What Does The Bible Say About War?

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A battlefield with weapons and flags to represent war

War is a complex and controversial topic, and people often seek guidance from religious texts such as the Bible to understand its moral implications. The Bible contains numerous references to war, discussing its causes, consequences, and the role of God in times of conflict. In this article, we will explore what the Bible says about war, examining different perspectives and teachings that can be found within its pages.

Understanding the Concept of War in the Bible

Before delving into specific events and teachings, it is crucial to grasp the overall concept of war in the Bible. War, both physical and spiritual, is portrayed as a reality of human existence, reflecting the fallen nature of humanity. Biblical texts provide insights into how wars were waged, the motivations behind them, and their impact on individuals and communities.

The Old Testament and War

The Old Testament contains numerous accounts of wars waged by the Israelites. These wars were often fought to defend or expand their land, protect their people, and fulfill God’s commandments. Events such as the Exodus, conquest of Canaan, and conflicts with neighboring nations like Philistia demonstrate the prevalence of war in ancient Israel.

However, it is important to note that the Bible also presents the consequences of war, emphasizing the devastation and suffering it brings. The Israelites experienced the loss of lives, displacement, and the destruction of cities during conflicts such as the Babylonian exile. These accounts remind readers of the high price paid in times of war and the need for peaceful alternatives.

The New Testament and War

In the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus Christ present a shift towards peace and nonviolence. Jesus encourages his followers to turn the other cheek and love their enemies, promoting reconciliation and forgiveness rather than retaliation. These teachings challenge the concept of war as a means of resolving conflicts and call for a different approach to handling disputes.

However, the New Testament also acknowledges the existence of worldly conflicts and the need for justice. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, recognizes the role of governing authorities in maintaining order, even if it involves the use of force. These passages indicate that while the New Testament advocates for peace, it acknowledges the complexities of the real world and the need for responsible governance.

Biblical Stories Depicting War

In addition to discussing the concept of war, the Bible provides various stories that illustrate the realities of war and its impact on individuals and societies. These narratives offer lessons about faith, courage, justice, and the consequences of violence.

The Battle of Jericho

One of the most renowned stories of war in the Bible is the Battle of Jericho. The Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, conquered the city through divine intervention. This tale highlights the power of faith and obedience to God’s commands. It also demonstrates that victory in war can come through unconventional means rather than sheer military might.

However, the story of Jericho should not be seen as a blanket endorsement of violence. The destruction of Jericho was specific to that particular event and did not set a precedent for future conflicts. It serves as a testament to God’s sovereignty rather than a justification for unrestrained warfare.

David and Goliath

The story of David and Goliath showcases the triumph of courage and faith in the face of overwhelming odds. David, a young shepherd, faced the Philistine giant Goliath in single combat and emerged victorious. This account teaches that even the most dominant adversaries can be defeated with God’s help, emphasizing the importance of trust in divine guidance.

It is noteworthy that David’s victory over Goliath was not a call to engage in constant warfare but rather a reminder that God is capable of accomplishing great things through ordinary individuals. The story encourages readers to rely on God’s strength rather than their own, promoting humility and dependence.

The Bible’s Perspective on Peace and Conflict

While war is a recurring theme in the Bible, another significant aspect is the promotion of peace and conflict resolution. Throughout its pages, the Bible provides teachings and examples of peaceful coexistence, justice, and reconciliation among individuals and nations.

Peace Teachings in the Bible

Jesus’ teachings on peace and love form the core of the Bible’s peaceful message. The Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospel of Matthew, outlines principles such as turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, and seeking reconciliation. These teachings urge believers to prioritize peace and forgiveness in their interactions with others.

Additionally, the Bible contains passages that highlight the importance of seeking peace and pursuing justice. The prophet Micah expresses the desire for a world without conflict, where people “beat their swords into plowshares” and “learn war no more.” These verses encourage individuals to actively work towards peace and the resolution of disputes.

Conflict Resolution in the Bible

Alongside teachings on peace, the Bible offers guidance on resolving conflicts and promoting reconciliation. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus provides a step-by-step process for addressing grievances within the community, emphasizing the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Furthermore, the concept of restorative justice can be seen in biblical stories such as the reconciliation between Jacob and Esau. Despite past conflicts, they embraced forgiveness and restored their relationship. These narratives demonstrate the potential for redemption and healing even in the aftermath of war and provide an example for individuals and communities to follow.

Controversial War-Related Verses in the Bible

Interpreting the biblical passages related to war can be challenging due to their complexity and varied perspectives. Certain verses are often subject to interpretation and debates among scholars, leading to a range of understandings regarding their moral implications.

Interpretations and Debates

One example of a controversial war-related verse is found in the book of Joshua, where the Israelites are commanded to completely destroy certain nations. This verse raises questions about the ethical implications of such actions and the role of violence in carrying out God’s will. Interpretations range from viewing these commands as specific to the historical context to perceiving them as metaphorical battles against evil forces.

Disagreements regarding war-related verses reflect the complexity of applying ancient texts to modern ethical dilemmas. It underscores the importance of considering the broader biblical teachings on peace, justice, and love when interpreting specific passages.

The Role of God in Biblical Wars

An integral aspect of understanding war in the Bible is recognizing the role of God in these conflicts. The Bible portrays God as both a warrior and a peacemaker, revealing different aspects of His nature and His involvement in human affairs.

God as a Warrior

In the Old Testament, God is often depicted as a warrior who defends His people and delivers them from their enemies. The Exodus narrative, where God rescued the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, showcases His military intervention and reiterates His commitment to protecting His chosen people.

However, it is vital to approach these depictions metaphorically and recognize that the emphasis lies on God’s strength and sovereignty rather than promoting violence. They should be understood in the context of ancient Israel’s understanding of God’s involvement in their history.

God as a Peacemaker

In contrast to God’s depiction as a warrior, the Bible also portrays God as a peacemaker. The prophet Isaiah describes a vision of a future where nations will “beat their swords into plowshares” and “learn war no more.” This image reflects God’s ultimate desire for peace and reconciliation among humanity.

God’s role as a peacemaker is further emphasized in the New Testament through Jesus Christ, who preached love, forgiveness, and nonviolence. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross serves as the ultimate example of God’s desire to reconcile humanity to Himself, highlighting the importance of peace in the divine plan.

Applying Biblical Teachings on War to Modern Times

While the Bible provides valuable insights into war and peace, applying its teachings to the complexities of the modern world requires careful consideration. Understanding the historical and cultural context of the biblical passages is essential for interpreting their relevance today.

The Bible and Modern Warfare

The advancement of technology has introduced new dimensions to warfare, raising ethical questions that the biblical texts may not explicitly address. Topics such as drone warfare, cyber warfare, and the use of advanced weaponry call for a thoughtful examination of biblical principles in the context of contemporary conflicts.

Moreover, the global nature of today’s conflicts and the increased interconnectedness of nations necessitate a broader perspective when seeking solutions to complex issues. Applying biblical teachings should involve not only individual actions but also collective efforts towards peace and justice on a global scale.

The Bible’s Guidance for Peace in Today’s World

Despite the challenges of navigating modern conflicts, the Bible continues to provide guidance for promoting peace and resolving disputes. Its teachings on love, forgiveness, and reconciliation serve as a foundation for individuals, communities, and nations seeking to establish peaceful relationships.

Furthermore, the Bible’s call to seek justice and work towards eliminating oppression and inequality resonates with contemporary struggles for a more just and peaceful world. By holding fast to the timeless principles found within its pages, individuals can contribute to creating a more peaceful and just society.


As we have explored, the Bible addresses the topic of war from various angles, providing teachings, stories, and principles that can inform our understanding of its complexities. While war is depicted as a reality of human existence, the Bible consistently emphasizes the importance of peace, justice, and reconciliation. By studying the biblical texts with careful consideration of their historical and cultural context, we can gain valuable insights into war’s moral implications and the pursuit of a more peaceful world.


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