Promises, Oaths, and Saying Stupid Stuff

… or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt—when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned.

  • Leviticus 5:4-5

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.”

  • Judges 11:29-35

Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.
The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”
Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

  • 1 Samuel 14:24-30

“‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”
When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.
Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”
David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.

  • 1 Samuel 25:7-13

Abimelek went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull.
Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his servant ran him through, and he died.

  • Judges 9:52-54

Ever since I wrote a very stupid short story about a month ago, I have tried to analyze what led me to the story that was written.

The primary thing was that I had “promised” that as much as possible, the cause of death in this series of homicide stories would be strange and, at least to the average reader, not that violent.  I have had a few shoot outs, but no one was killed in those.  I have had a lot of poisonings, so many that I felt that I was in a rut.  But regardless, there was little blood flow at the crime scene.  Even when Gala Apple was skewered with three other people (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen), the focus was only the song and not on what gore there may have been in the room.

So, I wrote a story that would be fitting (so I thought) of Deviled Yeggs, but Deviled Yeggs was mysteriously absent.  I wanted a case with no outer signs of anything wrong and a cause of death that might easily be written off as natural causes.  But to accomplish the story with those restrictions, I went down a very dark alley.  I posted the story, and some people had negative comments.  But the ones that I worry about are those that simply were offended and quit reading my posts.  I have deleted the post.

I could excuse myself and say that for “art’s sake,” I was stretching my writing, but I never ever wanted to be offensive, at least not in that way.  The story may have emerged from my brain, but it was not the type of story that I would normally write.  I kept trying to salvage the story within my non-violent parameters and kept going further down the wrong track.

But I am not alone.  Leviticus tells us not to make foolish oaths and to treat the oath, even in wanting to do something good, as a sin.  But then, Jephthah made a very brash oath.  His daughter emerged from the house first.  In those days, all sorts of animals lived in the home, but it was his daughter.  She was given time with her friends, but she was killed.  In the Bible Study on Judges 11, Rev. Spurgeon argued that killing the daughter was a greater sin than making the oath, but in Jephthah’s mind, the oath was part of the deal that led to victory and the enemy, or another like it, might rise up.

Then we have the story of Jonathan eating honey after his father had said that a curse would be upon whomever ate or drank before the enemy was defeated.  As Jonathan rightly said, the victory would have been greater if the men were not exhausted due to not having nourishment.

Then, even though no oath was made, Nabal, who knew precisely who David was and what protection he received by David being nearby, swore he knew nothing about them.  Abigail, Nabal’s wife, interceded, but Nabal died.  David took Abigail as being one of his wives.

So, I could simply quit writing the fictional stories, but I hear God calling me to write more.  Other than the one really bad one, the others have a redeeming quality and maybe some little moral lessons along the way.  I will try to keep the humor there as well, but the non-violence has gone away.

Yesterday morning’s post had the victim die in a strange way – cause of death: blunt forced trauma – gargoyle.  It is reminiscent of the death of Abimelek, the son of Gideon’s concubine, a “judge” of Israel.

We confess.  We repent.  And we allow that little moment of spiritual growth to make us stronger.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

6 Comments

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  1. Nothing to forgive, Mark. The intent was honourable, the execution, well … none of us are perfect. Blessings brother.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mark, I would be sad to see your fiction go. I plan to read yesterday’s episode shortly! Sometimes, before we write a story, we put limits on where we will take it. Or, we might have a general principle, such as yours. You walk in the spirit, and will use good judgement as you continue to entertain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have heard some Bible commentaries say that Jephthah may not have killed his daughter, but rather, she was kept from marrying, which was considered a “sacrifice,” too. Neither was a happy ending, but I hope he didn’t kill her.

    Liked by 1 person

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