In 1 Samuel 20:4 has David pushing Jonathan to lie to his father. How do
you explain this?


First of all, David clearly advised Jonathan to lie in this case. Bear in
mind that David sinned many times as we know from the books of 1 and 2
Samuel and 1 Chronicles. Just because the Bible presents accurate history
and just because someone lies in the Bible does not mean that it is OK or
that God condones it. David asked Jonathan to lie. He also asked his
general to have Uriah killed in battle and he also committed adultery with

An interesting question is whether this action by David was sinful in this
case. The simple answer is yes. It is always wrong to lie and always
wrong to encourage another person to lie. In my opinion it is not so
simple. If someone is about to murder my wife, and if I can somehow talk
him out of it by telling a lie, I say this is not a sin. I am not saying
that we can justify sin. I am saying that God is big enough to understand
that it is perhaps in some cases not sinful to violate one principle if a
much bigger principle is at stake. Jesus confirmed this idea to some
extent. He specifically mentioned the time that David ate bread dedicated
to the temple. In almost any circumstances, to take the bread offered at
the tabernacle is sinful, bordering on blasphemy. However, from God?s
perspective, for David to starve to death or for him, the leader of Israel
to be killed was a worse “evil” than for him to eat the bread. After all,
the worship is for man and man is not for the worship.

We need to be careful in applying this concept. It is easy to justify
almost any sin in the name of a “more important” evil we are avoiding. We
can refuse to pay our taxes because our government does evil. This is
obviously going way too far. I do not think we can derive an exact list
of examples of when a greater good trumps a lesser evil, making it not
“sinful.” I believe we need to be very cautious here, but I am completely
convinced, because even Jesus says so, that in certain very unusual
situations, the amount of “evil” which would result from our not
committing an act which otherwise might be sinful may justify the
commitment of what would normally be sinful. It is wrong to steal.
Period. Right? I say it is possible that if there were a natural
disaster and if we were starving to death, it is justifiable to take food
in certain particular circumstances, even if in almost any other
circumstance it would be clearly sinful.

Bottom line, although David sins many times in the Biblical story, it is
my opinion that given the murderous intentions of Saul, neither David nor
Jonathan sinned when they created this deception.

I do not understand your second question. Please clarify. It says that
bribery is wrong. Accepting a bribe is wrong. Is there any doubt in your
mind about this? Are you wanting me to apply the first question to the
example of bribery? Is it possible that bribery is wrong in sinful in
99.9% of the cases, but in 0.1% of the cases, if there is a far greater
evil prevented that bribery may be acceptable to God? I suppose so, but I
am not sure what you are asking. Please clarify.

John Oakes, PhD

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