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Article Info:
published: 10/8/13

You Shall Not Misuse the Name of God



The Third Commandment

You shall not misuse the name of God is the third of the 10 Commandments that God gave the Israelites through Moses. The name of God - which in Hebrew is pronounced Yahweh (and sometimes written as "YHWH") - is sacred because it stands for His person; for this reason, it must not be used in any vain or false way. The third commandment includes more than false swearing. Cursing, blasphemy and every profane use of the name of Yahweh are forbidden. This commandment continues to be observed in the Jewish religion.

What is the Scripture reference? Exodus 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." (KJV); "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain." (ESV)

What is the relationship focus? People and God (commandments 1-4 emphasis people's relationship with God)

Is the commandment a prohibition? Yes (the commandment is saying what "must not be" done as opposed to what "must be" done)


Explanation

In the Hebrew Bible itself, the commandment is directed against abuse of the name of God, not against any use; there are numerous examples in the Hebrew Bible and a few in the New Testament where God’s name is called upon in oaths to tell the truth or to support the truth of the statement being sworn to, and the books of Daniel and Revelation include instances where an angel sent by God invokes the name of God to support the truth of apocalyptic revelations.

In the New Testament

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ taught that a person's word should be reliable and one should not swear by God or his creation. In his letter, the Apostle James reiterates the instruction to just say 'yes' or 'no' and keep your word, "so that you may not fall into condemnation."

According to David Cook, appeals to authorities to validate the truth of a promise had expanded in Jesus' day, which was not in line with the original commandment. Jesus is quoted as warning that they were blind and foolish who gave credibility to such arguments.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus made appeals to the power of the name of God and also claimed the name of God as his own, which constituted blasphemy if it were not true. The Gospel of John relates an incident where a group attempts to stone Jesus after he speaks God's name.

Jesus says that he is the Messiah, and makes parallels between himself and the "Son of Man" referred to by the prophet Daniel, which evokes an emphatic response that he has blasphemed (broken the commandment) and deserves death.

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