Disobedience or resistance to and defiance of a superior authority. Pride, selfishness, outside pressures, disagreement with the judgment of a superior, and a desire to get out from under subjection or oppression, either real or imagined, have been among the leading causes for rebellion.
Early History. Rebellion against God had its start in the invisible realm. By means of a serpent, a spirit creature, who later became known as Satan the Devil, endeavored to get the first woman Eve to rebel against her Creator. He made rebellion attractive, presenting it as a course that would lead to enlightenment. Eve gave in to the selfish ambition to “be like God,” in the sense of determining for herself what was good and what was bad instead of abiding by God’s judgment on this matter. (See TREES [Figurative Use].) Imagining herself to be deprived of something that she had now come to view as rightfully belonging to her, Eve chose to transgress God’s command. Later her husband Adam yielded to her pressure and joined in this rebellion. He did so, not because he was deceived into thinking that the serpent was speaking the truth, but evidently because he selfishly chose the companionship of his sinful wife in preference to the approval of God.—Ge 3:1-6; 1Ti 2:14.
For centuries afterward it appears that the majority of mankind did not want to submit themselves to God. From the time of Abel’s death until the birth of Noah, a period of more than 926 years, only Enoch is specifically mentioned as one who walked with God. (Ge 5:22) Rebelliousness also continued to spread in the heavenly realm. In Noah’s day, angels, desiring sensual pleasure, disobediently forsook their heavenly posts, materialized human bodies, married women, and fathered offspring.—Ge 6:4; 1Pe 3:19, 20; 2Pe 2:4, 5; Jude 6.
By Noah’s time the spirit of rebelliousness had so saturated mankind that Jehovah God saw fit to destroy the human race by means of a flood. Only Noah and his immediate family, eight persons all together, were found worthy of preservation.—Ge 6:5-8; 7:13, 23.
In Israel. Years later Jehovah God began to deal exclusively with the nation of Israel. Yet throughout Israel’s history there were numerous cases of rebellion against Jehovah and against his representatives, on a national, group, or individual level. In certain cases those who rebelled were not constantly rebellious persons. For example, Moses and Aaron faithfully served Jehovah God for many years. However, when subjected to the pressure of quarreling Israelites on one occasion, they lost self-control and rebelliously failed to give glory to God for a miraculous provision of water. (Nu 20:12, 24; 27:13, 14) But the nation as a whole was so persistent in its rebellious course that Ezekiel 44:6 applies the name “Rebelliousness” to the house of Israel, as if the nation of Israel came to personify rebelliousness.
Jehovah God did not leave such rebelliousness unpunished. (1Sa 12:15; 15:23; 1Ki 13:21, 22, 26; Ps 5:10; Isa 1:20; 63:10; Jer 4:16-18; Eze 20:21; Ho 13:16) His law demanded the death penalty for those persisting in rebellion against parents. (De 21:18-21) Divine execution came upon proud and ambitious Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and those associated with them in the rebellion against Moses and Aaron, God’s appointed representatives. When the Israelites disputed the rightness of this execution and manifested a rebellious spirit toward Moses and Aaron, 14,700 more perished by a scourge from Jehovah. (Nu 16:1-3, 25-50) Often Jehovah let other nations serve as instruments to inflict punishment upon the Israelites when they yielded to the pressure to be like the surrounding nations and rebelliously abandoned true worship.—Jg 2:3, 11-16; 3:4, 5; Ne 9:26, 27.
King Zedekiah’s covenant-breaking rebellion. At the time King Nebuchadnezzar made Judean King Zedekiah a vassal king, he had Zedekiah make a covenant in Jehovah’s name. Therefore, when Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, wanting to be free from subjection to a foreign power, he also rebelled against Jehovah, in whose name he had obligated himself to be a loyal vassal king. Because of this rebellion, Jehovah decreed that Zedekiah would die as a captive in Babylon.—2Ki 24:17-20; 2Ch 36:11-21; Eze 17:12-18.
Among Christians. Christians have also had to contend with rebellious persons. The apostle Paul foretold an apostasy, or rebellion, among professed Christians (2Th 2:3), and already in his time, apostates existed. (1Ti 1:19, 20; 2Ti 2:16-19) The disciple Jude wrote about those who spoke abusively of “glorious ones” in the Christian congregation. As the destruction of such rebellious ones was certain, Jude referred to that destruction as if it had already taken place, saying: “[They] have perished in the rebellious talk of Korah!”—Jude 8, 11; see APOSTASY.
Subjection to governmental authority proper. Instead of rebelling, those desiring to gain God’s approval as Christ’s followers are called upon to be obedient to those taking the lead inside the congregation (Heb 13:17) and to governmental authorities outside the congregation. (Tit 3:1, 2) Rebellion against secular governmental authority constitutes a rebellion against God, for these authorities exist by God’s permission and it is his will that Christians be subject to them as long as what they require does not conflict with his law.—Ro 13:1-7; Ac 5:29.