The Truthteller Steps In with an Oath
1, 2. (a) Why could the Giver of the Ten Commandments not lie? (b) By making what additions have men proved themselves liars, as, for instance, with regard to the use of images?
THE ninth commandment of the Ten Commandments that Jehovah God issued through his prophet Moses reads: “You must not testify falsely as a witness against your fellow man.” (Ex. 20:16) By this law against lying, the great Lawmaker lines himself up against liars. Hence he could not himself tell a lie and at the same time be in harmony with his own law. (Rom. 1:21-25) He hates lying, and has never been the Father of a lie. His word is like pure gold, refined and thus cleansed of all dross. As the wisest man of ancient times before our Common Era said: “Every saying of God is refined. He is a shield to those taking refuge in him. Add nothing to his words, that he may not reprove you, and that you may not have to be proved a liar.”—Prov. 30:5, 6.
2 By adding man-made traditions and commandments to God’s pure Word, many religious leaders contradicted the teachings and commandments of God’s written Word and have proved to be liars. (Matt. 15:1-9) By adding to God’s written Word the religious teaching that God may be worshiped in a relative way through images, the compromising religious leaders have paved the way for their religious flocks to become idolaters. All persons who thus use man-made images as aids to worship put themselves in the class described in Romans 1:25: “Even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever.” Such creations or man-made religious images are lies. They testify falsely as witnesses against God the Creator. So he could never approve of them.
3. (a) How is God’s Word truth in itself and no lie? (b) Despite this, what has God at times seen good to add to his word?
3 God’s pure Word is truth in itself. It could not be a lie, because, as 1 John 2:21 says, “no lie originates with the truth.” God’s Word is not a lie either in what it says or in any failure of it to come true. God’s promises and prophecies are fulfilled without fail. Hence God’s Word, just by itself, can be relied upon as being the truth and it never loses any of its value as truth. However, at times Jehovah God has seen good to add something to his own bare word of promise or of prophecy. It is not a contradictory addition, but is a strengthening addition. What is that? It is God’s oath, his sworn statement. He swears to his word.
4. In Scripture, who is the first person reported as swearing, and what were the circumstances?
4 In the Holy Bible the first person who is reported as swearing is God’s own friend, Abraham. (Jas. 2:23; Isa. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7) This was in the twentieth century before our Common Era. The patriarch Abraham had put to rout the four marauder kings and had recovered his nephew Lot and his family and also the goods that had been taken from the city of Sodom near which Lot had been living. When Abraham offered to restore all the king’s goods to him, the king of Sodom said: “Give me the souls, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abraham answered: “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.’ Nothing for me!” (Gen. 14:11-24) Abraham thus swore by the highest Personage alive. He could swear by no higher.
5. (a) By what gesture was Abraham’s swearing to the king of Sodom indicated? (b) What two kinds of oaths were there, as indicated by the two different Hebrew words used?
5 Abraham’s swearing or taking an oath was indicated by his raising his hand when he made the statement in reply to the offer of the king of Sodom, lifting it toward “Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth.” This illustrates what an oath is. Says one exhaustive Bible Cyclopædia concerning Oath:
(Jewish), an appeal to God, or to authorities recognized by the respective adjurers, or to anything esteemed sacred, in attestation of an assertion or in confirmation of a given promise or a duty undertaken. . . . “Oath” is the rendering of the Authorized Version of two Hebrew words, alahʹ, אלה and shabuahʹ, שבועה, each of which is used in three significations: . . .
1. An oath as in appeal to God in attestation of the truth of a statement (Nehemiah 10:30; Exodus 22:10);
2. A sworn statement (Genesis 26:28; 2 Samuel 21:7);
3. A curse or imprecation (Numbers 5:21; Daniel 9:11). . . .
The two words alahʹ and shabuahʹ, however, are by no means synonymous. They denote two different modes of swearing, or rather two classes of oaths. Thus alahʹ (from alalʹ, to lament, to wail, to express woe, . . . ) properly means the invocation of woe upon oneself, and shows that the mode of swearing which it describes was connected with an invocation of divine vengeance on the party, if the asseveration made was not true; whereas shabuahʹ (from sheʹbaʽ, seven) literally signifies to seven one’s self, to produce seven, that is, to make a declaration confirmed by seven victims, or before seven witnesses, because . . . seven animals were used in ancient times when mutual promises were given and when alliances were effected (Genesis 21:28-30). . . . The primary distinction, therefore, between the two oaths is, that in the case of the former [alahʹ] an imprecation was used, while in the latter [shabuahʹ] no imprecation was employed.a
6, 7. (a) Whom does the Bible report as swearing more than anybody else? (b) Why, when swearing does Jehovah not need to call down evil upon himself?
6 Do you know that, in the Holy Bible, God is reported as swearing more than anyone else? Do you know that in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures there are seventy or more references to where Jehovah God swears? And yet never in connection with Him is the Hebrew word alahʹ used, namely, the word that indicates that the swearer calls down evil upon himself to give assurance against lying or failure to perform. When Jehovah God swears, he never needs to call for some evil to come upon himself in case the statement that he makes is not true or in case he fails to carry out his promise or his prophecy or fails to fulfill the duty that he undertakes.
7 There is never any possibility of such a thing. So there is no need for Jehovah God to ask for something terrible to happen to him if his word should prove to be a lie or should he not carry out his word or live up to it. Such a thing he could not even suggest with regard to himself. Hence in all cases in the Hebrew text where God is reported swearing, the Hebrew word shabaʽʹis used in the reflexive form, for it means “to seven one’s self.” That means for one to go to the point of perfection, for in the Bible the number seven is used to stand for perfection of degree.
8. (a) When, in Scripture, did God first swear? (b) Of what importance was the statement sworn to?
8 In that first oath reported in the Bible, God’s friend Abraham swore by His name. In turn, in the first case reported of where the Most High God swears, he swears in connection with his friend, Abraham. Since the Most High God, who is “the God of truth,” felt moved to swear, the circumstances must have been unusual, extraordinary. They really were. Moreover, the statement to Abraham to which God swore was of importance to all mankind from the founding of the world down till now, yes, down till the last human baby is born. God’s statement was of particular importance to 144,000 members of the human family who were to begin appearing on earth nineteen centuries afterward. What, then, was the statement? How did it come about?
9. When and where was the sworn statement made, and what was Abraham stopped from doing?
9 The sworn statement was made in the nineteenth century before our Common Era and at Mount Moriah. Away back in that time the walls of the city of Salem (later Jerusalem) did not enclose the top of Mount Moriah. An altar was there, but it was not the altar of the temple of King Solomon of Jerusalem, as that temple was built on Mount Moriah first in the eleventh century before our Common Era. It was an altar of unhewn stones that Abraham had built on which to offer up his son Isaac as a human sacrifice to Jehovah God. In obedience to God’s command Abraham had proceeded to sacrifice Isaac, his only son by his wife Sarah. But just as Abraham was about to kill Isaac, who was lying bound on the wood on top of the altar, God’s angel called out Abraham’s name and said: “Do not put out your hand against the boy and do not do anything at all to him, for now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.”
10. What was the statement to which Jehovah swore?
10 Abraham’s notice was called now to a ram entangled nearby in a thicket. Accepting this animal as God’s provision, Abraham offered it up as a sacrifice instead of Isaac. “And Jehovah’s angel proceeded to call to Abraham the second time out of the heavens and to say: ‘“By myself I do swear [shabaʽʹ],” is the utterance of Jehovah, “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.”’”—Gen. 22:1-18.
11. Why was that sworn statement of world importance, but what may some objector say as to its fulfillment?
11 What do you think? Was the “utterance of Jehovah” on that occasion one of world importance? Yes, because it takes in “all nations of the earth,” including those of today. Fulfillment of it means blessing for us no matter of what nation we are part. Without exception we ought all to be interested in it to the point of doing what we can to bless ourselves by means of Abraham’s promised seed. Ah! but someone may say that Jehovah’s utterance was made almost thirty-nine centuries ago, and all the families of the earth have not yet blessed themselves by means of Abraham’s seed through Isaac, for look, please, at the terrible international conditions today. Look, too, at the condition of the natural circumcised Jews who claim to be the seed of Abraham by birth.
12. What does the objector overlook as regards the nations blessing themselves?
12 However, the objector is overlooking something, is he not? He overlooks the fact that all the nations of the earth began blessing themselves in the promised seed of Abraham nineteen centuries ago, and this even though the nation of natural circumcised Israelites were cast off by Jehovah God. And today more than a million persons of about two hundred known nations are blessing themselves by means of Abraham’s true seed. How could that be possible? It is possible according to the explanation of one of the inspired Bible writers, the apostle Paul. He wrote at about the middle of the first century of our Common Era.
13. (a) Who did the apostle Paul remind the Galatians that the seed of Abraham principally was? (b) But how numerous was the seed of Abraham to be?
13 At that time the apostle Paul was writing to congregations of fellow Christians in the Roman province of Galatia, in Asia Minor. A number of these believers who were not Israelites had been wrongly persuaded to think that they had to make Jews of themselves and get circumcised and subject themselves to the ancient law that God gave through his prophet Moses. The apostle Paul wrote his letter in order to straighten them out. He reminded them that primarily Jesus Christ was the promised Seed of Abraham. This Jesus was actually the only-begotten Son of God and, like the patriarch Abraham, Jehovah God had offered his only-begotten Son as a human sacrifice outside the northern wall of Jerusalem, or near Mount Moriah where Abraham had presented Isaac for sacrifice. However, Jehovah God had said that Abraham’s true seed would be, not one person, but many, the number of whom was then unknown just like the number of the stars or of sand grains on the seashore.
14. (a) Was it necessary for the promise to be fulfilled literally by natural descendants of Abraham? (b) To be true sons of Abraham, what must those participating in the promised seed be and what must they undergo?
14 True, Jesus Christ the Son of God was born and circumcised as a Jew and thus he was a natural descendant of the patriarch Abraham. So through him the blessing of the nations of the earth could be literally fulfilled, exactly as it had to be. The rest of the seed of Abraham did not need to be natural Jews in the flesh. Why not? Because the rest of the seed of Abraham needed, all of them, to become sons of Abraham by means of faith. Abraham was a man of faith in Jehovah God. Because of his faith he was justified or declared righteous in God’s sight, even before Abraham got circumcised in his ninety-ninth year of age. (Rom. 4:9-22) True sons of Abraham, who are counted as part of the promised seed, must have faith in Jehovah, that they may be justified by faith as Abraham was. Then, after their justification or being declared righteous, God begets them by his holy spirit and they become sons of Jehovah God, who was prefigured by his friend Abraham.
15. What did Jesus, though a natural descendant of Abraham, have to become in harmony with all the rest of the seed?
15 They thus become spiritual sons of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, and are counted in as part of the promised seed of Abraham. Even Jesus Christ himself, though a natural son of his earthly forefather Abraham, was begotten by God’s spirit and in this way became a spiritual son of the Greater Abraham. His begetting took place at the time that he came up out of the waters of baptism and God’s spirit descended upon him and God announced him to be a spiritual Son, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:13-17) Eventually the seed of Abraham for blessing all the nations of the earth will be all a spiritual class.
16. Was it a blessing for any to be made part of Abraham’s seed? And through whom did such membership come, and to whom first?
16 It is an unspeakable blessing for anyone to be begotten by God’s spirit and to be made a part of the promised seed of Abraham along with Jesus Christ. This blessing comes from the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God the Father, and through his only-begotten Son Jesus, the Greater Isaac. The first ones to receive this blessing of becoming members of the seed of Abraham for the blessing of still others were natural Jews, a hundred and twenty of them, to begin with, on the festival day of Pentecost of the year 33 of our Common Era. Later Jewish proselytes and Samaritans were added to these. However, the blessing of Abraham was declared to be, not for Jews only, but for all nations, even though not circumcised.
17. To whom did this special blessing go in God’s due time, and what did those thus blessing themselves become?
17 In harmony with this, three and a half years from that Pentecost of 33 C.E., the blessing was extended to uncircumcised Gentiles, Italians in Caesarea of Judea being the first ones to receive the blessing of Abraham. This opened the way for the blessing to go to people of all the nations, without distinction, those thus blessing themselves by means of the Seed of Abraham being begotten by the holy spirit of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, to become part of the Seed of Abraham, even down till now. So God has not failed in fulfilling his sworn promise to Abraham.
18, 19. (a) Does the blessing of Abraham come upon those depending on the works of the Law? (b) By imitating Abraham, in what respect do persons become members of his seed?
18 Note, now, how Paul explains the matter, when writing to fellow members of that Seed in Galatia. He refers to himself as “He, therefore, who supplies you the spirit and performs powerful works among you,” and after that he asks:
19 “Does he do it owing to works of law or owing to a hearing by faith? Just as Abraham ‘put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Surely you know that those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham. Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham. For all those who depend upon works of law are under a curse; for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone that does not continue in all the things written in the scroll of the Law in order to do them.’ The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham might come to be by means of Jesus Christ for the nations, that we might receive the promised spirit through our faith.
20. Is a validated covenant alterable, and in the case of how many seeds was the promise made to Abraham?
20 “Brothers, I speak with a human illustration: A validated covenant, though it is a man’s, no one sets aside or attaches additions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.
21. How can there be just the one seed although there are many members?
21 “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.
22. How are the apostle Paul’s brothers “children” such as Isaac was?
22 “Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was.”—Gal. 3:5-10, 14-16, 26-29; 4:28.
23, 24. (a) By now how many must there be of the seed of Abraham? (b) How do we know the maximum number of the seed, and why must they all be faithful to the death?
23 By now, in this year 1965, how many of this seed of Abraham must there be, that is, counting in those from the first century onward? The Scriptural answer is, Not more than 144,000 of these spiritual sons of Abraham. This definite number is given in the very last book of the Holy Bible. This number, 144,000, in no way compares with the number of the stars that science has been able to count thus far. But the actual number remained unknown to Christians for forty or more years after the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christian congregations in Galatia, just as the number of the stars that Abraham saw with his natural eyes.
24 Then, about the year 96 of our Common Era, in two of the visions that the apostle John recorded in the book Revelation the exact number of the spiritual seed of Abraham who are joined to the Principal Seed was revealed, namely, the perfectly balanced number of 144,000. (Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-3) These spirit-begotten 144,000 followers of the Principal Seed Jesus Christ must all be sacrificed with him on earth. Proving faithful to the death of their flesh, they will become joint heirs with him in the heavenly kingdom by resurrection from the dead.—1 Cor. 15:29-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-9.
25. What did the 11,500 indicate by partaking of the bread and wine at the Lord’s evening meal in 1965, and how should God’s oath to Abraham affect them?
25 So it is that, at the celebration of the Lord’s evening meal on Nisan 14 of this year 1965, there were about 11,500 who partook of the emblematic bread and wine to indicate that they were members of the spiritual seed of Abraham, heirs of the heavenly inheritance with the Principal Seed Jesus Christ. (Luke 22:14-30;1 Cor. 11:20-32) To this tiny remnant of the 144,000 the sworn oath that Jehovah God added to his promise to Abraham on Mount Moriah ought to be of special comfort and encouragement to keep faithful. Why?
THE PURPOSE OF THE SWORN OATH
26. What is the purpose of a sworn oath, as stated in Hebrews 6:16?
26 Well, what is the purpose of a sworn oath? An inspired explanation of it is given to us in Hebrews 6:16, in these words: “Men swear by the one greater, and their oath is the end of every dispute, as it is a legal guarantee to them.”
27. So Jehovah’s sworn oath to Abraham should have ended what dispute?
27 So when Jehovah God swore, saying: “‘By myself I do swear,’ is the utterance of Jehovah,” it provided a special legal guarantee on the part of the Supreme Judge of the universe. It should have ended any dispute on the part of all mankind, including us today, as to whether a blessing should come to all the nations of the earth, not only to Abraham’s natural descendants, but also to all the other families of the ground.—Gen. 12:1-3; 22:16-18.
28. What fact about God’s oath should give us added assurance?
28 Why should any of us dispute about it today? Why should any of us entertain any doubts about it today? Let us, rather, draw added assurance from God’s own voluntary oath. He was not obliged to swear to the truthfulness of his promise to Abraham about the seed of blessing. Abraham had no right to demand that God swear to his promise. Of his own accord God chose to swear by himself, and he had a loving reason for doing so. Paul explains it this way:
29. What was God’s purpose in stepping in with an oath when making his promise to Abraham, and so, rather than be sluggish, what should we be?
29 “You may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made his promise to Abraham, since he could not swear by anyone greater, he swore by himself, saying: ‘Assuredly in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply you.’ And thus after Abraham had shown patience, he obtained this promise. For men swear by the one greater, and their oath is the end of every dispute, as it is a legal guarantee to them. In this manner God, when he purposed to demonstrate more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his counsel, stepped in with an oath, in order that, through two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to the refuge may have strong encouragement to lay hold on the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm, and it enters in within the curtain [to the Most Holy], where a forerunner has entered in our behalf, Jesus, who has become a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever.”—Heb. 6:12-20.
30. Why should the remnant’s hope remain firm and sure, and to what end?
30 As a consequence the remnant yet on earth of the 144,000 lesser members of the promised seed of Abraham draw strong encouragement from the sworn oath of the Most High God, who never perjures or forswears himself, because he is “the God of truth.” The remnant’s hope, which is anchored within the Most Holy or heavenly sanctuary of Jehovah God, should ever remain firm and sure, so that they continue to exercise patience and endurance just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did in their days.
31. Who else today are entitled to draw strong encouragement from God’s oath to his promise, and according to what vision to John?
31 However, the remnant yet in the flesh of the 144,000 are today not the only ones entitled to draw strong encouragement from the oath that binds God’s promise. Today a great crowd of other believers in God and in Jesus Christ his Lamb are entitled to do so. Why so? Well, after numbering, for the first time in Bible history, the exact membership of the spiritual seed of Abraham, Revelation chapter seven goes on to say: “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Rev. 7:9, 10) Ah, yes, God’s oathbound promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled to more than just those who would become spiritual sons of Abraham, 144,000 in number. It was also to be fulfilled to the earthly nations and families outside this promised seed composed of Jesus Christ and his 144,000 joint heirs. This includes dead humans as well as those now living.
32. What is evident from the fact that the “great crowd” are now seen giving the credit for their salvation to God and his Lamb?
32 Already this “great crowd” of believers from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages have begun to enter into the blessing by means of the seed of Abraham. They know that already, before the remnant are transferred to the heavenly kingdom, they are experiencing precious blessings through the promised seed of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God. Consequently this interracial, international, intertribal, interlingual “great crowd” are giving the credit for their salvation to Jehovah God on his heavenly throne and to his Lamb Jesus Christ, the Principal Seed of Abraham.
33. Why does also this “great crowd” need to be encouraged, and so what must they too keep in mind?
33 Destruction of Babylon the Great, and the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” and the binding and imprisoning of Satan the Devil and his demons have not yet taken place to remove all the enemies and persecutors, visible and invisible. Hence this “great crowd” with hopes of an earthly Paradise under God’s kingdom needs to be encouraged to avoid sluggishness and to be faithful and to endure, just as the spiritual remnant do. For this reason the “great crowd” needs to keep in mind God’s swearing by his own Self to confirm his unbreakable promise for their eternal blessing.
34. (a) By what two things has Jehovah’s counsel been rendered unchangeable? (b) As what kind of God has Jehovah already vindicated himself, and, with Paul, what do we declare our position to be toward God?
34 God’s word is unchangeable. God’s oath is unchangeable. Since these two things, His word and His oath, were given in connection with his counsel that he has seen good to reveal to us, this makes his counsel also unchangeable. Even now by what the Most High God Jehovah has already done with regard to his revealed counsel He stands vindicated, justified, before all heaven and earth. Let the devils deny, let all men under control of the devils deny and disbelieve it, yet Jehovah the Most High God stands revealed and proved as “the God of truth.” What do we care whether the overwhelming majority of this world are unbelievers. We believe and accept God’s Word for its own truthfulness. We also respect the unbreakable binding power of God’s oath that he swore by the greatest and highest one in all existence. Therefore we declare unequivocally that our position is the same as that taken by the Christian apostle Paul when he wrote: “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.”—Rom. 3:4.
a M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, edition of 1891, Volume 7, page 256, under “Oath.”
[Picture on page 685]
God makes an oath to Abraham