Sin sharks

Sin sharks

But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the LORD, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. – Numbers 32:23

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

There is a common shark stereotype that sharks have almost a supernatural ability to sniff out even the smallest drop of blood and find their “prey” from many miles away. This stereotype is fostered and promoted by “shark attack” movies.

Indeed, sharks have a strong sense of smell. They can detect small amounts of chemicals (including blood) in the water. They often rely on their sense of smell to hunt and find prey. But their sensitivity does not stretch over vast distances. Some sharks are able to detect smells at about one part per 10 billion. One part per 10 billion is roughly equivalent to one drop of in a backyard swimming pool.

Oceans are far larger than swimming pools. There is little chance that a shark could smell a drop of blood in an ocean from a mile away.

However, when sharks detect a smell, they “are extremely good at picking up on the smallest molecules to direct them to prey sources,” says Mike Price, Curator at Sea World San Diego.

Both on land and in the ocean, molecules that produce smells disperse over long distances and become diluted. Sharks need only one or two molecules of a potential prey to be able to locate its source. In particular, when they encounter blood molecules in the water, they have an extraordinary ability to find the origin of the blood.

There is also a great deal of misunderstanding regarding Numbers 32:23.

Numbers 32:23 Your sin will find you out.

It is often interpreted to mean that you cannot get away with sin. Rather your sin will be found out and exposed. Secrets thought hidden will be uncovered and revealed. Consider the story of Moses when he “secretly” killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:14). It soon became public knowledge. Or the “private” sin of David with Bathsheba and his effort to cover it up (2 Samuel 11:1-17). It was front page news in heaven, and soon made the headlines of the Jerusalem Post, circa 3000 BC. And so it remains until this day.

While our dirty laundry is often dug up and disclosed, it is not always the case in this life “There are a great many sinners who get by with their sins and are never found out by anyone else” (McGee).

The phrase “Be sure your sin will find you out” is often used in evangelistic appeals, and it can have that application (Wiersbe). Upon closer inspection, “That is not what it says at all” (McGee).

If that interpretation is incorrect, what does it mean?

To ferret out its primary meaning it have to look at the context. The original intent was to admonish the Father’s people to keep their commitments (Wiersbe). When a promise is not kept, it is a sin before the Father.

In this passage, the wording is striking. Sin is personified. It is though it becomes a sentient being on a mission. Your sin will find you out. When someone sins, the sin itself becomes like a private investigator. It seeks to find out “who done it.”

In other words, an act of sin becomes like a shark on the hunt. And ironically, the sin is also the prey that is sought out. Our personal sin shark detects our blood (sin) in the water. It will track us down and find us out.

“Sin is a tireless pursuer when it comes to seek it’s just payment: like a shark that smells blood, it will never leave a wounded swimmer alone. It comes on relentlessly, seeking its wages . . .” (Duguid and Hughes).

Our sin has destructive outcomes. It becomes our own worst enemy. It is though sin itself emits an aroma. And at the same time, sin becomes a determined hunter. It detects its own scent, and it will ruthlessly pursue the sinner responsible.


Sin has unavoidable and unintended collateral damage. It is best to stay out of those sin shark infested waters.

Father thank you that You know everything all the time. We cannot hide from You, nor should we wish to. Genesis 16:13 “You are the God who sees me.”


Back to the context and meaning of the passage. It has to do with following through on commitments and keeping promises. All the tribes of Israel were to be involved in the conquest of the promised land. Two tribes of Israel, Reuben and Gad, proposed a slight modification to the plan.

“The tribes of Reuben and Gad were herdsmen and requested permission to settle east of the Jordan where the land was especially suited to pasturing flocks and herds” (Wiersbe). They wanted approval to build pens for their livestock and fortified towns for their wives and children on the east side of the Jordan. They would then lead the rest of the 12 tribes in the battle. After the conquest, they would return and live the land that they had selected (Numbers 32:16-19).

Moses accepted their proposal but sternly admonished them to keep their promises. If they failed to do so, it was sin. But their sin is not just between them, the rest of the 12 tribes, and Moses. It would be a sin against the Father Himself.

Numbers 32:23 But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

In fact, the Father misses nothing. He sees everything, all the time. When we make a commitment before Him, He knows if we are keeping it.

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

“There will come that time when the chickens come home to roost. ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap’ (Galatians 6:7). I don’t care who you are, or where you are, how you are, or when you are, your sins will find you out. In the way that you sin, that is the way it is going to come home to you sometime. That is the meaning of this statement, ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’” (McGee).


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