How is the third command interpreted to-day? The exact meaning of the original Hebrew is not entirely clear. It may be interpreted literally: “Thou shall not invoke the name of Jehovah, thy God, in vain.” The interpretation turns on the meaning of the phrase, in vain. This admits of four different translations: (1) Purposelessly, and therefore needlessly or irreverently; (2) for destruction, as when a man calls down a curse upon another; (3) for nothing, that is in swearing to what is not true; and (4) in the practice of sorcery or witchcraft, for this word was frequently used by the Hebrews as a scornful designation of heathen abominations. Is it possible that the original command was intended to guard against each of these evils? If so, it broadens and deepens its modern application. Its fundamental idea is evidently reverence and sincerity.
Why did the Hebrew law-givers place these three laws, which emphasize absolute loyalty to Jehovah, at the beginning of the decalogue? What do we mean to-day by loyalty to God? Loyalty to Jehovah was not only the corner stone of Israel’s religion but also of the Hebrew state. During the wilderness period and far down into later periods it was the chief and at times practically the only bond that bound together the individual members of the tribe and nation. Disloyalty to Jehovah was treason, and even the mild code found in the book of Deuteronomy directs that apostasy be punished by public stoning. Loyalty to God or at least to the individual sense of right to-day as in the past is the first essential of effective citizenship. Which is the more essential for the welfare of the state, the manual, the mental or the religious training of its citizens? Where is the chief emphasis placed to-day? Is this right?
THE SOCIAL AND ETHICAL BASIS OF THE SABBATH LAW.
The institution of the Sabbath in different countries apparently has a long and complex history. Many explanations have been given of its origin, aside from the direct divine command. The simplest and most satisfactory is probably that it was originally connected with the worship of the moon. There are many indications in Hebrew history that the early ancestors of the Israelites were moon worshippers. To-day as in the distant past the inhabitants of the deserts from whence came the forefathers of the Hebrews make their journeys under the clear, cool light of the moon, avoiding the hot, piercing rays of the mid-day sun. The moon with its marvelous transformations is unquestionably the most striking and awe-inspiring object in the heavens. It is not strange, therefore, that many primitive peoples and especially the nomadic desert dwellers worshipped it as the supreme embodiment of beauty and power.