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In the Gates

Do not take the LORD’s name in vain

The Third Commandment

Do not take the LORD’s name in vain


3.1 Do not sin against God’s Name

Preserve the holiness of God’s Name by not bringing it down through falsehood, cursing, or blasphemy.

Leviticus 19.12

You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 24.15, 16

And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”

Here, undoubtedly, is what most people think of when they hear the third commandment – swearing falsely or idly, using God’s Name as an oath or exclamation, or in a vulgar manner.

Such proscriptions are implied in these statutes; however, there is more. We must not “profane” the Lord’s Name by treating it in any way other than with utmost respect for its great holiness. You probably know that, in the Hebrew Bible, the Name of the Lord is considered too holy even to pronounce. The Hebrew spelling of the Name is given vowel points designed to lead the reader to say, “Adonai” rather than “Yahveh” whenever the divine Name is encountered.

We must not make God’s Name a common thing, or curse the Lord, or use His Name to curse others. His is a holy Name, and we have taken it in order to promote the cause of holiness. Anything contrary to that is a violation of the third commandment.

This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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