Definition: Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to dishonestly influence that person’s views or conduct. In the Bible, the Lord despises the corruption of religious leaders and politicians who pervert honest ways for monetary or political gain.
1. The Bible specifically forbids the giving or taking of bribes, and for good reason.
Exodus 23:8 And thou shalt take no gift [bribe]: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.
Proverbs 29:4 The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.
Ecclesiastes 7:7 Surely oppression [extortion] maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.
2. Both the giving and receiving of bribes are generally motivated by selfishness and self-interest
Proverbs 17:23 A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.
Proverbs 22:16 He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
Isaiah 1:23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards [bribes]: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
Ezekiel 13:19 And will ye pollute Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?
Micah 7:3 That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.
3. Biblical examples of those who took bribes from the ungodly:
Numbers 22:14-22a [Balak tried to bribe Balaam to come curse the children of Israel] And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us. 15 And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. 16 And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: 17 For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. 18 And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the Word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more. 20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. 21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. 22a And God’s anger was kindled because he went.
Judges 16:5 [Delilah] And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him [Samson], and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.
1 Samuel 8:1,3 [Samuel the prophet’s two sons:] And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel…. 3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
Esther 3:9 [Haman bribed King Ahasuerus to destroy the Jews:] If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.
Matthew 28:12-15 [The Jews bribed the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb into helping them spread their lies:] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, 13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept. 14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. 15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Mark 14:10,11 [The betrayer of Jesus:] And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray Him unto them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.
Acts 8:18-22 [An ambitious magician tries to bribe the Apostles:] And when Simon [the sorcerer] saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Acts 24:26 [Governor Felix expected Paul to bribe him:] He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
4. The intended gains from bribery are petty compared to what it costs in the way of God’s judgments.
Job 15:34 For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
Proverbs 15:27 He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts [bribes] shall live.
Proverbs 29:4 The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.
Isaiah 5:22a,23 Woe unto them… 23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
Amos 2:6 Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes….
Amos 5:11,12 Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. 12 For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.
5. God promises to bless those who uphold their integrity by neither giving nor receiving bribes.
1 Samuel 12:3 [Samuel judged Israel righteously and never accepted a bribe:] Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before His anointed: whose ox have I taken? Or whose ass have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? And I will restore it you.
Psalm 26:9-11 Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: 10 In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes. 11 But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.
Proverbs 15:27b He that hateth gifts shall live.
Isaiah 33:15,16 He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; 16 He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks [mountain fortress]: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
6. There are times when giving a gift or tip is expedient as a gesture of kindness or reconciliation, but not to pervert judgment.
Genesis 32:11-21; 33:8-11 [Jacob insists on giving a large gift to help in his reconciliation with his brother Esau. Jacob prays:] Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. … 13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; 14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, 15 Thirty milk camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals…. 17 And he commanded the foremost [servant], saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? And whither goest thou? And whose are these before thee? 18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau…. 20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me. 21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company…. 33:8 And he [Esau] said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he [Jacob] said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord. 9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. 10 And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. 11 Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
Genesis 43:11-15 [Jacob advised his sons to take extra money and gifts to recover their brother Benjamin and appease a powerful government official, who turned out to be their lost brother Joseph:] And their father Israel [Jacob] said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: 12 And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight: 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: 14 And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved. 15 And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph
1 Samuel 25:2-42 [Wicked Nabal greatly offends David and his band of fugitives, after they had protected Nabal’s shepherds. Nabal’s wife, Abigail, appeases a furious David with wise words and a generous gift] 18 Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses…. 21 Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good. 22 So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. 23 And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, 24 And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid…. 27 And now this blessing [gift] which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord…. [See the passage to hear Abigail’s anointed plea for mercy and prophetic words] 32 And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: 33 And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand…. 35 So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person. [See the rest of the passage to read of Nabal’s death, and Abigail becoming David’s wife]
1 Kings 15:18-20 [During the war between Baasha, the evil king of Israel, and Asa, the godly king of Judah, Asa used a big gift to encourage the king of Syria to break Syria’s alliance with Israel:] Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants: and King Asa sent them to Ben-ha’dad, the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying, 19 There is a league between me and thee, and between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent unto thee a present of silver and gold; come and break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me. 20 So Ben-ha’dad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of the hosts which he had against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-ma’achah, and all Cinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali.
Proverbs 17:8 A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
Proverbs 18:16 A man’s gift [present] maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
Proverbs 19:6b Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.
Proverbs 21:14 A gift [present] in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.
Matthew 17:24-27 [Even though He was not liable, Jesus authorized Peter to pay tribute] And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute? 25 He saith, Yes. And when He was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto Him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. 27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.