Swear by the altar or the gift (Mt 23:18-23:18)

“You say.

‘Whoever swears

By the altar,

Is bound by nothing.

But whoever swears

By the gift

That is on the altar,

Is bound

By the oath.’”

 

καί Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ, οὐδέν ἐστιν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ δώρῳ τῷ ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, ὀφείλει.

 

This unique diatribe against the Scribes and Pharisees continued in Matthew alone with the same idea and phrases that were expressed in verse 16.  These Pharisees and Scribes say that whoever swears by the altar (καί Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ) was not bound by anything, because it was considered as nothing (οὐδέν ἐστιν).  However, anyone who swears by the gift that is on the altar (ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ δώρῳ τῷ ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ) was bound by his oath (ὀφείλει).  In other words, the only thing that they were bound to fulfill was the gift on the altar that they were contributing, not other vows or promises.  This goes back to the question of whether you should swear to do anything or not, as posed earlier in this work in chapter 5:33-37.

Blind guides (Mt 23:16-23:16)

“Woe to you!

Blind guides!

You say.

‘Whoever swears

By the temple,

Is bound by nothing.

But whoever swears

By the gold

Of the Temple,

Is bound

By the oath.’”

 

Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὁδηγοὶ τυφλοὶ οἱ λέγοντες Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ ναῷ, οὐδέν ἐστιν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ χρυσῷ τοῦ ναοῦ, ὀφείλει.

 

This unique diatribe against the Scribes and Pharisees continued in Matthew alone.  But here they are called blind guides, as Matthew had earlier mentioned in chapter 15:14.  Jesus cursed (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν) these blind guides (ὁδηγοὶ τυφλοὶ) because they were saying (οἱ λέγοντες) that whoever swore by the Temple (Ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ ναῷ) were not bound by it since it was considered nothing (οὐδέν ἐστιν).  However, anyone who swore by the gold of the Temple (ὃς δ’ ἂν ὀμόσῃ ἐν τῷ χρυσῷ τοῦ ναοῦ) were bound (ὀφείλει) by that oath.  In other words, the only thing that they were bound to fulfill was the money that they said they were going to contribute, not other vows or promises.  This goes back to the question of whether you should swear to do anything or not, as posed earlier in this work in chapter 5:33-37.

False witness (Mt 5:33-5:33)

“Again,

You have heard

That it was said

To your ancient ancestors.

‘You shall not swear falsely!

But carry out

The vows

You have made

To the Lord.’”

 

Πάλιν ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις Οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις, ἀποδώσεις δὲ τῷ Κυρίῳ τοὺς ὅρκους σου.

 

Jesus, via Matthew, expounded on another of the Ten Commandments, bearing false witness or lying, as expressed in Exodus, chapter 20:7.  Apparently, this was unique to Matthew.  They had all heard what was said to their ancestors (Πάλιν ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις).  They were not to swear falsely or lie (Οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις).  Then Matthew added that they also should do or perform the vows that they swore to do to the Lord (ἀποδώσεις δὲ τῷ Κυρίῳ τοὺς ὅρκους σου), as indicated in Deuteronomy, chapter 23:21-23.  They should be careful about what they vow.  They should fulfill these vows quickly, since they were free to vow to the Lord God, Yahweh, or not.  However, when they did, they should make sure that they did what they said that they were going to do.

Yahweh in control of Egypt (Isa 19:19-19:22)

“On that day,

There will be an altar to Yahweh

In the center of the land of Egypt.

There will be a pillar to Yahweh

At its border.

It will be a sign.

It will be a witness

To Yahweh of hosts

In the land of Egypt.

When they cry to Yahweh

Because of oppressors,

He will send them a savior.

He will defend them.

He will deliver them.

Yahweh will make himself known

To the Egyptians.

The Egyptians will know Yahweh.

On that day,

They will worship with sacrifice.

They will worship with burnt offering.

They will make vows to Yahweh.

They will perform them.

Yahweh will strike Egypt,

Striking and healing.

They will return to Yahweh.

He will listen to their supplications.

He will heal them.”

On that special day, the Egyptians will convert to Yahweh. They will build an altar to Yahweh in the center of Egypt, much like another Jerusalem. There will even be a pillar to Yahweh at the borders of Egypt. This would indicate and witness that Egypt was under the protection of Yahweh. If they had any oppressors, all that they had to do was to cry out to Yahweh for help. Then he would send a savior to them in order to defend and deliver them. They were also going to be the people of Yahweh as the Egyptians would worship with sacrifices and burnt offerings to Yahweh. They would make vows and perform them for Yahweh. Yahweh would listen to them and heal them. He even would forgive them like the Israelites. Thus we have a new people of Yahweh in Egypt. How different this is from the idea of a few remnant Israelites in Jerusalem.

Vows (Eccl 5:4-5:6)

“When you make a vow to God,

Do not delay fulfilling it.

God has no pleasure in fools.

Fulfill what you vow!

It is better that you should not vow

Than that you should vow

Yet not fulfill it.

‘Do not let your mouth

Lead you into sin!

Do not say before the messenger

That it was a mistake!

Why should God be angry

At your words?

Why should he destroy

The work of your hands?’”

If you make a vow, fulfill it! Quite often, these vows were Temple payments. God does not take pleasure in fools. It is better not to make a vow that you were not able to fulfill. Don’t let your mouth lead you into sin! Don’t blame the messenger! God can be angry at your words. He could destroy your work.

Servant of Yahweh (Ps 116:16-116:19)

“Yahweh!

I am your servant.

I am your servant.

I am the child of your servant girl.

You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice.

I will call on the name of Yahweh.

I will pay my vows to Yahweh

In the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of Yahweh,

In your midst,

O Jerusalem!

Praise Yahweh!”

The psalmist is a servant for Yahweh. He was the child of a servant. However, Yahweh set him free. Therefore he was going to offer a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of Yahweh. He, like he said earlier, was going to pay his vows to Yahweh in the presence of all the people, in the courts of the house of Yahweh. He would be there in the midst of Jerusalem. He ended this psalm with the rousing, “Praise Yahweh” or the alleluia refrain, the Hebrew “Hallelujah.”

Praise God in Zion (Ps 65:1-65:4)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of David, a song

“Praise is due to you!

O God in Zion!

To you

Shall vows be performed!

O you who answer prayers!

To you

All flesh shall come!

When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,

You forgive our transgressions!

Happy are those

Whom you choose!

Happy are those

Whom you bring near!

Happy are those

Who live in your courts!

We shall be satisfied

With the goodness of your house,

Your holy temple!”

Psalm 65 is a choral psalm of David that is a song of thanksgiving and praise for the abundant harvest. This psalm refers to the holy Temple at Zion, but that was not completed until after the death of King David. Praise and vows should be given to the God at Zion because he answers prayers. All people should come when evil deeds overwhelm them. God will forgive sins. Even happier are those who are chosen to live in the courts of the Temple, which would be the Levites. They will be satisfied with the goodness of the Holy Temple, the house of God.