Does Yahweh Really Deceive?

Sam Shamoun

The Quran clearly teaches, both implicitly and explicitly, that Allah is a deceiver, and even brags that he is the best deceiver of them all. See for instance these articles:

In response to these charges, Muslims oftentimes point to certain biblical passages in order to turn the tables on Christians. They hope that by citing specific biblical verses which seem to teach that Yahweh is also a deceiver this will then justify the Quranic portrait of Allah being a schemer and liar. The passages that Muslims often appeal to are Ezekiel 14:9-10 and 20:25-26.

There are at least a couple of problems with the Muslim logic. First, the only thing this would prove is that neither Yahweh of the Bible nor Allah of the Quran is worthy of being viewed or worshiped as God. It does nothing to justify the Quran’s picture of God.

Second, a careful examination of the biblical texts in question shows that there is no comparison with the Quran. The Muslims are comparing apples and oranges at this point. An analysis of the immediate (as well as the greater biblical) contexts will help explain why we say this.

We include here the two passages along with some of the immediate context for further clarification:

"Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself. And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD. And if the prophet is deceived (pathath) and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived (pathath) that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear their punishment--the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike--that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord GOD.’" Ezekiel 14:1-10

"Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not obeyed my rules, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers' idols. Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the LORD." Ezekiel 20:23-26

In light of the contexts we can now proceed to analyze the implications of these texts. To begin with, God is not causing innocent or blameless people to be deceived and go astray. God, instead, is handing godless and rebellious sinners over to the desires of their evil, unregenerate hearts. In other words, God is giving the people exactly what their wicked hearts were craving, what their sinful natures desired. The following texts bring this out more clearly:

"But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Psalm 81:11-12

"Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?" Lamentations 3:37-39

"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of THEIR hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, BECAUSE they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done." Romans 1:21-28

"The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

Now the question becomes how does Yahweh deceive the false prophets so as to mislead sinners who do not want to obey? Does he directly inspire lies through these prophets, does he directly cause the persons to deceive? Or is he indirectly the cause of the deception, i.e. is Yahweh permitting a lying and deceptive agent to cause the false prophets to utter lies and falsehood?

To answer that we need to first see what the Holy Bible says about Yahweh’s character:

"The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he." Deuteronomy 32:4

"This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him." Psalm 18:30

"in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began" Titus 1:2

"So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us." Hebrews 6:17-18

"Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,for God CANNOT be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:13-17

The citations above make it plain for all to see that God CANNOT lie since it is IMPOSSIBLE for him to do so, and won’t directly cause anyone to lie either. Hence, both the Old and New Testaments concur on this point: God himself cannot lie and isn’t the direct cause of any lie or deceit.

We still need to answer the question of how can Yahweh say he has deceived the prophet when the same Scriptures say that Yahweh cannot deceive anyone. Is this a contradiction in the Scriptures? Not at all, as we shall now prove by God’s grace.

According to the Holy Bible, all agents are under God’s sovereign control and can only do what God permits:

"With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his." Job 12:16

"Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD." Isaiah 54:16-17

These texts imply that the deceiver, the deceived, the smith and the wielder of the sword are all under God’s complete control to do as he sees fit.

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31-32

Jesus says that Satan has asked to sift through the disciples, which obviously means that he had to get permission from God first before he could anything.

What the above verses imply is that even Satan and the demons can only do what God permits them.

God often permits them to deceive or wreck havoc in order to accomplish his perfect and just purposes:

"The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble." Proverbs 16:4

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will," Ephesians 1:11

His purposes in permitting these evil entities to act in accord with their evil intent may be the result of judgment falling on sinful and rebellious people as in the case of the Ezekiel texts, or to accomplish a greater good as in the case of Christ being handed over to death for the salvation of God’s people. Please note the following texts carefully since they help to illuminate these points:

"And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, "Who will entice (pathath) Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?" And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, "I will entice (pathath) him." And the LORD said to him, "By what means?" And he said, "I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets." And he said, "You are to entice (pathath) him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so." Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.’ Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, ‘How did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?’ And Micaiah said, ‘Behold, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.’ And the king of Israel said, ‘Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son, and say, "Thus says the king, ‘Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.’"’ And Micaiah said, ‘If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.’ And he said, ‘Hear, all you peoples!’" 1 Kings 22:19-28

God caused the prophets to prophecy lies by permitting a lying spirit to inspire these lies through them. Notice that God himself didn’t lie, but permitted the spirit to lie through the prophets.

Interestingly, this passage uses the same Hebrew word for deception, pathath, which is found in the Ezekiel 14 text.

Further insight is found in the story of Job.

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’" Job 1:6-22

"Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.’ Then Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Job 2:1-10

Even though God permitted Satan to wreck havoc on Job, both God and Job attribute this calamity to God. The reason why should now be clear… Satan couldn’t have come near Job if God hadn’t allowed it. Hence, since God permitted Satan to do what he did it can therefore be said that these disasters came from Yahweh.

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." Acts 2:22-24

"for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27-28

Again, it was God who decreed that the Lord Jesus would be betrayed and killed by lawless and godless men so as to accomplish the salvation of God for mankind.

The foregoing should make it apparent that the Holy Bible is not asserting that God is the direct cause of deceptions or lies. Rather, Yahweh is the indirect cause in the sense that he has decreed and permitted that liars and deceivers will deceive in order to accomplish God’s perfect and righteous will.

Putting it in another way, Yahweh doesn’t actually deceive or inspire deception. Rather, Yahweh permits, allows, decrees that lying spirits or humans will act in accord with their own deceptive hearts and mislead sinners and rebels who refuse to obey the true God. In so doing, God is simply handing over these individuals to their own desires since this is what they deserve.

Furthermore, and this is important, in both cases cited above, i.e. Ezekiel and Micaiah, God does not leave these sinners with deceived prophets only. The true prophet, with the true message of God, warns both groups also and then they decide for themselves that they want to follow the deceptive spirits. They followed those who said what they wanted to hear. They were given what they wanted. They were not deceived without an alternative and without a strong warning from God that this is what would take place when they insist on their idolatrous ways. These deceptions are not in the mouth of the true prophet (in distinction to Muhammad’s satanic verses), but only in the mouth of self-appointed false prophets who work for their own gain.

God had told his people to make a choice, to choose life over death:

"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." Deuteronomy 30:11-20

To this day, life and death is an option before us. God does not only put death before them and they have no option but to take it as if that is what God wanted for them. The prophet Ezekiel, as well as the others, shows that what God wants for his people, and for us, is to turn and live, not die:

"The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" Ezekiel 18:20-23

"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live." Ezekiel 18:30-32

"So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:7-11

"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

Let us now contrast this biblical portrait of God with the Quran’s depiction of Allah.

Yahweh doesn’t lie and is not the direct cause of deception. Allah, on the other hand, both lies and directly causes deception as in the case of making it appear as though Jesus had been crucified when in fact he hadn’t been (cf. Sura 4:157), or commanding people to do evil and then punishing them for their obedience (Sura 17:16).

In accord with justice, Yahweh permits evil agents to mislead sinners and rebels who refuse to repent and obey God’s commands. He may even use the evil of the people to accomplish a greater good such as in the case of Christ’s crucifixion. He doesn’t cause righteous servants or the godly to be led astray, but protects them from the evil one (cf. Luke 10:17-20; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:1-4; 5:4-5, 18-19). Allah, on the other hand, deceives both believers and unbelievers (cf. Suras 4:142; 8:30, 43-44).

These points should make it clear to any open-minded reader that the Holy Bible and the Quran are not the same in their depiction of God’s character.

Here is another passage which Muslims often use to prove their assertion that Yahweh is a deceiver:

"O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and thou hast prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; every one mocks me." Jeremiah 20:7

Much like Ezekiel 14 and 1 Kings, the word for deceive here is pathath. But unlike those specific contexts, the word has nothing to do with deception. Words must be defined within a specific context, since the same word can mean different things in different contexts. Depending upon the context pathath can mean a host of things just as the following lexicon demonstrates:

pathah {paw-thaw'} # 06601 1) to be spacious, be open, be wide a) (Qal) to be spacious or open or wide
b) (Hiphil) to make spacious, make open
2) to be simple, entice, deceive, persuade a) (Qal) 1) to be open-minded, be simple, be naive
2) to be enticed, be deceived
b) (Niphal) to be deceived, be gullible
c) (Piel) 1) to persuade, seduce
2) to deceive
d) (Pual) 1) to be persuaded
2) to be deceived   (Source)

We therefore must take a look at the immediate context to see what pathath exactly means. It is clear from the text that the word can only mean "persuade":

"O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; YOU ARE STRONGER THAN I, AND HAVE PREVAILED. I am in derision daily; Everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, ‘Violence and plunder!’ Because the word of the LORD was made to me A reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not." Jeremiah 20:8-9 NKJV

God was persuading Jeremiah to continue the work which he was sent to do even though the latter didn’t want to. God had already warned Jeremiah beforehand what the response of the people would be to his preaching:

"Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, "I am only a youth"; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.’ Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’ And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see an almond branch.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’ The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the LORD, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.’" Jeremiah 1:4-19

"To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it." Jeremiah 6:10

God promises him that his message will basically fall on deaf ears, that he will have strong opposition and even suffer persecution. So God never promised him a smooth sailing if he would be his prophet. He knew that it would be tough, God told him beforehand. Still, Jeremiah wants to give up. He is exhausted and his strength is gone. He doesn’t want to be a warner anymore who is constantly ridiculed. So he laments to God that he had induced and persuaded him to take this position, but he does not and could not say that God deceived him, since God had indeed told him beforehand. The verse has nothing to do with deception whatsoever.

We now turn to one final text that is used to prove that Yahweh deceives:

"Then I said, ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD, how completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats.’" Jeremiah 4:10

Jeremiah accused God of deceiving the people into thinking that he was going to grant them peace.

There are several problems with appealing to this text to prove that God is a deceiver. In the first place, God never promised his people unconditional peace, but promised to grant them peace provided that they obeyed him. God also warned them of disaster if they failed to live by his instructions:

"If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God… However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:" Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 15

"‘If you will return, O Israel, return to me,’ declares the LORD. If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, "As surely as the LORD lives," then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.’ This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: ‘Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done— burn with no one to quench it. Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: "Sound the trumpet throughout the land!" Cry aloud and say: "Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!" Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction. A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned away from us. In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled.’" Jeremiah 4:1-9

Second, it was the false prophets who deceived the people into believing that God had promised to give them peace in spite of their rebellion against the Lord:

"Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.’ But I said, ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD, the prophets keep telling them, "You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’" Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, "No sword or famine will touch this land." Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them or their wives, their sons or their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve.’" Jeremiah 14:11-16

This may account for Jeremiah falsely assuming that it was God who told the people that he would grant them peace when in fact he never made such a claim.

Third and more importantly, Jeremiah wasn’t always speaking by inspiration or conveying God’s thoughts, but spoke at times out of his own sinful flesh and frustrations. In fact, at one point Jeremiah had to be told to repent because he had fallen so far away due to the anger and disappointment he felt at the response he was receiving from the people:

"You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘IF YOU REPENT, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, NOT WORTHLESS, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.’" Jeremiah 15:15-21

Notice carefully how God expressly commanded Jeremiah to repent of his sins, for speaking and saying things that were wrong, in order that he may be restored as God’s prophet and agent.

The objector has erroneously assumed that just because Jeremiah recorded his own statements where he accused God of being a deceiver that this somehow means that he was reflecting God’s view of the situation. On the contrary, even though the entire book of Jeremiah is the inspired Word of God not everything stated within its pages necessarily reflects God’s mind. After all, the Bible accurately records historical events and speeches without this implying that it approves of them. To put it simply, the Bible doesn’t always support or condone the statements and actions it records since they do not always reflect God’s view. This essentially means that all the speeches and deeds of specific individuals that are found in the Bible must be viewed in light of the revealed will and words of God to see whether God approves of them or not.

By God’s grace, this concludes our analysis. In the service of the holy and pure sovereign Triune God, Yahweh Almighty. Amen. Come Lord Jesus, come. By your sovereign grace we will love you for ever and ever. Amen.

Further Reading

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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