Deadly Deception

William C. Brownson

READ : 1 Kings 21:1-7

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Ex. 20:16)

To bear false witness is to accuse someone unjustly, to testify deceitfully in a legal proceeding—often after taking an oath to tell the truth.

In ancient Israel, where nearly all crimes were capital crimes—death penalty cases—bearing false witness was a deliberate attempt to have someone killed. Remember what wicked Queen Jezebel did to Naboth? Her husband, Ahab, craved Naboth’s vineyard, but the owner would not sell his family inheritance. Ahab pouted and sulked. Jezebel arranged to have Naboth falsely accused and killed, then seized his vineyard.

Jezebel the queen had others do her dirty work, but the Old Testament law required the accusing witness to take part in the execution. You bear witness, condemning the accused to be killed; then you do the deed. If later your witness is found to be false, you die the same death. That’s how serious it is to bear false witness.

There’s abundant warning here for us. Let’s beware of passing on rumors, especially those that reflect unfavorably on others. Let’s avoid belittling comments, or whatever arouses suspicion toward another.

Positively, we all have power to defend the names of others. Love means that we guard their reputations, build them up when possible, see them as innocent until proven guilty. “A truthful witness saves lives, but one who utters lies is a betrayer” (Proverbs 14:25).


God, make us truthful, caring witnesses!