows by any means: of such a case, the Jews observe (t), that there may be seeing without knowing, or knowing without seeing, and in either case a man ought to bear witness:

if he do not utter it; tell the truth, declare what he has seen or known:

then he shall bear his iniquity; he shall be charged with sin, and be obliged to acknowledge his offence, and bring a trespass offering for it: it is said (u), that the witnesses are not guilty of the oath of the testimony, but in these ten cases; if they are required; if the testimony is concerning goods; if the goods are movable; if he that requires binds himself to pay for their testimony only, in case they bear witness; if they refuse after required; if they refuse in the sanhedrim; if the adjuration or oath is made there by the name of God, or his titles; if knowledge of the testimony goes before the oath; if he particularizes his witnesses in the time of the oath, or at the time of the requirement; and if the oath is in a language they understood.

(r) Misn. Sotah, c. 7. 1. (s) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 33. 1. (t) T. Bab. Shebuot, fol. 33. 2. & 34. 1. (u) Maimon. Hilchot, Shebuot, c. 9. sect. 3.

Leviticus 5:4

Or if a soul swear,…. A rash or vain oath:

pronouncing with his lips; not in his heart, as Jarchi notes; not saying within himself that he would do this, or that, or the other thing, but expressing his oath plainly and distinctly, with an audible voice:

to do good, or to do evil; which was either impossible or unlawful for him to do; whether the good or evil he swears to do is to himself or to another; whether he swears to do good to himself, and evil to another, or, good to another, and evil to himself, see Psa 15:4. The Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it,”whatsoever a man expresses, whether of anything present or future;”as if he swears he has done such and such a thing, whether good or evil; or that he will do it, be it what it will, and it is not in the power of his hands to do it, or, if he did it, it would be doing a wrong thing:

whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; he has forgot that he ever swore such an oath:

and when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these; when he is told of it, and it is made clearly to appear to him, that he did at such a time, and in such a place, deliver out a rash oath concerning this, or the other thing, then he shall be chargeable with guilt in one of these; either in rashly swearing to do good when it was not in his power, or to do evil, which would have been unlawful. The Targum of Jonathan is,”if he knows that he has falsified, and repents not, he is guilty.”

Related verses are:

Psalms 15:4 (KJV)
4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

Exo 20:7 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.

Exodus 20:7 Gill
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 Lev 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 Mal 3:5.

This appears also to tie together with false witnessing and Jesus’ teaching on swearing oaths.

Exo 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Exodus 20:16 Gill
Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Neither publicly in a court of judicature, by laying things to his charge that are false, and swearing to them, to his hurt and damage; nor privately, by whispering, tale bearing, backbiting, slandering, by telling lies of him, traducing his character by innuendos, sly insinuations, and evil suggestions, whereby he may suffer in his character, credit, and reputation, and in his trade and business; Aben Ezra thinks the words describe the character of the person that is not to bear witness in any court, and to be read thus, “thou shall not answer who art a false witness”: or, “O thou false witness”: meaning that such an one should not be admitted an evidence in court, who had been convicted already of being a false witness; his word and oath are not to be taken, nor should any questions be put to him, or he suffered to answer to any; his depositions should have no weight with those before whom they were made, nay, even they should not be taken, nor such a person be allowed to make any; but this is to put this precept in a quite different form from all the rest, and without any necessity, since the word may as well be taken for a testimony bore, as for the person that bears it: this is the ninth commandment.

Mat 5:33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
Mat 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
Mat 5:35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
Mat 5:36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
Mat 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

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