·Don’t swear an oath using the name of the earth [L …nor by earth], because the earth ·belongs to God [L is his footstool; Is. 66:1]. ·Don’t swear an oath using the name of Jerusalem […nor by Jerusalem], because it is the city of the great King [Ps. 48:2].
“Again, you have heard that the people in the old days were told—‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord’, but I say to you, don’t use an oath at all. Don’t swear by Heaven for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth for it is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king. No, and don’t swear by your own head, for you cannot make a single hair—white or black! Whatever you have to say let your ‘yes’ be a plain ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ a plain ‘no’—anything more than this has a taint of evil.
“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.
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