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Bible Dictionaries
Rebel

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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A. Verb.

Mârâh (מָרָה, Strong's #4784), “to rebel, be contentious.” The meaning of “being rebellious” is limited to the Hebrew language, as the meaning of this verb in other Semitic languages differs: “to make angry” (Aramaic), “to contend with” (Syriac), and “to dispute with” (Arabic). Mârâh occurs some 50 times in the Old Testament, and its usage is scattered throughout the Old Testament (historical, prophetic, poetic, and legal literature). Some personal names are partly composed of the verb: Meraiah (“stubborn headed”; Neh. 12:12) and Miriam (“stubborn headed,” if actually derived from the verb).

Mârâh signifies an opposition to someone motivated by pride: “If a man has a stubborn [carar] and rebellious [marah] son, which will not obey the voice of his father …” (Deut. 21:18). The sense comes out more clearly in Isa. 3:8 (NASB): “For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, To rebel against His glorious presence.”

More particularly, the word generally connotes a rebellious attitude against God. Several prepositions are used to indicate the object of rebellion (‘im, et, generally translated as “against”): “… Ye have been rebellious against [‘im] the Lord” (Deut. 9:7); “… She hath been rebellious against [et] me …” (Jer. 4:17).

The primary meaning of marah is “to disobey.” Several passages attest to this: “… Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the commandment which the Lord thy God commanded thee” (1 Kings 13:21); cf. 1 Kings 13:26: “It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord.…” The Old Testament sometimes specifically states that someone “rebelled” against the Lord; at other times it may refer to a rebelling against the word of the Lord (Ps. 105:28; 107:11), or against the mouth of God (KJV, “word”; NIV, “command”; cf. Num. 20:24; Deut. 1:26, 43; 9:23; 1 Sam. 12:14-15). The intent of the Hebrew is to signify the act of defying the command of God: “The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment …” (Lam. 1:18).

The verb mârâh is at times strengthened by a form of the verb carar (“to be stubborn”): "[They] might not be as their fathers, a stubborn [carar] and rebellious [mârâh] generation; a generation that set not their heart aright …” (Ps. 78:8; cf. Deut. 21:18, 20; Jer. 5:23).

An individual (Deut. 21:18, 20), a nation (Num. 20:24), and a city (Zeph. 3:1) may be described as “being rebellious.” Zephaniah gave a vivid image of the nature of the rebellious spirit: “Woe to her that is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God” (Zeph. 3:1-2, RSV).

The Septuagint translates mârâh by parepikraino (“make bitter; make angry; provoke; be rebellious”) and by atheteo (“to reject; not to recognize”). The English versions give the meanings “rebel; provoke” (KJV, RSV, NIV).

B. Nouns.

Merı̂y (מְרִי, Strong's #4805), “rebellion.” This word occurs infrequently: “For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck …” (Deut. 31:27; cf. Prov. 17:11). The noun meratayim means “double rebellion.” This reference to Babylon (Jer. 50:21) is generally not translated (KJV, RSV, and NIV, “Merathaim”).

C. Adjective.

Merı̂y (מְרִי, Strong's #4805), “rebellious.” This word occurs 23 times, mainly in Ezekiel. The word modifies “house” (referring to Israel) in Ezek. 2:8: “… Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house.…”

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Rebel'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​r/rebel.html. 1940.
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