The Right to Disobey 1

And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Exodus 1:18‭-‬19 KJV

This was the first act of principled disobedience recorded in scripture. Such disobedience are passive resistances to the demands of an occupying power, without resorting to violence. This may appear normal in a democracy. In a theocratic mornachy it spells certain death to disobey a king. In 1989, Joel Feinberg did a review of Conflicts of Law and Morality written by Prof. Kent Greenawalt. That review is about democratic institutions. The implications are deep because it calls to question whether it is ever morally justified to tell a lie to protect a life as the midwives did. Greenawalt agrees that disobedience can be morally justified if the law contradicts a higher law,and is inconsistent with obedience. This is not a note in moral philosophy, but we agree with the midwives for fearing God. This kind of disobedience feels an obligation by extralegal principle to break some law. V.20 says God dealt well with the midwives. That’s the approval. Before you hurry to disobey governments, make sure you get Gods approval. That is what ensured their lives. This is the principle that was followed during the Nuremberg trials.

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