Dear Brethren,

Greetings in our soon to be realised Hope.

Thank you for your work in The Lampstand magazine where you address difficult verses and issues. I regularly look forward to reading these articles because I believe they are very helpful to the Brotherhood. I encourage you to keep up this important work.

However, in a recent article, ‘A Lying Tongue’ (Volume 22 No 2 page 88) Brother Rob concludes that Rahab and the Hebrew midwives, in spite of their demonstrated faith, were remiss in lying. While I respect your desire to affirm the very important principle that God hates lying, there are challenging verses such as “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thess 2:11) that suggest that the subject of lying is far more nuanced than concluding that lying is always inappropriate. Maybe, exceptional circumstances, such as war on God’s elect, warrants us to be less absolute in our prohibition of lying. The following examples illustrate this possibility.

Rahab (Joshua 2)

What exactly could Rahab have said to protect the spies without using a lie? If, as has been suggested, she simply responds with “No comment” to the King’s servants who interrogated her, this response (as well as being rude) would have a orded no protection at all to the spies. e King’s servants would have immediately become suspi- cious that she was complicit in hiding the spies. Result: Rahab and the spies would have been executed after a search of her premises revealed their existence.

Similarly, the spies appear to encourage her to continue the deception by saying, “Our life for yours if ye utter not this business” ( Josh 2:14,20). Her curious neighbours (or even further interrogation by the King’s servants) would have likely resulted in her having to use another lie to de ect attention (again the proposed response of “No comment” would have been inadequate, especially to a delegation from the King).

The spies would likely have been heavily disguised as they entered Jericho. ey would not want to be identi- ed as Hebrews (they were, after all, “spies”). Deception is a form of lying. is means that the spies too were engaged in a form of lying.
James emphasises a practical faith and uses Rahab as an example of faith in action. To separate Rahab’s lie from her other actions seems arti cial, especially when the lie is critical to her actions to hide them, manufacture a sense of urgency for the King’s servants to leave and then send the spies out another way. Similar comments hold for Rahab’s mention in Hebrews 11:31.

Hebrew Midwives (Exodus 1)

As with Rahab, what exactly could these midwives have said to protect the babies without using a lie and still be regarded as demonstrating faith?

God’s approbation of the midwives’ faith seems to follow as a consequence of their lying: They lie and the inspired record states, “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives” (Exod 1:20).

Joseph in Egypt

Joseph lied when he accused his brothers of being spies (Gen 42:9).

Joseph, knowingly falsely accused his brothers of theft (a lie), when the silver cup was found in their belongings (Joseph, in fact, orchestrated the deception) (Gen 44:1-5).

Joseph delayed revealing his identity to his brothers, allowing them to believe that he was not their brother (a deception) (Gen 42:7).

Other Considerations

Some commentators suggest that Obadiah fed the prophets in caves in Elijah’s day by misappropriating the King’s food. If true, this is a deception.

If a person has a birthday and is invited to a friend’s place for a small, intimate celebration only to find that a horde of well-wishers are hiding in the house to surprise him, isn’t this lying? If all lying is sin, then this should be condemned?

Are we to condemn those who lied when they hid Jews from the Nazis in the same way that we condemn deceptive salesmen for their lies?

If a terminally ill person is given misleading information so that they do not become distressed about their situation, is this practice to be condemned because it involves lies?

Each of these examples involve a greater good negating a lesser requirement, in the same way Christ spoke of rescuing an ass on the Sabbath (Luke 14:5) or David, under extreme conditions, ate the shewbread which “was not lawful” (Matt 12:4) for him to do?