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“You must not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Bible

“You…your.” The “you” is singular. See commentary on Exodus 20:3, “you.” This is the Third Commandment, and it is just one verse long.

“misuse the name of Yahweh.” God’s name is holy, and people should treat it with respect. This command is often taught as if it meant, “Do not cuss using the name of God (or Jesus),” but it means much more than that. In fullness, it means that people are not to use God’s name for any useless, ungodly, or frivolous purpose. This would of course refer to using God’s name as a cuss word or obscenity, but it would also include many other useless or ungodly purposes. For example, no one is to use God’s name falsely in an oath. In the courtrooms in the USA, people swear on a Bible that they will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth “so help me God,” but some of the people who swear that oath then lie. That is misusing the name of Yahweh. Historically many people have sworn in court using God’s name so they seem sincere and hope to avoid getting caught. But the last half of the verse should weigh heavily upon them—“for Yahweh will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”—because God always knows who misuses His name, and it is a serious sin. It shows the disregard that people have for God that they are more afraid of being caught in a crime by a human court than by God Almighty.

The command not to misuse the name of God was also important because in both ancient and modern times it was common practice to recite the name of God (or a god) as a part of the practice of magic, sorcery, or divination (sometimes the names were spelled or pronounced backwards). That is a terrible misuse of God’s name because God abhors the practice of magic and divination (Deut. 18:9-14).

In its larger sense, the “name” of God also includes the other designations by which He is known other than just “Yahweh.” We are not to misuse “names” such as El Shaddai, Elohim, the Holy One of Israel, etc. Isaiah 8:13 shows us the proper attitude we are to hold towards God: “Yahweh of Armies is who you must respect as holy. He is the one you must fear. He is the one you must dread.” The New Testament tells us to regard Jesus Christ that same way: “but in your hearts, set the Lord Christ apart as holy” (1 Pet. 3:15). Christians are not to use obscenity (Eph. 5:4), but are to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). [For more on not using obscenity, see commentary on Eph. 5:4].


Commentary for: Exodus 20:7