Biblical Examples of Disobedience

by Brett Levine
A stained glass window depicting Eve giving the apple to Adam.

A stained glass window depicting Eve giving the apple to Adam.

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As the foundation of Judeo-Christian beliefs, traditions and laws, the Bible contains a range of stories that highlight humans' relationships with each other and with God. In many instances, biblical stories depict conflict sbetween the expectations of God and the actions of humankind. It is often within these stories of disobedience that significant lessons regarding actions and outcomes can be found.

Original Sin

Perhaps the Bible's greatest example of disobedience would be Adam and Eve's experience in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2 and 3 tell the story of Adam and Eve, and their fall into sin. In Chapter 2, God specifies certain restrictions on what they may and may not do in the Garden, specifically saying that they must not eat from the tree of knowledge because if they do they will certainly die (Genesis 2:15). Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that when Adam and Eve made the choice to eat the fruit of the tree they did so freely. Aquinas asserts that since man freely disobeyed God, man finally knew evil.

Cain and Abel

Genesis also tells the story of the brothers Cain and Abel. Each brought an offering to God. Abel's was looked upon with favor, but Cain's was not. Genesis explains that Cain took his brother to the fields and killed him, despite receiving a warning from God: "sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." Jewish theologians have considered questions surrounding why Abel's offering was well received by God, but Cain's was not. The passages themselves do not explain why Cain's offering was rejected, leading some to speculate that he had not brought the best of his vegetables, while Abel had brought the best of his flock. Were this to be so, the act of selecting less than the best he had to offer would stand as a symbol of disobedience by Cain against God, while the larger disobedience is that he killed his brother Abel despite being forewarned by God that he must watch out for sin.

Lot's Wife

The third of the earliest examples of man disobeying God also comes from Genesis. In the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, two angels give Lot instructions on how to flee the city. The verse states that the angels said to Lot, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere on the plain." Lot's wife did look back, and the Bible says that she was turned into a pillar of salt. The significance of this event, and the apparent existence of the pillar for years afterward, stands as a symbol for defiance against God.

Forty Years Wandering

After the Jews were freed from bondage in Egypt, the Bible says that they were led to the holy land. Moses sent twelve men to scout the land, and all but two returned with stories of the challenges they would face. After rebelling against Moses, God punished the Israelites by condemning them to wander the desert for forty years. In verse 34 God says to the Israelites that for forty years they will suffer for their sins and know what it is like to have him against them. According to Numbers, none of the men over the age of twenty who had rebelled against God would live to see the promised land. Instead, according to the Bible, those who had rebelled would "meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die" (Numbers, 14: 35).

About the Author

Brett Levine is a writer with more than 17 years of experience writing for a range of national and international publications. His articles have appeared in "Art Papers," "B-Metro," "Alabama" magazine, "Object," "Urbis" and "RealTime." He holds a Master of Arts in arts administration.

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