Proverbs 24:21

ESV My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,
NIV Fear the LORD and the king, my son, and do not join with rebellious officials,
NASB My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not get involved with those of high rank,
CSB My son, fear the Lord, as well as the king, and don't associate with rebels,
NLT My child, fear the Lord and the king. Don’t associate with rebels,
KJV My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

What does Proverbs 24:21 mean?

Scripture often uses words translated into English as "fear" which have broader meanings. The cornerstone of the entire book of Proverbs is that understanding truth begins with "fear" of God (Proverbs 1:7). This is not merely respect or reverence. Nor is it panic or fright. To "fear" something or someone, in this sense, means to humbly perceive it from the proper perspective. One must recognize God's authority as Creator, and His power, and resolve to act accordingly.

This verse cites sound advice given to a son, or possibly to a student. Reverence for the Lord and respect for government leaders go hand in hand. A proper relationship with God produces good citizenship. An unruly citizen violates the command to love the Lord with all one's heart, soul, strength, and mind. The apostle Paul writes: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1–4).

Of course, this does not mean believers are bound to obey everything their governments command. When earthly laws direct people to sin, we are morally obligated to disobey (Acts 5:29).

Solomon's counsel about not associating with those who disrespect God and the civil authorities parallels the instruction, "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil" (Exodus 23:2). Several other proverbs warn about close association with ungodly persons (Proverbs 1:14–15; 4:14; 13:20; 22:24; 24:1–2). The following verse notes that consequences for evil can come from both God and men (Proverbs 24:22).
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