Vol. 16 No 48 – November 26, 2017
The 9th Commandment.
Ex 20:16; Deut 5:20, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Cf. Ex 23:1-3 in the Sundry laws.
The 9th Commandment calls for sanctity of truth in all areas of life, even though the vocabulary primarily reflects the legal process in Israel. Under Jewish law, more than one witness was required to find the accused guilty, particularly with respect to a capital case, Deut 17:6; 19:15-20. This would make it much more difficult to convict someone based on false testimony, as it would take two or more liars to convict.
Deut 17:6, “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.”
In the case of the Law of Jealousy, Numb 5:13, as noted above under the 7th Commandment Adultery, if there was no witness of the wife’s adulterous act, she was brought to the Temple before the Priest and God Himself for judgment.
ED or “witness” is also used in the stories of the kinsman of Boaz and Jeremiah, where witnesses were necessary to purchase back the land, which were typology for Jesus Christ purchasing our sins upon the Cross., Ruth 4:9ff; Jer 32:10-25. Jeremiah’s action was also prophetic in that Israel would return from exile, Jer 42:45.
YHWH alone is the true and faithful Witness, Jer 42:5; 29:23; Mal 3:5. The Lord is a God of truth; His words are true, Psa 119:142, 151. He loves truth, because He loves Himself, and He “hates every false way,” cf. Psa 119:104, 128; Prov 6:17-19. Lying is a denial that truth is always right. It is a denial of God’s character and of His attributes.
Therefore, this Command forbids:
- Speaking falsely in any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing to deceive your neighbor.
- Speaking unjustly against your neighbor, to the prejudice of his reputation; (i.e., gossip and rumor).
- Bearing false witness against him, accusing him of things that he does not know, either judicially, upon oath, (by which the third commandment, and the sixth, as well as this, are broken), or extra judicially, in common conversation, slandering, backbiting, tale-bearing, aggravating what is done wrong and making it worse than it is: Exaggeration. It includes any endeavor to raise our own reputation upon the ruin of your neighbor’s.
In the Decalogue, the lie or false testimony in view is “against your neighbor,” BE REA.
The Preposition BE means, “against,” among other things, and REA means, “kinsman, fellow countryman, friend,” or as we call it, “neighbor.”
In general, this word falls into three categories:
- A friend, or someone belonging to an inner circle of close companions.
- A neighbor, or someone who lives in close proximity or is simply a fellow human being.
- Someone with whom no intimacy is intended (usually denoted by the pronoun “another”), but who is in the community fellowship of the people.
Therefore, the prohibition is not limited to slander of a fellow Israelite, because REA can refer to an Israelite, Lev 19:18, an alien, (GER), Lev 19:34, or even a pagan, Ex 11:2.
The root word for REA is RA’A that means, “to feed, shepherd, pastor, keep, a companion, company, etc.” So, the root for neighbor means, “one of the herd or flock, a fellow sheep.”
This is the first commandment to use the word REA and underscores the horizontal commandments that affect one’s “neighbor.” Here it is the general juridical sense of “anyone else you happen to come in contact with,” rather than the more narrow sense of “someone living near you,” Cf. Ex 3:22; 11:2; 12:4. In laws and formal rules, “neighbor” has nothing to do with proximity or familiarity; your “neighbor” connotes any other human being you may have dealings with, actually or potentially.
The first time this word is used in the Bible is in Ex 11:3, 7 for the account of the Tower of Babel regarding their fellow man, “one another.” We will see this word again in the 10th Commandment, where we are not to covet our neighbor’s property.
- The immediate concern of this command is fairness and honesty toward those with whom we may appear at a court action or legal investigation of any sort. It is directly connected to the idea of legal testimony and the witness. Rather than providing false testimony, the individual should give truthful and honest testimony.
- Keeping this law helps maintain stability in a society by protecting individuals’ reputations. Speaking the truth and honoring promises is the cement that holds society together. A decent society requires a reliable court system and court processes. Because crimes and disputes do occur, it must be the case that they can be adjudicated and the criminal behavior or unfairness thereby stopped. If witnesses in a trial, whether civil or criminal, do not tell the truth, it is extremely difficult for judges to render proper decisions. In other words, the court system of a nation depends on the honesty of its people.
- This also involves maintaining integrity before the Lord, Who of course does know the truth about the matter under investigation and will ultimately hold accountable before His judgment throne those who have resorted to falsehood to protect themselves from harm or in order to maliciously injure the other man in the court action. Integrity and truthfulness are to characterize God’s people.
“Not only false oaths, to deprive a man of his life or of his right, are here prohibited, but all whispering, tale-bearing, slander, and calumny; in a word, whatever is deposed as a truth, which is false in fact, and tends to injure another in his goods, person, or character, is against the spirit and letter of this law. Suppressing the truth when known, by which a person may be defrauded of his property or his good name, or lie under injuries or disabilities which a discovery of the truth would have prevented, is also a crime against this law. He who bears a false testimony against or belies even the devil himself, comes under the curse of this law, because his testimony is false.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary.)
- To tell lies in court is to undermine the very law itself, which explains why Moses required the witnesses to be the executioners in capital crimes, Deut 17:6-13. It is one thing to lie, but quite something else to kill in order to protect your lie.
- The basic issue at stake is personal integrity in all interpersonal relationships, as we see in Lev 19:11, where stealing, the 8th, dealing falsely and lying to one another, the 9th, are linked together.
- This commandment also prohibits slandering people, Ex 23:1; Prov 10:18; 12:17; 19:9; 24:28; Titus 3:1-2; James 4:11; 1 Peter 2:1. That is why “bearing false testimony” is closely related to theft, because it robs people of their good reputations. Therefore, character assassination in any of its forms, legal or casual, is another form of killing or theft and constitutes false witness that is a violation of this Commandment.
- To resort to false accusation or testimony is to dishonor God and give aid and comfort to Satan.
- Typically, a first lie must be protected by a second, and the moral weakling before long finds himself tangled up in a spider’s web from which he can hardly extricate himself.
- The liar loses fellowship with the Lord, Who has called him unto a holy life.
- This alienation becomes even more disruptive to his own self-respect when he adds to his lying testimony an oath in God’s name to tell the truth that additionally results in violating the 3rd He has taken the name of YHWH in vain.
- From this command we recognize God’s attribute of truthfulness. It is impossible for God to lie, Ex 34:6; Deut 32:4; Psa 31:5; 71:22; Zech 8:8; Titus 1:2.
Deut 32:4, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are justice: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
Psa 31:5, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.”
“The reason the Christian world came to believe that there are things that are “true” despite personal interest or desire is that it encountered a God who is absolutely true, that is, absolutely dependable. God calls his people to mimic that same behavior in their treatment of one another: They are to be true to one another, even at cost to themselves. Thus, the person who is in covenant with God does not need to destroy another person’s reputation in order to make himself or herself look better or to gain some advantage over that other person. Knowing that God is the supplier of their needs, covenant people can afford to treat the reputation of the other with the same kindness with which they would like their own reputations to be treated.” (John N. Oswalt, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary)
- Nothing but the truth, the whole truth, was the standard for the Israelites, who were to reflect their relationship with “the God of truth,” Isa 65:16.
Isa 65:16, “Because he who is blessed in the earth shall be blessed by the God of truth…”
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore our sins will never be held against us.
Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life.
So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!