Devine Deceit

Is it ever right to do wrong to do right?

Generally, the answer is no.

But is it ever right to lie?

Interestingly enough, the Bible shows us that the answer can be ‘yes’.

Here’s a brief list of people in the Bible that lied or deceived other people and (apparently) received blessings from God for doing so. Be sure to read the passages in order to get the full picture of what’s going on. Definitely interesting.

  • Abraham  lies about being married to Sarah – Gen 12:11-13; Gen 20:1-2 (v11).
    Note that men who take Sarah are cursed by God and threatened with death. Conversely, no divine reprimand is given to Abraham for lying. Also note that in Gen 20, the offender, Abimilech, is required to go to Abraham (the liar) in order to resolve his situation, or face death from God. God’s silence towards Abraham is curious. (One wonders if Sarah was also silent towards her husband’s actions 😉 )
  • Isaac lies about being married to Rebecca – Gen 26:6-11.
    Like father, like son. Again, no reprimand to Isaac from God.
  • Egyptian Midwives lie to Pharaoh – Exod 1:15-21.
    They are blessed by God for their lying and deceit to Pharaoh.
  • Rahab vs the King of Jericho – Joshua 2:4-6
    She lies 3 times to the king, and is praised in Heb 11:31 and James 2:25. Granted, the NT passages don’t explicitly mention her lies, but they do commend her for receiving the spies – and that’s an act of disobedience and treason.
  • Gibeonites vs Joshua – Joshua 9:14-27
    The Gibeonites know Joshua has standing orders from God to destroy all Canaanites. So they lie about their origins and deceive Joshua into signing a peace treaty with them. After they’re found out, Joshua rebukes them – but then honors his man-made treaty, and doesn’t destroy them as God commanded. The interesting thing here is that God then endorses Joshua’s sparing of their lives! (see Joshua 10:6-8)
  • Jael deceives evil King Sisera – Judges 4:17-22 cf 5:24-27.
    She is praised by Deborah the prophetess for deceiving and killing King Sisera by pounding a tent stake into his head and pinning him to the floor. Nice.
  • Samuel’s white lie about blessing the next king – 1 Sam 16:1-3.
    This is perhaps the most interesting of all. It’s a white lie, but God recommends it to Samuel so that Saul won’t hunt Samuel. Why didn’t God tell Samuel “Be strong – for I will protect you so you can stand in truth and not fear your enemy”?? He said it to others (Josh 1)
  • Michaiah vs Ahab – 1 Kings 22:1-28.
    Another bizarre story! God deliberately sends a lying spirit into the mouths of Ahab’s advisers so they lie to him and decieve him into going into battle so that Ahab will die on the battle field. Just for grins, take a look at the true prophet Michaiah, and his sarcastic lie in v15.
  • God & Ezekiel vs false prophets and worshipers – Ezek 14:1-10.
    If you thought 1 Kings 22 was wild, check out this passage. God promises to willfully deceive all false prophets and false worshipers so that they will be destroyed.
  • Paul in Damascus – Acts 9:23-25 cf 2 Cor 11:30-33.
    Paul knows there’s a warrant for his arrest in Damascus. Instead of submitting to the governing authorities (something he tells people to do in Rom 13:1), he gets lowered down a basket outside the city walls and thus evades arrest – and then boasts about the situation in 2 Cor 11.
  • God vs people who reject His Word – 2 Thess 2:9-11.
    Lest we think God deceiving people is an OT thing, here, Paul warns that anyone listening to satan’s counterfeit miracles will receive a “strong delusion” from God so that they will believe a lie and be condemned for rejecting the truth.

Sometimes, I’m not exactly sure what we should make of these passages. Even if it wasn’t listed in the Ten Commandments, we would know lying is wrong (Exod 20:16, etc. Plenty more where that came from). But how is it that these characters lie without divine reprimand – and even with the permission/praise/blessings of God? It’s a concept worth wrestling over.

I observe the following common traits in all of these Biblical scenarios:
– The humans are lying/deceiving other humans in order to save innocent/repented life
– God facilitates people’s deception because they have rejected His truth

Still chewing on this one.

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