In ancient Israel, legal proceedings usually took place outside at the gates of each city where the elders of the town gathered for judgment.
This gave members of the local population the opportunity to observe these trials and stand witness if called to do so.
The beginning of the story of Absalom’s revolt against his father, King David, reveals that the royal courts also functioned in like manner.
“He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”-2 Samuel 15:2-4
At these legal proceedings, oaths were taken in the name of YHVH by those who would then be held responsible for carrying out the curse that accompanied the oath.
The formulaic phrasing that was often used was “Thus may YHVH do to me, and thus may he continue to do so…“
In effect, “May God do such and such to me, if I am not speaking the truth”.
And yes, God’s personal and formal name YAHWEH was used.
This Hebrew phrase has also seeped into our English language as “So help me God!“
Now did you catch the connection of this 9th commandment to the 3rd commandment to “not use the Lord’s name in vain”?
If you recall, the 3rd Word of God is a command against invoking the Lord’s Name “YHVH” in a frivolous manner as part of a vow or oath.
If you want to review, click here.
So if you take an oath in God’s name and then give a false testimony in a court of law, we’re talking about a double whammy here!
You’ve now broken two commandments: the 3rd Word and the 9th Word.
An Israelite is not to swear falsely using God’s personal name, whether in court or otherwise.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago,
‘Do not break your oath,
but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’
But I tell you,
do not swear an oath at all:
either by heaven,
for it is God’s throne;
or by the earth,
for it is his footstool;
or by Jerusalem,
for it is the city of the Great King.
And do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make even one hair white or black.
All you need to say is simply
‘Yes’ or ‘No’;
anything beyond this comes from the evil one”