What Does Slew Mean In The Bible

What does ‘Slew’ mean in the Bible? ‘Slew’ is a word that is used frequently in many translations of the Bible, and its meaning is often interpreted differently. Many times ‘slew’ is used in reference to killing or massacre, but the exact connotation of the word can vary depending on context and with which translation of the Bible it is used in.

To get an understanding of the true meaning of slew, it is important to look back to the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic used in Biblical texts. Biblical scholars and theologians agree that the literal translation of ‘slew’ is actually not ‘kill’ or ‘massacre’, but rather ‘to strike down’ or ‘overthrow.’ The actual intent of the word is to convey a forceful act of removing power or status, rather than necessarily killing someone outright.

The most common situations where ‘slew’ will be used in the Bible are stories of characters being overthrown. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the story of David slaying Goliath. In the original text Goliath wasn’t slain, but instead the text said David “slew” him. This is an example of ‘slew’ being used in a figurative sense, where David removed Goliath’s power and status over the Israelites.

Another place ‘slew’ is used in the Bible is when talking about the Israelites in exile. The Israelites were ‘slew’ by their captors, which in this context does not mean killed, but instead suggests heavy confiscation of their property, livestock, and land. This speaks to the importance of context in understanding the true connotation of slew.

The word ‘slew’ is not just used in the Bible for physical acts, but often for emotional acts as well. For example, Joseph in the Bible is said to have been ‘slew’ by his brothers with envy and hatred. In this case, the meaning of slew shifts yet again to suggest a less physical action and instead suggests being overwhelmed with strong emotion.

Analysis & implications

Understanding the true meaning of ‘slew’ in the Bible is integral to interpreting Biblical stories. Depending on the translation, the connotation of ‘slew’ could be misinterpreted to actually be killing in some cases (such as with the story of David and Goliath) when it should be understood as more figurative and less literal. This emphasizes the importance of being aware of the original text and being thoughtful about interpretation.

Interpreting the Bible requires an understanding of the varied connotations held within it. ‘Slew’ is just one example of a word that has been re-purposed and its literal meaning twisted to fit the cultural and linguistic context of the time. Knowing this can help the reader to understand not only the language of the Bible, but also its intended meaning – whether literal or figurative.

Implications for modern day

Interpreting words in the Bible as they are meant to be interpreted is integral not only to understanding the messages of the Bible, but also to understanding how these messages might be applicable in today’s world. For example, the use of ‘slew’ in stories of exile, such as with the Israelites, can be read as a warning against the perpetuation of cycles of power and privilege, which are still prevalent in many countries today.

The Bible is often seen as a moral guideline, and interpreting the meanings of words in their original context is essential to interpreting this guidance correctly. Knowing the meaning of slew helps us to read Biblical stories in a meaningful way and can provide insight into how to engage with issues of power, privilege and morality in the modern day.

Significant characters using the term

The word ‘slew’ has been used in the Bible by many famous characters, from Abel who slew his brother Cain, to David who slew Goliath. While these are the two most famous, there are many other characters in Scripture who have used the term, some purposefully and some inadvertently. For example, Joseph was ‘slew’ by his brothers with envy and hatred, Elijah ‘slew’ the false prophets of Baal, and Jesus was ‘slew’ by the crucifixion. In each case, the ‘slew’ that occurred could be read as figurative, with the real intent being to diminish the power and status of the person or group in question.


The use of the word ‘slew’ in the Bible is varied and often open to interpretation. Its literal definition is ‘to strike down or overthrow’, but depending on the context and translation, this can be read to either mean physical violence or figurative power struggles. Knowing the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic meaning of ‘slew’ can help a reader to interpret Biblical stories accurately and draw meaning from them into their own spiritual practice.


Knowing the original meaning of ‘slew’ as used in the Bible can help to interpret not just stories, but stories’ implications for modern day life. Furthermore, understanding this meaning is also useful in understanding how to interpret other words in the Bible. In any case, it is important to remember that contexts and translations of the Bible can vary, and always remember to look at the original language for a true understanding of the words used in the Bible.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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