Holy wickedness: why are there so many liars in the Bible?


If a ruler listens to false speech, then all his servants are wicked. Proverbs 29.12

Do not invent lies against your brother, and do not do the same against your friend. Sir.7,12

Do not wish to tell any lies; for repeating it will not serve any good. Sir.7,13

An evil vice in a person is a lie; in the mouths of the ignorant it is always. Sir.20,24

Better a thief than one who constantly tells lies; but both of them inherit destruction. Sir.20,25

The stomach accepts all kinds of food, but the food of food is better: the larynx distinguishes food from game, so the rational heart distinguishes false words. Sir.36,20–21

And the Lord said to me: The prophets prophesy falsely in my name; I did not send them, nor command them, nor speak to them; they tell you false visions and fortune-telling, and empty things and the dreams of their hearts. Jeremiah 14:14

Put away from you the deceitfulness of your lips, and remove the deceit of your tongue from you. Proverbs 4:29

Your prophets preached to you empty and false things and did not reveal your iniquity, in order to avert your captivity, they spoke to you false revelations that led you to exile. Jer.2:14

If any flighty man had invented a lie and said: “I will preach to you about wine and strong drink,” then he would have been a pleasing preacher for this people. Mic.2.11

Whoever speaks a lie will perish. Proverbs 19:9

A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever tells a lie will not be saved. Proverbs 19.5

Everyone tells a lie to his neighbor; Flattering lips speak from a feigned heart. Ps. 11.3

If the prophet, or the priest, or the people say, “The burden is from the Lord,” I will punish that man and his house. Jer. 23.34

But please, look at me; shall I speak lies before you? Job 6.28

From birth the wicked have departed; from the womb they have gone astray, speaking lies. Ps.57.4

The sons of men are but vanity; sons of husbands - lies; if you put them on the scales, all of them together are lighter than emptiness. Ps.61.10

Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth every one of you to your neighbor, for we are members of one another. Eph.4:25

I hate lies and abhor them; I love Your law. Ps.119:163

..remove vanity and lies from me, do not give me poverty and wealth, feed me with my daily bread. Proverbs 30.8

Every man is foolish in his knowledge, every refiner disgraces himself with his idol, for what he has smelted is a lie, and there is no spirit in it. Jer.10,14

I said in my rashness: every man is a liar. Ps.115.2

Its rich people are full of unrighteousness, and its inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceit in their mouth. Mich. 6.12

And do not use this word: “burden from the Lord” in the future: for his word will be a burden to such a man, because you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of Hosts our God. Jeremiah 23:35–36

Men will arise from among yourselves who will speak perverse things in order to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:30

Holy wickedness: why are there so many liars in the Bible?

Perhaps it is in the texts of the Bible that formed the basis of European culture that we should look for the answer to the question why truth has become so devalued today? It is no coincidence that the Oxford Dictionary chose “post-truth” as the “word of 2021”.

“The Table” presents the most interesting speeches of the discussion - disputes about the forefather of the people of Israel Jacob and his brother Esau - and offers its own answer to the questions posed.

“Yakov is an exemplary liar”

Religious scholar Maria Endel:

– The Hebrew Bible is a book where people lie a lot, willingly and skillfully. They lie, guided by a variety of motives: saving the lives of themselves and their loved ones, trying to evade punishment or get a better life, hiding from their father’s wrath. And what can we say about people, if already on the first pages God promises a person that he will “die by death” if he eats from the forbidden tree, but nothing like that happens. Of course, commentators, both Jewish and Christian, have come up with numerous interpretations that exonerate all the famous biblical liars.

It is worth considering why the biblical text is replete with these kinds of stories, as if calling for the emergence of exculpatory comments. Among the famous biblical liars, Jacob (i.e. Jacob, son of Isaac - “The Table”) is perhaps exemplary. He began by holding on to Esau's heel, trying by hook or by crook to get ahead. He skillfully caught the moment to bargain with his brother for the birthright; he lied to his father on his deathbed, receiving a blessing instead of Esau.

Jacob not only cunned and deceived, but also made promises that he had no intention of keeping. After he received the blessing in Esau's place, he was forced to hide for 20 years and live with his mother's brother Laban. When Jacob finally wanted to return, Esau took the opportunity to take revenge on his offender. But Yakov behaved extremely wisely: he showered his brother with gifts, appeased him with flattery, and no revenge happened. In addition, Jacob promised Esau to go after him, saying: “Let my master go ahead of his servant, but I will go slowly until I come to my master in Seir.” After which he calmly went to Shechem, where he settled, having absolutely no intention of fulfilling his promise.

It would seem that reading these texts, we should sympathize with the unfortunate, many times deceived Esau. But it was not there! Contrary to the opinion of a naive reader of the Bible, not burdened with knowledge of the commentary tradition, it turns out that the “bad guy” here is not Jacob, but Esau. Already early commentators tended to justify Jacob using simple propaganda methods. It is interesting that Jacob is associated in tradition with the quality of truth. And the commentators’ strategy here is “justifying the truth.” It turns out that even in his mother’s womb, Jacob perked up when she passed by the Houses of Study, while his brother jumped up to meet the temples. It is said about Jacob that he is “ishtam,” that is, a simple person, which is read by commentators as “immaculate.” We read about him that while Esau was hunting, his brother was sitting in tents. Why “in the tents” and not “in the tent”? Because these were Houses of Study. Esau, contrary to his supposed innocence in the biblical text, was born “red,” that is, prone to bloodshed, he is a murderer, a liberator of other people’s wives, and generally a notorious scoundrel. Among other things, Jacob is the progenitor of the Jews, and Esau is the progenitor of Christians and partly Muslims. Obviously, this is an exemplary enemy. Thus, there is no question why the birthright and parental blessing went to Jacob. Moreover, having wrapped himself in goat skins and coming to the deathbed of his blind father, he practically did not lie, as tradition tells us. According to the Midrash, when asked if he was Esau, Jacob answered not “I am Esau, your firstborn,” but a little differently: “I am the one whose descendants will accept the Ten Commandments, and Esau is precisely your firstborn.”

Birth of Jacob (Yaakov) and Esau (Esau). Illustration for a 14th century manuscript

"Jacob Wrestles With God, and God Likes It"

Biblical scholar Andrei Desnitsky:

– I will speak a little from a different position about this same story. How is it that a good person does such bad things? You can, of course, come up with different midrashic explanations that in reality, they say, everything was completely different. But you can engage in literary analysis of this text and see what it says in the form in which it exists.

Jacob is the first ancestor of the people who wrote this text. And at the same time, which is completely unusual, the trickster is a clever cunning person who goes towards his goal without really thinking about the norms and breaking them where it suits him. You probably won’t find anywhere else where the first ancestor turns out to be a trickster at the same time.

Let's look very briefly at the story of their deception. Jacob is one of two twins. The motif of duality for tricksters is very typical in world literature. Jacob always deceives twice: the first time he makes a profitable deal, taking advantage of the momentary mood of his counterparty, for example, buying his brother's birthright for a bowl of stew (without deceiving him). And for the second time he resorts to shamelessly deceiving his father when he dresses up as his brother. In the same way, he takes Laban’s cattle: for the first time, having concluded a deal that is profitable for himself, when he does not realize its consequences (that all the speckled cattle will belong to him). And the second time, when Laban leaves all his relatives, daughters and grandchildren, without saying goodbye. Stories like this really make you wonder why such a respected person behaves this way.

Hendrik Terbruggen. Esau sells his birthright for lentil stew. 1627

There are at least two explanations for Jacob's actions. One is very simple and very down to earth. When Jacob goes looking for a bride, his mother Rebekah tells him, “Your brother Esau is going to kill you. Listen to what I tell you: run to my brother Laban in Haran. You will live there until your brother’s rage subsides...” Everything is clear here: we need to save ourselves. And at the same time, Isaac called Jacob and, blessing him, gave the following instruction: “Do not take Canaanites as wives. Go to Haran to your mother’s father and take yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban, her brother.” Completely different stories. First: an angry brother is about to kill, you need to run away, and second: the father gives his blessing to take a bride from a pure family, where there is no corrupt paganism. The same is true when moving back. First, Jacob explains to his wives: I worked for your father as hard as I could, and he deceived me, i.e. your father shortchanged me, and now I will be absolutely right if I leave without saying goodbye to him. And at the same time the Lord said to Jacob: return home to your family, I will be with you. Here there is both a desire to arrange one’s destiny in the most convenient way and a divine command.

But the key point, it seems to me, is the story of the confrontation with the mysterious stranger in the 32nd chapter of Genesis. There are many details here that are usually not paid attention to. The chapter begins with the words: “Jacob continued on his way and was met by the angels of God. Noticing them, Jacob said, “This is the camp of God,” and he called the place Mahanaim.” Mahanaim - translated as “two camps”, “two camps”: one is the camp of Jacob, the other is the angels. They find themselves together at one point in space. Then Jacob, however, further divides his goods into two camps: if Esau attacks one of them, at least the second will remain. Again a double meaning: two camps in two senses. Then there is a struggle with a mysterious stranger, after which the stranger says: “You fought with God and you will overcome people.” Commentators waste tons of ink and paper trying to somehow explain this. I won’t even try to do this, I’ll just note that immediately after this fight Jacob changes fundamentally. It’s not that there’s no room for adventure in his life anymore—there really is. Then his only daughter Dina is raped, for which 12 brothers successfully take revenge. But Jacob not only does not participate in this, he does not approve of them, he says: you have made me hated in the eyes of the inhabitants of that land. Then his beloved son Joseph disappears somewhere, and the brothers give a rather incomprehensible explanation, but Jacob again does not try to do anything.

Gustave Dore. Jacob wrestling with an angel. 1855

And so I believe that this very episode, which is understood as a struggle with God, contains an explanation for Jacob’s tricksterism: he is dissatisfied with his place in life, dissatisfied with the fate that God has determined for him, and is constantly trying to fight it. And for some reason God accepts his struggle. It seems strange to us: how can a person fight with God? How can a child fight an adult? Apparently, at some point God begins to like it. For the same reason that a father likes it when his little son fights with him, or the owner of a puppy likes it when he jumps on him. Indeed, by doing so, Jacob takes God seriously, accepts him as, in essence, his only interlocutor.

But the fact that deception does not remain without consequences was also noticed by various commentators. Laban deceives Jacob by passing off his eldest daughter as his younger daughter—marrying an unloved woman to him. And then the older brothers steal Jacob’s beloved youngest son Joseph for a long time. Jacob receives something like retribution for having resorted to deception himself. But this does not have such fatal consequences. Ultimately, history is written on two levels. This most mysterious tricksterism is not so much a means to achieve a goal as a means to say to God: I care how I live, and the only person with whom I will argue about this is You. And for some reason God likes it.

Jacob receives the blessing intended for Esau. Manuscript from the beginning of the 14th century

“Holiness is not sinlessness”

The main question of the discussion “The Table” was also asked by the school ethics teacher and catechist (teacher of Christian faith and tradition - “The Table”) Andrei Osharin: is it possible to deceive God or in the name of God?

– It’s a good question. Not possible under any circumstances. But people start from a rather strange premise: they take the patriarchs and begin to show how they lied. Firstly, holiness is acquired by people not from the day of birth, but still from the day of death. We celebrate the memory of saints not on their birthday, but on the day of their death. It is fundamentally important how a person lived his life, how he ended up. Many people break down at the finish line, unable to withstand the “copper pipes.” Why am I categorically against various kinds of popular popular lives, which tell, for example, that Sergius of Radonezh as an infant did not partake of his mother’s milk during Lent. Simply because then he, in general, is not very human, if not to say that he is not a person at all. This is pronounced monophysitism, and this is a heresy. The conclusion from this is simple: since we drank mother’s milk on Wednesdays and Fridays, we will not be either Sergius of Radonezh or Seraphim of Sarov - our starting conditions are different. Here comes another heresy: predestination.

Holiness is not sinlessness. In the New Testament - it’s scary to think! - All Christians are called saints and “members of God.” However, no one says that they are sinless. And righteousness (a more appropriate word for the Old Testament) is also not sinlessness. A saint differs from a great sinner in only one thing - determination, said Seraphim of Sarov. And Jacob has the determination, the determination to break through to God. Therefore, he is a patriarch, and one of the respected patriarchs.

By the way, religious scholar Maria Endel accuses God of lying: He said that Adam would die after eating from the tree, but this allegedly did not happen. Happened! Adam died, but before the Fall he was immortal.

When I first read the story about Jacob and Esau, I immediately saw Esau as a “man of the fields,” that is, a “field commander.” He was a hunter. But if you look at the geography of that area, there were caravans there. Esau, generally speaking, was a bandit; he robbed caravans. We must understand well the mentality of that time and not create any illusions. There is no need to consider either Esau or Jacob from the point of view of a Moscow refined intellectual. Jacob behaves the same way everywhere. And Andrei Sergeevich Desnitsky is absolutely right that after the fight with the stranger, something happens to Jacob (the same thing happens to Joseph later: he is thrown into a hole, and he comes out a different person). Christians call this metanoia - repentance. And the flocks sent forward as a gift to Esau are not “appeasement with flattery,” but an act of repentance. This can be considered an act of hypocrisy - everyone judges by their own depravity. This text must be seen from a position of faith.

The episode with the stew outrages me to the core. Yes, we can say: I took advantage of the situation. But Esau could endure for an hour and a half, and there was something to eat in the tent; he did not die of hunger. And in general, an agreement is a voluntary agreement of the parties: they offered a stew - he sold God for it! Indeed, he is a “field commander”, and he does not need God; for him, birthright is the transfer of some kind of power, as was the case in Mesopotamia, in some Eastern religions. For Jacob it is completely different. He has no strength, and he does not die in his homeland. In the ordinary sense he is completely unsuccessful. These are two fundamentally different understandings of blessing.

Consequences of lying. What does deception lead to?

Ps.9:28 “His mouth is full of curses, deceit and lies; under the tongue is his torment and destruction.”

Lies and hypocrisy in the Bible are compared to torment and destruction. When deceiving, a person suffers that he will be exposed. This pushes him to lie and dodge even more.

Why do we lie? After all, lying has never brought happiness and joy to anyone. It hurts hearts, destroys families, destroys relationships between loving people. One false phrase can trample faith, bury hope, destroy love... Oh, it’s not in vain that deceit is attributed to mortal sins.

Is it really that hard to tell the truth? Don’t we really like to cause pain to a loved one in order to show the illusion of happiness, joy and positive emotions?

The retribution, after all, will be great...

The reasons for lying are fear, delusion and the desire to deceive one's neighbor for one's own benefit. There is such an ancient Indian wisdom: “ There is no virtue higher than justice, no vice worse than lies.”

A lie where there is no truth. Consequences of lying - suffering of conditioned souls

A person lies when he wants to:

  1. To hide from others a previously committed sin.
  2. When he plans to commit some sin.

The pattern of our life is that every action we take is followed by an aftereffect, or so-called consequence. Which, in essence, should be the determining factor in making any decisions. But in the turbulent flow of modern lifestyle, we have less and less time to think about the consequences of the decisions we make. And as a result, people rarely think about what deception leads to . But life teaches us that sometimes the cost of deception is disproportionately high in relation to the imaginary benefit that we can supposedly receive.

Someday I'll get tired of lying... I'll get tired of lying.. to myself.. and to others... And one day I'll confess everything... To everyone... and everything... I'm tired.. I'll return to that house... And I'll gather all those people... Whom I knew... Whom loved... Whom I didn’t know... and didn’t love... I’ll tell them how I lived... Not how I wanted... But how it really was... I’ll show them myself... Not the way I wanted to see myself... But the way I knew only myself ... How I deceived... I sinned... How often.. I was afraid to do good... To speak.. the truth... I will probably be ashamed... Because I... will turn out to be not a very good person... But I.. will have nothing to lose... And I confess that people... Who forgot me long ago... What exactly THEM... And not THOSE with whom I was... I loved more than anyone in the world... I will remember everything... I will remember the faces... at which I laughed so cynically... And... I will apologize... to them... And my friends... which..still couldn’t save... I... will collect and... there won’t be many of them... Maybe even ONE... Because... because they too... Quietly and silently... if they didn’t shoot... They were aiming... but after all.. after all, we were aiming... Only then.. will I understand myself... Maybe... I’ll see the one... With whom it would be worth living life... And I’ll pull the one out of the crowd... With whom I should walk through this life side by side... Shoulder to shoulder... And that’s all it didn’t turn out the way I wanted... But still... it’s just the beginning, right?... And I want to believe... that someday... When I get tired of lying... to myself... I will return... to that house... and confess everything... EVERYTHING and IN EVERYTHING... and IN EVERYTHING...

In his monologue, Dmitry Nagiyev talks about the most destructive habit - lying. First of all, for yourself, and then for others. Living with illusions is unreasonable. It is pointless to present yourself in the best light using lies; it is better to prove your importance in life with your actions.

( 2 ratings, average 5 out of 5 )
Did you like the article? Share with friends:
For any suggestions regarding the site: [email protected]
For any suggestions regarding the site: [email protected]
Для любых предложений по сайту: [email protected]