Exodus 20:7, Taking the Lord’s name in vain.

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

//Growing up, I understood swearing to be a serious sin. It was taking the Lord’s name in vain. So serious was this ban against swearing by God, that God made room for its inclusion in the Ten Commandments. But is this really what God meant by this rule?

Most scholars doubt it. Note the more precise wording of the NIV: you shall not “misuse” the Lord’s name.

In antiquity, the name of a god was sacred. A person who knew a god’s name held some power over him. In an age where an oath was binding, swearing an oath by the name of a god obligated that god to help with the request.

Now let’s go back to before the law was written, in Exodus 6:3, where God is talking to Moses: I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—’God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. Oops! In what sounds like a slip of the tongue, God discloses his name. He has kept it a secret for 2,500 years, but now the secret is out, and he’ll spend the next 1,500 years until the time of Christ trying to erase his mistake.

Back to the Third Commandment. God probably doesn’t care if we let loose a little goddamn when our tight end drops an easy catch. He cares that we don’t swear an oath by his secret name, Yahweh.

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