Updated: Jul 25
Understanding Romans 13 may seem simple enough, for we’ve all seen churches use part of that chapter to encourage willing compliance with whatever secular authority is established in that particular country. However, could the conclusion that those who use this chapter, they really only use the first verse, be misapplying and misunderstanding what Paul is talking about? Using the foundation that begins the Bible, Torah, and how the scriptures define words, has led me to a completely different interpretation that is both sound and consistent with the rest of the Bible. Let’s have a look at the verse in question.
“Let every being be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from Elohim, and the authorities that exist are appointed by Elohim.” (Romans 13:1)
The crux of the issue is what governing authorities is Paul talking about, when this verse is sectioned off from the previous and the following scriptures, it easily reads as we are to obey whatever secular government. But this is where we must use the context for this verse and how it aligns with the rest of the Bible. First, is there any command in Torah to obey secular authority? No, there is not. That’s a big red flag that something is amiss with the usual interpretation, because if it’s not found in Torah and Paul is adding to it then he would be a false prophet.
“Do not add to the Word which I command you, and do not take away from it, so as to guard the commands of יהוה your Elohim which I am commanding you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)
What about the rest of scriptures, do we find examples of people disobeying the secular authority and being blessed for it? Yes, we do, and quite a few actually. The first example I will present will be from the book of Jasher, I know some may not accept it as scripture, and I encourage each and every one of you to test it, even so what I am quoting is acknowledged as historical fact in the Jewish community.
“And it was in the night that Abram was born, that all the servants of Terah, and all the wise men of Nimrod, and his conjurers came and ate and drank in the house of Terah, and they rejoiced with him on that night. And when all the wise men and conjurers went out from the house of Terah, they lifted up their eyes toward heaven that night to look at the stars, and they saw, and behold one very large star came from the east and ran in the heavens, and he swallowed up the four stars from the four sides of the heavens. And all the wise men of the king and his conjurors were astonished at the sight, and the sages understood this matter, and they knew its import. And they said to each other, This only betokens the child that has been born to Terah this night, who will grow up and be fruitful, and multiply, and possess all the earth, he and his children forever, and he and his seed will slay great kings, and inherit their lands.” (Jasher 8:1-4)
“And now our lord and king, behold we have truly acquainted thee with what we have seen concerning this child. If it seemeth good to the king to give his father value for this child, we will slay him before he shall grow up and increase in the land, and his evil increase against us, that we and our children perish through his evil. And the king heard their words and they seemed good in his sight, and he sent and called for Terah, and Terah came before the king. And the king said to Terah, I have been told that a son was yesternight born to thee, and after this manner was observed in the heavens at his birth. And now therefore give me the child, that we may slay him before his evil springs up against us, and I will give thee for his value, thy house full of silver and gold.” (Jasher 8:12-16)
“And Terah answered the king, saying, I beseech thee my lord and king to let thy servant speak a word before thee, and let the king hear the word of his servant, and Terah said, Let my king give me three days' time till I consider this matter within myself, and consult with my family concerning the words of my king; and he pressed the king greatly to agree to this. And the king hearkened to Terah, and he did so and he gave him three days' time, and Terah went out from the king's presence, and he came home to his family and spoke to them all the words of the king; and the people were greatly afraid. And it was in the third day that the king sent to Terah, saying, Send me thy son for a price as I spoke to thee; and shouldst thou not do this, I will send and slay all thou hast in thy house, so that thou shalt not even have a dog remaining. And Terah hastened, (as the thing was urgent from the king), and he took a child from one of his servants, which his handmaid had born to him that day, and Terah brought the child to the king and received value for him. And the Lord was with Terah in this matter, that Nimrod might not cause Abram's death, and the king took the child from Terah and with all his might dashed his head to the ground, for he thought it had been Abram; and this was concealed from him from that day, and it was forgotten by the king, as it was the will of Providence not to suffer Abram's death. And Terah took Abram his son secretly, together with his mother and nurse, and he concealed them in a cave, and he brought them their provisions monthly. And the Lord was with Abram in the cave and he grew up, and Abram was in the cave ten years, and the king and his princes, soothsayers and sages, thought that the king had killed Abram.” (Jasher 8:30-36)
Had Terah obeyed the rule of Nimrod, Abram would have died and there would not have been Israel with his twelve sons. Yet Terah disobeyed the secular authority, and YHWH was with Abram. The next example will be between Pharaoh and the Hebrew midwives.
“Then the sovereign of Mitsrayim (Egypt) spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Pu‛ah, and he said, “When you deliver the Hebrew women, and see them on the birth-stools, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death, but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared Elohim, and did not do as the sovereign of Mitsrayim (Egypt) commanded them, and kept the male children alive. So, the sovereign of Mitsrayim (Egypt) called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and kept the male children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Mitsrian (Egyptian) women. For they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” So, Elohim was good to the midwives, and the people increased and became very numerous. And it came to be, because the midwives feared Elohim, that He provided households for them.” (Exodus 1:15-21)
The Hebrew midwives disobeyed the order of the pharaoh and was blessed by Elohim, because the directive that was given was pure evil, it was not good, and that will come up later when we further read Romans chapter 13. Next up is Moses’ mother.
“And Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Throw every son who is born into the river, and keep alive every daughter.” (Exodus 1:22)
“And a man of the house of Lĕwi (Levi) went and married a daughter of Lĕwi (Levi). And the woman conceived and bore a son. And she saw that he was a lovely child, and she hid him three months. And when she could hide him no longer, she took an ark of wicker for him, and coated it with tar and pitch, and put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the edge of the river. And his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river, and her young women were walking by the riverside. And when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her female servant to get it, and opened it and saw the child, and see, the baby wept. So, she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the children of the Hebrews.” (Exodus 2:1-6)
The mother of Moses disobeyed the edict that every male child should be drowned and hid her son. Clearly this was the proper thing to do as Moses would later go on and then be the person Yah chose to lead the Israelites. Rehab and the spies is our next example.
“And Yehoshua (Joshua) son of Nun secretly sent out two men from Shittim to spy, saying, “Go, see the land, and Yeriḥo (Jericho).” And they went, and came to the house of a woman, a whore, and her name was Raḥaḇ, and they lay down there. But it was reported to the sovereign of Yeriḥo (Jericho), saying, “See, men from the children of Yisra’ĕl (Israel) have come here tonight to search out the land.” And the sovereign of Yeriḥo (Jericho) sent to Raḥaḇ, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hid them. So she said, “The men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. “Then it came to be as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, so that you overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid out on the roof. And the men pursued them by the way to the Yardĕn (Jordan), to the fords. And they shut the gate afterwards as soon as the pursuers had gone out. And before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and she said to the men, “I know that יהוה has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of you. “For we have heard how יהוה dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds for you when you came out of Mitsrayim (Egypt), and what you did to the two sovereigns of the Amorites who were beyond the Yardĕn (Jordan), Siḥon (Seon) and Oḡ, whom you put under the ban. “And when we heard, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in anyone because of you, for יהוה your Elohim, He is Elohim in the heavens above and on earth beneath. “And now, please swear to me by יהוה, since I have shown you loving-commitment, that you also show loving-commitment to my father’s house, and shall give me a true token, and shall spare my father, and my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters, and all that they have, and shall deliver our lives from death.” And the men said to her, “Our lives for yours, if you do not expose this matter of ours, then it shall be, when יהוה has given us the land, that we shall treat you in loving-commitment and truth.” So she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall and she dwelt on the wall. And she said to them, “Go to the mountain, lest the pursuers come upon you. And you shall hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned, and afterwards go on your way.” And the men said to her, “We are released from this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, and your mother, and your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. “And it shall be that anyone who goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood is on his own head, and we are innocent. And anyone who is with you in the house, his blood is on our head if a hand is laid on him. “And if you expose this matter of ours, then we shall be released from your oath which you made us swear.” And she said, “Let it be according to your words.” And she sent them away, and they went. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window. So they left and came to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. And the pursuers sought them in all the way, but did not find them. Then the two men returned and came down from the mountain, and passed over. And they came to Yehoshua son of Nun, and related to him all that had befallen them.” (Joshua 2: 1-23)
Rehab disobeyed the ruling secular authority and helped the Israelite spies and this went well with her in the end. The Maccabean rebellion is our next example, and I believe it’s best to read those books in their entirety, but if you would like you could read my post “The Story of Hanukkah.” From the book of Maccabees, we read how the Jews disobeyed their Greek ruling authorities and actually revolted against them, and this action was blessed by Elohim. There are numerous other examples but my last one will center around the mark of the beast.
“And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he does great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from the heaven on the earth before men. And he leads astray those dwelling on the earth because of those signs which he was given to do before the beast, saying to those dwelling on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword, yet lived. And there was given to him to give spirit to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause to be killed as many as would not worship the image of the beast. And he causes all, both small and great, and rich and poor, and free and slave, to be given a mark upon their right hand or upon their foreheads, and that no one should be able to buy or sell except he that has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelations 13:12-17)
“And a third messenger followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of Elohim, which is poured out undiluted into the cup of His wrath. And he shall be tortured with fire and sulphur before the set-apart messengers and before the Lamb. “And the smoke of their torture goes up forever and ever. And they have no rest day or night, those worshiping the beast and his image, also if anyone receives the mark of his name.” (Revelations 14:9-11)
Will not the beast or Anti-Messiah be the worldly ruling authority? Are we not warned against receiving his mark, that he will issue out as a law for all people? The scriptures speak for themselves, and it stands to reason that the ruling authority that Paul was talking about had nothing to do with leadership that does not follow YHWH. As we continue reading Romans chapter 13, you will see that the type of langue Paul uses to describe this authority is one that follows Yeshua in Torah obedience.
“So, he who opposes the authority withstands the institution of Elohim, and those who withstand shall bring judgment on themselves. For those ruling are an object of fear, not to good works, but to evil. Do you wish to be not afraid of the authority? Do the good, and you shall have praise from it, for it is a servant of Elohim to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword in vain. For it is a servant of Elohim, a revenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, it is necessary to be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of the conscience.” (Romans 13:2-5)
Paul states that the rulers are not a terror to good works but to evil, what is good or bad (sin) is defined by the Torah. Was Rome a terror to evil? Hardly. And the same can be said of modern nations, sure they all generally agree that it is wrong to kill (the cultic elites get a pass on this apparently) or steal (unless the government needs it), but these same countries allow for abortions, adultery, perverted scenes to be displayed on television, toxins to be injected into people, forces draconian measures under the guise of the ‘greater good”, promotes the bias medical community whose standard operation procedure is to administer the patient medication that will only cover the symptoms and not the cause thus becoming a lifetime customer to big pharma, idolatry, homosexuality, debauchery, drunkenness, etc. In essence the countries today are wicked, serving money and idols above all else, they do not care about Yeshua or the Torah. Further on Paul says if you do not want to be afraid of the authority do good, whom shall we fear if not Elohim?
“And do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the being. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both being and body in GĕHinnom.” (Matthew 10:28)
We fear Elohim alone, and the authorities He has risen up are extension of His power. In Paul’s day the followers of Yeshua had a hierarchy of religious leadership, think about the brother of Yeshua James (who’s name is actually Jacob) he was head of the Jerusalem council. That’s the type of authority Paul is talking about, one that promotes good (Torah obedience) and is terror to evil (sin), for they execute righteous judgment (not bearing the sword in vain). Does this mean we are to be criminals? No, we should be prime examples of what it means to be a child of the living Elohim. Even so, if the nation we find ourselves in issues laws that go against Torah, well we have Maccabees to look to for an example. Followers of Yeshua obey His decrees, and if the secular world tries to prohibit that, then we must stand up and remain strong in Elohim.
Continue to test all things, including this, and may the Ruach Hakodesh lead you into all truth.