Oaths and Promises

By Admin | Jeremiah

Jun 04
Oaths and promises:

Oaths and Promises: Zedekiah’s oath

In 2 Kings 24:20 we are told that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.  On the face of it, that seems reasonable – why not rebel against an overlord if you think you can get away with it? But God did not view it that way: he saw it as a breach of promise. Oaths and promises are important to God…

So what had Zedekiah promised Nebuchadnezzar?

We don’t hear anything about the promise when it was actually made, except that Nebuchadnezzar had made Zedekiah swear by God.[1]  We do, however, read some details in Ezekiel 17 that help us to work out what it was.  Ezekiel was to tell the people a parable about a cedar twig which was plucked by a great eagle and planted.  It grew and became a vine and depended on the eagle.

However, another eagle came and the vine bent its roots and branches towards it and looked for water from it.

God announced that the vine would not thrive, but would wither and be plucked up.  He went on to explain that the first eagle was the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) and the second was Pharaoh of Egypt.  Although the vine is not named, the details identify it unquestionably as Zedekiah, the king who replaced Jeconiah when he was taken into captivity.

What did it mean?

God also said that in approaching Pharaoh Hophra for support, Zedekiah had committed treachery against God (Ezekiel 17:20).  The details given in Ezekiel 17 are as follows.

Making the covenant:

  • Nebuchadnezzar made a covenant with Zedekiah and put him under oath (v13)
  • Zedekiah agreed to keep the kingdom of Judah humble and not seek power or help (v14)
  • Zedekiah “gave his hand” (v18)
  • Nebuchadnezzar agreed that the kingdom of Judah could continue on those conditions (v14)

Breaking the covenant:

  • Zedekiah sent ambassadors to Egypt asking for help, thus breaking his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar (v15)
  • Zedekiah showed that he despised Nebuchadnezzar’s oath by rebelling and breaking the covenant (v16; 18)
  • Zedekiah also despised his own oath by breaking the covenant (v18)
  • Thus Zedekiah had despised God’s oath and broken God’s covenant (v19)

God announced that Zedekiah would be taken to Babylon and die in captivity because of his unfaithfulness (Ezekiel 17:16; 20).

God takes promises seriously.

Other examples of the need to keep oaths and promises

  • The people of Israel had to keep their oaths: Numbers 30:1-2; Ecclesiastes 5:4
  • The leaders of Israel promised/swore that the Gibeonites would not be killed: Joshua 9:3-27 (particularly 9:19-20); 2 Samuel 21:1-9
  • For Christians, our word is to be our bond – without the need for oaths or any other qualifiers: Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12


[1] 2 Chronicles 36:13

See also

Article on Covenants on Bible Tales Online.



Terror on Every Side!

This article is one of a series of articles on Jeremiah published as back-up material for the Bible-based fiction series Terror on Every Side!
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Terror on Every Side! Volumes 1-6 Cover

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