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1 Kings 20:35 By the word of the Lord one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” but he refused.

1 Kings 20:37-40 The prophet found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” So the man struck him and wounded him. 38 Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. 39 As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.’ 40 While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.”

God told the prophet what to do -- isn't God then making the prophet violate the commandment that though shall not lie?

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The incident quoted by the OP is not the only case.

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; and thus lying was the lesser of two evils.

APPENDIX - Ethical Dilemma

Imagine the (rather common in some countries) situation when a crazed gunman walks into a crowded building and begins shooting people. You have a gun and you are a crack shot!

You then have a choice - do you follow the commandment not to kill; or do you aim and pull the trigger in order to minimize the loss of life?

Such ethical dilemmas only occur in a sin-sick, imperfect world. The above examples of lying show that, on occasions, lying was the lesser of two evils when it was choice between lying or saving life.

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    I'm new here and also not a biblical scholar, but I've read somewhere that a better translation would be not murder and not not kill as its meaning is different, which then wouldn't be an ethical deilemma. – AbraCadaver Jun 16 at 14:49
  • @AbraCadaver - you are absolutely correct; the point is, how then you define murder if it is an illegal killing - how does the law define legal killing? Was the scenario above anticipated by the 10 commandments (it was not because guns had not been invented.) – Dottard Jun 16 at 21:32
  • IMHO the weapon doesn't matter, it's the situation. If a crazed person with a spear started franticly stabbing innocent people in a market or temple in biblical Jerusalem and someone stabbed them, or hit them over the head with a club, or rammed them into a stone wall or grabbed them in a choke hold, and they died; I see as the same. – AbraCadaver Jun 16 at 21:50
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Exodus 20:16 New International Version

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

The prophet had not violated this commandment. There was no neighbor there he was arguing against.

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The prophet may have been speaking metaphorically.

Often, with the weird things that the Prophets did, they were often being motivated to speak metaphorically. For instance, one of the Prophets was commanded by God to marry a prostitute, as a metaphor for the tendency of Israel to commit adultery by worshiping other gods.

In this case, interpreting the prophet's words metaphorically, it seems possible that he's actually talking about God leaving the care of the Kingdom of Israel in the prophet's hands.

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