False Witnesses in the Garden

Throughout the ages society has been plagued by people that are willing to provide a false testimony. More severe than telling a lie, these people stand up and swear something exists that does not, something happened that did not, or something is happening that really is not. “Deuteronomy 17:6: At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.”, and “Deuteronomy 5:20: Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.”. Bearing false witness against your neighbour is the ninth commandment, and so often it is reduced to “don’t lie”. Lying is a poor character trait to have, but to bear false witness is to alter the course of history, and to make people act on false information potentially changing the outcome of their future. There are a few examples of this I would like to explore in scripture that have often been over looked.

Act 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Act 6:9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
Act 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
Act 6:11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
Act 6:12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,
Act 6:13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
Act 6:14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
Act 6:15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

Here we see people who could not compete with the wisdom and spirit Stephen was speaking with, so they set up false witnesses against him. These false witnesses claimed Stephen was speaking against the law of God, saying Jesus would destroy the temple, and change what Moses had delivered to the people from Yahweh God. If they had to “set up” false witnesses, then it is clear Stephen was actually not saying these things. As we read on, Stephen gives his testimony.

Act 7:37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
Act 7:38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Act 7:39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,

Act 7:40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Act 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
Act 7:42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
Act 7:43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

Stephen was not denying what Moses taught, but actually reaffirming what Moses taught, and how it was delivered to him, declaring Jesus to be the one like him who would come. The beginning of the church was actually at Mount Sinai. The truth is hard to hear, and when he spoke of the idolatry they were guilty of, it enraged them even more. They killed the prophets that Yahweh God had sent them, most recently betraying the Just one, the son of God, Moses spoke of.

Act 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Act 7:52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Act 7:53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

What is interesting is the false witnesses were claiming that Stephen was teaching against Moses and the law of Yahweh, and he turned it around on them to say they have received the law by the disposition of angels and have not kept it. The false witnesses prevailed though, and Stephen was stoned to death with Saul, the future Apostle Paul, looking on in approval before his conversion.

Act 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
Act 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Act 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Act 7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Act 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
Act 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Act 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Paul would experience the same sort of treatment from false witnesses. Later in the book of Acts, Paul had made many enemies and was being accused of the same things Stephen was accused of.

Act 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
Act 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Act 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law,
Act 21:21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.

Act 21:22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.
Act 21:23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow;
Act 21:24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.

From this we see Paul met with James and the elders and told them all of the good things Yahweh God was doing , but they informed Paul that the believing Jews heard he was telling the Jews living among the gentiles (people from the nations), that he was promoting lawlessness, and telling the people to forsake Moses. In order to dispel this rumour, they told Paul to take a vow. We see the definition of the Nazarite vow in the book of Numbers, which there is some debate as to whether or not this is the vow Paul took here.

Num 6:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num 6:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:
Num 6:3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
Num 6:4 All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
Num 6:5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
Num 6:6 All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.
Num 6:7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head.
Num 6:8 All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.

We have a difficult situation to overcome. Was Paul really teaching against the law of Moses, and then took the Nazarite vow, or another vow, as a false witness to hide what he was really teaching, or were people acting as false witnesses against Paul, misrepresenting what he taught? Here is what they said, “Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. ”. Therefore, the only two options we have are one, Paul took the Nazarite vow to deceive people into thinking he believed things he did not, or two, Paul walked orderly and kept the law of God. I am suggesting the second option.

Paul speaks in his letter to the Roman’s that the law of God is just and good. Maybe this is why Peter gives us a warning in his epistle about Paul, and that his teaching is sometimes hard to understand.

Rom 7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Rom 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Here is Peter’s advice regarding Paul’s teachings:

2Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
2Pe 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
2Pe 3:16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
2Pe 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

2Pe 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

One last example of bearing false witness comes from a story that is not found in the sixty-six book Bible. In the Greek Septuagint, which is a third century BC Greek translation, this story is found in the thirteenth chapter of Daniel. It is also included in the fourth century Latin Vulgate, translated by the early church father Jerome, as well as the King James Authorized Version. This is a good story that unfortunately, most have missed out reading in the modern church. I recommend reading the entire chapter, but here are some key verses to understand the story.

Dan 13:1 There dwelt a man in Babylon, called Joacim:
Dan 13:2 And he took a wife, whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Chelcias, a very fair woman, and one that feared the Lord.
Dan 13:3 Her parents also were righteous, and taught their daughter according to the law of Moses.

Dan 13:4 Now Joacim was a great rich man, and had a fair garden joining unto his house: and to him resorted the Jews; because he was more honourable than all others.
Dan 13:5 The same year were appointed two of the ancients of the people to be judges, such as the Lord spake of, that wickedness came from Babylon from ancient judges, who seemed to govern the people.
Dan 13:6 These kept much at Joacim’s house: and all that had any suits in law came unto them.
Dan 13:7 Now when the people departed away at noon, Susanna went into her husband’s garden to walk.
Dan 13:8 And the two elders saw her going in every day, and walking; so that their lust was inflamed toward her.
Dan 13:9 And they perverted their own mind, and turned away their eyes, that they might not look unto heaven, nor remember just judgments.

Dan 13:16 And there was no body there save the two elders, that had hid themselves, and watched her.
Dan 13:17 Then she said to her maids, Bring me oil and washing balls, and shut the garden doors, that I may wash me.
Dan 13:18 And they did as she bade them, and shut the garden doors, and went out themselves at privy doors to fetch the things that she had commanded them: but they saw not the elders, because they were hid.
Dan 13:19 Now when the maids were gone forth, the two elders rose up, and ran unto her, saying,
Dan 13:20 Behold, the garden doors are shut, that no man can see us, and we are in love with thee; therefore consent unto us, and lie with us.
Dan 13:21 If thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee, that a young man was with thee: and therefore thou didst send away thy maids from thee.
Dan 13:22 Then Susanna sighed, and said, I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death unto me: and if I do it not I cannot escape your hands.
Dan 13:23 It is better for me to fall into your hands, and not do it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.

The two judges had Susanna trapped. They swore to both bear false witness against her if she would not comply with their demands. She was doomed to be put to death, and the elders were ready to do so once she was brought up before them by the false witnesses. She cried out to Yahweh God and a young Daniel stood up to talk some sense into the situation.

Dan 13:45 Therefore when she was led to be put to death, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young youth whose name was Daniel:
Dan 13:46 Who cried with a loud voice, I am clear from the blood of this woman.
Dan 13:47 Then all the people turned them toward him, and said, What mean these words that thou hast spoken?
Dan 13:48 So he standing in the midst of them said, Are ye such fools, ye sons of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth ye have condemned a daughter of Israel?
Dan 13:49 Return again to the place of judgment: for they have borne false witness against her.
Dan 13:50 Wherefore all the people turned again in haste, and the elders said unto him, Come, sit down among us, and shew it us, seeing God hath given thee the honour of an elder.
Dan 13:51 Then said Daniel unto them, Put these two aside one far from another, and I will examine them.

Daniel examined them separately to see if their stories lined up.

Dan 13:52 So when they were put asunder one from another, he called one of them, and said unto him, O thou that art waxen old in wickedness, now thy sins which thou hast committed aforetime are come to light.
Dan 13:53 For thou hast pronounced false judgment and hast condemned the innocent and hast let the guilty go free; albeit the Lord saith, The innocent and righteous shalt thou not slay.
Dan 13:54 Now then, if thou hast seen her, tell me, Under what tree sawest thou them companying together? Who answered, Under a mastick tree.
Dan 13:55 And Daniel said, Very well; thou hast lied against thine own head; for even now the angel of God hath received the sentence of God to cut thee in two.
Dan 13:56 So he put him aside, and commanded to bring the other, and said unto him, O thou seed of Chanaan, and not of Juda, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust hath perverted thine heart.
Dan 13:57 Thus have ye dealt with the daughters of Israel, and they for fear companied with you: but the daughter of Juda would not abide your wickedness.
Dan 13:58 Now therefore tell me, Under what tree didst thou take them companying together? Who answered, Under an holm tree.

Daniel exposes their attempt to bring false witness against the women, pointing out one was a Canaanite, and they had corrupted the house of Israel, but were not going to be able to corrupt the house of Judea as easily. So these false witnesses suffered the fate they had intended for the woman.

Dan 13:61 And they arose against the two elders, for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth:
Dan 13:62 And according to the law of Moses they did unto them in such sort as they maliciously intended to do to their neighbour: and they put them to death. Thus the innocent blood was saved the same day.
Dan 13:63 Therefore Chelcias and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, with Joacim her husband, and all the kindred, because there was no dishonesty found in her.
Dan 13:64 From that day forth was Daniel had in great reputation in the sight of the people.

Unfortunately, there are many times the victims of false witnesses do not get justice as in the case of Susanna in the book of Daniel. Stephen was a good example of that, as well as Jesus.

Mat 26:59 And the chief priests and the elders and all the sanhedrin sought false witness against Jesus, in order to put Him to death.
Mat 26:60 But they found none; yea, though many false witnesses came, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came up
Mat 26:61 and said, This one said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.

All through history we have examples of people bearing false witness, putting people to death unjustly, and deceiving entire nations to act wickedly against other nations, or groups of people. This is the weight of the commandment saying “Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour”. It is no different today, and I suggest being on guard for people or entities that may be in the midst of changing history based on the testimony of false witnesses.

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