Do not give false evidence against your neighbor —Exodus 20:16
Often, they present this ninth word as “do not lie.” And that is certainly part of what this Commandment means. But, as Tom Bradford points out, the intent of these words is from a legal/judicial sense. Think about falsely testifying against someone in a court of law. That fits very well with the framework of Torah, the law. I better explain what I mean. All of the ancient Hebrew Sages saw Torah as being about Yahweh’s justice.
Think about perjury. In legalese, “Perjury is the intentional act of swearing a false oath or of falsifying an affirmation, to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to an official proceeding.”
According to Wikipedia, “Perjury is considered a serious offense as it can be used to usurp the power of the courts, resulting in miscarriages of justice. In the United States, for example, the general perjury statute under Federal law classifies perjury as a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to five years.”
In other words, in a trial, if you give false testimony or accuse someone falsely, knowing full well that the accusation isn‘t true, then you are guilty.
In the same way that we are supposed to be careful when and how we use Yahweh’s name, we also have to be very careful what we say about other people — particularly if it is negative in nature. When we gossip or accuse someone of something that we have no firsthand knowledge of, we are in danger of violating the principle of this ninth Word. So, as you can see, it goes way beyond simply lying.
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