Does God command disobedience?

Isaiah 7:10-14

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights."

But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test."

Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Deuteronomy 6:16

Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.

1 Kings 20:35-36

By the word of the LORD one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, "Strike me with your weapon," but the man refused.

So the prophet said, "Because you have not obeyed the LORD, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you." And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.

Leviticus 24:19

If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him.


The above passages make it seem like God commands people to disobey his own laws. While God is in these cases overriding general laws he's given, he has the right to do so in order to fulfill his good purposes. Many moral principles have exceptions or special cases: for instance, it's generally wrong to cut people with knives, but it's acceptable for a surgeon to cut a patient open when performing needed surgery.

It's usually wrong to "put God to the test" by demanding that he perform some miracle in order to justify one's belief, for this usually indicates a wrong attitude on the part of the asker. But if Ahaz followed God's command to ask for a sign, he would be doing so for the right reasons (i.e. obeying God) rather than his own stubbornness or lack of faith. Ahaz's refusal was a direct rebellion against God, which Isaiah chastised him for.

The prophet who demanded to be struck was following God's instruction to deliver an allegorical message to the king of Israel (1 Ki 20:37-42). While it is wrong in general for one person to strike another, this was an exception in which the injury would serve a good purpose. Moreover, God has the moral authority to strike a human or command that a human be struck, for he has both perfectly good intentions and the ability to control and even heal the amount of damage done.

The man who refused to strike the prophet would have known he was a prophet (and thus that his request could have come from God, who had the authority to command such a thing), for they were companions. Even if the man didn't know the prophet or thought that it wasn't a command, he could easily have asked, "Why should I strike you?" and found out that it was a command from God. The man's disobedience of a direct command from God - ostensibly because he thought it better to follow his own moral judgment rather than God's - was a rejection of God's authority and hence resulted in his death. Also, he apparently erred further by disbelieving God's verdict, else he would have asked forgiveness (and possibly have been spared).

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