Taking An Oath

In Acts, about forty Jews took an oath and set a plot to kill Paul. Their oath was to not eat or drink anything until they had killed him. Whenever I read this account in Acts I often wonder the same thing, what happened to these forty people in the end.

Putting aside their plot to wrongfully kill Paul for a moment, let us take a look at their oath. God made it clear that making an oath is very serious and should not be broken:

A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.” Numbers 30:2

Their oath and plot to kill Paul the next day turns into five days, which is not too bad for them. Five days can be considered a nice fast. But five days turns into two years! That is where I begin wondering. After two years something would have had to happened to these people. (And we are still not talking about his trip to and time spent in Rome.) I think there are two scenarios that play out for the conspirators.

  • Disregarding God’s command in Numbers, they give up on the oath, dig into some good food, and decide it was a good effort in the end.
  • They all die of dehydration within the first year and, with a raised hand, slowly scream “Paaaauuuullll……” as they fade away having honored their oath.

The overzealous oath-takers probably chose the first way, but their actions serve as a good reminder for me: do not make oaths impetuously. I actually made that mistake within the first couple years I was a Christian. I made a vow with God that was very difficult to keep. Unfortunately, at times I have struggled to honor it.

There are good vows to make, such as the one I made to Michele when we got married, but most of the time they are not needed. That is why I teach Asher to follow Jesus’ teaching when wanting to make promises to others: just let your yes be yes and your no be no (Matthew 5:37).