What does the Bible say about war?
War is a difficult subject. One that will bring about very strong feelings on every side. Let’s take a look at what God’s Word says about war.
Christian quotes about war
“The purpose of all wars, is peace.” – Augustine
“Discipleship is always an inescapable war between the kingdom of self and the Kingdom of God.”
“Onward Christian soldiers! Marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus Going on before. Christ, the royal Master, Leads against the foe; Forward into battle, See His banners go.”
“To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” – George Washington
“The world’s battlefields have been in the heart chiefly; more heroism has been displayed in the household and the closet, than on the most memorable battlefields in history.” Henry Ward Beecher
“War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity; it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it.” Martin Luther
“Who has ever told the evils and the curses and the crimes of war? Who can describe the horrors of the carnage of battle? Who can portray the fiendish passions which reign there! If there is anything in which earth, more than any other, resembles hell, it is its wars.” Albert Barnes
“There are many unacceptable reasons for war. Imperialism. Financial gain. Religion. Family feuds. Racial arrogance. There are many unacceptable motives for war. But there is one time when war is condoned and used by God: wickedness.” Max Lucado
The value of human life
First and foremost, the Bible is very clear that all mankind is created as Imago Dei, the Image of God. This alone makes all human life extremely precious.
1. Genesis 1:26-27 “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
2. Exodus 21:12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.”
3. Psalm 127:3 “Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, children, a reward.”
What does God say about war?
The Bible tells us of a great many wars. God many times ordered the Israelites into war against their enemies. He even would sometimes order the Israelite army to slaughter all the inhabitants of certain people groups. He created people, and He can choose to take them out at any time He pleases. For He is God and we are not. We have all committed treason against Him and deserve nothing less than the full force of His wrath – which would be eternal torment in Hell. He is being merciful by not killing all of us right now.
4. Ecclesiastes 3:8 “A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war, and a time for peace.”
5. Isaiah 2:4 “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
6. Matthew 24:6-7 “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”
7. Matthew 24:6 “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
8. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”
God established the government to punish evildoers
In His mercy, He has established governing authorities to protect the law abiding citizens and to punish evildoers. The government should only be involved in its God-given realm of authority. Anything outside protecting the law abiding citizens and punishing evildoers is outside its realm and it has no business there.
9. 1 Peter 2:14 “And to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good.”
10. Psalm 68:30 “Rebuke the beast among the reeds, the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations. Humbled, may the beast bring bars of silver. Scatter the nations who delight in war.”
11. Romans 13:1 “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”
12. Romans 13:2 “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.”
13. Romans 13:3 “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.”
14. Romans 13:4 “because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil.”
War in the Old Testament
We see the most descriptive depictions of war in the Old Testament. This was a time in history when the Lord was showing everyone that He requires holiness. God has established His people, and He wants them completely set apart. So He showed us on a large scale what that means. He also used war to show us how seriously He takes any sin. All in all, we can see in the Bible that war is the result of sin in the world. That is the root of the problem.
15. Isaiah 19:2 “I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian – brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.”
16. Lamentations 3:33-34 “For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. 34 To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth.”
17. Jeremiah 46:16 “They will stumble repeatedly; they will fall over each other. They will say, Get up, let us go back to our own people and our native lands, away from the sword of the oppressor.”
18. Jeremiah 51:20-21 “The Lord says, Babylonia, you are my hammer, my weapon of war. I used you to crush nations and kingdoms, 21 to shatter horses and riders, to shatter chariots and their drivers.”
19. Deuteronomy 20:1-4 “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
War in the New Testament
In the New Testament we see fewer depictions of war, but it is still discussed. God shows us that war is still going to be a part of life here on earth. We can also see that God encourages us to protect ourselves with enough force to stop someone.
20. Luke 3:14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”
21. Matthew 10:34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.”
22. Luke 22:36 “He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”
What is the just war theory?
Some believers hold to a Just War Theory. This is when there is a CLEAR just cause. All aggression is highly condemned and that defensive war is the only legitimate war. It must also have just intention – peace is the goal, not revenge or conquest. A Just War also must be a last resort, be given a formal declaration, with limited objectives. This must be conducted with proportionate means – we can’t just go and nuke a whole country and be done with it. A Just War also includes immunity for the noncombatants. God doesn’t LOVE war or rush to it, nor should we. He allows it and uses it for our good and His glory. But ultimately it is the result of sin.
23. Ezekial 33:11 “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?
24. Ecclesiastes 9:18 “Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.”
There are a few verses that some Christians hold to in order to claim Christian Pacifism. But these verses are clearly taken out of context and much of the rest of Scripture is avoided entirely. Pacifism is not biblical. Jesus even commanded that His disciples go and sell their extra cloak so that they could buy a sword. At the time, Jesus was sending His disciples out as missionaries all around the Roman Empire. The roman roads were very dangerous to travel on, and Jesus wanted them to be able to protect themselves. Pacifists will say that Jesus then got on to Peter for having a sword – they are taking it out of context. Jesus rebuked Peter for defending Him, not for having a sword. Jesus was teaching Peter about His sovereignty, that it wasn’t evil men who were trying to take Jesus’s life, but that He was submitting willingly.
Pacifism is dangerous. Al Mohler says, “Pacifists claim that war can never be justified, whatever the cause or conditions…The moral failure of pacifism is found in its deadly naiveté, not in its abhorrence of violence. In reality, the world is a violent place where humans with evil intent will make war on others. In such a world, respect for human life sometimes requires the taking of human life. That tragic fact is as clearly revealed in history as any other, and far more than most. Pacifism fails to keep the peace against those who would take it.”
25. Romans 12:19 “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.
26. Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
The war in Heaven
There is a war going on in Heaven. And Christ has already won it. Satan was expelled and Christ defeated him, sin and death on the Cross. Christ will come again to claim those that are His and to cast Satan and his angel into the pit forever.
27. Romans 8:37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
28. John 18:36 “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
29. Revelation 12:7-10 “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”
Spiritual Warfare is very real. It is not a battle for claiming territories, much like a lot of churches teach today. We do not need to go around defeating demons and cleaning our home from curses. Spiritual Warfare is a battle for truth, and for maintaining a biblical worldview.
30. Revelation 21:7 “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”
31. Ephesians 6:12 “Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.”
32. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
33. Ephesians 6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
34. 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
War against sin
The War against sin is our daily battleground. We must constantly stand guard over our mind and our hearts. There is no standing still in the life of the believer. We are always either creeping towards sin or running from it. We must stay active in battle or we will lose ground. Our flesh wages war against us, it craves sin. But God has planted a new heart with new desires within us so wage war against this sinful flesh. We must die to self daily and seek to glorify God in all our heart mind and action.
35. Romans 8:13-14 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
36. Romans 7:23-25 “But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
37. 1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
38. James 4:1-2 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
39. 1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
40. Galatians 2:19-20 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Examples of war in the Bible
41. Genesis 14:1-4 “14 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, 2 these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). 4 For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.”
42. Exodus 17:8-9 “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
43. Judges 1:1-3 “After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?” 2 The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.” 3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.”
44. 1 Samuel 23:1-2 “When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” 2 he inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”
45. 2 Kings 6:24-25 “Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. 25 There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cabnof seed pods for five shekels.”
46. 2 Chronicles 33:9-12 “But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. 10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.”
47. 2 Kings 24:2-4 “The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. 3 Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, 4 including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”
48. 2 Kings 6:8 “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
49. Jeremiah 51:20-21 “You are my war club, my weapon for battle— 21 with you I shatter nations, with you I destroy kingdoms, with you I shatter horse and rider, with you I shatter chariot and driver.”
50. 1 Kings 15:32 “There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns.”
We shouldn’t race to war simply because we are patriotic and think that our country should be the number one country in the entire world. Rather, war is a sober and grave task that we must undertake in order to defend ourselves.