Proclaiming God's Word To The Nations
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What Does The Bible Say About War?

by Betty Miller

The Bible records many wars throughout its pages.  If fact, many of these wars document the accuracy of the Bible as archeology has uncovered artifacts with data that verifies the records of them exactly as recorded in Holy Script. In this article we want to examine why God has allowed wars and what the Bible says about the role of soldiers and how they can reconcile taking the lives of other humans in that role. When God created the earth and put man upon it, He pronounced that it was all good until men sinned and fell from that estate. Because mankind was given a free will and they could choose to obey God or do evil, we now live in an environment where evil men and good men are at war. God hates war; however, it is necessary to maintain order in the earth and overcome those who would like to destroy good. In fact, the first war ever recorded was the war in heaven where Satan and his evil angels fought against God and his angels.  We know this war was won by God through Christ.

Revelation 12:7-11:
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

God Sanctioned Government Authorities to Enforce Laws

We are now watching as the government in the USA has begun major changes in our national affairs in order to prevent future terrorist attacks after the invasion of the terrorists on September 11, 2001. Increased security measures in all levels of our nation's operations have been instigated. The USA has gone on the offensive to root out terrorists nationally and abroad. President Bush has declared war on terrorism.  He has launched a world wide coalition, as other nations are joining in this war. We are all facing changes in our lives. The whole world is experiencing war, or is under the threat of war, with ominous weapons looming over all the people of the globe. The evil of war is discussed daily in the news with reports of possible attacks from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, as well as conventional armaments. The Bible is not silent about this subject, as it warns us it will increase more and more as the time for Christ's second coming approaches.

Matthew 24:6-8:
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Some Christians are having difficulty with the actions of our government in the area of war as the heart of Christianity is to love our enemies, not destroy them.  How do we reconcile this as Christians?  We must understand that the Bible deals with the role of government differently than that of an individual Christian. Throughout the Bible, the main role of governments was to protect its people from threatening invaders and to maintain law and order within its borders. This was done by maintaining a military force.  Those who would argue against our country's military position, must also ask what our nation would be like without policemen and prisons.

God set boundaries on mankind by establishing ruling authorities that would make and enforce the laws He gave.  The purpose for this was because He knew unregenerate society, without any restraints, would seek to destroy good men. God's desire is that all men would come to Him and live by His laws. However, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and broke His law, sin entered into the world and was passed down to all of mankind through Adam's seed.  God, in His love for mankind, made a way for men to come back to Him, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. Because Jesus lived free of sin and obeyed the law of God perfectly, He became the sin offering and died upon a cross, thus paying the price for all men's sin. He then rose from the dead the third day showing that He indeed was the son of God.  Now those who accept what Jesus did and repent of their sins can find their way through faith to be reconciled to God.  This sacrifice covers and cleanses men even from the worst of sins including murder. Now, through Christ, even murderers can be forgiven and restored to a relationship with God so they can live forever with Him; however, they must repent and give their lives wholly to Christ.

Where we find most of our problems with the military action of our government versus loving our enemies is that God's law of justice for the taking of a life demands that life be taken; yet, God's spiritual law of mercy and forgiveness grants that a murderer can be forgiven and restored.  How can we reconcile this?  We must understand that God instituted civil authorities to maintain order in the earth. God uses them to restrain evil and they should be obeyed for this purpose.

An analogy would be like a family that had a son at home and who was given love, freedom and many privileges. However, one day the son committed an evil crime and was sent to jail.  The rules he lived under at home while he was obedient must now be changed to the rules of the jail because of the son's sin. The same is true with God.  His will is to bless the earth and all those who obey and live in harmony; but for those who disobey, He had to set up separate rules so that the ones who are evil do not destroy the good.  War is like that, as God uses civil authorities to maintain order in the earth.  In the New Testament we see that even Jesus surrendered to the governing authorities because He was submitted to God. 

John 19:11: "Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above..."

Romans 13:1-5 (RSV):
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
2 Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
4 For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

From these verses we see that governments can elect to bear the sword (go to war) to deal with evil men.  Although the act of war is a harsh form of punishment upon evil invaders, the alternative is far worse -- the destruction of innocent people by wicked aggressors.

No soldier who is a Christian desires to kill another; however, the Lord Himself, did not chastise a Centurion soldier in the Bible in the matter of his occupation.  On the contrary, the Lord commended this man for his understanding of authority and his great faith when he called upon the Lord to heal his servant. Our military men need our prayers and the protection of the Lord as they go to battle.   This should be the work of the church -- prayer for our men's protection and prayer for our president and heads of state.  Our critical words will not change things, but prayer will. We must pray that the war would end quickly so we can return to peace, and especially prayer for our enemies, that they might be saved. We can pray that good will come out of what Satan means for evil.

Matthew 8:5-10:
5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

1 Timothy 2:1-6:
1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

What is the Bible Definition of Murder?

God knew when He created men with free wills that not all would follow and obey Him. However, He also knew that many would want to love and serve Him.  In giving men free will, He also had to establish laws for men to live by.  When we look at the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20:1-17, we can see that these laws were given for the good of mankind.  One of these laws is in verse 13: "Thou shalt not kill."  You may wonder if God said "do not kill," why He would then decree that governments could send men to war to kill other men.  The reason is that the Hebrew meaning of the word translated as "kill" actually means "murder" or "to slay someone in a violent manner unjustly." So, in the Ten Commandments God is saying, "Thou shalt not murder." Unjust premeditated killing with the wrong motives of hatred, vengeance, greed, jealousy, etc. is murder.  Killing in self defense to protect oneself is not murder nor is executing condemned killers. The very founders of this nation were known to carry a Bible in one hand and a musket in the other in order to defend the freedom they sought here. The freedom to worship God was one of those freedoms they fought for and died for.

What Does the Bible Says About Military Code and Conduct?

In the Old Testament there were certain guidelines about military conduct that would be beneficial to our armed forces if they fully heeded its advice. In fact, many of the regulations used in the US armed forces came directly from the pages of the Bible.  The instructions given in regard to the battles of Israel are examples of things our military could employ with great benefits. The Israelites of old had much experience in battle, as throughout their existence, there were but brief intervals when they were not either engaged in war or in danger of it. Listed below are some of the rules given to them regarding military conduct and instruction:

1.) AGE AND QUALIFICATIONS:  First they were to take a census of the families indicating that there would be some discernment used in the selection of the males as they were numbered. The enlisting was spread across all the tribes (which today could be across all states.) They were drafted, so that all would share in the burden of war. They had to be males at least 20 years of age and up and all must be physically fit. In fact, those who were mentally and emotionally weak or cowardly were not to be enlisted. They selected men of valor, as they wanted a group of men to be examples to the others and they wanted all to have a sense of national patriotism.

Numbers 1:2-4 (AMP):
2 Take a census of all the males of the congregation of the Israelites by families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, head by head
3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go forth to war you and Aaron shall number, company by company.
4 And with you there shall be a man (to assist you) from each tribe, each being the head of his father's house.

Deuteronomy 20:8 (KJV):
8 And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.

2.) TRAINING AND PAY: All of Israel were liable to be called into active service to play the part assigned to them in furthering God's righteous cause. They were trained and paid for their duties and their needs of maintenance were met. Good officers and captains were chosen to lead the soldiers.

2 Chronicles 25:5-6:
Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and made them captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, according to the houses of their fathers, throughout all Judah and Benjamin: and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them three hundred thousand choice men, able to go forth to war, that could handle spear and shield.
6 He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver.

Deuteronomy 20:9:
9 And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.

3.) CHAPLAINS IN MINISTRY: Those who were priests (today, those who would be in ministry as chaplains) were not used in combat. They were to be available as ministers to stand and pray before the Lord for the soldiers and the battle. 
Numbers 1:47:
47 But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them.)

4.) NO WOMEN IN MILITARY COMBAT: No women nor children were enlisted in combat. In fact, just the opposite, the women and children were protected by the males.  The decision in the past few years to allow women in combat is a very wrong decision. It is causing numerous problems in the armed forces. One recent incident has brought much shame on our men in uniform as current newscasts have reported inappropriate actions of men and women involved with male prisoners in the war in Iraq. The sexual problems that arise when men and women are mixed in stressful conditions add to the problems of military life. Sexual temptations should not be added to the list of things that men must contend with while on the battlefield. Recent charges of rape and fornication have also been reported due to the close quarters of men and women in training and combat situations. 

Women are also by nature more emotional than men and should not be exposed to the rigors of military life.  Certainly women can serve in supportive roles in the military (i.e., nurses, office personnel, technicians, managers, overseers, etc.) However, combat should be reserved for males only, as I can find no place in scripture that women ever served as combat soldiers.  The only mention of a woman serving in any military capacity was Deborah in the Old Testament and she served in leadership, not in combat on the front lines.  She was in the war room as a judge and leader directing the plan of war and she only visited the battlefield with her field marshal, Barak (Judges 4).

The Bible exhorts men to honor and protect women as the weaker vessel physically in 1 Peter 3:7: "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."  God made men stronger physically, therefore more able to take on hand to hand combat.

Another reason women should not be in combat, is that those with children are in danger of leaving them as orphans.  God does not want children to be raised without their mothers. Small children are more dependent on their mothers and it is bad enough losing a father in war, without the loss of their mothers. In the verses below we see that David was at war with the Amalekites and his wife and children were taken captive by them.  It was David and his men that rescued the women and children. The women were not combatants. The Women's Liberation movement in an effort to liberate women in certain areas that were needed, has gone "out of balance" in pushing for women to be equal with men in an area that the Bible does not condone. The Bible does not want women exposed to the rigors of war, but rather they are to be protected from it.

1 Samuel 30:3 & 18-19:
3 So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives.
18  And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives.
19 And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all.

5.) EXEMPTIONS TO MILITARY DUTY: The Old Testament listed some reasons that males should be excused from military duty.  They are as follows:

    a.) Those who have just moved into a new home and haven't had time to live in yet.  Dedicate in the following scripture means "the first use of anything."     Deuteronomy 20:5: "And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it."

    b.) Those that have just started a new business and have not yet had time to receive a return on it. Deuteronomy 20:6: "And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it."

    c.) Those that are engaged to be married were not to go to battle. Deuteronomy 20:7 "And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her."

    d.) If a man has just gotten married when war breaks out, he is not to go to war for a year. Deuteronomy 24:5  When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.

In the Bible there are instructions about treating prisoners humanely, not violating women and children,  caring for the civilian populace, relieving wounded soldiers, not destroying the conquered land, etc. Godly morals were to be the code in all of these instances. For example they were told to enjoy the fruit of the trees of the conquered land, but not to destroy the trees themselves.  The "scorched earth" mentality comes from the devil.

Deuteronomy 20:19:  When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an ax against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege.

The Bible even records personal hygiene instructions on the battle field.

Deuteronomy 23:12-13: 
12 You shall have a place also outside the camp to which you shall go (as a comfort station); 13 and you shall have a paddle or shovel among your weapons, and when you sit down outside (to relieve yourself), you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover up what has come from you.

This is also another reason women should not be on the battlefield, men do not get "caught with their pants down" as often as women when they must relieve themselves.

7.) RULES OF ENGAGEMENT:  The first thing before attacking a city the Israelites were commanded to do was to try to make peace with the enemy. If the enemy refused the conditions of peace, then they were to attack.

Deuteronomy 20:10-12:
10  When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it.

As to the extermination of foes, Israel had to remember that punitive war was in the interests of religion and morality and therefore her soldiers were to act, not as murderers, but as God-appointed executioners of divine judgment upon gross idolatry and iniquity (Deuteronomy 7). War was to be viewed as divine surgery for the cutting off of evil wickedness that would defile the rest of the world. God still uses nations today to execute wrath on evil according to Romans 13. Rulers and nations have power.  In fact, the USA is referred to as one of the "Super Powers." Let us pray that the USA does not abuse this power and that our leaders will bring God into the equation of war.

Romans 13:1-7:
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

When Israel of old went to war, the first