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This is inspired by Does God command someone to do something against His laws?

English Standard Version Ezekiel 14:91

And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

It seems pretty straightforward that God does the deceiving. Wouldn't that be a sin?

God is NOT a deceiver, meaning a person who habitually deceives other.


  1. MT: וְהַנָּבִיא כִי יְפֻתֶּה וְדִבֶּר דָּבָר אֲנִי יְהוָה פִּתֵּיתִי אֵת הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא וְנָטִיתִי אֶת יָדִי עָלָיו וְהִשְׁמַדְתִּיו מִתּוֹךְ עַמִּי יִשְׂרָאֵל
  • A better translation may be: "But if the prophet is enticed to speak a word, I, Jehovah, have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel." Would you still have a problem with that? I can look more into the Hebrew – Walter S Jul 5 at 23:55
  • not as much but still sounds like a sin to me: to entice a deception, like a prostitute enticing innocent men. – Bill Jul 6 at 0:00
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Excellent question that has flummoxed many. To unlock this little mystery let us look at a few other cases where the situation is clearer.

1. David

In 2 Sam 24:1 we read: "the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."

But in 1 Chron 20:1 we read: "Then Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel."

These are both inspired passages but, to us, they both cannot be correct: either God tempted David or Satan tempted David - who was it? Remarkably, to the Hebrew mind, they are both correct because God is omnipotent, nothing happens without Him at least allowing it to happen. So, while Satan did the tempting of David, God is said to have "caused" the problem because He did not prevent it.

2. Pharaoh

In places like Ex 9:12, 10:20, 27, 11:10, etc, we read that the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart to prevent the Israelites leaving Egypt.

Yet in places like Ex 8:15, 32, 9:34, etc, we read that it was Pharaoh that hardened his own heart.

Again, they cannot be both correct except to the Hebrew mind that God is responsible for what He does not prevent.

3. Saul

In several places we read that God(!!) sends an evil spirit on Saul to tempt him (1 Sam 16:14, 16, 18:10, 19:9). Clearly, God does not have any evil spirits to send. However, again, to the Hebrew way of thinking, God is responsible for that which He does no prevent.

4. Others

There is a similar thing is Judges 9:23 (evil spirit from God); 1 Kings 2:22, 23, 2 Chron 18:21, 22 all have a "lying spirit" from the LORD.

This idea is technically called the "Divine Passive" where God is held responsible (because He is omnipotent) for that which He does not prevent.

I presume that Eze 14:9 is another example of the same thing. Thus, God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13) but God is held responsible for that which he allows. Therefore, it was the great deceiver, the devil, who did the deceiving.

Ellicott has a useful summary of all this in his inimitable cogent style:

And if the prophet be deceived.—The exact sense of the original is, “If a prophet be persuaded and speak a word, I the LORD have persuaded that prophet.” The thought is thus in close connection with what precedes; in Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 14:7, the Lord has refused to allow an answer through the prophet to the hypocritical enquirer; but if the prophet, by giving the desired answer, allows himself to become a partaker of the sin which God abhors, then God will treat him according to that general method of dealing with sin which is here described. He “persuades” the prophet in the same sense in which He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, by making such persuasion the natural consequence of the immutable moral laws which He has ordained. Men are held back from sin only by God’s own Holy Spirit drawing them towards Himself. When they set this aside by transgressing God’s commands, the inevitable tendency—the tendency under the moral laws God has established—is to further sin. Hence the prophet who allowed himself to be persuaded, contrary to God’s command, to answer the hypocritical enquirer at all, would inevitably be persuaded further to answer him according to his desires. God does not force men either to receive the truth or to act righteously. If, notwithstanding His remonstrances, their hearts are set upon wrong, He will even give them up and “send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie” (2Thessalonians 2:11).

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    Up-voted. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28. The things God does and does not do are sometimes incomprehensible to those who do not love Him. – Nigel J Jul 6 at 0:36
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The difficulty in this verse is a translation issue as well as a theological issue. The word in question is יְפֻתֶּה, a passive form meaning to foolishly give in to temptation. The meaning to deceive is only when used in active voice. Compare with the same word or root as used in:

Proverbs 9:4 (New Living Translation):

Come in with me,” she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says.

Proverbs 14:16:

The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence

Proverbs 21:11:

If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded become wise; if you instruct the wise, they will be all the wiser.

Hosea 7:11:

The people of Israel have become like silly, witless doves, first calling to Egypt, then flying to Assyria for help.

The sense of Ezekiel 14:9 is therefore that "And you should know that any of the prophets who would foolishly think to say anything, it was Me, the LORD who tempted him..."

The theological issue is that God leads transgressors in the way that they are inclined to go, to hasten their downfall or to make an example of them, the foremost being the Pharaoh of the exodus. Ezekiel is clear that he considers these prophets, who are prophets of the idols mentioned in the context of chapter 14, to be transgressors and fools, enemies of the LORD who the LORD Himself will deceive if they dare to open their mouths.

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There is no doubt that God accepts responsibility for the deception of the false prophets, but God is not the deceiver.

There is a very enlightening passage in 1 Kings 22 that gives much insight in regard to the OP's question.

After an extended period of peace with Syria, Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) pays a visit to the Ahab (king of Israel), during which Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to unite with him in battle to repossess Ramoth in Gilead. Jehoshaphat, wisely, decides to inquire of the LORD before giving an answer. So, Ahab rallies all his prophets (about 400 men) who answer with one voice, "Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king."

Jehoshaphat is not fully convinced by Ahab's chorus of prophets, so he asks for another prophet of the LORD to be called. Ahab reluctantly calls for Micaiah, who he declares he hates because none of his prophecies are favourable to him.

When Micaiah arrives, he declares to Ahab (1 Kings 22:19-23 KJV):

19... Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
20And the LORD said, Who shall persuade(1) Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth -gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.
21And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade(1) him.
22And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade(1) him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
23Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

All the host of heaven are divided, those on the left and those on the right of the LORD upon his throne. Some will see no significance in this detail, but to me the simple mention of it invites a similar picture to that depicted in Job:

1:6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

So, the hearts of all those on the left of the throne are inclined as Satan's, and the hearts of those on the right as the LORD's. The narrative doesn't specify from which side of the throne the spirit came forth, but his suggestion is clearly in accord with Satan's heart (being the father of lies - John 8:44).

In the same way as the LORD gave permission for Satan to perpetrate the inclinations of his heart upon Job, so too the LORD gives permission to this spirit to pursue the inclinations of his heart, i.e. to be a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets.

The LORD permits His created beings to pursue the inclination of their hearts, whether for good or evil. He doesn't persuade them one way or another. In the case of Job, the LORD simply drew Satan's attention to Job's prosperity and diligent practice of his religion. In this case, the LORD asks the host of heaven who will persuade Ahab to go to his death. Surely only a wicked heart would be inclined to want to do that.

There is so much in Scripture that should make those who are opposed to the heart of the LORD, shake in their boots. The LORD will give to all, the desire of their hearts.

Conclusion

The LORD is not the deceiver. He takes responsibility for it, however, because He allows those whose hearts are inclined to deception the opportunity to pursue it.


Note:
  1. The Hebrew word given here by the KJV as "persuade" is from the same root as that given as "deceived" in Ezekiel 14:9, פָּתָה (Strong's H6601 - pathah)
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I'm willing to accept that whatever God does, by definition, is right, therefore, not a sin, regardless whether the action contravenes or appears to contravene any kind of law, human or divine. Who am I to judge God? Who am I to excuse God.

Roman 9

13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Or if you will, he deceives whom he wants to deceives.

NIV Jeremiah 20:7 You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.

God's laws are for the betterment of mankind. God cannot break any law because there is no law written for the betterment of God since He is already perfect.

Pulpit Commentary uses the word "deceive" in its commentary:

I the Lord have deceived that prophet, etc. The teaching of modern thought is to soften language like this into "I have permitted him to be deceived." The distinction was seldom, if ever, present to the mind of the Old Testament, or indeed of the New Testament, writers. It is Jehovah who sends the "lying spirit" in 1 Kings 22:20 -23. It is he who in the latter days shall send men "strong delusions" that they shall believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11). In both cases it is implied that the delusion is a righteous punishment, is indeed the natural, because the divinely appointed, punishment of the sin. Populus vult decipi et decipiatur, but the very deception is a means for undeceiving them. At last their eyes shall be opened. The punishment of the false prophet and of those who trust him is at once retributive, and a discipline, and, if the discipline fails for them, at least a warning for others.

My conscience is clear. I do not have any problem with whatsoever that God does. God is God. He is that He is.

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