I guess the classic online treatment of lying in the bible is this passage from the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible:
Is it wrong to lie?
1 God rewarded the Egyptian midwives for lying to the Pharaoh.
And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. Exodus 1:18-20
2 Rahab was “justified” when she lied about Joshua’s spies.
And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax. Joshua 2:4-6
Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?. James 2:25
3 David lied to Ahimelech when he said he was on the king’s business. (He was King Saul’s enemy at the time.) We know that God approved of this lie, since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah.
David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business…. 1 Samuel 21:2
4 Elisha told King Benhadad that he would recover, even though God told Elisha that the king would die.
Benhadad the king of Syria was sick … And the king said unto Hazael … go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. 2 Kings 8:8-10
5 In the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, the angel Raphael lied to Tobias, saying “I am Azarias.”
Tobias said to him: I pray thee, tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou? And Raphael the angel answered … I am Azarias. Tobit 5:16-18
6 Jesus lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but later went “in secret.”
[Jesus said] Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up unto this feast. … But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. John 7:8-10
7 Even God lies now and then by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets.
And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. 1 Kings 22:21-22
I explore the justified lie by Jesus in John’s gospel HERE
Now, we can glean from Hebrews 5:7 that the Gethsemane prayer was probably envisioned as being answered, but not in the way Jesus expected: “7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Let’s consider this in relation to God lying in the Eden story.
In contrast with the love of civilization and city in the epic of Gilgamesh, in the first 11 chapters of Genesis we see movement away from the city, starting with Adam and Evel leaving the well-manicured urban Eden. YHWH is trying to enforce this because people are trying to centralize and reach to the level of gods, such as with the Tower of Babel.
When we see Yahweh’s reaction to the first sin (where are you / who told you that you are naked), that is totally different from what he said would happen – that Adam and Eve would die. Yahweh had given them inaccurate information to keep them away from the tree. Why? God wanted to keep them in their innocent state because that’s a happier one. The child running around naked doesn’t know they are not supposed to be naked. But, once we realize the full scope of right and wrong, this is a terrible burden to bear. And this is what parents do. We don’t tell the child to learn for themselves that they shouldn’t touch the hot stove, but rather they are not to do it because we say so – like with the fruit of the tree. The serpent, by contrast, wants man to have this knowledge. God further prevents them from eating from the tree of life, which would make them immortal. YHWH then says to the heavenly council:
22 Then the Lord God said, “See, the humans have become like one of us, knowing good and evil, and now they might reach out their hands and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent them forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which they were taken. 24 He drove out the humans, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
Why does God do this? The heavenly council may have envisioned man becoming Gods in wisdom and immortality and then becoming a threat, like with the Greeks and how a newer generation of gods replaced the older Titans. Physical prowess wasn’t an issue, since some humans were considered a worthy match for the divine in terms of power, like Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32).
Relatedly, the crucifixion in Mark thus seems to be a haggadic midrash on the genesis story because just as eating the fruit caused Adam and Eve’s eyes to be opened, the way Jesus died caused the soldier at the cross’ eyes to open (through Jesus’ obedience to God in Mark quoting Psalm 22 / through forgiving Jesus’ love of enemy more than self in Luke). The soldier thus says “truly this is God’s son / an innocent man.”
The theme of eyes being opened is an important one in the bible, and so for instance we read:
- Psalm 119:18
Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
2. I am sending you 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:17-18)
3. Luke 24:31
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
4. 2 Corinthians 3:16
but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
5. Genesis 3:7
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
6. Psalm 19:12
12 But who can detect one’s own errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Psalm 19:12 is clearly important here because Jesus found himself in an evil world that could not see itself as such: So, Jesus was thus denied, abandoned, and failed (despite his message his disciples got violent at the arrest) by his disciples, denied Justice by Pilate, turned on by the crowd, and conspired against by the Jewish elite.
In the garden, God lies that Adam and Eve will surely die the day they eat the fruit, and the serpent tells the truth. Similarly, God apparently lies to Jesus in Gethsemane’s garden in Mark that Elijah will come and rescue him (“Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”) – Gods lies to ease Jesus’ burden. The mission? To un-hide (a-letheia) the hidden vileness of the world, to make it conspicuous so it can be worked on. This is also precisely the meaning of Socrates’ prayer of thanksgiving for the poison, and the impaled just man in Plato’s Republic.
For My Scriptures Study Index SEE