Obey Your Rulers and Submit

Hebrews 13:17 Translation Study

Author: Michele at ScriptureStudy.Guide
Posted August 2, 2021
. Updated August 23, 2021.

I would like to clarify that the rulers referred to in this verse do not pertain to politicians or any person in any leadership role other than the role of leading persons to Jesus Christ (the church leaders, bible teachers, street preachers, any Christian who you consult regarding your spiritual life). Please do not allow anyone to use this verse to force you to obey and submit to draconian laws established by an unrighteous entity.

The Verse

Here is the verse we will be breaking down — Hebrews 13:17a (KJV):

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, …”

The Study

We will look up each word in the Strong’s Concordance. I will first list the word, then the Strong’s number, then the Strong’s meaning, and finally the 1828 Webster’s definition of the Strong’s word(s).

OBEY: Greek 3982 — to convince or to rely — to satisfy the mind by evidence, to subdue the opposition of the mind to truth

THEM: (not in the Strong’s)

THAT HAVE THE: (not in the Strong’s)

RULE: Greek 2233 — to lead — to guide or conduct by showing the way

OVER: (this word is not in this verse)

YOU AND: (not in Strong’s)

SUBMIT: Greek 5226 — to surrender — to yield to the authority of another

YOURSELVES: Greek 5216 — of you

FOR THEY: (not in Strong’s)

WATCH: Greek 069 — to be sleepless — wakeful, attendance without sleep, having no rest

FOR YOUR: Greek 5216 — of you

SOULS: Greek 5590 — (from 5594) breath; implied meaning is “spirit” — life; immaterial part of human beings

AS THEY THAT: (words not in Strong’s)

MUST: (this word is not in this verse)

GIVE: Greek 591 — from 575 and 1325 “to give away” that is up, over, back, etc. — to communicate

ACCOUNT: Greek 3056 — from 3004 to lay forth, something said — an assignment of reasons; explanation provided to a superior

Alternate Translation

Through evidence, subdue your mind to the truth of them who guide you and show you the way. Yield to the authority of them who are wakeful and attend to your life without rest, for they must communicate their reasoning to their superior (God the Father).

Life Application

We are shown here that, in the Greek, the word obey does not mean to blindly trust. We must be convinced by evidence and rely on the truth before we consider the words of any man.

To rule is not something done by force. The Greek here means “to lead,” which is to guide and show others the way.

We are told to submit to the authority of those who we are able to obey, those who remain wakeful and guide us without rest. This describes a leader who would put the best interests of our spiritual life at the forefront.

We are told we can obey and submit to those leaders we trust because they will be held responsible for their actions before God.

The most important takeaway from this verse (for me) is that in order to obey, we must first be convinced by evidence and facts. This will require work/research from us before we can submit ourselves to the guidance of those who claim to (or do) watch after our souls. God warns us to test the prophets because many false prophets have gone out among us…. and He tells us how to test them in 1 John 4:1-3.


I hope you’ve been encouraged to study the original language of your favorite bible verses. Bible translators are human beings who can make mistakes, but we have easy access to the meaning of the original language through the use of the Strong’s Concordance. God’s Word is infallible but human translations are not.

Click here for a short tutorial on how to use the Strong’s (just remember that italic numbers are in the Greek dictionary and non-italic numbers are in the Hebrew dictionary).

A list of study resources, including a non-affiliate link to purchase a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (it’s only around US$15.), is available by clicking here.


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