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  • Dr. Stieglitz

Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 17:11

Proverbs 17:11

"A rebellious man seeks only evil, so a cruel messenger will be sent against him"

This proverb is a crucial piece of wisdom that few hear anymore. Rebellion does not pay; it is not the glamorous and productive lifestyle of the movies and television. Rebellion is, instead, a destructive and harmful force in our lives and in society.

Our society does not spend much time talking about authority and proper submission. We hate the terms and the concept, but proper authority and submission is the basis of all groups and society. There must be an authority and there must be followers. God has set up certain positions as authority positions. They should be submitted to. The only exceptions to submission to God-given authority is when the authority is rebelling from God or the higher authority. When submission to one authority means rebellion against a higher authority or God, then rebellion is the proper action.

Because we do not teach proper submission, people do not often realize that their actions are tearing apart the fabric of the society. Everybody wants to do what they want to do. Everybody wants to make up the rules as they go along – to fit their circumstances and their desires. It just can't work that way. People can't make up the traffic laws to suit themselves or there will be chaos in the streets. Children can't invent their own bedtimes and rules for life to suit themselves; they don't have enough life experience. Submission to righteous authority is essential to have a functioning society.


The word rebellion is the word meri and means defiance or rebellion. In all but five cases in the Old Testament it refers to rebellion against God.

This proverb is one of the broader references to rebellion which includes rebellion to all God-given authorities. The insight from this proverb that helps us in our search for a wise life is that a person who constantly has a difficult time submitting is really seeking to live outside of the boundaries of God's moral structure. They are seeking evil. They want adultery; gain through fraud or theft; they want to be those whose words don't match their life; they want to take others' goods and relationships; they want and prefer to lie rather than tell the truth; they want to gain through intimidation and violence; they clearly do not want to add value to those who occupy positions of authority and responsibility.

Let's look at that insight again. The person who is regularly defiant, unsubmissive, and rebellious of bosses, police, God's law, and others' needs in their relationships is not only selfish but is after evil things – those things that come from living outside of the Ten Commandments. Remember that evil things are gained when one person gains at the other person's expense. True moral living is an everybody-wins proposition. Evil actions are I-win-and-others-lose.

Many people do not understand the nature and corruption of evil. Evil is corruptive in that it forces others to lose so that one or a few can gain. The boundaries of the Ten Commandments mark where this process begins: cursing, adultery, murder, lying, stealing, coveting, etc.

The word translated cruel is the word akzar in the Hebrew and means fierce or cruel. This suggests that God has designed specific consequences for those who pursue a path of personal gain at the expense of others. The consequences of this lifestyle is a cruel or fierce competitor or enemy who seeks your loss as much as you seek your gain.

The rebellious person grows this kind of adversary.

The term messenger is the Hebrew word malak which is used for messenger, representative, or angel. There is an interesting hint in this passage that the spiritual world connects to the conduct in the natural world. In our naturalistic understanding of the world, we do not often want to embrace a supernatural understanding of the world and that there are spiritual laws and consequences just as there are natural ones. This passage does not actually say, openly, that a person who is constantly rebellious will have a fierce demon assigned to them but it hints in this direction.

The early church felt that certain sins caused demonic attachments to be built that further tempted or plagued the person. That was why 1 John 1:9 was so important. One must confess their sins daily as Jesus instructed in John 13.

I have regularly talked with people who don't like what their boss or their parents are asking them to do; they just want to do something different. I ask, “Are they asking you to do something that is immoral or against God's law?” If the answer is no, then they should go along and learn something through submission. There is time for independence, but it is not all the time and it is not a selfish enterprise.

Do not become a person who is always against authorities' directives. Do not constantly hang out with those who rebel. Realize that wisdom sees consequences that the fool does not see. Rebellion looks like a great life when you are a teenager, but it is not such a good life after a while.

Until tomorrow,

Gil Stieglitz

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