Since originally writing the post referring to “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” I’ve come across some Bible passages which are relevant to this issue.
Now please note that by writing this post and the previous one I am not in any way trying to encourage you to disobey the leadership in your church. What I am saying is that this verse, that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” is not available to be used the way I have seen it used many times.
False claims of “Rebellion” in the Bible
Here are some claims of “rebellion” made by characters in the Bible
1. Rehum and Shimshai against the rebuilding of Jerusalem: Ezra Chapter 4, specifically verse 12, verse 19: “… [They] are building a rebellious and evil city…”…”…this city is a rebellious city….”
When some of the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon, they set about to rebuild Jerusalem, including the Temple of the Lord. And yet they faced great opposition. Rehum and Shimshai writing a letter to the King of Babylon, Artaxerxes accused the Israelites of rebellion. According to their letter, Rehum was a commander and Shimshai was a scribe, both positions of authority. And yet were the Jews acting in rebellion, to either the King of Babylon or anyone else? In fact, they had actually been given permission by King Cyrus of Babylon in Ezra 1v2-4. In fact, this is the very reason why Cyrus had sent them back to Jerusalem.
Furthermore, the Israelites were working to rebuild the Temple for the glory of God. What is the possibility that God would have considered that they were acting in rebellion against Him? Here the claim of rebellion was quite clearly untrue. And yet, that did not stop it from being levied against the Israelites by these people in authority.
2. Sanballat’s letter to Nehemiah Nehemiah 6v6
In Nehemiah, still continuing this same story of rebuilding Jerusalem, one of the enemies of the Jews, Sanballat, sent a letter to Nehemiah, saying that he (Nehemiah) had been reported as planning to rebel…
This was actually a trap, as Sanballat and his cronies were trying to undermine the work carried out by Nehemiah, Ezra and the other Israelites, by making them afraid. Here as before, the accusation of rebellion was totally unfounded.
3. Athaliah and Joash 2 Kings 11 – Treason!
I am always a little disappointed whenever I read the story of Athaliah in the Bible. Here was a strong, ambitious woman of the Bible – however, the disappointment is that, like Jezebel (her mother) she used her power for great evil. When her son Ahaziah who had been king of Judah died, she rose up and killed all his heirs, and installed her very own self as reigning queen! For a woman to reign this way as sovereign remains completely unparalleled in the very patriarchal Old Testament history of Israel (apart from Deborah the Judge, before the period of the Kings, although Deborah was not quite sovereign in the same way). However, despite Athaliah’s actions, one heir remained, Joash, who was hidden with his nurse in a bedroom for 6 years. Eventually Jehoiada the priest put together a coronation to install Joash as the rightful king.
On hearing the noise of the coronation and coming to see what was going on, Athaliah tore her clothes, shouting out that treason was being committed! (verse 14) Treason means rebellion against the sovereign. Yet Joash was a rightful heir of King Ahaziah, while Athaliah herself had actually killed his other sons! So who was the one acting in rebellion? Who was the one who had actually committed treason, by killing all the would-be kings? Obviously it was Athaliah herself, however that did not stop her from flinging out this accusation when her own dominance was threatened.
Saul and Jonathan: 1 Samuel 20
In this passage Saul gets angry that David, his great rival, had escaped from his hands by cleverly making himself absent at an important feast. Jonathan, Saul’s son, was David’s best friend, and Jonathan had helped David by making excuses for his absence. Saul sees right through this, and he gets angry at his own son, Jonathan.
Saul cries out to Jonathan: “You son of a perverse rebellious woman!” (verse 30). So here Jonathan is accused of rebellion via his mother.
We have previously seen that Saul himself was described as acting in rebellion by the prophet Samuel. It was against Saul that the famous statement on rebellion was uttered “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”. In fact, in this passage he is still clearly acting in rebellion against God as he is refusing to acknowledge the fact that God has taken away the kingdom from him and his own heirs (that is, Jonathan) and given it to David. He thinks that by killing David he will be able to cancel this out, and restore the kingdom to his own heirs. As he goes on to say in verse 31 – as long as David lives, Jonathan has no chance of becoming king himself. So here, who is the very person acting in rebellion – even though he has been anointed king and leader? That would be Saul. And yet, who is the one throwing around the accusation of rebellion? That would be the same Saul! If God looked at Jonathan, would He regard Jonathan as acting in rebellion? Who would God actually recognise as acting in rebellion?
As we have seen from these Biblical examples, this is how it can so easily happen in everyday life. The accusation of rebellion appears to be so convenient to grasp and fling, like the spear that Saul was ever ready to literally hurl at David, and even at Jonathan in this very passage (verse 33). And yet as with Saul in this passage, as with Athaliah, as these leaders, even anointed leaders like Saul was, are busy throwing around this accusation of “rebellion” – the real truth, the real obvious truth, might be that they are the ones acting in rebellion against God and His truth and His holiness, even at the very moment while they are accusing others of “rebellion”.
Eye image by Petr Kratochvil at http://www.publicdomainpicture.net