Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Let no man know of these words, and you won’t die. But if the princes hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you, and tell you, ‘Declare to us now what you have said to the king; don’t hide it from us, and we will not put you to death; also tell us what the king said to you;’ then you shall tell them, ‘I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there.’ ”
Then all the princes came to Jeremiah, and asked him; and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they stopped speaking with him, for the matter was not perceived.
So Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.
Is it always wrong to lie? I discussed this a bit before when we considered the fact that Moses sent spies into the promised land. Spying is not only concealing information, it’s outright deceptive. I bring this up in order to make it clear that when the Bible talks about lies, it appears to be more specific than merely providing misinformation. There are times when God authorizes men to give misinformation and I believe that this passage shows us one of those times.
Normally, no mere king would convince Jeremiah to conceal the truth, but in this case, he must have perceived that it was God’s will for him. You can bet that if those princes had actually heard the message that Jeremiah gave to the king, they would have lied and put Jeremiah to death, even thought they promised not to! So how do you know when it’s ok to provide misinformation?
I think that it’s pretty clear in this passage that when it is God’s will for you to misinform, only then is it OK. In this case, it was God’s will for Jeremiah to not die. He told Jeremiah this when he started serving God as a prophet, so it actually made sense for God to allow it in this circumstance. There’s another interesting thing to consider. This is not necessarily correct, but I would like to bring it up for your consideration. I noticed another pattern that I believe is true when God allows misinformation. It would appear that when God allows it, it’s when a truth teller is lying to a rebel. There’s a story that I feel the need to bring up here.
Back during World War II, a woman and her family were thrown into a prison camp for protecting Jews. Her name was Corrie ten Boom. She was eventually set free after being tormented with her sister for a very long time in the camp. As a condition of her being set free, she was asked to sign a document that stated that she would tell everyone that she was treated well in the camp. She signed it and was set free. She later went on to write and speak about the horrible things that happened there. Was Corrie wrong to do that? I think that the answer to that question is expressed in Jeremiah’s example here and in other places. It’s sometimes necessary to lie to rebels in order to have the opportunity to spread the truth. Another way to put it is that in order to remain true to God, we must sometimes lie to wicked men. I understand that I may not be seeing this perfectly clearly, but I encourage you to study this issue for yourself.