Does God Deceive People?
By Dallas M. Roark, Ph.D.
A reply to The Biblical God As a Deceiver by Bassam Zawadi found here. Zawadi wrote in conclusion:
"Now Christians would argue back and ask us Muslims to understand the context and reasons why God did such a thing. However, when we tell Christians to do the same thing when it comes to analyzing certain Qur'anic verses they don't want to do it. So why should us Muslims?"
So, in deference to Zawadi, I will quote the context of the Qur’an in my replies.
The issue seems to be: did God deceive first and bring people to ruin, or did the people rebel against God choosing evil and then he brought the judgment?
1. Zawadi wrote: Jeremiah 4:10 "Then I said, "Ah, Sovereign LORD, how completely you have deceived (nasha) this people and Jerusalem by saying, 'You will have peace,' when the sword is at our throats." (Quotes from commentaries omitted here)
Even though it was really the false prophets who did the act of deception, the Bible is actually shifting the blame to God for actually allowing the false prophets to do the deception. This is what the "inspired" author Jeremiah said and this is what we got to accept. God deceived innocent people.
In your first example of Jeremiah, the prophet questions God’s action and accuses Him of deception. The promise of peace was based on obedience, and Israel was not obedient and the prophets before Jeremiah accused them of idolatry and sin. While Jeremiah accuses God of deception, Jeremiah cannot prove it. Inspiration does not mean that Jeremiah was right; it only means that he was recorded correctly. If you had read the rest of the chapter it is obvious that rebellion was in the hearts of the people long before Jeremiah appeared on the scene.
On the other hand, Allah does not allow questioning, only obedience. Yahweh allows questioning. He is no dictator as Allah. Abraham argued with God about the destruction of Sodom, Yahweh declares in Isaiah: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa.1:18)
2. Zawadi wrote: "1 Kings 22:20-22 20 And the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?' "One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' 22 " 'By what means?' the LORD asked. " 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said. " 'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the LORD. 'Go and do it.'
Here we see that the man said that he would resort to lying in order to entice Ahab and God supported the idea and told him to go ahead and do it!
I personally have no moral objections to this since I believe God could at times use means of deception in order to ensure the greater good and to use deception against evil. However, Christians don't allow this when we talk about Allah deceiving evildoers in the Qur'an. These are double standards."
The first issue is: was there deception without Ahab’s being evil? Did God bring about the death of an innocent man? Was the will of Yahweh from eternity decided before Ahab existed?
In this case, Ahab had done all kinds of wicked things, and God’s judgment came to fall on him only after the wicked deeds. The prophet’s speech was designed for the audience of the kings. Surely the infinite God did not have to ask who will entice Ahab? Moreover, note that Ahab was not left with nothing but deception. He was given the truth. The true prophet Micaiah told Ahab what would happen and the reason why all other "prophets" were saying something else. It is not that Ahab did not hear the true word of the LORD, but he deliberately rejected the message of Micaiah, and chose to believe the false prophets. He chose to believe the lies even after he was told that these were lies.
3. Zawadi wrote:
"We even have it in... Ezekiel 14:9-11 9 " 'And if the prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the LORD have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him from among my people Israel. 10 They will bear their guilt-the prophet will be as guilty as the one who consults him. 11 Then the people of Israel will no longer stray from me, nor will they defile themselves anymore with all their sins. They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign LORD.' "
God is punishing him for a crime that He enticed him to do in the first place? Isn't that entrapment?"
In your third example, Ezekiel 14:9-11, the issue becomes effective only after the people have sinned. Verse 4 shows the idolatry of the people on the one hand, and turning to a false prophet on the other. Verse 7 gives the background of what is going on. "To every last person from the house of Israel, including any of the resident aliens who live in Israel--all who turn their backs on me and embrace idols, who install the wickedness that will ruin them at the center of their lives and then have the gall to go to the prophet to ask me questions--I, GOD, will step in and give the answer myself."
Since the false prophets deceived the people the judgment of God is that they would be deceived. God did not punish for a crime the prophet had not done.
4. Zawadi wrote: Isaiah 37:6-7 Isaiah said to them, "Tell your master, 'This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard-those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.' "
God had that spirit spread a rumor so that the King of Assyria can to return to his homeland. In short, that spirit's purpose was for deception.
"Isaiah said to them, "Tell your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard-those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’" (37:6-7)
This example is not helpful to your case. What is the spirit that God put in him?
The spirit did not tell him the report. Verse nine tells of the report that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia was on his way to attack Sennacherib. So the spirit that came upon Sennacherib was probably a spirit of fear or apprehension, not a spirit of deceit.
5. Zawadi wrote: "Another example from the Bible...Isaiah 19:14
The LORD has poured into them a spirit of dizziness; they make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit.
Here we see God deceiving people to the extent that they become absolutely foolish."
The question has to be raised again, did God do this before they became evil and idolatrous, or after they became rebellious and idolatrous? Verse 1 declares the intention of God’s punishment after their evil deeds were done, not before. God does not punish innocent people. If you would read the whole chapter 19 you will see that it is not deception but an act of judgment by God upon Egypt. Even then the judgment is intended to bring about repentance as the rest of the passage shows. It is not really deception, is it?
An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
 And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,
and they will fight, every man against his brother
and every man against his neighbor,
city against city, kingdom against kingdom;
 And there will be nothing for Egypt
which head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.
In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand which the LORD of hosts shakes over them.
Moreover, if you continue reading, God's purpose in punishing them is to lead them to repentance so that they can be his people:
 In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt which speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of the Sun.
In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border.
 It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; when they cry to the LORD because of oppressors he will send them a savior, and will defend and deliver them.
 And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and burnt offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them.
 And the LORD will smite Egypt, smiting and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will heed their supplications and heal them.
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth,
 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage."
So, again, how is this an example of deception?
6. Zawadi wrote: "Even though I don't believe the Gospels teach that Jesus taught he was God, however this example is for those who believe that Jesus is God. Jesus admits that he was speaking figuratively all this time...John 16:25 25"Though I have been speaking figuratively (paroimia), a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. The word paroimia could mean...
1) a saying out of the usual course or deviating from the usual manner of speaking a) a current or trite saying, a proverb 2) any dark saying which shadows forth some didactic truth
a) esp. a symbolic or figurative saying b) speech or discourse in which a thing is illustrated by the use of similes and comparisons c) an allegory 1) extended and elaborate metaphor
Why wasn't Jesus speaking in a normal and clear way all the time? Why did Jesus then go and say that he won't 'use this kind of language'? Well, here we find out why..."
DMR replies: John 16:25 "Though I have been speaking figuratively (paroimia), a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father."
You divert the issue by appealing to the passage in Mark, to which we will go in a moment, but if you had read on you would have found that the disciples had a reaction that is expressed in the following: "I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father." His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God." John 16:28-30.
So there is no deception here. There is clarity of communication. The clarity comes about because of the slowness of the disciples to understand who Jesus really was, the Son of God. Figures of speech are not deceptive. They are used to bring meaning to people who do not understand.
7. Zawadi wrote: Mark 4:10-12 10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that," 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!' So here we see that Jesus was deceiving certain people by speaking in parables so that they won't (and God forbid!) REPENT AND BE FORGIVEN!
In the previous chapter Jesus has been charged with being in cohoots with the Devil and he talked about the sin against the Holy Spirit which was an eternal sin. The Pharisees, Scribes, and Herodians counseled together to see how they would seek to destroy Him. They saw the miracles, but did not "see" and they heard him teach but "did not understand" because their hearts were hard and convinced that he was possessed by the Devil. Someone has said, God "reveals His family secrets to those whose hearts are open."
The lack of perception and willingness to hear and obey was indicated by Isaiah long ago and Jesus and Paul reflect that truth. Acts declares, "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 'Go to this people, and say, You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.' Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen." (Acts. 28:26-28)
What made the people’s heart heavy? God or themselves? There is only one answer and that is people who choose the world rather than God. Jesus began preaching "repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." Their response–they rejected his message.
8. Zawadi wrote: "2 Thessalonians 2:11 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie So God will delude people so that they can believe lies?"
Now, why would you use this verse as it has not happened yet? Again, the question arises, does this take place before they became wicked or after. Obviously, the context is after. This chapter begins with the concerns about the coming of Jesus again. It relates to the end of the world and final judgment. So it has no taken place, and the people describes here are wicked.
The whole context is: "The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:9-12)
Note that they refused to love the truth and be saved. Only then does God act. They not only disbelieved the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Please note the previous verse, "And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming." (2 Thess. 2:8)
Note again: These people had been given the truth (v. 10 and 12, underlined above), but they refused it. Only then are they given a powerful deception.
Now, let’s turn to the Qur’an and compare contexts as you have suggested we do.
1. "Evil as an example are the folk who denied Our revelations, and were wont to wrong themselves. He whom Allah leadeth, he indeed is led aright, while he whom Allah sendeth astray - they indeed are losers. Already have We urged unto hell many of the jinn and humankind, having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle - nay, but they are worse! These are the neglectful. (7:177-179)
Commentary: So, let’s analyze these verses. The people who reject Mohammed’s revelations are evil. Contrast that with Jesus. Mohammed did no miracles. He did not heal anyone, he did not raise the dead, he did not give sight to the blind, he did not cast out demons, he did not walk on water, nor change water into wine. Jesus did all these things. Rejecting him as the Son of God was serious. How serious was it to reject Mohammed as a prophet? The message that Jesus gave was life giving. Mohammed’s message was life-threatening, believe or else! Judgment in the Christian sense is left to the end of the world. Judgment in Mohammed’s sense was immediate, believe now or death is your reward for not believing.
There are many stories in the lifetime of Mohammed in which people believed so that they would not be put to the sword
Then the verse speaks of Allah leading or sending astray. It is difficult to dismiss the statement, "already have we urged into hell many of the jinn and humankind" as a reaction to the rejection of Mohammed by contemporary people. This seems to indicate an act of will on the part of Allah related to the idea of predestination. It seems that his will is first, and their actions second. See the dictionary entry on PREDESTINATION.
There is further support for the active will of Allah in pre-determining what people will do in the views of al-Ash’ari (d.935) The doctrine of acquisition was developed in seventh and eighth centuries and in the mind of Ash’ari it became a barrier to human freedom. Accordingly, "The acts of men are created and…a single act comes from two agents, of whom one, God, creates it, while the other, man, acquires it (iktasabu-bu); and (according to this view) God is the agent of the acts of men in reality, and …and men are the agents of them in reality."
"In other words, all acts of man originate with God, but man somehow acquires the will and power to carry out his acts, which thereby remain the will of God." The will of Allah is prior to the actions of man. There is no such thing as a free-will person apart from Allah in Islam based on Ash’ari views which existed in all major Ash’arites from the 10th to the 15th centuries. (Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science, p. 113)
2. "Have they not considered the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and what things Allah hath created, and that it may be that their own term draweth nigh? In what fact after this will they believe? Those whom Allah sendeth astray, there is no guide for them. He leaveth them to wander blindly on in their contumacy." (7:185-186)
Commentary: The heavens and the earth do declare what God has created. This does not lead one to conclude that Mohammed is a true prophet. The heavens and creation surely are impressive for showing a Being who created it all. Nothing that begins to exist has the reason for its existence in itself. So a Creator is rational. What rationality is there to believe that Mohammed came from God?
Now the passage continues to say that Allah sendeth astray people and there is no guide for them. This is not necessarily true. There is guidance in the Holy Bible which Mohammed knew about. There is guidance in the person of Jesus the Son of God who was crucified for our sins, but Mohammed rejected that for some unknown reason. Surely pagans are left to wander blindly on the earth, but that is not true for the Christian message. Jesus declared that he was the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him.
3. "And thus have We made in every city great ones of its wicked ones, that they should plot therein. They do but plot against themselves, though they perceive not. And when a token cometh unto them, they say: We will not believe till we are given that which Allah's messengers are given. Allah knoweth best with whom to place His message. Humiliation from Allah and heavy punishment will smite the guilty for their scheming. And whomsoever it is Allah's will to guide, He expandeth his bosom unto the Surrender, and whomsoever it is His Will to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow as if he were engaged in sheer ascent. Thus Allah layeth ignominy upon those who believe not. This is the path of thy Lord, a straight path. We have detailed Our revelations for a people who take heed." (6:124-126)
Commentary: The response of people was rational. They wanted to know by what authority Mohammed preached. Mohammed’s reply was that Allah knows best whom to give his message.
Mohammed could not stand to be rejected and declared that heavy punishment would come upon them. Now comes the key, "Whomsoever it is Allah’s will to guide, he expandeth his bosom unto the Surrender, and whomsoever it is His will to send astray...."
Here we have the issue of the will of Allah again. Is Allah’s will dependent upon a person’s believing. If it is, the will of Allah is meaningless. Allah cannot act until the person believes or does not believe in Mohammed. Is Allah really powerful?
Now, the question may well be raised concerning belief in Allah, but not Mohammed as a prophet. In the previous suras the issue related to the knowledge of God in his creation.
There is little new in Mohammed’s claim to revelation except that Mohammed is claiming to be a prophet. The character of Mohammed is quite different from most of the Old Testament prophets. Certainly the character of Jesus and the character of Mohammed are so diverse.
4. "Fulfil the covenant of Allah when ye have covenanted, and break not your oaths after the asseveration of them, and after ye have made Allah surety over you. Lo! Allah knoweth what ye do. And be not like unto her who unravelleth the thread, after she hath made it strong, to thin filaments, making your oaths a deceit between you because of a nation being more numerous than (another) nation. Allah only trieth you thereby, and He verily will explain to you on the Day of Resurrection that wherein ye differed. Had Allah willed He could have made you (all) one nation, but He sendeth whom He will astray and guideth whom He will, and ye will indeed be asked of what ye used to do. Make not your oaths a deceit between you, lest a foot should slip after being firmly planted and ye should taste evil forasmuch as ye debarred (men) from the way of Allah, and yours should be an awful doom. (16:92-94)
Commentary: Deceit is mentioned as a problem but not apostasy. Deceit is related to stronger and weaker nations. Allah will give an explanation on the Day of Resurrection about the situation. Then comes "Had Allah willed He could have made you (all) one nation, but He sendeth whom He will astray and guideth whom He will, and ye will indeed be asked of what ye used to do." There is the possibility of what Allah could do, and what he does do. What is declared for sure is that "He sends whom he will astray...."
5. "Say: If there were in the earth angels walking secure, We had sent down for them from heaven an angel as messenger. Say: Allah sufficeth for a witness between me and you. Lo! He is Knower, Seer of His slaves. And he whom Allah guideth, he is led aright; while, as for him whom He sendeth astray, for them thou wilt find no protecting friends beside Him, and We shall assemble them on the Day of Resurrection on their faces, blind, dumb and deaf; their habitation will be hell; whenever it abateth, We increase the flame for them. That is their reward because they disbelieved Our revelations and said: When we are bones and fragments shall we, forsooth, be raised up as a new creation? Have they not seen that Allah Who created the heavens and the earth is Able to create the like of them, and hath appointed for them an end whereof there is no doubt? But the wrong-doers refuse aught save disbelief. (17:96-99)
Commentary: We have again the question of the will of Allah and the matter of unbelief on the part of people. We are told that "he whom Allah guideth, he is led aright; while, as for him whom He sendeth astray, for them thou wilt find no protecting friends besides Him." The day of resurrection is the time of sorting out the believers and the unbelievers. Hell is the reward of the unbelievers because they disbelieved "Our revelations." Why did Allah not guide the Jews to believe? How is Allah said to guide? Mohammed’s experience with Jews was pretty much limited to Mecca and Medina. Are we to conclude that none of them believed the Old Testament because they rejected Mohammed? The comment seems to be an open ended claim relating to Allah’s choice of people he will guide. The same is true for those he sends astray.
Is Allah powerless except in those who have believed already?
6. "Lo! the devil is an enemy for you, so treat him as an enemy. He only summoneth his faction to be owners of the flaming Fire. Those who disbelieve, theirs will be an awful doom; and those who believe and do good works, theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward. Is he, the evil of whose deeds is made fair seeming unto him so that he deemeth it good, (other than Satan's dupe)? Allah verily sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will; so let not thy soul expire in sighings for them. Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do! And Allah it is Who sendeth the winds and they raise a cloud; then We lead it unto a dead land and revive therewith the earth after its death. Such is the Resurrection. (35:7-9)
Commentary: Mohammed had a problem with unbelieving people. He threatened them with hell fire and doom. The believers who do good works will be forgiven and have a great reward.
Having said that, he seems to confirm the statement by talking about Allah’s will in sending astray some and guiding some, whom he will. Allah’s will is then compared to the will of Allah in sending winds and raising a cloud. It seems important to say that Allah’s will be accomplished and if so, he chooses to send some to hell because it is his will.
7. "We have appointed only angels to be wardens of the Fire, and their number have We made to be a stumbling-block for those who disbelieve; that those to whom the Scripture hath been given may have certainty, and that believers may increase in faith; and that those to whom the Scripture hath been given and believers may not doubt; and that those in whose hearts there is disease, and disbelievers, may say: What meaneth Allah by this similitude? Thus Allah sendeth astray whom He will, and whom He will He guideth. None knoweth the hosts of thy Lord save Him. This is naught else than a Reminder unto mortals." (74:31)
Commentary: The problem of the unbelievers here seems to be asking a question? This is a problem in Islamic culture. Questions are not welcome, especially doubting questions.
Be that as it may, the affirmation is that "Allah sends astray whom He will, and whom He will He guides." That seems straight forward. If Allah has a will it is not dependent upon human response. His will is his will.
8. "But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We will be Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah, and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (unto Him). Our Lord! We believe in that which Thou hast revealed and we follow him whom Thou hast sent. Enrol us among those who witness (to the truth).
And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers. (And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ. As for those who disbelieve I shall chastise them with a heavy chastisement in the world and the Hereafter; and they will have no helpers." (3:52-56)
Commentary: Mohammed seemed unwilling to detail how the people schemed against Jesus.
What would be consequential apart from the crucifixion? They argued with him, they rejected his teaching, they threatened him, but these are not worthy of note. But the end of the scheming was the crucifixion which Mohammed could not affirm. What Mohammed said in these suras is to declare that Allah is the biggest deceiver, not a schemer. The crucifixion is a historical fact and Allah is said to have caused Jesus to ascend unto him apart from the crucifixion. This sura should make all Muslims think about history as well as the nature of Allah and his knowledge of what happened in history.
9. "Say: Lo! my Lord hurleth the truth. (He is) the Knower of Things Hidden. Say: The Truth hath come, and falsehood showeth not its face and will not return. Say: If I err, I err only to my own loss, and if I am rightly guided it is because of that which my Lord hath revealed unto me. Lo! He is Hearer, Nigh. Couldst thou but see when they are terrified with no escape, and are seized from near at hand, And say: We (now) believe therein. But how can they reach (faith) from afar off" (34:48-52)
Commentary: These verses relate to the issue of Mohammed being guided. He is told to say, "If I err, I err only to my own loss, and if I am rightly guided it is because of that which my Lord hath revealed unto me." Let us think about this for a moment.
The phrase, "If I err, I err only to my own loss" has huge consequences. If Mohammed erred, and there are lots of reason to think he was misguided, it is not only his loss, but the millions upon millions of followers who have followed him. The consequences include the millions of women who have been given second class status in Islam. The consequences include the millions of Christians in the world who have been killed, persecuted, or forced into conversion rather than lose their lives. More consequences include the invasion of the west and the enslavement of people who were Christians. There are too many consequences to list here.
In conclusion, the reader can decide whether Zawadi made his case or not. My own opinion is that he plays loose with the Bible trying to find a verse here or there that may seem to support his view that the Bible is wrong. I have given extensive context to the Qur’an to show that I have not taken anything out of context. I would ask my readers to pray for Zawadi that he may have an encounter with the Living Jesus as Paul did on the road to Damascus.