Breaking oaths

Daily Reading for July 13

If it should perhaps happen that we swear carelessly to something which, if carried out, would have most unfortunate consequences, we should be willing to change it in accord with wiser counsel. There is an urgent necessity for us to break our oath, rather than turn to another more serious crime in order to avoid breaking our oath. David swore by the Lord to kill Nabal, a stupid and wicked man, and to destroy all his possessions. But at the first entreaty of the prudent woman Abigail, he quickly took back his threats, put back his sword into its scabbard, and did not feel that he had contracted any guilt by thus breaking his oath in this way. Herod swore that he would give the dancing girl whatever she asked of him, and, to avoid being accused of breaking his oath by those who were at his banquet, he defiled the banquet with blood when he made the reward for the dancing the death of a prophet.

From Bede’s Exposition on the Gospel of Mark 2.23, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament II, Mark, edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998).

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