More Biblical Cases of Resisting the Authorities
The Bible offers many cases of resistance to authority:
I recently created a new sub-category of articles on this website called “Resistance Theory.” As it sounds, it is a theory about resistance – specifically resistance to government, the state, and/or the ruling authorities. The questions it seeks to answer include: Is it ever right to mount such resistance? Is it ever proper to engage in civil disobedience? Can one flat-out rebel against a ruler or a governing body?
Secular thinkers (eg., political philosophers, etc) have long been interested in these sorts of questions, but so too have Christians. While much of this discussion especially arose during the time of the Reformation, there was much thought about this before then, and Catholics have also thought and written about such matters.
In my various articles on this I sought to argue that yes, there is such a thing as a proper sort of resistance. This might entail individuals or groups who resist or rebel against governments, rulers, etc. And all this becomes quite relevant today as we see all the alarming power grabs made by the State, primarily with the excuse of dealing with the Rona.
I have already penned a number of pieces looking at numerous biblical examples of such resistance. See for example these pieces: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/03/24/12-biblical-cases-of-civil-disobedience/
Here I want to offer further Scriptural examples where rulers – be they kings, princes, military leaders, etc. – were challenged, resisted or disobeyed. Indeed, sometimes they were even violently resisted –put to death in fact. So here I want to add to my already growing list of examples of this, based on my recent reading of the books of Kings and Chronicles. There we find plenty of cases of this. Here are some of the more notable ones:
1 Kings 21 Here we read about how Elijah the prophet strongly condemned the evil king Ahab of Samaria over his unjust appropriation of Naboth’s Vineyard.
2 Kings 1 The prophet Elijah again denounces a king – this time King Ahaziah. Because of his sin, he is told in verse 6, “you shall surely die.” And in verse 17 we read: “So he died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.”
2 Kings 3:13-14 Here we find the prophet Elisha showing no regard for Jehoram King of Israel. As we see in verse 14; “Elisha said, ‘As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you’.”
2 Kings 6:32-33 This time we find Elisha resisting the murderous plans of the King of Israel.
2 Kings 8:7-15 Pagan kings also get prophetic rebuke. Here Elisha comes to Damascus and speaks against Ben-hadad, the king of Syria.
2 Kings 9:14-29 Sometimes it is even king against king. Here King Jehu assassinates King Joram and King Ahaziah.
2 Kings 9:30-37 Here we read about how Jehu executes the evil Queen Jezebel.
2 Kings 10:17 Sometimes the prophets instruct rulers to do some major house-cleaning: “And when he [Jehu] came to Samaria, he struck down all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, till he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah.”
2 Kings 10:37 We read here about how Queen Jezebel is killed by her own servants, as Elijah had predicted (eg., 2 Kings 9:9-10).
2 Kings 11:15-16, 20 Priests also get involved in politic intrigue: “Then Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains who were set over the army, ‘Bring her [Queen Athaliah] out between the ranks, and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her.’For the priest said, ‘Let her not be put to death in the house of the Lord.’ So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death. … So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house.”
2 Kings 12:19-21 Sometimes servants of a king get involved: “Now the rest of the acts of Joash and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? His servants arose and made a conspiracy and struck down Joash in the house of Millo, on the way that goes down to Silla. It was Jozacar the son of Shimeath and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, who struck him down, so that he died. And they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Amaziah his son reigned in his place.”
1 Chronicles 21:1-17 Here we read about how Joab resists King David, even when David seemingly did something that God had ordained, or at least allowed. The first eight verses read:
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.” But Joab said, “May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem. And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword. But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab. But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”
2 Chronicles 21 Elijah the prophet rebukes King Jehoram.
2 Chronicles 23:12-15 Jehoiada the priest has Queen Athaliah of Judah put to death.
2 Chronicles 23:21 Real rejoicing will take place when evil rulers are gotten rid of: “All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was calm, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword.”
2 Chronicles 23:16-17 People and priests together can get pretty rowdy when it comes to resistance; “Jehoiada [the priest] then made a covenant that he, the people and the king would be the Lord’s people. All the people went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.”
2 Chronicles 25 Here we read of a man of God who rebukes King Amaziah.
2 Chronicles 26:16-23 Here Azariah the chief priest and all the priests strongly rebuke King Uzziah.
2 Chronicles 28 Obed the prophet and certain chiefs rebuke Israel’s army.
Let me add one more biblical example here. I offer it because just yesterday when I was speaking in a church this episode was mentioned in the Scripture reading/devotional as part of the morning service. When I heard what it was I thought: “Wow, this gal is a brave soul! There is likely only one in a hundred churches today in the West that would dare go anywhere near a story like this with a ten-foot pole.
It is so non-politically correct, that most churches would avoid it like the plague. All of our woke churchians would have a mild heart-attack if they heard it mentioned in their services. I refer to the rather graphic story found in Judges 4. It is not for the faint of heart.
It is about one of God’s judges, Deborah the prophetess. The commander of the Canaan army Sisera is killed (assassinated) in an interesting and rather hardcore fashion, all under the oversight of Deborah. Indeed, it is another woman, Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, who did the actual deed.
So this was a major figure who was bumped off, but under the approval of Deborah and God himself. As we read at the end of this chapter in verses 23-24: “So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”
Sure, this is a descriptive account, not a prescriptive one. I am not urging any believer today to go and find a tent peg and drive it through the skull of some evil ruler. But it is yet another example of how resistance to tyrants and the like is found all throughout Scripture.
And just in case you are still not convinced, please go on and read judges 5. There we have a 31-verse song by Deborah and Barak praising God for everything that we just read about in chapter 4! In fact, consider verses 24-26:
“Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
Oh dear: “most blessed of women”! So many milquetoast and trendy lefty Christians today would utterly recoil at both chapters, and claim they are ungodly, and something we should avoid like the plague. And of course they will throw up this old chestnut: ‘What about Romans 13?’!
I have dealt with that passage often enough. See these two pieces for example: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/05/15/the-state-is-not-absolute/
As I say, Scripture is full of examples of folks defying rulers, resisting authority, and disobeying various laws. Sure, Christians today who head down this path must do so wisely, prayerfully, and carefully. But there is plenty of biblical warrant for the need to at times resist the state and disobey leaders.
12 Replies to “More Biblical Cases of Resisting the Authorities”
Be inspired! (3:17mins):
I agree that there are occasions when Xtians should/must engage in civil disobedience.
When a civil authority’s command leads to disobedience to God as revealed in Scripture, we ought to disobey the civil authority.
One thing I need to think about: When, if ever, is a Xtian justifed going further than just peaceful civil disobedience and taking up arms to fight and attempt to overthrow the ruling civil authorities a la Cromwell, American rebellion against the British rule, etc
Keen to hear your thoughts, perhaps in a future article or two.
Thanks Doug. I already have in this 2-part article:
And future articles in this series will look at all this in more detail.
Ancient Israel is something we all should familiarize ourselves with as the west and specifically America, is ancient Israel now and we need to be aware of the parallels.
Anywhere we could find them side by side???
Paul Wilson, I disagree with what you say. The west and the US are not Ancient Israel. Ancient Israel was under the Old Covenant, we Christians are now under the New Covenant, which is the Church all over the world, not defined by countries. Believing Jews are part of the Church too. “No man comes to the Father, but by Me,” said Jesus.
Joanna I think you misunderstand me I am NOT a replacement theologist I am simply pointing to the terrible spiritual condition of Ancient Israel at several times, mostly before being destroyed, and pointing out that is where we are. They too abandoned God and allowed all sorts of abomination to take place in their country with government blessing and no REAL push back from the people. They too heaped up their sins to heaven with a most foul stench and they to crossed a line they could NOT be allowed to cross. The similarities are frightening especially given what God did and given his HOLINESS AND JUSTNESS we can not escape the fire that awaits us BUT maybe we can prepare for the aftermath to turn those that remain to him. I wish there was a side by side listing of her sins and those of America an the West.
Paul Wilson, I understand what you are saying now. Thanks.
I commented on one of your articles the other day. I just want to share this link. The first 12 minutes summarises what the Christian attitude should be to government very well.
A few more examples.
Jonathan refused Saul’s command to summon David to his death.
Jonathan went to David in the wilderness and encouraged him in the Lord — interesting language for the Scripture to use if he were doing wrong, isn’t it?
Elijah not only rebuked the king in II Kings 1, he also disobeyed a direct command to come down, and instead torched the messengers.
Uzziah was resisted by the priests when he went into the temple to offer incense and God backed them up with a permanent case of leprosy.
My list (which doesn’t include everything you have but includes some others you don’t, I believe) is here: https://mindrenewers.com/2020/08/18/obeying-god-obeying-man-some-key-scriptures/
Thanks for your great contributions. Perhaps, another publication worth having?
God vs. Government: Taking a Biblical Stand When Christ and Compliance Collide Kindle Edition
by Nathan Busenitz (Author), James Coates (Author), John MacArthur (Foreword)
Thanks Thaddeus. Well, I did write a review of that book recently – it is great stuff. See here: