Oaths and Vows and the Gibeonites?

Status
Not open for further replies.

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
WCF 22 teaches

"...neither may any man bind himself by an oath to anything but what is good and just...." (Sec. 3)

"It cannot oblige to sin...." (Sec. 4)

"No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded...." (Sec. 7)

I have a question about that, based on the test case of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9. There the leaders of Israel vowed to the Gibeonites not to exterminate them (Joshua 9:15). This oath was treated as binding (Joshua 9:19,20), and in fact God viewed it as binding as can be seen in the judgment that fell on Israel for Saul's failure to keep this oath (2 Samuel 21:1-14, esp. vv.1-3).

So this was clearly a binding oath. And yet, in light of the following passage it would seem that it was an oath which obliged them to sin, or at least hindered a duty commanded in God's word.

How is the teaching of the WCF to be understood in the light of these passages?

When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
[KJV](Deuteronomy 20:10-18)[/KJV]
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think this is a clear case of differing circumstances; and of the different nature of moral law and the judicials, or of moral and positive commands.

What would be less reproachful to the true religion and the true God: to admit that Israel should have consulted the Lord before the treaty, and so had the lies revealed to them beforehand (if God willed); or to totally abrogate a public treaty unilaterally, on the basis of the lie from the other side, and NOT admit that Israel was partly to blame? I think Israel sought a way forward that both acknowledged their own failure, while not letting their ordained enemies off the hook.

And it would appear that God honored their wisdom the second time around, and once again, we see God's mercy in action--mercy toward the undeserving. This decision would appear to have been sought of God in contrast to the first decision. With the result that many of these aliens probably came to faith in Jehovah, carrying wood and water for the Tabernacle service. Though second-class always in Israel, they were blessed by God, and they rejoiced in that.

And then Saul lashed out against them in his pride and ignorance. Think how many Israelites had to approve this act of national hubris. Reminds me of modern people who place nationalism and pride above questions of moral involvement.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
So would you say that had the Israelites vowed, for instance, to cover their neighbor's land, that oath could not have obliged; but since they vowed against something which was a positive command (kill the Canaanites), then it did oblige?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Reubn,
1) I think it was from heaven that the second judgment came. I.e. the first decision to strike the accord was a purely human act, relying on natural judgment, the second was with reference to God's will.

2) I think this was a "hard case": what do we do, when we were commanded to exterminate the peoples, and we fell for a trick and a lie? I'm sure some of the people responded by drawing their swords, and saying: "This was a lie, the treaty is meaningless, we should go up and devastate them." And others said, "Might that not bring even greater reproach upon the name of Jehovah? Let us see what the Lord has to tell us."

3) To answer the question directly, in a too-simplistic way, I would say "yes". So let me elaborate a little.

One cannot take an oath to covet another person's property, any more than he can covenant to murder someone. It's crazy. But if you promise to do something, in good faith especially, and you find out later that this was an oath God would have disapproved of in certain circumstances but not in ALL circumstances, then it seems reasonable to ask the question: has the mistaken vow changed the circumstances at all? This, I see, is part of the equation. :2cents:
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top