Deception in The Old Testament

God’s own people are commended for their deception in the Old Testament.  How can this be?  Bill Arnold states in his commentary on 1 Samuel 27:8-12 says:

Verses 8-12 relate David’s military campaigns during his Philistine sojourn.  In this also David acts on his own God’given instincts.  We may be tempted to label the events of this paragraph as “disreputable” and to deplor David’s use of deception in his dealings with Achish.  But the text is not included as a means of critiquing David’s actions, no matter how questionable those actons seem to us today.  rather in typical Anciet Near eastern fashion, the text celebrates the shrewdness of our protagonst and his ability to ingratiate himself to both his own people and to the Philistine overlord.

When do you think that deception is to be commended?  When is deception different from lying?

1 Samuel 27

 1But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”

 2 So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maok king of Gath. 3 David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, the widow of Nabal. 4When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him.

 5Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?”

 6 So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since. 7David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months.

 8 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.) 9Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.

 10 When Achish asked, “Where did you go raiding today?” David would say, “Against the Negev of Judah” or “Against the Negev of Jerahmeel” or “Against the Negev of the Kenites.” 11 He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, “They might inform on us and say, ‘This is what David did.’” And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory. 12 Achish trusted David and said to himself, “He has become so obnoxious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant for life.”

Questions

  1. How often is God mentioned in this passage?
  2. Why does David deceive King Achish?
  3. Does the text, in your opinion, approve of the deception?
  4. Is it justifiable to deceive people?
  5. Have you ever deceived someone for all the right reasons?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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14 Responses to Deception in The Old Testament

  1. Rebecca Langer says:

    1.How often is God mentioned in this passage?
    God is never mentioned in this passage.
    2.Why does David deceive King Achish?
    He decieves him so that he can have a safe place to stay while killing Judah’s enemies.
    3.Does the text, in your opinion, approve of the deception?
    I do not think that the text really pushes either way in the passage.
    4.Is it justifiable to deceive people?
    I know that many times in war, deception is acclaimed as great, and this is such an occasion. However, I would say usually no. Unless you are throwing them a birthday party. 🙂
    5.Have you ever deceived someone for all the right reasons?
    Well, I have thrown someone a suprise birthday party before. I have lied, then felt extremely convicted about it and eventually confessed.

  2. Sokloon Dy says:

    1. God is not mentioned at all in this passage.
    2. David wanted king Achish to believe that he raided his own people so that he could earn the king’s trust.
    3. i am not sure…
    4. it’s unacceptable for the most part, but there are few exceptions in the Bible where it brought much good (think of Rahab and the spies)
    5. No. I have never deceived anyone for the right reasons.

  3. Amy Kringle says:

    1. It’s not mentioned at all.
    2. So he had an “in” to killing enemies of Judah
    3. It seems neutral…like it is just a story telling without an opinion.
    4. Not really. But maybe if you are protecting someone it is ok?
    5. I think I’ve averted or redirected questions to protect someone. I don’t know if thats necessarily a “right reason”.

  4. HeeJin,Choi says:

    1.How often is God mentioned in this passage?
    – God is not mentioned in this passage.
    2.Why does David deceive King Achish?
    – To get Achish’s trust in order to take advantage of Philistine’s power.
    3.Does the text, in your opinion, approve of the deception?
    4.Is it justifiable to deceive people?
    – In general, deception is not a right thing to do but there must be some inevitable situations that lying can be used as good.
    5.Have you ever deceived someone for all the right reasons?
    -Yes, to avoid hurting my friend’s feelings.

  5. Kristin Goffinet says:

    1) It is never mentioned.
    2) To protect himself and gain the respect and trust of Achish.
    3) The text doesn’t say anything that supports David’s actions.
    4) No, it is never justifiable to decieve people.
    5) Yes, when I helped plan my mom’s surprise birthday party.

  6. Jessica Gentry says:

    1. God is never mentioned in this passage.
    2. David deceives King Achish so that he will have a safe place to live.
    3. The text doesn’t seem to justify or condemn deception, it just seems to say that that was what it was.
    4. Though the text doesn’t say it blatantly, I would say that in light of all other Scripture, deceiving people is certainly not justifiable.
    5. I guess you could say that I have deceived people for all the right reasons, thinking that I was trying to protect them from something, but in the end I don’t think that made it right necessarily.

  7. Melisa Guiles says:

    1. God is not mentioned in this passage.
    2. He is afraid of what the King would do to him if he knew the truth.
    3. The text doesn’t seem to really approve or disapprove of the deception. It seems pretty neutral, like it is just stating the facts.
    4. I don’t think that deceiving people is justifiable. When we look at what Scripture teaches and what Jesus taught, I think we see it as not justifiable.
    5. There have been times when I have hid something from someone in order to protect them or because I was told not to tell them. However, that normally doesn’t turn out to well.

  8. Cassie Clark says:

    1.He is not mentioned.
    2.So he can live in his land
    3.It doesn’t seem to go either way.
    4.That’s a tough one. I would say no unless it can be overriden by a higher command, to save a life for example.
    5.No.

  9. aaron wright says:

    1. never mentioned
    2. to trick him into being able to live in his land and have an ideal spot to kill off enemies
    3. doesn’t seem to condemn it. not sure
    4. this needs a research paper to answer.
    5. sure have!

  10. Sandra Tindle says:

    1. God is never mentioned in this passage.
    2. David deceives King Achish so that he could go and raid the surrounding areas and people.
    3. In my opinion, the text does not say that the deception is wrong, so in a sense it does approve the deception.
    4. There are good reasons to deceive people.
    5. Yes.

  11. Moon Jung Kim says:

    1.How often is God mentioned in this passage? God is never mentioned in this passage
    2.Why does David deceive King Achish? so that David could stay there longer and also he could go and raid to extend his power
    3.Does the text, in your opinion, approve of the deception? in this text it doesn’t say either it is wrong or right.
    4.Is it justifiable to deceive people?I think the matter is not the deception. the matter is where our heart is focused on. the matter is if our heart has a focus towards God or not.
    5.Have you ever deceived someone for all the right reasons? yes i have

  12. [ED2203-01] HyeJin Lee says:

    1.How often is God mentioned in this passage?
    None.
    2.Why does David deceive King Achish?
    So he could live in his land.
    3.Does the text, in your opinion, approve of the deception?
    This passage does not mention if it is right or wrong.
    4.Is it justifiable to deceive people?
    I think deceptions are sometimes needed.
    5.Have you ever deceived someone for all the right reasons?
    Yes.

  13. Kristen Patush says:

    1.How often is God mentioned in this passage?

    None.

    2.Why does David deceive King Achish?

    So David can live in his land.

    3.Does the text, in your opinion, approve of the deception?

    It has no implication of if it is okay.

    4.Is it justifiable to deceive people?

    Possibly. It all depends on heart motives,

    5.Have you ever deceived someone for all the right reasons?

    Yes

  14. Grace Yoo says:

    1. God is not mentioned in this passage.

    2. David deceives King Achish because so that David can live on the land.

    3. In my opinion, I do not think the text approves of this deception.

    4. I am not sure if it is justifiable to deceive people. It might depend on the situation.

    5. Yes, there has been some times where I have deceived someone for all the right reasons.

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