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Guile or Deceit?

Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile, Psalm 34:13.


The King James Bible has many niche words, words which are a perfect fit to convey an exact meaning. To a modern professing Christianity which prefers unity above truth, prefers feeling good to doctrine, and finds religious relief in raising their hands and wiggling their hind ends to raucous church music, exact wording is not important. To the saint of God who desires truth in the inward parts, the King James Bible is cool water to a thirsty soul. Niche words are a godsend. "Guile" is one of those words.

Most of the modern versions including the New King James Bible jettison such an exact word and merely use the words "deceit" or "lies". The King James translators used both words, deceit and lies, but they also went deeper and used the word "guile". That they saw a clear distinction between deceit and guile is clear in Psalms 55:11, Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.

What then is guile? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: Insidious cunning. Guile goes further than just plain lying or deceit. People often lie casually. Often they lie to themselves first and then repeat that lie to others. Deceit is any attempt to keep the truth from someone. It can be an omission in what was thought to be a complete report. It can be a lie. Guile goes deeper. It speaks to the motive behind the lies or the deceit. It shows a purpose deeper than just deceiving someone.

It describes a person seeking to manipulate those who hear the lie or the deceit. It is a lie or careful revelation of some partial truth to entice someone into a preset trap. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die, Exodus 21:14. Solomon recognized this in Joab when he commanded him to be slain at the altar.


1st Kings 2:29 And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him.

1st Kings 2:30 And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.

1st Kings 2:31 And the king said unto him, Do as he hath said, and fall upon him, and bury him; that thou mayest take away the innocent blood, which Joab shed, from me, and from the house of my father.

1st Kings 2:33 Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever: but upon David, and upon his seed, and upon his house, and upon his throne, shall there be peace for ever from the LORD.


Joab shed the blood of war in time of peace. David had said to Solomon; Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet, 1st King 2:5. When Joab killed those men, he didn't just lie to them to bring them close enough to stab them. He had used insidious cunning to make them let down their guard so that he could stab them. Solomon recognized the guile in those two murders and so in obedience to Exodus 21:14 he instructed Benaiah to fall upon him as he clung to the altar.

There is an interesting passage wherein the Apostle Paul accused himself of guile. But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile, 2nd Corinthians 12:16. 2nd Corinthians chapters 11 and 12 are interesting in that the Apostle Paul brings to life two verse out of Proverbs.


Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

Proverbs 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.


People often look at those verses and decide that they contradict each other. They don't contradict if you realize that Solomon is telling you to consider each scenario before you decide whether to answer a fool according to his folly or to not answer a fool according to his folly. Paul handled that masterfully in 2nd Corinthians. He starts out and tells you that he will speak as a fool. Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me, 2nd Corinthians 11:1. Why? Because, false Apostles were boasting on their credentials. Therefore he answered the fools according to their folly. He gave them his credentials.

In chapter 12 he does the opposite. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me, 2nd Corinthians 12:6. Now he speaks of an experience that he had but unlike the foolish false apostles, he speaks of himself in the third person. In verse 12 he is back to speaking as a fool. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing, 2nd Corinthians 12:12.

It is no surprise that he would accuse himself of robbing other churches, defrauding the Corinthians by not charging them, and accusing himself of guile. He spoke tongue in cheek. He was writing a passage where he would shut down the speech of fools by answering like they spoke.

Guile is a motive. It is the difference in a lie said off the cuff to deflect blame or some such thing, and the plotting of an evil person who weaves a web of deceit in order to entrap someone. As usual, our King James Bible is perfect in all that it says and far superior to any other English Bible.

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