In the Holy Bible the first person who is reported as swearing is God’s own friend, Abraham. This was in the twentieth century before our Common Era. The patriarch Abraham had put to rout the four marauder kings and had recovered his nephew Lot and his family and also the goods that had been taken from the city of Sodom near which Lot had been living. When Abraham offered to restore all the king’s goods to him, the king of Sodom said: “Give me the souls, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abraham answered: “I do lift up my hand in an oath to Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth, that, from a thread to a sandal lace, no, I shall take nothing from anything that is yours, in order that you may not say, ‘It was I who made Abram rich.’ Nothing for me!” (Gen. 14:11-24) Abraham thus swore by the highest Personage alive. He could swear by no higher.
Abraham’s swearing or taking an oath was indicated by his raising his hand when he made the statement in reply to the offer of the king of Sodom, lifting it toward “Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth.” This illustrates what an oath is. Says one exhaustive Bible Cyclopædia concerning Oath:
(Jewish), an appeal to God, or to authorities recognized by the respective adjurers, or to anything esteemed sacred, in attestation of an assertion or in confirmation of a given promise or a duty undertaken. . . . “Oath” is the rendering of the Authorized Version of two Hebrew words, alah′, אלה and shabuah′, שבועה, each of which is used in three significations: . . .
1. An oath as in appeal to God in attestation of the truth of a statement (Nehemiah 10:30; Exodus 22:10);
2. A sworn statement (Genesis 26:28; 2 Samuel 21:7);
3. A curse or imprecation (Numbers 5:21; Daniel 9:11). . . .
The two words alah′ and shabuah′, however, are by no means synonymous. They denote two different modes of swearing, or rather two classes of oaths. Thus alah′ (from alal′, to lament, to wail, to express woe, . . . ) properly means the invocation of woe upon oneself, and shows that the mode of swearing which it describes was connected with an invocation of divine vengeance on the party, if the asseveration made was not true; whereas shabuah′ (from she′baʽ, seven) literally signifies to seven one’s self, to produce seven, that is, to make a declaration confirmed by seven victims, or before seven witnesses, because . . . seven animals were used in ancient times when mutual promises were given and when alliances were effected (Genesis 21:28-30). . . . The primary distinction, therefore, between the two oaths is, that in the case of the former [alah′] an imprecation was used, while in the latter [shabuah′] no imprecation was employed.
Do you know that, in the Holy Bible, God is reported as swearing more than anyone else? Do you know that in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures there are seventy or more references to where Jehovah God swears? And yet never in connection with Him is the Hebrew word alah′ used, namely, the word that indicates that the swearer calls down evil upon himself to give assurance against lying or failure to perform. When Jehovah God swears, he never needs to call for some evil to come upon himself in case the statement that he makes is not true or in case he fails to carry out his promise or his prophecy or fails to fulfill the duty that he undertakes.
There is never any possibility of such a thing. So there is no need for Jehovah God to ask for something terrible to happen to him if his word should prove to be a lie or should he not carry out his word or live up to it. Such a thing he could not even suggest with regard to himself. Hence in all cases in the Hebrew text where God is reported swearing, the Hebrew word shabaʽ′is used in the reflexive form, for it means “to seven one’s self.” That means for one to go to the point of perfection, for in the Bible the number seven is used to stand for perfection of degree.
In that first oath reported in the Bible, God’s friend Abraham swore by His name. In turn, in the first case reported of where the Most High God swears, he swears in connection with his friend, Abraham. Since the Most High God, who is “the God of truth,” felt moved to swear, the circumstances must have been unusual, extraordinary. They really were. Moreover, the statement to Abraham to which God swore was of importance to all mankind from the founding of the world down till now, yes, down till the last human baby is born. God’s statement was of particular importance to 144,000 members of the human family who were to begin appearing on earth nineteen centuries afterward. What, then, was the statement? How did it come about?
The sworn statement was made in the nineteenth century before our Common Era and at Mount Moriah. Away back in that time the walls of the city of Salem (later Jerusalem) did not enclose the top of Mount Moriah. An altar was there, but it was not the altar of the temple of King Solomon of Jerusalem, as that temple was built on Mount Moriah first in the eleventh century before our Common Era. It was an altar of unhewn stones that Abraham had built on which to offer up his son Isaac as a human sacrifice to Jehovah God. In obedience to God’s command Abraham had proceeded to sacrifice Isaac, his only son by his wife Sarah. But just as Abraham was about to kill Isaac, who was lying bound on the wood on top of the altar, God’s angel called out Abraham’s name and said: “Do not put out your hand against the boy and do not do anything at all to him, for now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.”
Abraham’s notice was called now to a ram entangled nearby in a thicket. Accepting this animal as God’s provision, Abraham offered it up as a sacrifice instead of Isaac. “And Jehovah’s angel proceeded to call to Abraham the second time out of the heavens and to say: ‘“By myself I do swear [shabaʽ′],” is the utterance of Jehovah, “that by reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.”’”—Gen. 22:1-18.
What do you think? Was the “utterance of Jehovah” on that occasion one of world importance? Yes, because it takes in “all nations of the earth,” including those of today. Fulfillment of it means blessing for us no matter of what nation we are part. Without exception we ought all to be interested in it to the point of doing what we can to bless ourselves by means of Abraham’s promised seed. Ah! but someone may say that Jehovah’s utterance was made almost thirty-nine centuries ago, and all the families of the earth have not yet blessed themselves by means of Abraham’s seed through Isaac, for look, please, at the terrible international conditions today. Look, too, at the condition of the natural circumcised Jews who claim to be the seed of Abraham by birth.
However, the objector is overlooking something, is he not? He overlooks the fact that all the nations of the earth began blessing themselves in the promised seed of Abraham nineteen centuries ago, and this even though the nation of natural circumcised Israelites were cast off by Jehovah God. And today more than a million persons of about two hundred known nations are blessing themselves by means of Abraham’s true seed. How could that be possible? It is possible according to the explanation of one of the inspired Bible writers, the apostle Paul. He wrote at about the middle of the first century of our Common Era.
At that time the apostle Paul was writing to congregations of fellow Christians in the Roman province of Galatia, in Asia Minor. A number of these believers who were not Israelites had been wrongly persuaded to think that they had to make Jews of themselves and get circumcised and subject themselves to the ancient law that God gave through his prophet Moses. The apostle Paul wrote his letter in order to straighten them out. He reminded them that primarily Jesus Christ was the promised Seed of Abraham. This Jesus was actually the only-begotten Son of God and, like the patriarch Abraham, Jehovah God had offered his only-begotten Son as a human sacrifice outside the northern wall of Jerusalem, or near Mount Moriah where Abraham had presented Isaac for sacrifice. However, Jehovah God had said that Abraham’s true seed would be, not one person, but many, the number of whom was then unknown just like the number of the stars or of sand grains on the seashore.
True, Jesus Christ the Son of God was born and circumcised as a Jew and thus he was a natural descendant of the patriarch Abraham. So through him the blessing of the nations of the earth could be literally fulfilled, exactly as it had to be. The rest of the seed of Abraham did not need to be natural Jews in the flesh. Why not? Because the rest of the seed of Abraham needed, all of them, to become sons of Abraham by means of faith. Abraham was a man of faith in Jehovah God. Because of his faith he was justified or declared righteous in God’s sight, even before Abraham got circumcised in his ninety-ninth year of age. (Rom. 4:9-22) True sons of Abraham, who are counted as part of the promised seed, must have faith in Jehovah, that they may be justified by faith as Abraham was. Then, after their justification or being declared righteous, God begets them by his holy spirit and they become sons of Jehovah God, who was prefigured by his friend Abraham.
They thus become spiritual sons of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, and are counted in as part of the promised seed of Abraham. Even Jesus Christ himself, though a natural son of his earthly forefather Abraham, was begotten by God’s spirit and in this way became a spiritual son of the Greater Abraham. His begetting took place at the time that he came up out of the waters of baptism and God’s spirit descended upon him and God announced him to be a spiritual Son, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:13-17) Eventually the seed of Abraham for blessing all the nations of the earth will be all a spiritual class.
It is an unspeakable blessing for anyone to be begotten by God’s spirit and to be made a part of the promised seed of Abraham along with Jesus Christ. This blessing comes from the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God the Father, and through his only-begotten Son Jesus, the Greater Isaac. The first ones to receive this blessing of becoming members of the seed of Abraham for the blessing of still others were natural Jews, a hundred and twenty of them, to begin with, on the festival day of Pentecost of the year 33 of our Common Era. Later Jewish proselytes and Samaritans were added to these. However, the blessing of Abraham was declared to be, not for Jews only, but for all nations, even though not circumcised.
In harmony with this, three and a half years from that Pentecost of 33 C.E., the blessing was extended to uncircumcised Gentiles, Italians in Caesarea of Judea being the first ones to receive the blessing of Abraham. This opened the way for the blessing to go to people of all the nations, without distinction, those thus blessing themselves by means of the Seed of Abraham being begotten by the holy spirit of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, to become part of the Seed of Abraham, even down till now. So God has not failed in fulfilling his sworn promise to Abraham.
Note, now, how Paul explains the matter, when writing to fellow members of that Seed in Galatia. He refers to himself as “He, therefore, who supplies you the spirit and performs powerful works among you,” and after that he asks:
“Does he do it owing to works of law or owing to a hearing by faith? Just as Abraham ‘put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Surely you know that those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham. Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham. For all those who depend upon works of law are under a curse; for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone that does not continue in all the things written in the scroll of the Law in order to do them.’ The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham might come to be by means of Jesus Christ for the nations, that we might receive the promised spirit through our faith. “Brothers, I speak with a human illustration: A validated covenant, though it is a man’s, no one sets aside or attaches additions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.
“You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.
“Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was.”—Gal. 3:5-10, 14-16, 26-29; 4:28.
By now, in this year 1965, how many of this seed of Abraham must there be, that is, counting in those from the first century onward? The Scriptural answer is, Not more than 144,000 of these spiritual sons of Abraham. This definite number is given in the very last book of the Holy Bible. This number, 144,000, in no way compares with the number of the stars that science has been able to count thus far. But the actual number remained unknown to Christians for forty or more years after the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christian congregations in Galatia, just as the number of the stars that Abraham saw with his natural eyes.
Then, about the year 96 of our Common Era, in two of the visions that the apostle John recorded in the book Revelation the exact number of the spiritual seed of Abraham who are joined to the Principal Seed was revealed, namely, the perfectly balanced number of 144,000. (Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-3) These spirit-begotten 144,000 followers of the Principal Seed Jesus Christ must all be sacrificed with him on earth. Proving faithful to the death of their flesh, they will become joint heirs with him in the heavenly kingdom by resurrection from the dead.—1 Cor. 15:29-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-9.
So it is that, at the celebration of the Lord’s evening meal on Nisan 14 of this year 1965, there were about 11,500 who partook of the emblematic bread and wine to indicate that they were members of the spiritual seed of Abraham, heirs of the heavenly inheritance with the Principal Seed Jesus Christ. To this tiny remnant of the 144,000 the sworn oath that Jehovah God added to his promise to Abraham on Mount Moriah ought to be of special comfort and encouragement to keep faithful. Why?