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A9. Swearing Falsely.    [Make a Comment]

We are not to swear to that which we know is not true.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 20:7 (Maimonides RN62; Meir MN29; Chinuch C30)
You are not to use lightly the name of ADONAI your God, because ADONAI will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly.

Leviticus 5:21-24(6:2-5) (Maimonides RN249; Chinuch C226)
If someone sins and acts perversely against ADONAI by dealing falsely with his neighbor in regard to a deposit or security entrusted to him, by stealing from him, by extorting him, or by dealing falsely in regard to a lost object he has found, or by swearing to a lie - if a person commits any of these sins, then, if he sinned and is guilty, he is to restore whatever it was he stole or obtained by extortion, or whatever was deposited with him, or the lost object which he found, or anything about which he has sworn falsely. He is to restore it in full plus an additional one-fifth; he must return it to the person who owns it, on the day when he presents his guilt offering.

Leviticus 19:11-12 (Maimonides RN61, RN249; Meir MN30-31; Chinuch C226-227)
Do not steal from, defraud or lie to each other. Do not swear by my name falsely, which would be profaning the name of your God; I am ADONAI.

Numbers 30:2-3(1-2)
Then Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Isra&039;el. He said, "Here is what ADONAI has ordered: when a man makes a vow to ADONAI or formally obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is not to break his word but is to do everything he said he would do."

Matthew 5:33-37
Again, you have heard that our fathers were told, 'Do not break your oath,' and 'Keep your vows to ADONAI.' But I tell you not to swear at all - not 'by heaven,' because it is God's throne; not 'by the earth,' because it is his footstool; and not 'by Yerushalayim,' because it is the city of the Great King. And don't swear by your head, because you can't make a single hair white or black. Just let your 'Yes' be a simple 'Yes,' and your 'No' a simple 'No'; anything more than this has its origin in evil.

Supportive Scriptures - Miscellaneous

Exodus 20:13b
Do not give false evidence against your neighbor.

Deuteronomy 19:16-20
If a malicious witness comes forward and gives false testimony against someone, then both the men involved in the controversy are to stand before ADONAI, before the cohanim and the judges in office at the time. The judges are to investigate carefully. If they find that the witness is lying and has given false testimony against his brother, you are to do to him what he intended to do to his brother. In this way, you will put an end to such wickedness among you. Those who remain will hear about it, be afraid and no longer commit such wickedness among you.

Zechariah 8:16-17
'These are the things you are to do: speak the truth to each other; in your courts, administer justice that is true and conducive to peace; don't plot harm against each other; and don't love perjury; for all these are things I hate,' says ADONAI.

Supportive Scriptures - Examples of Swearing Falsely

Jeremiah 5:2
And though they say, 'As ADONAI lives,' the fact is that they are swearing falsely.

Jeremiah 7:9
First you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, offer to Ba'al and go after other gods that you haven't known.

Hosea 10:4
They mouth words, swearing falsely, making treaties. Thus judgment spreads like poisonous weeds in the furrows of a field.

Zechariah 5:4
'I will release it,' says ADONAI-Tzva'ot, 'and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name; it will stay there inside the house and consume it completely, even its timbers and stones.'


Swearing, in the context of this mitzvah, is invoking the Name of God in order to add a weight of truth to that which is spoken. Swearing can be formal (such as in a court of law), in which case swearing falsely is known as "perjury", and one can be punished by the court for committing it. Swearing can also be informal such as when one makes a comment on the spur of the moment and adds an oath to the comment as a way of attempting to assure its truth. In either case, the Scriptures that underlay this Mitzvah make it clear that one must never swear to that which is untrue.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch take great pains to employ three Scriptures (Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 5:22(6:3), and Leviticus 19:11-12) and many words of explanation in order to produce three mitzvot from what is essentially the same. Maimonides distinguishes two of them by emphasizing a shebuat bittui (verbal oath) from a shebuat shav (false oath), from an oath made to repudiate a debt, and the other two commentators do similarly using various indicators of distinction, and they distinguish the third Scripture by its reference to theft.


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