A Troubling Bible Verse

Paul Before Felix | If I Walked With Jesus

Paul’s hearing before Felix

What does this mean?

Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” (Exodus 22:28).

“Gods,” plural? What gods? There is only one true God. Elijah felt perfectly free to mock Baal. The Bible never shows respect for idols.

The Hebrew word used here is “elohim,” a plural which, depending on context, still refers to God Himself–so it is used in Genesis. Although the form of the word is plural, it always takes a singular verb. If you find that confusing, that makes two of us.

In Acts 23, in a hearing before the Roman governor, St. Paul is swatted in the face and when he objects, they accuse him of “reviling” the high priest. Paul agrees that one should not do that: but he didn’t know this was the high priest when he spoke against him.

There are, of course, many rulers in the Bible who are evil and who come to bad ends. We are not called to praise Ahab or Nero. The ruler is charged with maintaining order and seeing that everyone’s rights are respected. Pagan rulers can do this. So we are not to curse them. This was many centuries before we chose our rulers and expected them to respect us in return.

So Exodus 22: 28 warns us not to curse God: for Him the plural form is appropriate to reflect His majesty and might. Don’t go thinking it enjoins us to respect idols. As for the rulers… are they public servants or the public’s masters?

I remain puzzled by this.