By: William J. Jackson
In Numbers 12:1-15 we see Miryam dissing her brother Moses behind his back. This infuriates HaShem, so He calls all three for a private chew out (Miryam, Aaron and Moses). After, HaShem leaves Miryam’s life is threatened with leprosy forcing her into a seven day “time-out” (quarantine). The bottom line is Adonai isn’t happy with anyone who commits “Lashon Hara”.
So what is “Lashon Hara”? It is a Hebrew phrase, which means: The Evil Tongue
Lashon = Tongue (1)
Ha = The (2)
Ra = Adversity, Evil, Bad (3)
King David addresses it specifically in Psalm 34:14 (13) keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceiving talk;
If you research this topic you will find that the Talmud, the NT, oral Torah and Jewish tradition will all add to the phrase “Lashon Hara”. They seem to make lashon hara be all forms of speech but let’s keep this phrase in it’s proper context.
We can break lashon hara into three major areas; slander, strife and lies. Depending on your bible, other words are sometimes used like “gossip” and “nagging”. Bellow we have defined these words and show where they can be found in scripture to give us an understanding of lashon hara:
Slander (or talebearer) = “Rakil”(Hebrew Strong’s 7400): to make a false spoken statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone (4a). Some relevant references using this Hebrew word are; Jeremiah 9:2, Proverbs 11:13; 20:19, Ezekiel 22:9.
Strife (as in creating strife, also divisiveness and creating a division) = “Madon” (Hebrew Stong’s 4066): very angry or violent disagreement between two or more people or groups (4b). Some relevant references using this Hebrew word are; Proverbs 6:14, 19, 15:18, 17:14, 18:18, 19:13, 21:19, 22:10, 23:29, 25:24, 26:20, 21, 27:15, 28:25, 29:22, Habakkuk 1:3
Lie (or deception) = “Sheqer” (Hebrew Strong’s 8267):To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive (4c). Some relevant references using this Hebrew word are; Exodus 20:13, 23:7, 64, Leviticus 5:22-23, Deuteronomy 19:18-19 Jeremiah 5:2, 31, 8:10, 9:2, 20:6, 29:21, Isaiah 9:14, 28:15, Hosea 7:1, Habakkuk 2:18, Zechariah 10:2, Micah 6:12-13, Psalm 7:15, 27:12, 38:21, 101:7, 119:29, 69, 78, 104, 118, 128, 163, 120 12:19,22, 13:5, 14:5, 17:4,7,19:5, 9, 20:17, 25:14, 18, Job 13:4
When it comes to avoiding lashon hara (slander, strife and lies), it is not just friendly advice given from the Psalms and Proverbs. YHVH establishes in His Torah we are not lie about or neighbors, slanders or spread false rumors, (Exodus 20:13, 23:1, Leviticus 19:16). Actually HaShem detests anyone who lies and sows strife (Proverbs 6:16-19), and as He did with Miryam, He will cut off someone who “slanders another in secret”, Psalm 101:5. In fact there are many negative things to be said and earned for those who have an evil tongue, (Psalm 34:14, 64:3-5, Proverbs 10:18,16:28, 18:8).
So how does HaShem want us to behave? He wants us to get over our negative feelings of others (Proverbs 17:9). Not participating in lashon hara marks us as trustworthy (Proverbs 11:13). He also wants us to avoid a relationships with with those that practice in lashon hara (Proverbs 20:19). So keep your tongue to yourself and stay out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23). King Solomon was right in saying; the one way to destroy lashon hara is not to feed it, (Proverbs 26:20).
If YHVH tells us to set ourselves apart (Leviticus 11:44, 20:7-8, Psalm 4:4), then the only way we can do this is to separate ourselves from the commonality of the world. That being said, Biologists analyzed sample human conversations and found that about 60% of time was spent gossiping about relationships and personal experiences (5). If we are participating in the social norm of lashon hara we are making ourselves common. Also we are;
– betraying others,
– robbing our own trustworthiness,
– being seen as negative by all those around us
– being ungodly,
– and sinning.
The problem with lashon hara is that many of us seem to legitimize it, but any person deep in sin, whether addiction or bad behavior, seems to be able to defend it. We must seek the humility through HaShem to break this bonds. As Hashem said it to Cain “…sin is crouching at the door — it wants you, but you can rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7).
Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip. – Will Rogers