This post is about an event that happened during the ancient history of the ten tribes of Israel, but it could potentially have vital importance to readers of this blog now or in the future. The incident involves Rahab, a woman who sheltered two Israelite spies who had entered the city of Jericho which was targeted for attack by the Israelites who were about to enter the Promised Land under their warrior-leader, Joshua.
Rahab was a harlot, so she was not someone of pristine character at the time this event happened. Joshua 2 tells us about this episode. The two Israelites spies “lodged” at Rahab’s place (a brothel?), and this would have been a logical “cover” for the Israelite spies as unknown travelers could, no doubt, be expected to stay at a harlot’s place without arousing much suspicion from the locals. However, it was then a time of imminent warfare, and the local Jericho security apparatus was on top of the situation. The king of Jericho was told about the Israelite spies and their whereabouts. The king of Jericho sent his agents to talk to Rahab about them to determine the Israelite spies’ location. Rahab decided to risk her life by lying to the king’s agents and hid the two spies. She told the king’s agents that the two spies had left her place and likely left the city at the time the city’s gates were closed for the evening. She essentially said “they went that-a-way” and pointed the king’s agents in the wrong direction.
Obviously, since Rahab was knowingly hiding the two spies, she told a lie (a “whopper”) to the king’s agents. This brings us to the question of “Is there such a thing as a “white lie?” The biblical account of this event clearly shows the answer to be “yes.” Indeed, the Bible shows God so approved of Rahab’s white lie that it landed her in the Hebrews 11 “faith chapter’s” hall of fame (verse 31)! It is also worth noting that in spite of the instruction in Romans 13:1-7 that local authorities are to be obeyed, Rahab deliberately disobeyed her local authorities and was highly commended by God for doing so. However, this was an exceptional situation in which Rahab took this action.
Let’s examine Rahab’s action to see what we can learn from it today.
To begin with, the Bible is full of many strong injunctions against lying. One of the Ten Commandments forbids “bearing false witness.” However, even as the fourth commandment that requires resting on the Sabbath has the biblically-permitted “ox-in-the-ditch” exception (Luke 14:5), the account of Rahab confirms that the commandment against bearing false witness also has exceptions. However, we must realize that these exceptions apply only to very exceptional circumstances.
In Rahab’s case, she deliberately lied to save the lives of two Israelites (the good guys) from the murderous intent of the agents of the king of Jericho (the bad guys). If she had told the truth, she would have been an accomplice to the murder of the “good guys” (a far greater sin than telling a white lie). She told her lie in an espionage situation during wartime conditions (the invasion of the Israelites was imminent). This was an exceptional circumstance, and it gives people the right to tell a white lie to save the lives or safety of good people from bad people. In the well-known book, The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, there is an account of a very devout Dutch woman (Corrie’s sister I think) who felt that the command to not lie was so absolute that she even told the truth to the Nazi Gestapo when asked if a particular blue-eyed, blond woman was a Jew. By telling the truth, she put the Jewess into captivity and put her life in grave jeopardy. This incident took place in a situation where the Gestapo was searching for the good people (the Jews) so they could kill them and it occurred in wartime conditions. This incident paralleled the circumstances in the account of Rahab. Corrie Ten Boom’s sister could have said, with a totally clear conscience: “Are you kidding? This woman is blue-eyed and blond-haired. You can see she can’t be a Jew!”
Does this have any application to readers today or in the future? It may, indeed. In any given month, my webstats show that readers from approximately 120 nations visit my website. In many nations, people do not enjoy the civil rights now taken for granted by Americans and citizens of western democracies. If there is a situation where persecuting authorities or roving militias are seeking to kill Christians, Jews or whoever is an innocent person, believers can tell white lies (as did Rahab) to save the lives of the innocent from evildoers.
A case in point is in this link, which reports that Sunni Moslem rebels in Syria’s current civil war include radical Jihadis who are now killing Christians. A Syrian person who wished to spare innocent lives would be permitted by the Bible to tell a white lie to save the lives of innocent Christians (i.e. “Is he a Christian? Of course not!”). Other nations may also have similar situations. An Afghan or a Pakistani may have to tell a white lie to spare an innocent Christian or Jew (if there are any Jews left in those nations). There are regular reports of Christians being persecuted in Islamic nations or in mixed Christian/Islamic nations. Christians can also be persecuted in China or other atheist nations. Also, none of us knows what may happen in our own nations in the future. Nations which take civil liberties for granted may not always have them in the future. The agents of the prophesied, future Beast authority will be seeking to persecute or kill Christians/believers (and possibly Jews) in the future (Matthew 24:9-12, Revelation 13:15). You now know that if you are in a position to save innocent people from evildoers, you can tell a white lie to save them.
There is one last lesson to be learned from the account of Rahab. Rahab was a non-Israelite “hooker” who no doubt did not observe Torah laws, but she feared the power of the God of Israel and acted to save people who were the servants of the true God. She and her family were spared alive as a result of her taking this action and telling her white lie. They were the only ones spared in the entire walled city of Jericho. This account shows that God will show favor to those who act to help and save his people, no matter what their nationality or condition of sinfulness may be.