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Article Info:
published: 10/8/13

You Shall Not Commit False Witness

The Ninth Commandment

You shall not commit false witness is the ninth of the 10 Commandments that God gave the Israelites through Moses. The ninth commandment safeguards the honor and the good name among of men and women in society because false accusations are slanderous, defamatory, and unloving. Giving false witness also renders a society's legislative system unstable and untrustworthy through the condemnation of an innocent person, while a guilty person isn't held accountable for their illegal activity. Any society's stability is, in part, dependent upon the proper exercise of justice in the land and this is what the ninth commandment ensures. This commandment continues to be observed in the Jewish religion.

What is the Scripture reference? Exodus 20:16, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."; "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (ESV); "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (NASB); "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." (NIV)

What is the relationship focus? People and people (commandments 5-10 emphasis people's relationship with other people as opposed to "people and God")

Is the commandment a prohibition? Yes (the commandment is saying what "must not be" done as opposed to what "must be" done)


The command against false testimony is seen as a natural consequence of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This moral prescription flows from the command for holy people to bear witness to their deity.

Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of covenant with God.

In the New Testament

According to Jesus Christ, violation of the 9th commandment comes from the sinful desires of the heart. The New Testament also describes gives examples where people testify falsely against Jesus. When Jesus was on trial, the chief priestssought evidence to kill Jesus, Matthew's Gospel describes that many false witnesses testified. Jesus was silent until the high priest charged him under oath to answer whether Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus answered affirmatively.

The Book of Acts describes the disciple Stephen being seized and brought before the Sanhedrin. Those who opposed Stephen persuaded false witnesses to testify that Stephen was guilty of blasphemy against Moses and against God. Stephen used the occasion of his trial to remind the Sanhedrin of the Old Testament testimony of rebellion, idolatry, and persecution of the prophets that culminated in the murder of Jesus. The crowd was so angry that Stephen was stoned to death.

The New Testament depicts the Apostles as being appointed as true witnesses to the ministry and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul uses the Old Testament prohibition of false testimony to describe his fear of God if found to be a false witness about God regarding the resurrection.

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