What does it mean to take God’s name in vain? In Ex20:7, taking God’s name … in vain is forbidden. This means to swear by God’s name that a false statement is actually true. It could also include profanity, cursing, minced oaths, or swearing to a promise and failing to fulfill it.
Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. It is disputed whether this is a right rendering. Shâv in Hebrew means both “vanity” and “falsehood;” so that the Third Commandment may forbid either “vain-swearing” or simply “false-swearing.” It is in favor of the latter interpretation, that our Lord seems to contrast his own prohibition of unnecessary oaths with the ancient prohibition of false oaths in the words—“Ye have heard that it hath been said by” (or “to”) “them of old time—Thou shall not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you—Swear not at all” (Matt. 5:33–34). It is also in favor of the command being leveled against false-swearing, that perjury should naturally, as a great sin, have a special prohibition directed against it in the Decalogue, while vain-swearing, as a little sin, would scarcely seem entitled to such notice.
Perjury has always been felt to be one of the greatest both of moral and of social offences. It implies an absolute want of any reverence at all for God; and it destroys civil society by rendering the administration of justice impossible. There has been a general horror of it among all civilized nations. The Egyptians punished perjury with death. The Greeks thought that a divine Nemesis pursued the perjured man, and brought destruction both upon himself and upon his offspring (Herod. vi. 86). The Romans regarded the perjurer as infamous, and the object of Divine vengeance in the other world (Sic. De Leg. ii. 9). 
Published on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 @ 7:21 AM CDT