Rahab’s actions in protecting the spies involved the telling of a lie. Was that justified? By commending her for her faith, is Scripture also condoning her methods? Good men have argued over that question, all the way back to the earliest rabbinical history. Let’s face it. It is not an easy question. Scripture says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Prov. 12:22 NKJV). God Himself cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29), and therefore He cannot condone or sanction a lie. Some have tried to argue that because of the circumstances, this was not, technically, a “lie,” but a military feint, a legitimate stratagem designed to trick or outwit the enemy in warfare. Others argue that even lying is acceptable if the motive is a greater good. Such a situational approach to ethics is fraught with very serious problems.
I see no need to try to justify Rahab’s lie. Was it necessary for a greater good? Certainly not. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego might have escaped punishment by lying too. And they might have argued convincingly that it was for a “greater good.” But there is no greater good than the truth, and the cause of truth can never be served by lying. Shadrach and friends told the truth—in fact they seized the opportunity to glorify God’s name—and God was still able to save them from the furnace. He certainly could have saved Rahab and the spies without a lie.
Still, that isn’t the point of Rahab’s story. There’s no need for clever rationalization to try to justify her lie. Scripture never commends the lie. Rahab isn’t applauded for her ethics. Rahab is a positive example of faith.
John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2005), 37–40.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the first five chapters of John MacArthur’s book, Twelve Extraordinary Women. This study is based on the Life of Joseph, up until his promotion.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
- Eve: Mother of All Living Things
- Sarah: Hoping Against Hope
- Rahab: A Horrible Life Redeemed
- Ruth: Loyalty and Love
- Hannah: A Portrait of Feminine Grace
- Mary: Blessed Among Women
- Anna: The Faithful Witness
- The Samaritan Woman: Finding the Water of Life
- Martha and Mary: Working and Worshiping
- Mary Magdalene: Delivered from Darkness
- Lydia: A Hospitable Heart Opened