Hebrews 6:17-18 reads as follows in the NASB:

[17] In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, [18] so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.

What are the “two unchangeable things“ being referred to here?


The stock-standard answer to this age-old question is "the promise and the oath" as per Ellicott, Barnes, Poole, Meyer, Expositor's Greek, Cambridge, Bengel's Gnomen, Vincent, etc.

Let us examine Heb 6:18 more closely, but to do this we need to back up to v13 which I quote below (BSB):

When God made His promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and multiply your descendants.” And so Abraham, after waiting patiently, obtained the promise.

Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and their oath serves as a confirmation to end all argument. So when God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath. Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged.

Note that the oath to confirm the promise has validity because God does not change and His purpose does not change. Thus, the promise is confirmed by the oath which cannot change because that which it is sworn by is God Himself.

  • 4
    This is my favourite Bible passage: God shows his love for us by condescending to give people who should be capable of just accepting his promise extra oaths and even covenants to reassure them that he really will keep his promises.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 29 '20 at 12:52
  • @curiousdannii : I do not understand your comment. You change the word "Abraham" to "us." Also, in Genesis it seems God had already made the promise to Abraham, he later doubles-down as an oath specifically because Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. This behavior by God suggests that God was not viewing his promise to Abraham as binding: Perhaps all along, it was really contingent on Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. With this as an example, it is reasonable for us to not view any of God's promises as binding (so it is reasonable to NOT just accept a promise).
    – Michael
    Jun 29 '20 at 17:50
  • One possibility is that God gave Abraham the oath only as a reminder. Another is that God sees things outside of time, so his first promise to Abraham was in view of Abraham’s future willingness, and so can be viewed as being “because of Abraham’s willngness” (even though Abraham had not yet had Isaac as a son). But these are just possibilities.
    – Michael
    Jun 29 '20 at 18:04
  • @Michael You've present no reason whatsoever to think of God's promise to Abraham as not binding. Remember he started with the (unconditional) promises of Gen 12, another in Gen 13, he condescended to use the human tradition of making covenants in Gen 15, then a covenant with a rule in Gen 17, and then finally the swearing- by-himself oath in Gen 22. None of these are temporary or transient, and they specifically include language like "Know for certain", "All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever", "an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants".
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 29 '20 at 23:47
  • @curiousdannii : Genesis 22.16 says "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous..." I highlight the conditional. That conditional is the "contingency" I pointed out in my original comment (that contingency was given years after the original promise).
    – Michael
    Jun 30 '20 at 1:28

For God, when He made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, swore by Himself, saying, "Surely blessing, I will bless you; and multiplying, I will multiply you." And thus when Abraham had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men swear by the greater, and for all disputes among them an oath is final for confirmation. Therefore God, intending to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His counsel, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us,

God's promise and His oath


God's promise and his oath are not what IS immutable but they are what MAKE the two immutable things immutable. There are many things that God cannot do; God cannot deny himself, God cannot be tempted, God cannot change, God cannot break an oath, God cannot be defeated, God cannot resist a broken and a contrite heart... And again these things are what make the two unchangeable or immutable things immutable but they are NOT what IS immutable. The two immutable things are 'Jesus Christ a priest FOREVER after the order of Melchisedek (Psalms 110:4) and the RESURRECTION of Jesus (Psalms 2:7). Notice the words in those two references; "The Lord hath SWORN, and will not repent, Thou art a priest FOREVER after the order of Melchizedek." "I will declare the DECREE: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Paul explains clearly in Acts 13:33 what is meant by the word 'begotten'.

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