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Exodus 20:16 & meaning...


shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

Exodus 20:16


Exodus 20 [12.] “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

Exodus 20 [13.] “You shall not murder.

Exodus 20 [14.] “You shall not commit adultery.

Exodus 20 [15.] “You shall not steal.

Exodus 20 [16.] “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Exodus 20 [17.] “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”


This commandment, the ninth in the Decalogue, underscores the importance of truthfulness in our interactions with others. It is a directive aimed at fostering trust and integrity within the community, emphasizing the moral and social implications of bearing false witness.

  • The Importance of Truthfulness

Moral Integrity: The commandment calls for honesty and integrity in our speech and actions. False testimony can lead to unjust outcomes, harm reputations, and undermine the fabric of trust that holds communities together. Proverbs 12:22 echoes this sentiment: "Lying lips are an abomination to Yahweh, but those who deal truly are his delight." God values truthfulness because it reflects His own nature and promotes justice and harmony.

Social Justice: False testimony can have severe consequences, especially in legal contexts. It can lead to the punishment of the innocent and the acquittal of the guilty. This commandment thus serves as a safeguard against injustice. Deuteronomy 19:16-19 provides additional context, warning against false witnesses and stipulating that they should receive the punishment intended for the accused if their deceit is discovered. This underscores the gravity of false testimony and its potential to disrupt societal justice.

  • The Scope of "Neighbor"

In the context of this commandment, "neighbor" refers to fellow members of the community, but the principle extends beyond immediate social circles. It implies a universal ethical standard of truthfulness in all our dealings. Jesus expands on this concept in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), illustrating that our neighbor includes anyone we encounter, irrespective of social, ethnic, or religious boundaries.

Modern Applications

Legal Integrity: In today's legal systems, the principle of truthful testimony remains fundamental. Perjury, or lying under oath, is a serious offense because it can corrupt the judicial process. The integrity of legal proceedings relies heavily on the honesty of witnesses, reinforcing the timeless relevance of this commandment.

Personal Relationships: Beyond legal contexts, this commandment encourages honesty in personal relationships. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and falsehood undermines that trust. Ephesians 4:25 advises, "Therefore putting away falsehood, speak truth each one with his neighbor. For we are members of one another." Truthfulness fosters genuine connections and mutual respect.

Public Discourse: In the age of social media and rapid information exchange, bearing false witness can take the form of spreading misinformation or defamation. This commandment calls us to be diligent and ethical in our communication, ensuring that what we share is truthful and not harmful to others.

Ethical Implications

Consequences of False Testimony: False testimony can lead to severe consequences, both for the victim and the perpetrator. For the victim, it can mean unjust punishment, loss of reputation, and personal suffering. For the perpetrator, it leads to a moral failing and eventual loss of credibility and trustworthiness.

Encouraging a Culture of Honesty: Upholding this commandment contributes to a culture of honesty and integrity. When truthfulness is valued and practiced, it creates an environment where justice and fairness can thrive. This is critical not just in legal matters but in everyday interactions and societal functions.

Reflection and Self-Examination

Personal Accountability: Reflecting on this commandment encourages us to examine our own honesty and integrity. Are there areas in our lives where we are tempted to bear false witness, whether through outright lies, half-truths, or omissions? How can we strive to be more truthful in our words and actions?

Seeking Forgiveness: For those times when we have failed to uphold this commandment, seeking forgiveness from those we've wronged and from God is crucial. Confession and repentance are vital steps towards restoring integrity and rebuilding trust.


Leviticus 19:11: "You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another." This verse reinforces the commandment by condemning deceit and falsehood in all forms.

Zechariah 8:16: "These are the things that you shall do: Speak every man the truth with his neighbor. Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates." This verse highlights the importance of truth in maintaining justice and peace within the community.

Conclusion: Exodus 20:16, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor," is a commandment that transcends time, emphasizing the essential role of truthfulness in maintaining justice, trust, and harmony within society. Whether in legal matters, personal relationships, or public discourse, upholding the principle of honesty is crucial. By reflecting on this commandment and striving to live it out, we contribute to a more just and trustworthy world.

abhor - love - neighbor - relatives - unfair
PIB Scriptures are derived from the World English Bible


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