Did God tell Samuel to lie - 1 Samuel 16:1-2


1 Samuel 16:1-5 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me." The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate." Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?" Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

Many times there is more to truth than we know or first observe. Recently in Orlando the city decided to demolish the aging Amway Arena. Using approximately 500 pounds of dynamite, the arena was imploded in a matter of seconds. Some people were watching from across a lake, and they were able to see one side of the building as it imploded. However, they could not completely describe what happened on the other sides, or what happened on top, or what happened inside. Moreover, even though observers saw their side of the implosion, many could not today state which block moved first, what cracked first, or what fell first, second, third, etc. Yes, many could describe it in general terms, but none as specifically, let's say, as an engineer who was present or a camera recording the entire event.

When we study the Bible it is important to look at it from every perspective. We have to become theological engineers of a sort. We have to be able to understand the text from every perspective in detail, or we will not understand its fullness. This is why when we study the Bible there will always be something new to learn; but it was there all along. As God moves us to the other side of a text, or even inside of it, we continually explode/implode with new insights.

In order to understand this text more fully, we need to set up our cameras for observing both God's truthfulness and his omniscience. This will give us a better understanding of the text as a whole.

Truth is an inherent part of God's nature. God is light and has no darkness in him at all (1 John 1:5). God cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Rom. 3:4; 1 Sam. 15:29; Tit. 1:1-2). This attribute of God is immutable, without any possibility of change or variance (Heb. 6:18). God is the very personification of truth.

However, God is also omniscient and all-knowing (Pss. 139:12; 147:4-5; Isa. 46:10; Heb. 4:13). God knew what Samuel would be asked, which was, "Do you come in peace?" (1 Sam. 16:4). How did Samuel respond? Samuel responded, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Thereafter he "consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice" (1 Sam. 16:5). Samuel told the truth. These were some of the reasons why he came.

God has a very dim view of a Christian lying in a court of law (Prov 19:9; 6:16-19) or lying to our neighbors (Exod. 20:16; cf. Exod 20:17), etc. At this point in Saul's life, however, I would question if he was really a neighbor or an enemy of God (see Disobeying Government Authority) since he had already been rejected by God - Why was Saul rejected by God? and Did God regret setting up Saul to be king in Israel?). The Psalmist states, "No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence" (Psa. 101:7). However, concealment of facts is not necessarily lying. While truth is an attribute of God, he also does not tell us everything at once; redemptive history itself unfolded for us through many generations, not all at once. Moreover, there are many things we do not know and will not know until we come into the consummation of the Kingdom of God. The Bible is full of examples: Abraham did not know of Moses, nor Moses of David, nor David specifically of Jesus, etc. The people of the Old and New Testament do not know all the details of the end times. Even New Covenant saints, do not know all the details of the new heavens and new earth. Just because we are not omniscient does not mean we have been lied too.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 states, "There is "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." This is a very relevant verse, especially in times of war. God, to protect Samuel's life, told Samuel not to tell "each and every" reason for his visit. Samuel was there for other reasons that are not specifically in the text. Samuel did not tell a lie. He did come in peace, which addressed the only question asked. He answered it truthfully. If Samuel had been asked for every reason of his visit and everything he intended to do on his visit, only then would he had been accountable for telling every reason, etc. But he wasn't asked for every reason, and God, being omniscient, knew he would not be. So God gave Samuel the truth which he was to speak before the question was ever on the lips of the elders. Samuel repeated the truth of God.

Related Topics:

Disobeying Government Authority
Must We Always Tell the Truth?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).