Saturday, June 23, 2012

Exodus 20:16 No False Testimony

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."

Exodus 20:16 (NIV)

I thought I would take a look at various verses which deal with this matter of false testimony against a neighbor.  Several things come to mind.  The first is that those who give such false testimony against another person in the Bible usually are deemed to be among the lowest of the low.  Often they are convinced by others to do their dirty work of discrediting others.  Usually money or some material possession or even jealousy is involved.  Let's look at some examples from the Bible:

  • I think of King Ahab, goaded on by his wife Jezebel to get what he wanted (in this case, a garden plot belonging to another Israelite named Naboth).  Now, if Ahab had been following God he wouldn't have married Jezebel in the first place, for she was the daughter of a Canaanite ruler, and by her behavior we see that she had not converted to the true God.  Ahab probably married her to help seal some type of alliance between himself and her father.  Jezebel was probably used to her own father getting what he wanted by whatever means necessary, and she couldn't understand why Ahab, as king, didn't just seize this garden from Naboth if he wanted it.  [Naboth wouldn't give up the plot for it was part of the tribal inheritance which God had given to his family.]  When Ahab couldn't bring himself to seize such an inheritance, yet continued to sulk about the matter, Jezebel took matters into her own hands and wrote letters to the elders and nobles of Naboth's city instructing them to hire two men to bear false witness against N. and say that he had cursed God and the king.  Such a charge was punishable by death, and Jezebel planned this charge so that Naboth would be killed.  She probably reasoned that Naboth's property could then be seized by the king.  For money, these evildoers falsely testified against Naboth and he was put to death.  Afterwards, Ahab went to take possession of the property.  However, Ahab and Jezebel failed to consider that God knew what they had done, and both eventually received severe punishment for Naboths's murder:  Ahab's family line was decimated and Jezebel was eaten by dogs.  You can find the whole story in I Kings 21.                .
  • I also thought of how Judas betrayed Jesus.  Judas kept the money for the group of disciples and already had been stealing from it.  In fact, he was dismayed when Mary broke a jar of expensive perfume and used it to anoint Jesus' feet.  Outwardly he claimed to be concerned that the perfume should have been sold and the money used for the poor.  However, inwardly, he probably resented that he was now unable to get his hands on any of the proceeds which would have been in his possession.  When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of greeting (a signal which he had prearranged with the officials), he was, although informally, giving false testimony of his own, for he was acting as though Jesus was his master, while actually treating him as an evildoer and betraying him to his accusers.  In this case, Judas occupied a similar position as the guys from the marketplace in Jezebel's plot above.  He was being used by others, for his own monetary gain, to give a false testimony against a righteous man.  See Matthew 26:47-27:10 for this account.
  • The apostle Paul was also often falsely accused by others as he went about preaching the gospel.  People either lauded him as a god, or accused him of evildoing, according to the mood of the moment.  Sometimes they would do both in the same afternoon.  Acts 14:8-20
  • Paul himself (before he became a Christian) had participated in the false accusations against many of the believers, voting for their death or imprisonment.  He had also been an accomplice in the murder of the deacon [and first Christian martyr] Stephen, by watching the cloaks of the ones who stoned Stephen to death.  Acts 7 and 8:1-3.  See Paul's own words on his actions against the Christians in Acts 26:1-11.
  • Haman [again, with that unholy trio of prideful jealousy, selfish ambition, and greed for ill-gotten money] tried to have Mordecai the Jew hung by falsely accusing him.  Haman, too, was goaded on by his wife.  Haman's rage was such that he also wanted to wipe out all of the Jews because of his hatred toward Mordecai.  Why?  Mordecai had refused to bow to him.  Haman's false testimony against Mordecai and the other Jews resulted in him getting himself hung upon the very gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai.  To this day, on the feast of Purim, Jews revile Mordecai's actions as this story is read.  See the book of Esther for the whole story. 
As I listed these examples, [and space does not permit listing all of them here, although if they are in the Scriptures they will be covered eventually as we proceed], I marveled at how such false testimony was so very common.  Perhaps that is why there are so many Scriptures about it.  Here are just some of them:

Exodus 23:1 and 23:7
Deuteronomy 5:20 and 19:18
Psalm 24:4; 27:12; 35:20
Proverbs 6:19; 12:17; 13:5; 14:5; 14:25; 19:5; 19:9; 25:18
Isaiah 29:21
Hosea 10:4
Malachi 2:6
Matthew 7:15; 15:19; 19:18; 24:11; 24:24;26:59-60;
Mark 10:19; 13:22; 14:57
Luke 18:20
Acts 6:13
Ephesians 4:25
Revelation 22:15

No wonder, then, that the prohibition against false testimony was included in the Ten Commandments. 

No comments:

Post a Comment