What Does the Bible Say About War?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 6, 2017 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) But yet, there are numerous times that God commands the Israelites to go to war, which results in the killing of often thousands of people. How do we reconcile these? What does the Bible really say about war?

Part of the distinction lies in the definition. The Hebrew word used for “murder” in the Ten Commandments has the idea of a premeditated killing of that specific person with malice. We see in Exodus 21:12-17 (the very next chapter after the Ten Commandments) that there are some crimes that God commanded the death penalty for under Old Testament law, including kidnapping, attacking one’s parents, or even cursing one’s parents! So we see that God is not necessarily against the taking of all life, but it depends on the circumstances.

There are many wars and battles recorded in the Old Testament, primarily between Israel and the pagan peoples who surrounded them, and many of these were ordered by God. We even see a civil war between the Israelite tribe of Benjamin and the rest Israel in Judges 20, that was sanctioned by God! God does not change, so if God was ok with war in the Old Testament, then He still is today. In fact, we know from Revelation 14:14-20 and Revelation 19:11-21 that battles at the end of the world will be gory and violent.

The fact of the matter is that while humans are sinful, God’s natural law is in place on this earth. Sometimes, war is necessary for punishments to be carried out according to that natural law. There are times that God uses war to stop a greater evil. For example, what would have happened in Nazi Germany in the 1940s if World War II had not happened? That war defeated Hitler and stopped the Holocaust; while millions of Jews did lose their lives, millions more may have had things been left unchecked. War is a bad thing, but human sinfulness can be even worse.

What the Bible tells us about war needs to be interpreted in the context of God’s character. While He is a loving God, He is also a just God. We know from Romans 3:9-20 that all human beings are sinful, and we deserve punishment. We know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death - which could mean war, depending on the circumstances and what God decides is just.

Based on what we see in the Bible, we can’t say that war is right in every circumstance, and we can’t say that it is wrong in every circumstance. What we can say is that the God who is sovereign will allow war when necessary and prevent it when not. Trust the God who created the universe to take care of His people on earth as He sees fit.

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