Oaths

When Paul visited Jerusalem for the last time the Jews started a riot in the temple that led to his arrest by the Romans.  The Romans brought him before the Jewish council for trial and he was acquitted.  Acts 21:27 – 23:11

Many of the Jews wouldn’t accept this and were determined to kill him.

When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
Acts 23:12-15

Paul’s nephew learned of the plot and warned Paul and the Roman commander.  The commander sent Paul to Caesarea so he would be safe from the Jews. Acts 23:12-35

When reading this I have often wondered whether the Jews who swore not to eat and drink until they killed Paul kept their oath.  Did they die of thirst and starvation?

The Law of Moses makes a provision for people who are in the position these people were in.

If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity; or if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean wild animal or a carcass of unclean livestock or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him and he has become unclean, and he realizes his guilt; or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and realizes his guilt; or if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.
Leviticus 5:1-6

No doubt they made the offering required here when they realized that their plot to kill Paul had failed.

One of the judges of Israel, Jephthah, was apparently unaware of this provision of the law.  If he had known about it, he could have avoided a terrible personal tragedy.

Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand. And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.”

And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”

So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” So he said, “Go.”

Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.
Judges 11:29-40

Jephthah’s vow led him to commit the sin of sacrificing a human, something that God had forbidden.  His willingness to fulfill his vow showed his zeal for God but his lack of knowledge led him to commit an act that was contrary to God’s will.

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Posted on December 13, 2016, in Bible study and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Oaths.

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