I hope that got your attention. It’s an honest question. Here’s why.
In Genesis 18:9–15 Sarah laughed at the thought of having a baby—now watch this—not because she thought she was too old, but because she thought Abraham was (v.12). He was ninety-nine after all. Do you know many nonegenerians who are ready for fatherhood? But when God told Abraham why Sarah was laughing, he told Abraham, “Shall I indeed bear a child when I am so old?”
Did you catch that? God provided Abraham a different reason than the one Sarah gave. So, did God tell a white lie? Here are some possible answers.
1. God told a white lie to protect Abraham’s feelings. God was attempting to help Abraham save face. This makes God like Dear Abby; he wanted to keep peace in the family between the husband and wife. The problem with this view is that God is a liar. It’s really as simple as that.
2. Consider this possibility: the story has an ancient editing error. Yep, there are people that actually think this is possible. Many modern scholars believe the Bible had many editors, so we ought not take the book too seriously. This would certainly solve the problem, but the problem with this solution is that there is really no evidence of tampering with the text, so this solution doesn’t wash.
3. A third option is to understand the story as a mystery. This means it cannot be explained, and even if it could, it would cause a headache requiring industrial strength pain reliever. To me this is the worst answer because it doesn’t deal with the text; it just makes an excuse for it. I don’t think we need to make excuses for the Creator of the universe.
4. One more possible reason, and my wife saw it immediately. So much for my masters and doctorate degrees! She said, “When God told Abraham what Sarah said, he only related one part of what she said. When she laughed at God, for the purposes of the story, only the one detail was included.”
Homer Simpson would’ve said, “Doh!” I felt a head slap coming on.
That makes sense. It deals honestly with the text. God didn’t tell a white lie; he told Abraham the truth, but he did want to spare his feelings. I’m very glad God hasn’t come to me and said, “Did you hear what your wife said?” I am also very glad the God of the Bible is simultaneously truthful and compassionate.