Not that we need the confirmation, but the Bible makes clear that lying is bad. The ninth Commandment says so. Yahweh detests lying lips (Proverbs 12:22), and lying makes his top-seven list of things that he hates (Prov. 6:16–19).
And, not surprisingly, God doesn’t lie himself.
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind (Numbers 23:19).
It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18).
But that’s just what a liar would say, isn’t it? Let’s see what the Good Book admits about God lying.
What about justified lies?
The classic example of a justified lie is lying to Nazis about the Jews hiding in the attic. The Bible shows this kind of lie when Rahab lied about hidden Israelite spies (Joshua 2:4–5) or when the Israelite midwives lied to protect the male babies from Pharaoh (Exodus 1:19). Humans must lie in such situations because they aren’t omnipotent. Rahab couldn’t teleport the spies to safety, and the midwives couldn’t protect the babies like Superman.
God has no such excuse.
God lies in Garden of Eden story
We can’t even get out of the Creation story without seeing God lie. God says to Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). Adam doesn’t, and he lives to be 930 years old.
The rationalization that “die” only meant that Adam and Eve had been immortal before eating the fruit won’t work. Remember that God had to exile them from the Garden so they wouldn’t eat from the Tree of Life. (More on the immediacy of death from the fruit here.)
God lies to Ahab
Israel and Judah allied to fight the country of Aram across the Jordan River in 1 Kings 22. King Ahab of Israel consulted his 400 prophets and was assured of success. Prophet Micaiah was the sole holdout, but his prophecy turned out to be correct—the battle was lost and Ahab was killed. How then had the 400 other prophets gotten it completely wrong? Micaiah tells us that Yahweh wanted Ahab to die and authorized a spirit to cause the prophets to lie to lure him into the battle.
New Testament lying
Remember how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to prevent him from doing the right thing (Exodus 9:12)? We see the same thing in the New Testament. 2 Thessalonians predicts that “the lawless one” will deceive during the end times. To people caught by the lie, “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” (2 Thess. 2:11–12).
We see something similar when Paul describes God’s frustration at the people who don’t get it. “God [gives] them over in the sinful desires of their hearts” (Romans 1:24).
The Jewish opponents of Jesus saw his miracles. They didn’t believe, not because the evidence was poor or because they didn’t understand or because they were stubborn. No, they didn’t believe because God deliberately hardened their hearts (John 12:37–40). John says, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts.”
But why harden the hearts of bad people? Were they going to do bad things on their own accord or not?
Jesus was wrong when he predicted an imminent end: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34). The end of the world obviously didn’t happen in the first century.
Christian apologists try to argue that it wasn’t exactly the end of the world but something else that was predicted. But Jesus makes clear what “all these things” that would soon come to pass. He’s predicting a galactic apocalypse: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” There’s no chance we would’ve missed that one.
This may not be a deliberate lie like we saw from God but rather a false statement, but the result is the same when it comes from an omniscient being.
God is untrustworthy
In a recent post, I noted that God bragged that he had deliberately given his people bad laws:
So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 20:25–6).
Since God has lied to us in the past, what’s to stop him from doing it again? Which of God’s current laws is also a deliberately bad law? That’s the problem when you lie—now we can’t trust you about anything.
He hardened hearts to steer people away from the right path. He demanded that Abraham sacrifice Isaac and then revealed that it was a ruse. Sure, an all-powerful god can do whatever that he wants, but this god has shown himself to be untrustworthy.
Am I an atheist because God hardened my heart? If so, why do I deserve hell when it was God’s doing? And for the Christians celebrating that they’re going to heaven, how can they trust God about that whole salvation thing? Maybe God lied about that, too.
Christian apologists will try to spin the story to salvage some credibility for God, but what can this guy do and be declared immoral? If he’s simply moral by definition, then the claim is meaningless.
it’s also what you won’t know
— Aron Ra
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 8/11/14.)