CAN YOU EXPLAIN, “STANDING AGAINST THE BLOOD OF THY NEIGHBOUR?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
This is in reference to the second part of Leviticus 19:16: “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.” In order to ascertain the second half, we simply look to the first half.
A “talebearer” is a gossiper—one who bears (carries, as in a courier) tales or stories meant to harm someone’s reputation. Personal information, secrets, and even outright fabrications (lies) may be involved. Throughout the Book of Proverbs, the LORD repeatedly spoke of talebearing or gossiping in a negative light:
- Proverbs 11:13: “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”
- Proverbs 18:8: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
- Proverbs 20:19: “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”
- Proverbs 26:20: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
- Proverbs 26:22: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
If God were to enforce the first part of Leviticus 19:16 today, hardly any newspapers, social-media accounts, and television networks would be operational! Actually, if the second part of Leviticus 19:16 were followed today, a great many courtrooms around the world would be permanently shuttered too!
An insightful cross-reference to Leviticus 19:16 is Exodus 20:16, the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (cf. Deuteronomy 5:20). While this can be broadly interpreted as “do not lie,” a more specific application is “do not lie during court proceedings.” One example of this sin is how two false witnesses—whom idolatrous Queen Jezebel conscripted—lied about Naboth for the express purpose of condemning him to death so King Ahab could take possession of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-29). The most famous case, however, involved two false witnesses fabricating testimony during Jesus’ trial to put Him to death (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; cf. Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-32).
Let us go back to Leviticus 19:16: “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.” The “blood” of the neighbor being shed is certainly literal, but we can also see a figurative aspect too. Recall “character assassination” is not the actual taking of a physical life, but rather the destruction of one’s reputation. Likewise, false testimony in court may not lead to the death of the defendant, but he or she may lose his societal status because of gossip. If someone was guilty, any witnesses to the crime were to come into the courtroom to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. However, if all the witnesses had to contribute to the case was hearsay, gossip, rumors; they were to keep their mouths shut and their bodies out of the court proceedings! Otherwise, the Law of Moses would be broken—and, in the case of capital punishment, an innocent life lost. Here, guiltless blood would literally be shed. At the very least, someone’s good name would be tarnished.
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness” (Exodus 23:1). Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 19:15-21, the LORD gave the following instructions as to how the deal with any false witnesses: “ One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.  If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;  Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;  And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;  Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.  And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.  And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
Again, if these passages were obeyed today, it would be (literally) quite difficult to find a perjurer!