Y O U N G P E O P L E ' S D I C T I O N A R Y O F S C R I P T U R A L • & • R E L I G I O U S T E R M S
‘Privily’ is used several times throughout the Bible and has several different shades
of meaning, depending on the context in which it is used. For example, when Saul
was chasing David, trying to kill him, David hid in a cave (see 1 Samuel 24). Not
realizing David was hiding there with his men, Saul entered the cave to rest! We
read that “David...cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily”. This is probably the most
common use of the word. It means ‘secretly’.
In other Old Testament passages privily has a more negative, hostile meaning. In
these passages privily has the thought of ‘lurking’ in order to hurt someone, or,
waiting for darkness in order to do an evil thing. And it can also mean that someone
tries to ‘conceal’ or ‘hide’ an object or something they plan to do.
In the New Testament, privily is used in similar ways. When Herod asked the ‘wise
men’ where the baby born ‘King of the Jews’ was to be found, he did so privily or
‘secretly’. No one else was aware of Herod’s question to the wise men.
In the epistles, privily carries the sense of men—unbelievers—who profess Christian
faith in order to ‘creep in unnoticed’ among real believers. Once they have ‘crept in
privily’ among true Christians, these wicked men begin to teach doctrines that
undermine Christian faith and dishonor our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
Another use of privily in the New Testament is similar to the above meaning. The
Apostle Peter warns us that there are those who bring in “damnable heresies”
(wicked, blasphemous teachings about God, about our Saviour, and about His Word,
the Bible). They do this privily or we might say, they teach these wicked doctrines
by ‘trickery’—through cunning deception. So that, if possible, real believers will be
carried away from true Christian faith through teaching that sounds good, but is in
reality wicked error.