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In Joshua 2:5 (NASB) we read of Rahab witholding information

It came about, when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went.

This is a very interesting passage and would like to consider it in light of Exodus 20:16 (NASB)

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Does the Bible give space for witholding information?

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We live in an imperfect world were, at times, one must choose between the lesser of two evils. Note these ethical dilemmas faced by people: to lie or to save lives.

Lying, or spreading what is untrue, or bearing false witness, are acts forbidden by the ninth commandment (Ex 20:16) and many other places (Lev 19:11, Ps 34:13, 58:3, 101:7, 109:2, Prov 6:16-19, 12:19, 14:5, 19:5, 9, 21:6, 24:28, Matt 15:18-20, 1 Cor 6:9-11, Eph 4:25, Col 3:9, 10, Rev 21:8, etc.) However, there were times when an ethical dilemma arose where lying was the lesser of two evils.

  • Jeremiah – Jer 38:24-27
  • Midwives in Egypt – Ex 1:15-21
  • Jericho spies – Josh 2:1 (spying, by nature, is an enacted lie.)
  • Rahab of Jericho – Josh 2:2-7
  • Samuel – 1 Sam 16:1-3
  • Hushai the Arkite – 2 Sam 15:32-37, 16:15-19
  • Woman at Bahurim – 2 Sam 17:17-20
  • Michal protecting David – 1 Sam 19:11-17
  • David – 1 Sam 21:1-9, 12-15
  • Prophet – 1 Kings 13:18
  • Jehu – 2 Kings 10:10, 19, 30

The fact that some lied in order to protect life clearly says that life had, in some cases, a greater value than truth.

In the specific case of Rahab, she lied about the spies and what they went and what had happened. Even the very act of spying is an enacted lie - pretending to be some one other than oneself in order to obtain information.

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