We know that God is truth, and His Word is truth. He cannot lie.
However, we can find in the Bible examples of minor lies in the
Bible that are either directed by God or committed by one of God's
prophets with no reprimand from God. Consider these examples:
II Kings 8:10- Elisha, God's prophet, instructs Hazel to give Ben-hadad
a false prophecy, which he does.
I Kings 22:22- Granted that this takes place by a spirit speaking
through a false prophet which Ahab should not have been listening to
in order to bring Ahab into judgment for his own wickedness. But it
is still God-ordained deception.
John 7:1-10- There seems to be some uncertainty about the word "yet"
in verse 8. Whether this should be included or not, Jesus tricked
his brothers into thinking he was not going to the feast- but once
they were gone he went up " in cognito".
Jeremiah 38:24-27- King Zedekiah instructs Jeremiah to lie to the
king's officials about the subject of Jeremiah's conversation with
the king as a means of saving Jeremiah's life. We see no
condemnation from God towards Jeremiah when he follows this advice.
Does the end justify the means?
Exodus 1:15-21- The midwives blatantly lie to Pharoah about their
disobedience to his obviously wicked command. Their motives were
obviously good (v 17), intending to save the Israelite babies out of
fear for God. Not only does God not disapprove of their deception,
but He compliments and rewards their methods (v20,21). Is it OK to
do a "small" sin to avoid doing a "large" sin?
I Samuel 16:1-5- God instructs Samuel to mislead the elders of the
city (and Saul, indirectly) about the true intentions of Samuel's
visit. Samuel tells them he is simply there to sacrifice, but in
reality he is anointing the next king of Israel.
I Samuel 21:1-3- David lies to Ahimelech the priest about his
mission. David tells the priest that he is on a secret mission for
Saul, when he is really running from Saul. Again we do not see any
condemnation from God or remorse from David. Keeping in mind that
David was so sensitive that he was distraught over cutting Saul's
robe a short time later, it seems odd that lying to the priest does
not bother him a bit.
I Samuel 27:8-12- David lies to the Philistine king Achish, telling
him that he was attaching Jewish towns, when he was actually raiding
other Philistine settlements. Again, no condemnation from God and no
remorse from David.
These are just a few examples that I noticed as I read through the
Bible -there may be more. How would you reconcile these instances
with the knowledge that God does not favor lying and does not
tolerate sin? These passages almost suggest that God is endorsing
"white lies" if they are well-intentioned. Please support your
Thanks for the email. You have certainly produced an interesting set
of scriptures/examples. I don’t claim to be any expert in these
matters but I would see some of these differently to you so I’ll add
a few comments on those and then write generally at the end.
Hopefully it helps…
2 Kings 8:10: It is interesting that you brought this up as I
had just spoken on the surrounding passage in my church in the
morning. Certainly it is a veiled answer that Elisha gives as he
knows Hazael’s heart and intentions, but I wouldn’t take it as a
“false prophecy” as you have. He was answering the Kings question
about his current illness and whether or not he would die. From that
he would not die. As the Bible Knowledge Commentary states: “In
response to Ben-Hadad’s question, Elisha told Hazael to tell the
king that he would certainly recover (as he would have if Hazael
would not have interfered)…”
1 Kings 22:22: This is a very interesting passage. God had
certainly allowed a lying spirit to speak through the false prophets
but we do need to be clear that that was because King Ahab was a
wicked King who didn’t listen to God. (1 Kings 21:25 states “There
was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes
of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.” Despite this, God still
sent true prophets such as Elijah and Micaiah in the passage you
have mentioned. If King wanted to listen to the truth, God gave him
every chance through these prophets.
It certainly is an interesting passage and gives us insight into the
workings of God, but I hope you don’t have a problem with God’s ways
concerning this because God was just in what He did and will do it
again in the last days. If people will not listen to the truth, then
yes, God can and will, send a powerful delusion. 2nd Thess 2:9-11
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work
of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and
wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are
perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so
be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that
they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have
not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
John 7:1-10 It is wrong to believe that Jesus was trying to
deceive them and, as you have pointed out, some manuscripts do have
the word ‘yet’. If He was not going to the feast ‘yet’ then there is
no issue to deal with here.
I Samuel 16:1-5 The Believers Bible Commentary states the
following concerning this passage, which makes sense to my mind:
“Secrecy is not the same as deceit. God was not telling Samuel to
lie about his intentions in Bethlehem. He really did offer a
sacrifice there. But the anointing of the new king was a secret
affair, not to be made public for many years.”
I Samuel 21:1-3 This is certainly an outright lie by King
David, brought on by his fear of Saul and fear for his life. There
isn’t any excusing it. It is plain wrong and had terrible
consequences. But I wouldn’t agree with your statement that ‘Again
we do not see any condemnation from God or remorse from David.’ The
Bible does tell us of the terrible consequences of this sin in that
85 Priests were murdered, plus others in the town of Nob. And David
admitted that he was responsible - “Then David said to Abiathar:
“That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure
to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole
family.” 1 Sam 22:22. I can only imagine the grief, regret and
despair he would have felt having been heard of the devastation his
lie had caused.
Jeremiah 38:24-27, I Samuel 27:8-12, Exodus 1:15-21 There are
certainly times in the Bible where people have lied where there are
lives on the line. To the examples you have mentioned above, we
could also add the famous story of Rahab who lied to save the lives
of the Israeli spies in Josh 2. Despite this, we see that she is
listed in the “Hall of faith” in Hebrews 11. To these we could
probably add countless stories in modern times (especially in times
of war) where people have lied to protect the lives of others. An
example would be the Ten Boom family in Holland in the Second World
War who made a ‘hiding place’ for the Jews and had to lie to protect
them from the Nazis.
I guess in the end it comes down to the intentions and motives of
the heart. There are a whole lot of thorny issues that can arise –
especially in times as above where people’s lives are on the line. I
haven’t been placed in that type of situation myself, but I’m pretty
sure that there would be times where I would sacrifice the lesser
good (telling the truth) to obtain the greater good (saving
someone’s life). I personally believe that when two of God’s
commands seem to clash with each other (such as in these cases where
we are commanded not to lie, but we also have to love one another
and seek out each others good) then the greater moral code must
apply. Hopefully that makes sense. I don’t think God spoke against
Rahab or the midwives in Exodus 1 because he knew that the motive of
the heart was right in trying to save His people, even though it
meant sacrificing the lesser moral command to tell the truth.
Anyway, that’s how I see it. All the best.