Why did God use lying spirits?
Prov 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to Yahweh...
1 Kings 22:23 Yahweh has put a lying spirit into the mouth of all these your prophets.
Ezekiel 14:9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
2 Thess. 2:11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie...

The alleged problem: If God finds lying to be horrible, why does he put lying spirits into the mouths of prophets and delude people?

Where is the contradiction here? It appears that this objection is asserting that the fact that God does not like lying necessarily implies that He could not use this evil for His own ends as a judgment. This is hardly a valid syllogism. One's feelings toward something don't have any connection with whether it is possible to use that something towards one's own ends.

The question is one for exegesis and theology, and it is a good question that is addressed in commentaries. But as we are dealing with allegations of contradiction here and not theology, this whole point is a non-issue from the standpoint of contradictions. As such, no further discussion is required on this point.

One other verse is different:

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

The second verse is a mistranslation -- the Hebrew word behind "deceive" can also mean "seduce" or "persuade." In the context of Jeremiah, who had to be persuaded by God to take his prophetic calling (Jer. 1:6-7), this is the correct understanding.

Here's a variation on the "God lied" theme, using Judges 20:18:

When the Benjamite leaders refused the demand, the Israelites took an army of 400,000 against the Benjamites, who numbered only 26,700. It looked as if it were going to be a complete rout, so the Israelites, apparently seeing no need to send their entire army out to battle, went up to Bethel to ask "counsel of God":
Who shall go up for us first to battle against the children of Benjamin? And Yahweh said, Judah shall go up first (20:18).
Well, Judah did go up first, and lost 22,000 men in a resounding defeat! So what happened here? The Israelites had asked counsel of Yahweh, and he told them to send Judah out to battle first. Although inerrantists may quibble (as I have heard them do) that Yahweh did not specifically say that Judah would be victorious, if the story happened as recorded--and inerrantists will argue that it did--then deception was certainly involved. One would have to be completely idiotic to think that the Israelites had asked "counsel of Yahweh" to find out which army to deploy in order to be defeated. Obviously, they wanted to know what army would secure a victory for them. So if anything like what is related in this story ever happened, we can conclude only one of two things: (1) Yahweh deceived the Israelites into thinking the forces of Judah could win the battle or (2) Yahweh is not omniscient. Either way the inerrancy doctrine suffers irreparable damage.

This objection fails for lack of context in terms of military tactics. The Benjamite tribe had gathered into one area around the city of Gibeah (20:14); are all 400,000 Israelites going to engage one city? What you'd have is ten to fifteen thousand on the front lines and 385,000 standing back doing nothing because there'd be no place for them to fit in on the front lines, only serving to block any possible retreat.

The part about "seeing no need to send their entire army out to battle" comes apart from tactical knowledge. Beyond that, there is only a "problem" here if it is shown that sending, say, Asher or Naphtali first would have resulted in fewer casualties, and that Judah, despite the losses, nevertheless did not serve some effective purpose.

Notice that the Israelites at the end of the day are bothered not about their losses, but about going up against their Benjamite brethren. This is not further evidence of God's "deception" for it has not a thing to do with their being upset about losses.

For more on this subject, see here.

-Eric Vestrup

Addenumdum by JPH:

I was alerted that Dan Kapr, amateur Bible critic and still-comedian, had issued a "response" to this article. Kapr proves his comic ineptness first by wrongly attributing the arguments to me when the author byline above clearly says (and has said for years) "Eric Vestrup". In an ill-advised responses to this point, Kapr digs himself a deeper hole by saying that his blunder was due to "a simple mistake that stemmed from me [Kapr] not realizing that the contributors’ names were listed at the bottom of the article rather than the top." This is an evasion, first because there is no contributor name at the top of this article, and there has not been one at the top of this article since I revised the site's formatting sometime around 2005. In other words, my name isn't at the top for Kapr to be able to mistakenly attribute the article to me; in fact, my name or some form of it appeared nowhere in this article (or even in the HTML code for this article) untul I updated it for the rsponse to Kapr. So the mystery will have to remain as to why Kapr fails to simply own up to his inattentiveness and carelessness, and what he supposed it meant for "Eric Vestrup" to appear plainly at the bottom of the article. Maybe he thought I was giving Eric some sort of cheap shoutout, or maybe he thought "Eric Vestrup" was the name of a Biblical prophet, or the name of some hacker who got into the code and put his name there for a cheap laugh. Whatever the case, Kapr has done little to inspire confidence with that excuse.

In any event, Eric wrote this item for me some 20 years ago, and I consider it a courtesy to guest writers to not alter their material without permission, even when I disagree with their views. In this case, and since Vestrup wrote this article, I have engaged social science scholarship which puts me at odds with certain standard arguments presumed to be held by apologists, including the one Kapr so blithely sums up as, "It is hard to understand how God could commission someone to lie on his behalf if he himself is incapable of lying. It is even harder to understand if the reason God cannot lie has to do with his perfect goodness." No, it isn't. In the agonistic world of the Bible, lies could and did serve an honorable purpose. Even someone as insensate a Kapr has surely heard the example of lying to Nazis about the Jews in your cellar. In such cases, lying is indeed compatible with perfect goodness.

There is therefore no moral dilemma is God commissioning someone to lie on His behalf, if He is indeed actually incapable of lying. In terms of whether He is indeed incapable of lying, I would note that the verses appealed to in this regard (Num. 23:19, Titus 1:5, Hebrews 6:18) carry the context of pledges made by oath and do not clearly state an all-around blanket declaration that God cannot lie about anything whatsoever. One might ask whether God could lie to Nazis about Jews hidden in a cellar. However, the debate seems really rather pointless since as the example of Ahab shows, God is just as able to use a surrogate -- and I might suggest that His level of honor makes it such that He would never put Himself in a position to have to lie Himself in the first place.

Kapr, in any event, is just another misinformed and ignorant modern making judgments on cultures and values he has no understanding of, and he demostrates this further in a reply in which he tries to grease his way out of not being informed about Biblical culture by trying to explain away Numbers 23:19 and Titus 1:5 (though not Hebrews 6:18, which he indicates he would not himself appeal to) as "appeal[ing] to God’s truthfulness precisely as the basis for trusting that he will do what he has promised to do."

Sorry, no. Numbers 23:19 is part of God's pledge as a suzerain (superior partner and patron in an Ancient Near Eastern covenant) to back up the nation of Israel as their military leader. So no, it is not "appealing to God's truthfulness" as a basis; it is appealing to His role as a suzerain as a basis. It is precisely because Kapr remains a fundamentalist that he reads this as a "clear" indication supporting his misinformed view. That he is in fact misinformed is not an insult. It is a brute fact which he insists on contiually demonstrating in endless epicycles.

As for Titus, he regars that as "even more compelling" for his view and breaks out his Pic N' Save Greek Dictionary to explain that the word used means "cannot lie" so that's what it means. A failed understanding of the contextual meaning plagues him as much as it did before: "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began..." The key references to "hope of eternal life" and "promised before the world began" contextualize this pledge to a covenant that promises and provides eternal life, and in Paul's mouth or pen, that can mean and only mean the covenant of salvation by why of Christ's mediation and God the Father's patronage. So once again, no, it is not appealing to God's truthfulness" as a basis; it is appealing to His role as a patron (a match for a suzerain in the NT period) as a basis. Titus 1:2 in no way "suggests" the view Kapr says it does; indeed, that he is comeplled to frame his interpretation as grounded in suggestion shpows that all he has done is force-fed his own context onto the text rather than a context that genuinely governed the text as one written in a first-century world where patronage was the grease that made the wheels go.

So once again, we have plenty of room for a notion that God might be able to lie about something when the lie serves for a moral good (e.g., the worn out example of Jews in the cellar and Nazis at the door), and no contradiction whatsoever, just further ineptness by Kapr. And it doesn't end there as Kapr goes on to waste further space going omg about the alleged "theological problem" his view presents. My own interest in his proclaimed paradox ended when he started it, "Evangelicals justify..." since I do not self-identify as an evangelical, and I have no need to address Kapr's paradox because it doesn't cohere with the premise of any lies God might tell or sponsor as honorable. A paranoid system such as Kapr suggests, in which the Bible was inspired to lead everyone astray, would not be honorable.

If Kapr has any sense at all, rather than complaining about being called incompetent after being demsonstrated to be such, he will go silent and spend the next 20 years (the same number of years as I have) familiarizing himself with depth Biblical scholarship before he posts any more responses. Otherwise, he is no more than one of tens of thousands of uneducated people signing the epitaph for expertise and is no better than comedians like Jim Carrey who spread nonsense about vaccines.