What does the Bible say about war?
Question: "What does the Bible say about war?"
Answer: Many people make the mistake of believing the Bible says, “You shall not kill,” and seek to apply this command to war. However, the Bible actually says, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The Hebrew word literally means “the intentional, premeditated killing of another person with malice.” God often ordered the Israelites to go to war with other nations (1 Samuel 15:3; Joshua 4:13). God ordered the death penalty for numerous crimes (Exodus 21:12; 21:15; 22:19; Leviticus 20:11).
So, God is not against killing in all circumstances, but rather only murder. War is never a good thing, but sometimes it is a necessary thing. In a world filled with sinful people (Romans 3:10-18), war is inevitable. Sometimes the only way to keep sinful people from doing great harm is by going to war with them.
War is a terrible thing! War is always the result of sin (Romans 3:10-18). In the Old Testament, God ordered the Israelites to: “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites” (Numbers 31:2). See also Deuteronomy 20:16-17, “However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them--the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--as the LORD your God has commanded you.” Exodus
17:16 proclaims, “He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." Also, 1 Samuel 15:18, “Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.” So, obviously God is not against all war. Jesus is always in perfect agreement with the Father (John 10:30), so we cannot argue that war was only God’s will in the Old Testament. God does not change (Malachi
3:6; James 1:17).
Jesus’ Second Coming also is exceedingly violent. Revelation 19:11-21 proclaims, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine
linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals,
and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great." Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery
lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”
It is an error to say that God never supports a war. Jesus is not a pacifist. In a world filled with evil people, sometimes a war is necessary to prevent even greater evil. If Hitler had not been defeated by World War II, how many more millions of Jews would have been killed? If the Civil War had not been fought, how much longer would African Americans have had to suffer as slaves? We must all remember to base our beliefs of the Bible, not on our emotions (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Ecclesiastes 3:8 declares, “there is…a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. In a world filled with sin, hatred, and evil (Romans 3:10-18), war is inevitable. Some wars are more “just” than others, but all wars are ultimately the result of sin. Christians should not desire war, but neither are Christians to oppose the government God has placed in authority over them (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:17). The most important thing we can be doing in a time of war is to be praying
for godly wisdom for our leaders, praying for the safety of our military, praying for quick resolution to the conflict, and praying for minimum casualties – on both sides of the conflict (Philippians 4:6-7).
Recommended Resource: Perspectives on War in the Bible by John Wood.
What does the Bible say about a Christian serving in the military?
What does the Bible say about spiritual warfare?
Was Jesus a pacifist?
Is the war in Iraq a just war?
What does the Bible say about torture?
Topical Bible Questions
What does the Bible say about war?