The Temptation by Hugo Van Der Goes - Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Does the Bible Differentiate Between Lying and Deception?
In writing about the first character, Jehu, in my most recent piece ‘Tough Guys’, I was reminded of something that has been on my mind for some time. I have been considering whether there is a real difference between telling an outright lie or enacting a deception using words that allow one’s object of that deception to deliberately take a particular required false meaning from one’s words. Let us look at the particular verses that I have in mind:
18 And Jehu gathered all the people and said to them, Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu shall serve him much.
19 And now call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests. Do not let a man be lacking, for I shall have a great sacrifice to Baal. Anyone who is lacking, he shall not live. And Jehu was acting with cunning in order to destroy the servants of Baal. (2 Kings 10 GLT)
Here Jehu is fooling the prophets of Baal and ‘acting with cunning’ by telling them that he is going to make a great sacrifice to Baal, their little realising presumably that they are to be that very sacrifice. Now Jehu is clearly operating directly under God’s instructions, in fact Jehovah tells him afterwards that He is well pleased with Jehu’s subterfuge. So what are we to make of Jehovah God’s policy on deception/lying? This is the question I have set for myself in this latest paper. Actually this was the original question but as always this has significantly extended into a much bigger debate. Jehu not only deceived the prophets of Baal; he also murdered them under sanction of God. So I think we need to examine the circumstances under which man is encouraged to break God’s laws!
So let us look at what the Law actually says about lying first:
16 You shall not testify a witness of falsehood against your neighbor. (Exodus 20 GLT)
This clearly states that one is not to give direct and false testimony about your neighbour. Perhaps the key words here are ‘your neighbour’ (Heb: rayah). It is strongly arguable that one of God’s enemies is not a faithful man’s neighbour! So from the start of this little exercise it is already beginning to look as if the truth and those ones that are not a believer’s brothers were never intended to mix!! Furthermore the Law is telling us not to bear false witness against our neighbour. This explicitly means that we are not to falsely accuse our brothers of crimes they did not commit. Let us look further into the matter of lying as far as the Law is concerned:
11 You shall not steal nor lie, nor deceive to one another. (Leviticus 19 GLT)
This wording seems to be expanding the definition of the sin of lying and deception somewhat further but it still appears aimed to be purely within the ranks of the Children of Israel and not at how God’s faithful ones should treat God’s earthly enemies. Wow, that is some revelation if correct! Let us look at a few other scriptures to see if they support this notion from our current reading of the Law. This next example certainly presents a rather more detailed construct on the false witness position:
1 You shall not utter a false report; You shall not put your hand with the wicked, to become a violent witness.
2 You shall not [run] after many to [gain] evil things. And you shall not testify as to a lawsuit, to turn aside after many in order to pervert [justice].
3 And you shall not favor the lowly in his lawsuit.
4 When you happen on the ox of your enemy, or his wandering ass, returning you shall return it to him.
5 When you see the ass of one who hates you crouching under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving [the matter] to him; loosing you shall loose [it] from him.
6 You shall not pervert the judgment of your needy one in his lawsuit.
7 You shall keep far away from a false matter. And do not kill the innocent and the righteous; for I will not justify the wicked. (Exodus 23 GLT)
Well this does not seem to be as explicit as the previous verses regarding the target of such falsehood to be solely one of God’s faithful. However, in looking at verse 6, the target is expressly described as ‘your needy one’ thereby clarifying that we are still focussing on the Children of Israel as the objects of this crime. In fact there are some specific actions in the intervening verses to encourage faithful ones to assist one's enemies, but these are for issues other than that of giving a false report. So, despite the more overall loose wording, we are still dealing here with only criminalising falsehoods when they are aimed at God’s faithful ones. Proverbs provides further evidence for this notion:
28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, or deceive with your lips. (Proverbs 24 GLT)
16 These six [things] Jehovah hates; yea, seven [are] hateful to his soul;
17 a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that plots evil plans, feet hurrying to run to mischief,
19 a false witness who breathes lies, and he who causes strife among brothers. (Proverbs 6 GLT)
Proverbs 12 seems to place the sin of falsehood with those not faithful to God, again providing more support for the current thesis:
17 He who breathes faithfulness reveals righteousness, but a false witness deceit.
18 There is a rash speaking like thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise [is] healing.
19 The lips of truth are established forever, but a lying tongue [is] only while I wink.
20 Deceit [is] in the heart of those who plot evil, but to counselors of peace [is] joy.
21 No trouble shall be sent to the just, but the wicked shall be filled with evil.
22 Lying lips [are] hateful to Jehovah, but those who deal faithfulness [are] His delight. (Proverbs 12 GLT)
As if to amplify this further we even have a letter from Paul to the first century Ephesian congregation confirming the same message to the Christian community by quoting from the book of Zechariah:
25 Therefore, putting off the false, "speak truth each with his neighbor," because we are members of one another. [Zech. 8:16] (Ephesians 4 GLT)
This is again supported in his letter to the Colossian congregation:
9 Do not lie to one another, having put off the old man with his practices, (Colossians 3 GLT)
Now, just to open this topic up a little, let us look at how Jesus told the baptised soldiers to behave. Firstly, in the three things He commanded, false accusation was in the list thereby reiterating the relative importance of this sin. It does not, however, appear to be worded specifically to protect their Christian brethren only. I can only think that, since these were Roman soldiers, it would not have sent out a very equitable message to the Roman citizens generally were their treatment to be somewhat biased after the soldiers’ baptism:
14 And also ones serving as soldiers asked him, saying, And we, what shall we do? And he said to them, Do not shake violently anyone nor accuse falsely, and be satisfied with your wages. (Luke 3 GLT)
And, as if to further confirm that this Law is generally aimed at God’s faithful only, we have God, speaking through Jeremiah, bewailing the lies and treachery within His own people with whom He intends to deal harshly:
3 And they bend their tongues, their bow [is] a lie. And they are not mighty for the truth on the earth, for they go from evil to evil. They also do not know Me, says Jehovah.
4 Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor, and do not trust any brother. For every brother will supplant, and every neighbor will walk as a slanderer.
5 And everyone will deceive his neighbor, and they will not speak the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies. They weary themselves to commit iniquity.
6 Your home [is] in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me, says Jehovah.
7 For this reason, so says Jehovah of Hosts, Behold, I will refine them and test them. For what [else] can I do because of the daughter of My people?
8 Their tongue [is] a murdering arrow; it speaks deceit. [One] speaks peace with his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart he sets his ambush.
9 Shall I not visit them for these [things]? says Jehovah. Or shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this? (Jeremiah 9 GLT)
As if to emphasise the notion of this Law only being applicable to the treatment of God’s own faithful ones, we even have Jehovah Himself using a spirit of falsehood to achieve His aims with His enemies:
20 And Jehovah said, Who shall entice Ahab, and he shall go up and fall in Ramoth-gilead? And this one said this, and this one said that.
21 And a spirit came forth and stood before Jehovah, and said, I surely will entice him.
22 And Jehovah said to him, By what means? And he said, I will go out and shall be a spirit of falsehood in the mouth of all his prophets. And He said, You shall entice [him], and also you are able. Go out and do so.
23 And now, behold, Jehovah has put a spirit of falsehood in the mouth of all these prophets of yours; and Jehovah has spoken evil as to you! (1 Kings 22 GLT)
In the above scripture Jehovah asked which of His host would entice Ahab. The use of the Hebrew word 'pothah' would tend to have an evil sense of the word for ‘entice’. When Jehovah asked the spirit, who stood forward, how he would achieve this enticement, the spirit unequivocally said that he would be a spirit of falsehood in the mouths of Ahab’s prophets. The Hebrew word for falsehood (sheqer) is exactly the same word used as that used previously in Exodus so there is no doubt now that Jehovah has requested the spirit to act as a liar. Since that request was made against one of His enemies on earth then we can only consider that our earlier assessment of the limitation on that commandment to be correct. God would not clarify different rules in heaven and on earth in scripture which would only otherwise cause confusion amongst mankind. Mind you it looks like mankind, including myself up till now, has been pretty confused on the matter of lying anyway. It seems we interpret God’s word as we think fit without paying enough attention to the specific instructions we have actually received from God.
So let us go back to the original sin as described in the scriptures:
13 And Jehovah God said to the woman, What [is] this you have done? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. (Genesis 3 GLT)
Whilst these early scriptures do not explicitly describe the serpent as lying they do describe Eve as being deceived by the serpent’s words. Whatever the words used it is nonetheless plain as pitch that the serpent told an out-and-out lie to Eve regarding her punishment for sin:
4 And the serpent said to the woman, Dying you shall not die, (Genesis 3 GLT)
God, on the other hand, was as good as His word:
17 but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you may not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, dying you shall die. (Genesis 2 GLT)
22 And Jehovah God said, Behold! The man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and also take from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever,
23 Jehovah God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground out of which he was taken.
24 And He drove the man out. And He lodged the cherubs at the east of the Garden of Eden, and the flaming sword whirling around to guard the way of the Tree of Life. (Genesis 3 GLT)
So from this point on Adamic man became mortal and started to age and eventually die. Certainly Christ was under no illusions as to Satan’s being the father of the lie:
44 You are of the Devil as father, and the lusts of your father you desire to do. That one was a murderer from [the] beginning, and he has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks [a] lie, he speaks from [his] own, because he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8 GLT)
9 And the great dragon was cast out, the old serpent being called devil, and, Satan; he deceiving the whole habitable world was cast out onto the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12 GLT)
So did Satan actually break the Law on falsehood? Well yes he did and in the most horrendous way possible. He bore false witness to Eve against Jehovah Himself by effectively calling God a liar. Although we must remember that the Law was written for mankind's benefit in Moses' day not for the angels in the Edenic times, I can only imagine that the angels must have had an equivalent set of Laws established well in advance of mankind's birth.
What is This Paper Now Really About?
This paper started life to determine if there was a difference between telling an outright lie and a deception by causing another to believe something untrue by using their own interpretation of another’s words to mislead them. This has now changed into an entirely different matter: is it only sinful to lie about or to one of God’s faithful servants? This quest would appear to be over almost as soon as it started from my reading of two verses from Thessalonians:
10 and in all deceit of unrighteousness in those being lost, because they did not receive the love of the truth in order for them to be saved.
11 And because of this, God will send to them a working of error, for them to believe the lie, (2 Thessalonians 2 GLT)
These two verses seem to be saying that the very essence of sin is in the rejection of the truth of Christ’s saving grace. This represents the greatest possible deception by the unrighteous ones. As a consequence of their own inner workings Jehovah Himself will ensure that the lie is presented to those ones in such a way as they will believe it. Those who work the lie will have the truth hidden from them. Whether faithful men have entirely the same licence to deceive the faithless I am not yet sure although I suspect the use of a subterfuge to bring those ones ultimately to Christ would not likely been seen as sinful in any way. In John 8:44 above, Christ described Satan himself as a murderer and a liar. Clearly the lie is the most serious of sins when it leads to a lack of faith in God’s truth.
God’s Approval of the Faithful Lie or Deception
Let us look at some passages that seem to confirm that God approves a deception or a downright lie if it is performed for a faithful or divinely beneficial purpose:
15 And the king of Egypt said to the midwives of the Hebrews, of whom the name of one [was] Shiphrah, and the name of the second, Puah;
16 and he said, When you midwife the Hebrew women, and look on the birth-stools, if it [is] a son, you will kill him; and if it [is] a daughter, it shall live.
17 And the midwives feared God, and they did not do as the king of Egypt said to them. And they kept the male children alive.
18 And the king of Egypt called to the midwives and said to them, Why do you do this thing and keep alive the male children?
19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women [are] not like the Egyptian women, for they [are] vigorous. Before the midwives come to them they bear.
20 And God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became exceedingly strong.
21 And it was, because the midwives feared God, He made houses for them. (Exodus 1 GLT)
Well this first example appears to be unequivocal in proving the point. The midwives told a point blank lie to Pharoah in order to prevent the Hebrew babies from being murdered at birth. God rewarded them for their trouble. So did they not break the Law. Well no they did not. They did not bear false witness ‘against’ their neighbours. They bore false witness in favour of their neighbours and saved the lives of God’s own people in the process. No small wonder that God rewarded them! Let us read on for another similar example, that of Rahab the harlot:
1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men out of Shittim to spy secretly, saying, Go look over the land, and Jericho. And they went and came into the house of a woman, a harlot; and her name [was] Rahab. And they lay down there.
2 And it was reported to the king of Jericho saying, Behold, men have come here tonight from the sons of Israel, to search the land.
3 And the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, Bring out the men who have come in to you, who have come into your house. For they have come in to search out all the land.
4 And the woman took the two men and hid them, and said, This way the men came in to me, but I did not know from where they were.
5 And it happened [as] the gate was to [be] shut at dark, even the men went out. I do not know where they have gone. You go after them, and hurry, for you may overtake them.
6 But she made them go up on the roof, and hid them with stalks of flax, which she arranged on the roof. (Joshua 2 GLT)
So, once again we have an individual who told a bare-faced lie to her own Jericho leadership in order to save the lives of the Hebrew spies. As in the previous example false witness was given in favour of God’s faithful so once again it is arguable that no sin was committed and the lives of God’s people were once again saved. Whilst, in this case, Jehovah Himself did not directly reward Rahab, the spies agreed to effectively ‘passover’ Rahab’s family house, when Israel returned to destroy the rest of Jericho, by her passing a scarlet thread outside her window. So God was presumably happy to allow this to take place as Rahab’s reward for her protection of the Hebrew spies. He used His earthly agents to effect this second Passover in Jericho as opposed to His heavenly agent, the angel of death, in the original night of doom for the Egyptians:
18 Behold, we are coming into the land; you shall bind this scarlet thread of line in the window by which you have let us down. And you shall gather your father, and your mother, and your brothers, and all your father's house to you, to the house.
19 And it shall be, anyone who goes outside from the doors of your house his blood [shall be] on his head, and we [shall be] innocent. And anyone who is with you in the house, his blood [ shall be] on our head, if any hand is on him.
20 But if you tell this matter of ours, then we shall be guiltless from your oath which you have made us swear.
21 And she said, Let [it be] according to your words. And she sent them away. And they went. And she bound the line of scarlet thread in the window. (Joshua 2 GLT)
So Is Our God The God of Truth?
Now thus far we have limited our discussion to the very specific words of the Law in the matter of falsehood. However given God’s above sanction of lies, some commentators attempt to compromise God by suggesting that He is not the God of truth as proclaimed in the scriptures:
5 Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Jehovah, God of truth. (Psalms 31 GLT)
In the above verse from the book of Psalms, the Hebrew word 'emeth', meaning ‘truth’ is the very antithesis of the falsehood specified in the Law. But God rewarded the midwives’ and Rahab’s falsehoods in the above examples did He not? However I do not think the matter of the Law has relevance for judging God’s actions. After all He takes away life from men; would we have accused Him of being a murderer in these cases? No, the Law is a dictate for men’s behaviour not God’s and it is therefore not for us mere mortals to judge God by it. God’s truth is in His promise of an indefinite and joyful future for His faithful ones. That and that alone! There are numerous scriptures repeating this message; here are just a couple:
28 And now, O Lord Jehovah, You are God, and Your Words are truth, and You speak this goodness to Your servant.
29 And now, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, to be forever before You. For You, O Lord Jehovah, have spoken, and with Your blessing shall the house of Your servant be blessed forever. (2 Samuel 7 GLT)
8 The grass withers; the flower fades; but the Word of our God shall rise forever. (Isaiah 40 GLT)
17 In which way, desiring to more fully declare to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His counsel, God interposed by an oath,
18 that through two unchangeable things, in which [it was] not possible [for] God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, those having fled to lay hold on the hope set before [us],
19 which we have as an anchor of the soul, both certain and sure, and entering into the inner [side] of the veil, [Lev. 16:12]
20 where Jesus entered as forerunner for us, having become a High Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6 GLT)
Jesus, the Son of God, also declares Himself to represent the ultimate truth of His Father in John’s gospel:
6 Jesus said to him, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14 GLT)
The Book of Isaiah adds a further dimension to God’s dealings with the unfaithful ones:
15 And you shall leave your name for a curse to My elect. And the Lord Jehovah shall kill you; and He shall call His servants by another name.
16 [He] who blesses himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth. And he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former distresses are forgotten; and because they are hidden from My eyes.
17 For, behold, I create new heavens and new earth. And the former things shall not be recalled, and [they] shall not go up on the heart. (Isaiah 65 GLT)
In verse 15 of the Isaiah scripture above it goes so far as to state unequivocally that Jehovah God will kill His faithful ones’ enemies. So I think it is clear that to be a faithless one is a very uncomfortable place to be. Only God’s faithful will hear and gain the benefit of God’s truth.
Let us look at another similar scripture from Ezekiel:
7 For every man of the house of Israel, or of the alien who resides in Israel, who is separated from after Me and causes his idols to go up in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and comes to the prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I, Jehovah, will answer him Myself.
8 And I will set My face against that man, and I will make him desolate for a sign and for proverbs. And I will cut him off from the midst of My people. And you shall know that I [am] Jehovah.
9 And the prophet, if he is deceived, and he speaks a word, I, Jehovah, have deceived that prophet. And I will stretch out My hand on him and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel.
10 And they shall bear their iniquity. As the iniquity of the inquirer, so the iniquity of the prophet shall be. (Ezekiel 14 GLT)
Now here clearly we have another example of God’s punishing the faithless. But we also have another case here where God seems to be encouraging them in their iniquity through His deceiving of their false prophets. I have to confess to having a little problem with this in that I would have thought that God should try to bring these ones round rather than encourage them in their evil ways. I can only think that God would only take this action with those who are already beyond the pail in their poor heart condition. But if that were the case why would they need to be deceived further for a correct judgement to be made on them I wonder?
The following is an interesting quote from the book of Psalms:
36 But they flattered Him with their mouths, and with their tongues lied to Him.
37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him; and they were not faithful in His covenant.
38 But He being merciful atoned for iniquity and did not destroy; and He added to turn away His anger, and did not stir up all his wrath. (Psalms 78 GLT)
Some commentators would no doubt argue that here is the bible getting itself confused and identifying the lying to God as sinful. However I have no doubt that the real iniquity that God forgave here was their poor heart condition. This is the real sin, not the lying tongue.
Now let us look at the prophet Jeremiah who goes so far as to accuse Jehovah directly of deception:
7 O Jehovah, You have deceived me; yea, I was deceived. You are stronger than I, and You have prevailed. I am in derision all the day; everyone laughs at me.
8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I proclaim violence and ruin; for the Word of Jehovah has been to me a reproach and derision all the day. (Jeremiah 20 GLT)
18 Why has my pain been without end and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You surely are to me like deceitful waters [which] cannot be trusted.
19 So Jehovah says this: If you return, then I will bring you again; you shall stand before Me. And if you take the precious from the worthless, you shall be as My mouth. Let them turn back to you, but do not return to them.
20 And I will make you a fortified wall of bronze to this people. And they shall fight against you, but they shall not overcome you; for I [am] with you to save you and to deliver you, says Jehovah. (Jeremiah 15 GLT)
According to other commentators, it would appear that Jeremiah accused Jehovah of unduly persuading him to take the role of prophet without fully explaining to him the pain and derision he would have to undergo to proclaim God’s word to His people:
5 I knew you before I formed you in the belly; and before you came out of the womb, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
6 Then I said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! Behold, I do not know [how] to speak for I [am] a boy.
7 But Jehovah said to me, Do not say, I [am] a boy; for you shall go to all that I shall send you. And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of their faces, for I [am] with you to deliver you, says Jehovah. (Jeremiah 1 GLT)
Reading Jeremiah’s own words here, it is clear that Jehovah did certainly persuade Jeremiah to take up His ministry when he (Jeremiah) really did not fully understand what that would mean to his future physical well-being. But then one would have thought that a prophet specifically picked for the job before birth would not have complained about this. But then who am I to criticise Jeremiah? I wonder how my own prayers to God would sound if I was put under some physical harm because of my position in the True Church?
Interesting that God knows us before birth though. This seems to suggest that He knows our heart condition upon the creation of each of our individual spirits. As if in answer to my own thoughts in this we have the following from Romans:
27 But the [One] searching the hearts knows what [is the] mind of the Spirit, because He petitions on behalf of [the] saints according to God.
28 But we know that [to] the [ones] loving God all things work together for good, [to] those being called according to purpose;
29 because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be [the] First-born among many brothers.
30 But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8 GLT)
God only needs us to prove that, through our actions in this world, we receive the judgement that He expects each of us to earn. Did God really deceive Jeremiah? Well He clearly was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer and probably did not explain the full extent of Jeremiah’s prospective discomfort to him. But in the end of the day I think we are learning that a deception in a good cause is justifiable and is certainly no sin.
But, wait, Jeremiah is not yet finished accusing God of deception this time against the whole of the nation of Israel:
10 Then I said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! Surely You have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, You shall have peace, but the sword reaches to the soul. (Jeremiah 4 GLT)
I think this one is easier to understand and is not so much an accusation as an exercise for us to answer today. Those having peace are those spiritual Jews, who had faith in God’s promise and latterly in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, regardless of what this world sends us physically.
There are also scriptures which directly confirm that God cannot/does not lie:
19 God is not a man that He should lie, or a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and shall He not do it? And [has He] spoken, and shall He not make it good? (Numbers 23 GLT)
18 that through two unchangeable things, in which [it was] not possible [for] God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, those having fled to lay hold on the hope set before [us], (Hebrews 6 GLT)
2 on hope of eternal life which the God who does not lie promised before [the] eternal times, (Titus 1 GLT)
I have to confess to finding it a little difficult to understand that, whilst He cannot lie, God is able to support those who do lie albeit when supporting His purposes. In that cause I continue to strive not to judge God by the standards that He was forced to introduce through Satan’s invention of falsehood. We all need to continually remember the precise wording of the Law which does not command man not to lie but to not give ‘false witness against a neighbour', i.e. to not commit perjury against one of God's people. Also I maintain my contention that God’s truth is in His promise for the eternal life to come for His faithful ones.
Having said that though let us have a look at some scriptures that might suggest otherwise:
Lies and Deceptions Told by God’s Faithful
10 And a famine was in the land, so Abram went down into Egypt to stay there. For the famine [was] heavy in the land.
11 And it happened when he had drawn near to come to Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, Behold, please, I know that you [are] a beautiful woman to look upon.
12 And it will be, when the Egyptians see you, then they will say, This [is] his wife, and they will kill me, and they will save you alive.
13 Please say that you [are] my sister, so that it may be well with me for your sake, and my soul shall live because of you.
14 And it happened, when Abram had come into Egypt, the Egyptians saw the woman, that she [was] very beautiful.
15 And Pharaoh's princes saw her, and they praised her before Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
16 And he did good to Abram because of her. And he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and male slaves, and slave-girls, and she-asses, and camels.
17 And Jehovah touched Pharaoh and his house with great plagues on the word of Sarai, Abram's wife.
18 And Pharaoh called for Abram and said, What [is] this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me she [is] your wife?
19 Why did you say, She [is] my sister? And so I took her for my wife. Now, then, see your wife. Take her and go.
20 And as Pharaoh commanded [his] men as to him, even they sent away him and his wife and all that he had. (Genesis 12 GLT)
Now when Abram asked Sarai to tell Pharoah that she was Abram’s sister this was not a lie so much as a deception or an omission of the complete truth. The Hebrew word for sister 'achôwth' is more loosely used to describe a female relative. Since Sarai was in fact Abram’s niece (or cousin or half-sister depending on which commentator or interpretation one accepts) as well as his wife, this was therefore not an untrue statement. However, since it was the intention to deny that she was actually Abram’s wife, then it was clearly a deception to divert Pharoah’s possible intentions regarding her erstwhile husband. Once again, due to the precise wording of the commandment concerning the use of falsehood, Abram did not commit a sin in this respect. Abram, God’s faithful servant, encouraged his wife to tell a falsehood, to a king who worshipped other gods, to help protect his own life. This is even more emphasised since God punished Pharoah who was the object of Abram’s deception! Well if that is not further confirmation that we MUST take the precise definition of this commandment then I do not know what is!!
However in all this we must remember that Abraham was not subject to the Law in any case since Moses’ receipt of the tablets did not take place for something like 450 years after these events. The New Testament is very clear on the matter of sinning without the Law Covenant:
13 For sin was in [the] world until Law, but sin is not charged [where] there is no law; (Romans 5 GLT)
So even if one wanted to argue that Abraham committed a sin through his deception to pharoah then the counter-argument would run that he had not broken any Law since the Law did not exist at that time. His faithfulness towards his Maker was all that God required of him.
But why did God punish Pharoah? Well, arguably this was to release Abram and Sarai from Pharoah’s clutches without fear of retribution from him given the overt might of God in Abram’s favour. One aspect that I must confess to being very uncomfortable with, however, is Sarai’s being taken to wife by Pharoah with the prospect of the usual conjugal rights that that would invoke. Since we are not aware that Sarai gave birth to any child other than Abram’s, I can only consider that God’s punishment on Pharoah was timely enough to have prevented that possibility. Otherwise it is arguable that Abram and Sarai would have been complicit in causing both Sarai and Pharoah to have committed the serious capital sin of adultery. This for me demonstrates the complexity of issues one can face when one gets into a lying or deceptive mode of action. It clearly is not the best of policies but, of itself, does not seem to be a sinful act if initiated for a justifiable cause. In this case it was to save a faithful one’s (Abram’s) life.
However let us look at another almost parallel account. Genesis tells of a different occurrence of a similar event. But it tells it in more graphic detail than the occurrence in Egypt so may be well worth the expanding from the chapter 12 event. I should add that I had not read the chapter 20 account before I had written my notes on the chapter 12 account above so I will have some personal notes to add to the end of this rather lengthy account:
2 And Abraham said with regards to his wife Sarah, She [is] my sister. And Abimelech the king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, Behold, you [are] about to die because of the woman you have taken, she being married to a husband.
4 And Abimelech had not come near her. And he said, O Lord, will You slay even a righteous nation?
5 And did he not say to me, She [is] my sister? And she, even she herself said, He [is] my brother. In the honor of my heart and the purity of my hands I have done this.
6 And God said to him in a dream, Yes, I know that you did this in the honor of your heart, and I also withheld you from sinning against Me. On account of this I did not allow you to touch her.
7 And now return the wife of the man, for he [is] a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. And if you do not return her, know that dying you shall die, you and all that [are] yours.
8 And Abimelech started up early in the morning and called for all his servants. And he spoke all these words in their ears. And the men were greatly afraid.
9 And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, What have you done to us? And in what have I offended you that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.
10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, What did you see that you have done this thing?
11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God [is] not in this place, and they will kill me for my wife's sake.
12 And yet she really [is] my sister, daughter of my father; only not daughter of my mother. And she became my wife.
13 And it happened when God made me wander from my father's house, even I said to her, This [is] your kindness which you do to me: at every place where we come there, say of me, He [is] my brother.
14 Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male slaves, and slave-girls, and gave to Abraham. And he returned his wife Sarah to him.
15 Abimelech said, Behold, my land [is] before you. Live where it pleases you.
16 And he said to Sarah, I, behold, I have given a thousand of silver to your brother. Behold, it [is] for you a covering of the eyes to all who [are] with you. And with all this you are reproved.
17 And Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his concubines, and they gave birth.
18 For Jehovah had completely closed up every womb of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, the wife of Abraham. (Genesis 20 GLT)
There are several points of note between the two accounts:
The first point to note is that we are definitely looking at a different and later occurrence of Sarah’s sister act. In the first account the king involved was pharaoh of Egypt; in this second account he is Abimelech the king of Gerar. Also Sarah and Abraham’s names had been changed from the first account. In addition Abraham says above that lying about Sarah’s being his wife was a general policy adopted during their wanderings and not just a one-off statement.
The second point is that God warned Abimelech against having carnal relations with Sarah. God did not want Abimelech to commit the sin of adultery so the king, apparently fearing God, abided with His warning. This seems to be the very opposite treatment from that of pharaoh, who was visited with plagues, presumably because the Egyptians had had plenty of opportunities in the past to accept Jehovah as their creator which they had rejected. Abimelech’s women by comparison had their wombs opened by God and gave birth. It is still not made clear if pharaoh had had carnal relations with Sarah but I think it safe to assume that this had not occurred.
In this second account Sarah herself is recorded as ‘lying’ to Abimelech. So it is clear that both Abraham and his wife were complicit in the deception and thereby clearly neither of them were accused of any sinful act by God.
The next point is more of a question. The punishment, should Abimelech not have abided with God’s commands, is ‘dying you shall die’. The Hebrew here, 'tomûwth kimûwth' is the same as for Adam’s sin. But Abimelech is already under the Adamic death sentence of being an aging mortal. There are other examples in scripture of this, so what does it mean? I will be taking this question to Gordon, the Lords' Witnesses' president.
Arising out of all this you would have gathered from the foregoing that I have now perceived that these scriptures can be (and have been) interpreted in several ways to make Sarah Abraham’s cousin, half-sister or neice. I am frankly unconvinced by many of the arguments so are we supposed to know their exact relationship other than that purely of wife and does it really matter in the overall context anyway? Well if it does not really matter why have the scriptures been written in such a way as to make such a conundrum possible? Having asked the question, there is no doubt in my mind that The True Bible Code would tease out a codified meaning from the scriptures and interpretations surrounding Abraham’s full familial relationship to Sarah. However this is too big a topic and therefore not a matter for this paper. Furthermore it seems that the official True Bible Code website abides by the simple literal scripture that proposes the half-sister relationship to be correct: The Second New Covenant
Now, in a somewhat repetitive manner we seem to have pretty much the same tale of Isaac, his wife Rebekah and King Abimelech. This time however it would seem that Abimelech was a little too smart from his experience with Sarah and so was able to spot Isaac’s deception almost as soon as it was uttered:
6 And Isaac lived in Gerar.
7 And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, She [is] my sister, for he was afraid to say, My wife, lest the men of the place kill me on account of Rebekah, for she [was] beautiful of form.
8 And it happened when his days were many to him there, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through the window and saw; and, behold, Isaac [was] sporting with his wife Rebekah.
9 And Abimelech called Isaac and said, See, surely she [is] your wife, and how have you said, She [is] my sister? And Isaac said to him, Because I said, lest I die on account of her.
10 And Abimelech said, What [is] this you have done to us? One of the people had in a little lain with your wife, and you would have brought on us guilt.
11 And Abimelech commanded all the people, saying, Anyone touching this man and his wife dying shall die. (Genesis 26 GLT)
Now why we should have three different occurrences of this type of event I am frankly unsure. However I am sure that this is a repeated account which will have some meaning within the Bible Code. Another question for our church president methinks!
Let us go back to Sarah and the scripture where it is arguable that she told a downright lie to none other than Jehovah God Himself:
10 And He said, Returning I will return to you at the time of life; and, Behold! A son [shall be] to your wife Sarah. And Sarah [was] listening at the entrance to the tent, and it [was] behind Him.
11 And Abraham and Sarah [were] aged, going on in days. The custom as to women had ceased to be to Sarah.
12 And Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After my being old, shall there be pleasure to me; my lord also being old?
13 And Jehovah said to Abraham, Why has Sarah laughed at this, saying, Indeed, truly shall I bear, even I who am old?
14 Is anything too difficult for Jehovah? At the appointed time I will return to you, at the time of life, and [there will be] a son to Sarah.
15 And Sarah denied, saying, I did not laugh; for she was afraid. And He said, No, but you did laugh. (Genesis 18 GLT)
Now this latter case has several points of interest. Firstly it mentions that Sarah was listening outside the tent entrance which was behind the three men, one of whom was presumably the archangel Michael, God’s Word. So she would, no doubt, have presumed that her presence nearby was undetected by the three men. Secondly the scripture states that she ‘laughed within herself’, i.e not out loud. Nonetheless, despite these factors, Michael was well aware that Sarah’s spirit had laughed even if her physical body had not. So when Sarah denied that she had laughed was that really a lie? I will let the reader decide that one!
So let us move on to Samuel now:
1 And Jehovah said to Samuel, Until when will you mourn for Saul, for I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have seen a king for Me among his sons.
2 And Samuel said, How can I go? When Saul hears, then he will kill me. And Jehovah said, You shall take a heifer from the herd in your hand, and shall say, I have come to sacrifice to Jehovah.
3 And you invite Jesse to the sacrifice. And I will make you know what you shall do. And you shall anoint for Me whomever I say to you.
4 And Samuel did what Jehovah said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the city trembled to meet him, and said, Do you come in peace?
5 And he said, Peace! I have come to sacrifice to Jehovah. Sanctify yourselves and you shall come to me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice. (1 Samuel 16 GLT)
This latter case is again a deception rather than an outright lie. Samuel did indeed sacrifice to Jehovah although that was not the real purpose of his visit to Jesse. Furthermore this subterfuge was directly sanctioned by Jehovah Himself. Once again we have to conclude that none of this ‘lying’ runs counter to the precise wording of the Law. So I am firmly of the mind now that lying and deception are not sins so long as they are not intended to harm one of God’s faithful ones.
Now there is a rather different tale told in the Acts of the Apostles of a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who were both members of the early Christian church:
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a property,
2 and kept back from the price, his wife also aware of [it], and bringing a certain part, [he] put [it] at the feet of the apostles.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why did Satan fill your heart [for] you to lie to the Holy Spirit and to secretly keep back from the price of the land?
4 Remaining, did it not remain yours? And being sold, was it [not] in your authority? Why [is it] that this action was put into your heart? You did not lie to men, but to God!
5 And hearing these words, Ananias fell down [and] expired. And great fear came on all those hearing these things. (Acts 5 GLT)
In this tale they are accused by Peter of lying to The Holy Spirit and God. They both paid the ultimate price for this sin, which was clearly considered to be a rather more serious crime than lying to their fellow men. Whilst members of the early church, they are both seen as having been turned by Satan from their (presumably) previously faithful hearts. Here we have a case of unrighteous ones being punished for a falsehood told against the faithful.
Now let us look at a rather different episode of someone telling porky pies in the scriptures. This example occurs relatively early on in the scriptures following on from Satan’s invention of the unholy lie:
9 And Jehovah said to Cain, Where [is] your brother Abel? And he said, I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?
10 And He said, What have you done? The voice of the blood of your brother cries to Me from the ground.
11 And now you are cursed more than the ground which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. (Genesis 4 GLT)
Here we have the unprecedented occurrence of a mere mortal human, Cain, telling a bare-faced lie directly to God. Now in fairness to Cain the Law had not yet been presented to mankind so I suppose the only real judgement on mankind at that time was based on their faithfulness to God. Nonetheless Cain was punished for his crime but it is noteworthy that Cain’s punishment was not for lying but for murdering his brother. In anticipation of the Law, Cain’s lie was to deny his crime against his brother. It was not to spread false stories against his neighbour so, arguably, Cain would not have sinned with this lie even if the Law had already been written. So even such a lie, told directly to Jehovah, would seem to merit a lesser punishment in comparison with the previous example since the crime was not effected against God Himself.
Now, arguably, the most provocative of our all faithful ones’ deceptions is that of Jacob over his brother Esau. I am afraid this is a rather long account but please go to the end of it if you wish to go straight to my observations:
6 And Rebekah spoke to her son Jacob, saying, Behold, I heard your father speaking to your brother Esau saying,
7 Bring game to me and make delicious things that I may eat, that I may bless you before Jehovah before my death.
8 And now my son hear my voice, that which I command you.
9 Go now to the flock and bring me from there two good kids of the goats. And I will make them into delicious things for your father which he loves;
10 and you shall bring it to your father and let him eat, so that he may bless you before his death.
11 And Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, Behold, my brother Esau [is] a hairy man, and I a smooth man.
12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall be like a deceiver in his eyes, and I shall bring a curse on me, and not blessing.
13 And his mother said to him, Your curse [be] on me, my son; only listen to my voice and go, take for me.
14 And he went and took and came to his mother. And his mother made delicious things, such as his father loved.
15 And Rebekah took the clothing of her elder son Esau, the costly ones which were with her in the house. And she dressed her younger son Jacob;
16 and she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands, and on the smoothness of his neck.
17 And she put the delicious things and the bread which she had made in the hand of her son Jacob.
18 And he went in to his father and said, My father. And he said, Behold me. Who [are] you, my son?
19 And Jacob said to his father, I [am] your first-born, Esau. I have done as you said to me. Rise up now, sit and eat of my game, so that your soul may bless me.
20 And Isaac said to his son, How then have you [quickly] found [it], my son? And he said, Because Jehovah your God made it come to me.
21 And Isaac said to Jacob, Come near now and let me feel you, whether then you [are] my son Esau, or not.
22 And Jacob came near to his father Isaac. And he felt him, and he said, The voice [is] the voice of Jacob and the hands [are] Esau's hands.
23 And he did not know him, because his hands were like the hairy hands of his brother Esau. And he blessed him.
24 And he said, [Are] you then my son Esau? And he said, I [am].
25 And he said, Bring to me and let me eat of my son's game, so that my soul may bless you. And he came near to him; and he took and he ate. And he came to him, and he drank wine.
26 And his father Isaac said to him, Now come and kiss me, my son.
27 And he came near and kissed him. And he smelled the smell of his clothes. And [he] blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son [is] as the smell of a field which Jehovah has blessed.
28 And may God give you of the dew of the heavens, and of the fatness of the earth, and much grain and wine.
29 May the nations serve you and peoples bow to you; be a ruler to your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow to you, and cursed [be] those who curse you, and blessed [be] those who bless you.
30 And it happened that when Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, then it came about that Jacob had hardly gone out from the face of his father Isaac, and his brother Esau came in from his hunting.
31 And he also made delicious things and came to his father. And he said to his father, Let my father rise and eat from the game of his son, so that your soul may bless me.
32 And his father Isaac said to him, Who [are] you? And he said, I [am] your son, your first-born, Esau.
33 And Isaac was terrified with a very great anxiety. And he said, Who then [was] the one who hunted game and came to me; and I ate from [it] all before you came; and I blessed him? Yea, he shall be blessed.
34 When Esau heard the words of his father he cried out a great and very bitter cry. And he said to his father, Bless me, me also, my father.
35 And he said, Your brother came with deceit and took your blessing. (Genesis 27 GLT)
The first point to make is that it is Jacob’s mother Rebekah who puts Jacob up to stealing his brother Esau’s birth-right and blessing. So the pair of them are complicit in this deception of her husband Isaac. This does not sound like a loving family environment to me!
When Rebekah and Jacob first discussed the deception, Jacob’s first response was that if discovered by Isaac then he was afraid that he would be cursed instead, presumably by Isaac. Rebekah offered to take any such curse for him demonstrating that this risk was considered real by them both. Clearly they deemed lying and being discovered in the act could be both a failed and a punishable crime.
This was not just a straight forward deception. This involved Jacob’s imitating his brother by providing broth for his father and dressing in hairy skins by way of a disguise to his aging pater. All this as well as telling Isaac an out and out lie about his identity with the view to a theft!
Now it starts to get really interesting. When Isaac asks Jacob how he was able to deliver the broth so quickly, the latter replies ‘Jehovah your God made it come to me.’ Now given that we know that Jacob became Israel and was blessed with his twelve tribes we can only consider that Jacob’s assessment is perfectly correct. So we have here a situation here where God is prepared to allow, or arguably encourage, seriously deceptive behaviour from his faithful ones so long as it is meets God’s purposes! Wow, that is some realisation; at least it is for me! But couldn’t God have made life a lot easier by simply allowing Jacob to have been the first or even the only born son of Isaac? Perhaps there is a lesson for us all here in that living with other souls, including our own families, is not easy and needs to be managed? Anyway here we have a situation in which Jacob was able to achieve God’s blessing for His people by deception; and, despite the deception, that blessing still stood!
So what are we to learn from this apparently holy deception? Well if I look at the parallel example of the Lords’ Witnesses we believe that our baptism was effectively stolen by a renegade sect (the Laodocians) that follow our understandings within the Jehovah’s Witnesses: A brief history of the Laodicean sect inside the Watchtower. Now if Jacob was able to achieve God’s blessing for His people by deception presumably the same would also be fully true for Laodicea?
The more time I am spending on this topic the more intriguing does it seem to become. There seem to be a never-ending series of lies being told and deceptions being played out in and around God’s earthly children. What are we to learn from this? Let us look at a few more examples. The next one I tripped up over was Laban’s deception that gave Leah to Jacob as his wife when it should have been Rachel:
25 And it happened in the morning; behold! She [was] Leah. And he said to Laban, What have you done to me? [Did] I not serve with you for Rachel? And why have you tricked me? (Genesis 29 GLT)
Now, whilst Laban was not in the direct blood line to God’s holy family, he was nonetheless Rebekah’s brother which made him Isaac’s brother-in-law and, therefore, Jacob’s uncle.
But now let us look at Rachel’s stealing of her father, Laban’s, images. Whilst the stealing and use of the graven images both became serious sins later on under the Law, the particular issue here is Rachel’s deception to her father about the theft:
34 And Rachel had taken the household idols and put them into the camel's saddle; and she sat on them. And Laban felt around all the tent, but did not find.
35 And she said to her father, Let no anger be in the eyes of my lord, for I am not able to rise before your face, for the way of women is to me. And he searched for and did not find the household idols. (Genesis 31 GLT)
Now, again, whilst it is not entirely clear if Rachel actually told an out-and-out lie to her father, she was certainly unhelpful on the subject. Rachel, though, was in God’s holy family bloodline, being the mother to eight of Israel’s sons! This is getting very worrying! And it gets more worrying still the more I look into it:
31 And they took Joseph's robe, and killed a ram of the goats, and dipped the robe in the blood.
32 And [they] sent the robe reaching to the soles [of his] feet, and they took it to their father, and said, We have found this. Now look, [is] it your son's robe? (Genesis 37 GLT)
A famous bible story indeed but one in which I have never really considered from the viewpoint of the actions of Joseph’s brethren. Here we have at least nine of the sons of Israel lying to their father about the fate of their brother Joseph. This does not say a lot for the bulk of the children of Israel does it?
The following verses are also used by unbelievers to determine that the prophet Jeremiah was a liar:
24 And Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, Let not a man know of these words, and you shall not die.
25 But if the rulers hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you and say to you, Now tell us what you said to the king; do not hide [it] from us and we will not put you to death; also, What did the king say to you?
26 Then you shall say to them, I was causing my plea to fall before the king, that he should not return me to the house of Jonathan, to die there.
27 And all the rulers came to Jeremiah and asked him. And he told them according to all these words that the king had ordered. And they were silent with him, for the matter was not heard. (Jeremiah 38 GLT)
Now the king’s matter at hand is that he wanted to know God’s prophecy on the future of Jerusalem. Jeremiah told him that he needed to surrender to the Chaldeans to enable the king to save his own life and that of his household while also preventing the destruction of Jerusalem. The king told Jeremiah that if he were to keep the matter a secret between the two of them then the king would free Jeremiah from prison and allow him his life. So Jeremiah did not tell an outright lie here since his agreement with the king did enable him his freedom and life as he told the princes.
However the matter was brought to Jeremiah by the king and not in the normal way of a plea from the supplicant. So I think it fair to say that Jeremiah was sparing with the truth. So what is more important, to keep a promise that would likely save the lives of both the king and Jeremiah or break a promise and likely risk both their lives at the hands of the princes for want of a deception? This seems like a lesson from God that right and wrong are not as black and white as some would like them to be. There is much subtlety involved here, not least of which is the nature of the underlying intent. Also this seems to be along the lines that this paper was originally intended to be about: lying is wrong but deception is ok. Looks like they’re both ok subject to circumstances and true intent!
So what may we deduce from all these deceiving servants of God? I expect they were all more faithful to God than I can imagine so I think the lesson here is that all men, faithful or not, are liars and deceivers. It seems to be the natural state of mankind. So God clearly is looking through that fog of deceit into the hearts of all men to determine those who are truly willing and able to do His ultimate bidding and those who therefore have a part to play in His grand plan. We also therefore need to see beyond the worldly mess around us and have faith that God will bring each and every one of us to our just deserts. Even Jacob’s brothers had their part to play in God’s plan. Through their deception, Jacob was ultimately able to achieve his powerful position in the court of pharaoh.
The Psalms seem to lay testimony to this;
29 Remove from me the way of lying, and favor me with Your Law.
30 I have chosen the way of truth; I have held Your judgments level; (Psalms 119 GLT)
163 I hate and despise lying; [but] I love Your Law. (Psalms 119 GLT)
Interestingly Paul recounts to Timothy the types of sinful man which compare broadly to the definition of the major sins described in the ten commandments as a matter of doctrinal importance:
9 knowing this, that Law [is] not laid down for a righteous one, but for lawless and undisciplined ones, for ungodly and sinful ones, for unholy and profane ones, for slayers of fathers and slayers of mothers, for murderers,
10 for fornicators, for homosexuals, for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and if any other thing opposes sound doctrine, (1 Timothy 1 GLT)
Here liars are explicitly identified separately from perjurors compared to the Law which, as we have already established, does not identify lying per se as a sin. Whilst it does not say so, I can only think that Paul meant lying would be sinful when it was expressed from a poor heart condition and when it was therefore not intended for a higher and better purpose in God’s purview.
Liars are similarly identified by John as sinners in the final book of the bible. Again I can only think the same meaning should be attributed here also:
8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving, and those having become foul, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the lying ones, their part will be in the Lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21 GLT)
Now just to balance the books a little, the prophet Elisha is often accused of lying by unbelievers. However, it is important to read the whole story before making any meaningful interpretations of many bible accounts, this one being no exception:
8 And the king said to Hazael, Take a present in your hand and go to meet the man of God. And you shall seek Jehovah by him, saying, Shall I revive from this sickness?
9 And Hazael went to meet him and took a present in his hand, even of every good thing from Damascus, a burden of forty camels. And he came in and stood before him, and said, Your son Ben-hadad, the king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, Shall I revive from this sickness?
10 And Elisha said to him, Go, say to him, Living you shall live. But Jehovah has shown me that dying he shall die.
11 And he fixed his face; yea, he settled it until he was ashamed. And the man of God wept.
12 And Hazael said, Why is my lord weeping? And he said, Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel. You will send their fortified places into fire and you will slay their young men with the sword. And you will dash their sucklings to pieces; and you will rip up their pregnant women.
13 And Hazael said, But what! [Is] your servant a dog that he should do this great thing? And Elisha said, Jehovah has shown me that you [will be] king over Syria.
14 And he left Elisha and came to his lord, and he said to him, What did Elisha say to you? And he said, He said to me, You shall surely recover.
15 And it happened on the next day, he took a plaited cloth and dipped [it] in water, and spread it on his face, and he died. And Hazael reigned in his place. (2 Kings 8 GLT)
However the explanation, correct in my opinion, that I have seen from several bible commentators is that Elisha did actually tell the truth. He was asked by the king if the disease would kill him. So Elisha answered truthfully since he did not die of the disease but by the hand of his servant Hazael.
Now, perhaps one of the most worrying of God's faithful ones' lies was that of Peter's denial of knowing Jesus upon His arrest. The story of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ is found in all four Gospel accounts so let us look carefully at that written by Mark. The first thing to note is that ALL the apostles fled from the scene of Jesus' arrest:
50 And leaving Him, all fled. (Mark 14 GLT)
Clearly they were all afraid for their physical well-being and frankly who can blame them? Despite their faith and direct contact with Christ they were still only mortal men potentially facing the same fate as an all-powerful archangel, Michael. However, out of all the disciples it would seem that Peter was the only one brave enough to put himself in harm's way by following the progress of Christ's arrest albeit cautiously:
54 And Peter followed Him from a distance, to the inside of the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the under-officers, also warming himself toward the light. (Mark 14 GLT)
It was at this point that Peter lied about his being one of Jesus' followers as Jesus had previously prophesied:
67 And seeing Peter warming himself, looking at him, she said, And you were with Jesus the Nazarene.
68 But he denied, saying, I do not know nor understand what you say. And he went out into the forecourt. And a cock crowed.
69 And seeing him again, the female slave began to say to those standing by, This [one] is of them.
70 And again he denied. And after a little, those standing by again said to Peter, Truly you are from them, for you are both a Galilean and your speech agrees.
71 But he began to curse and to swear, I do not know this man of whom you speak.
72 And a second time a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word Jesus said to him, Before a cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times. And thinking on [it], he wept. (Mark 14 GLT)
So what are we to make of this denial of knowing Jesus? Well most importantly this was not Peter's acting as a false witness against Jesus as many of the priest's henchmen had done:
56 For many falsely testified against Him, but the testimonies were not identical. (Mark 14 GLT)
These ones will no doubt have a bad fate awaiting them in the second death. No this was clearly a case of Peter being afraid for his life and lying to save his soul for another day. So it is arguable that Peter's crime was no more serious than that of Abraham's that we read about earlier. Again there was no God-given punishment for Peter who went on to write his two inspired epistles in which he seems to be using his own experience of his fear and frailty to teach his brothers that God will provide the strength they need:
10 Now the God of all grace, the [One] calling you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, [you] having suffered a little, Himself will perfect, confirm, strengthen, establish [you]. (1 Peter 5 GLT)
Leading up to Peter's denial of knowing Jesus we have the following dialogue between the two of them:
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold! Satan asked for you, to sift [you] as wheat;
32 but I entreated concerning you, that your faith might not fail. And when you have turned back, confirm your brothers.
33 And he said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go both to prison and to death with You.
34 And He said, Peter, I say to you, A cock will not crow today before you will deny knowing Me three times. (Luke 22 GLT)
It is noteworthy from the above scripture is that Satan specifically requested Simon Peter of Jesus to test. So I think this must mean that both Jesus and Satan knew that Peter would have a special role going forward into what was to become the early christian church. In this regard Peter was given the same stringent test that all his brothers were but he was the one that followed Christ in his trials and who continued his ministry after Christ's death. Part of that test was for Peter to realise that he was not as brave as he had previously thought which fact put him in a strong position to strengthen his brothers and expand the numbers of the faithful:
38 And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, each of you on the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as [the] Lord our God shall call.
40 And with many other words he earnestly testified and exhorted, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation.
41 Then those gladly welcoming his words were baptized. And about three thousand souls were added that day. (Acts 2 GLT)
A Christian’s Responsibilities
So far I have only been considering the sin of lying from the perpetrator’s perspective. But what responsibilities do we have, as Christians, if we are the objects of unholy deceit? This is covered initially in the Old Testament book of Psalms:
69 The proud have forged a lie against me; I will keep Your precepts with all [my] heart. (Psalms 119 GLT)
2 O Jehovah, deliver my soul from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
3 What shall be given to you, or what shall [one] add to you, O deceitful tongue?
4 Sharp arrows of the mighty with coals of broom! (Psalms 120 GLT)
Let us consider the words of Christ Himself on this matter as recorded by Matthew:
4 And answering, Jesus said to them, See that not any leads you astray.
5 For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ. And [they] will cause many to be led astray. (Matthew 24 GLT)
11 And many false prophets will be raised and will cause many to err. (Matthew 24 GLT)
This follows my own strong views on the matter of true faith. The reason there are so many false churches with large congregations is that people generally follow the path of least resistance. They listen to the church leaders’ marketing claims for his organisation and prefer to follow the crowd in their normal herd instinct. True faith is based on one’s own logic and heart condition derived from the scriptures. Only this way, by thinking for oneself, can one be protected from false messiahs. This is the mark of the Fourth True Christian Church of the Lords’ Witnesses. We are small in number and independent from the wiles of mankind in that our doctrine is driven purely from the scriptures with no contemplation as to where that might place our church in the purview of mankind.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesian congregation adds further to this notion:
13 until we all may come to the unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to [the] measure of [the] stature of the fullness of Christ,
14 so that we may no longer be infants, being blown and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the trickery of men, in craftiness to the deceit of error,
15 but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the head, the Christ, (Ephesians 4 GLT)
His second epistle to the congregation at Corinth also contains similar warnings to not be deceived by false prophets. Here he makes the most graphic of comparisons with Satan’s original lie:
3 But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your thoughts should be corrupted from the purity which [is due] to Christ.
4 For if, indeed, the [one] coming proclaims another Jesus, whom we have not proclaimed, or [if] you receive another spirit which you have not received, or another gospel which you never accepted, you might well endure [these]. (2 Corinthians 11 GLT)
13 For such ones [are] false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
14 And did not Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light?
15 [It is] not a great thing, then, if also his ministers transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11 GLT)
And again in other New Testament letters to various congregations and brethren:
17 And brothers I exhort you to watch those making divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them.
18 For such ones do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth speaking and flattering [they] deceive the hearts of those without guile. (Romans 16 GLT)
1 But false prophets were also among the people, as also false teachers will be among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, and denying the Master who has bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. (2 Peter 2 GLT)
7 Because many deceivers went out into the world, those not confessing Jesus Christ to have come in [the] flesh, this is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1 GLT)
We must heed to Paul’s warnings to Timothy right to the last in the coming end times:
1 But the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, cleaving to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons,
2 in lying speakers in hypocrisy, being seared in [their] own conscience, (1 Timothy 4 GLT)
13 But evil men and pretenders will go forward to worse, leading astray and being led astray. (2 Timothy 3 GLT)
We are also effectively warned off being false prophets ourselves. We need to speak and live God’s truth in Jesus Christ:
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and we walk in darkness, we lie and are not practicing the truth. (1 John 1 GLT)
The truth spoken of by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians is that eternal truth of God born out of a loving heart condition that we must all strive for:
4 Love has patience, is kind; love is not envious; love is not vain, is not puffed up;
5 does not behave indecently, does not pursue its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. (1 Corinthians 13 GLT)
It is probably worth spending a little time in seeing how the Greek scriptures evaluate mankind generally in terms of lying and deceit. Mark lists man’s deceit alongside the rest of his evil offences. Clearly this deceit is that associated with man’s own self-aggrandisement at the expense of his fellow man rather than that effected to meet God’s purposes:
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, pass out the evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 thefts, greedy desires, iniquities, deceit, lustful desires, a wicked eye, blasphemy, pride, recklessness.
23 All these evil things pass out from within and defile the man. (Mark 7 GLT)
And Peter’s first letter tells his audience to put aside another list of sinful behaviour including that of deceit (guile):
1 Then laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil words
2 as newborn babes desire the pure soul-nourishing milk, that you may grow by it; (1 Peter 2 GLT)
John’s first epistle to the early Christian church has more to say on the nature of the real lie versus God’s true promise:
21 I did not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because every lie is not of the truth.
22 Who is the liar, except the [one] denying, [saying] that Jesus is not the Christ? This is the antichrist, the [one] denying the Father and the Son
23 Everyone denying the Son does not have the Father. The [one] confessing the Son also has the Father.
24 Then what you heard from [the] beginning, let it abide in you. If what you heard from [the] beginning abides in you, you will abide both in the Son and in the Father.
25 And this is the promise which He promised us: everlasting life. (1 John 2 GLT)
And those liars need to realise the capital punishment that awaits them:
8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving, and those having become foul, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the lying ones, their part will be in the Lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21 GLT)
27 And all profaning may not at all enter into it, or any making an abomination or a lie; but only the ones having been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb. (Revelation 21 GLT)
I think the concluding book of the bible is best placed to provide the final words on the sin of lying:
14 Blessed [are] the ones doing His commands, that their authority will be over the Tree of Life, and by the gates they may enter into the city.
15 But outside [are] the dogs and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and everyone loving a lie, and making it. (Revelation 22 GLT)
Those faithful ones doing God’s bidding, presumably including those of good heart who have carried out deceptions in favour of God’s people and purposes, will be allowed to enter the city’s gate. Meanwhile the sinners disobeying God’s word, including those deceivers who seem to enjoy lying, presumably for their own selfish benefit, will be left in the cold outside of God’s truthful promise. Perhaps the Book of Proverbs also had insight to this revelation several centuries earlier:
5 The righteous hates lying, but the wicked is odious and acts shamefully.
6 Righteousness keeps the upright one in the way, but wickedness subverts a sin-offering. (Proverbs 13 GLT)
My concluding thought on all this is that God's truth is to undo the damage of the Adamic death penalty brought about by Satan's lie.
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Jewish Lords' Witness