What Does The Bible Say About Killing In War

The Bible is an ancient book of holy scripture, written to provide guidance for those of faith for millennia. It provides an important source of knowledge for people of all religious backgrounds and creeds, and is full of teachings about morality, respect, kindness, and honor. But what does it say about killing in war?

When reading the Old and New Testaments, it is clear there is a wide range of opinions on the act of killing in combat. Some of these opinions directly counter the norms of modern societies, while others are relatively in line with contemporary laws. Sources such as Deuteronomy 20:10-18 describe the Lord God’s view of war. In it, God explains to Israel their utility of sacrifices during conflicts, as well as a degree of mercy in that they may spare some of the non-combatants and property of those they battle.

While the Bible acts as an individual’s primary source of ethical teachings, in many cases, it is not necessarily clear what is necessarily demanded by God. As a result, many religious and philosophical leaders have tried to interpret the Bible’s teachings on killing in war. And although there is no universal agreement on this issue, most interpretations agree on certain principles. For instance, most agree that killing in war is morally wrong, and should only be used as a last resort.

Another popular concept found in the Bible is the idea of a ‘just war’. While different interpretations of the Bible may differ on the details, the concept of just war is intrinsic in the Christian faith and similar views can be found in many other religions. The theory claims that a war may be justified when it is fought in defense of an oppressed people, or is taken up to advance a worthy cause. This idea governs the strategic and tactical decisions of which types of violence are appropriate in combat.

In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this idea of a ‘just war’ in the Sermon on the Mount, by stating that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. This is an important statement as it implies that violence is not necessary in all conflicts. Instead, Jesus teaches that it is possible to love one’s enemies and find a peaceful resolution in cases where violence is not necessary.

Overall, the Bible does not provide a definitive answer on what it means for a soldier to take part in a ‘just war’. It does, however, offer moral guidance on how a Christian should conduct themselves in battle. For example, Jesus teaches that the ultimate goal should be peace, and that violence should not be used as the first resort. Additionally, Jesus also taught that in certain combat situations, it is possible to show mercy and kindness to an enemy, as well as understanding forgiveness.


One of the most prominent instances of killing in war that the Bible speaks to is skirmishes. In Deuteronomy 20:10-12, the Lord says “when you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it.” This means that it is desirable for soldiers to negotiate a truce or a peaceful settlement before resorting to lethal violence. It is important to note that Jesus also speaks to this topic directly on multiple occasions. In the teachings of Jesus, we are told to love our enemies and not to kill them.

In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the conquering of the ancient city of Jericho is often studied as an example of how war and peace were addressed in the Bible. When Joshua led the Hebrew people against the city walls, he was told to go around them and blow their trumpets. In this instance, the Lord God declared that “The Lord of hosts is with you…for the Lord your God is giving you the city” (Joshua 6:2-5). Thus, there was no call for violence, as the Lord ultimately wanted peace and victory for the Hebrew people.

In the New Testament, Jesus again spoke to this issue of skirmishes. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.” This is a clear indication that violence should not be the primary method to deal with antagonists, and that Christians are instructed to seek peace and understanding before resorting to war.

Overall, a careful reading of the Bible reveals that the Lord God is not a supporter of violence and killing in battle. On the contrary, God is encouraging peaceful resolution whenever possible and is calling for justice and mercy among adversaries. As a result, it is essential to consider the wisdom of these words and to strive towards attaining peace whenever possible.

Puting Their Lives On the Line

Throughout the Bible, there are countless examples of soldiers and warriors who put their lives on the line serving their country. For example, in the book of Judges, we follow Gideon’s brave battle against the Midianites. Gideon’s faith helps him to muster an army and go to war. In this instance, we see that even though the Lord God does not call for violence, He does call for men of faith to be brave and fight for the things they believe in.

The Bible also speaks to the issue of a soldier’s loyalty to their country. Joshua 1:9 famously states “be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In this statement, we see that God does not expect soldiers to be completely immune to fear, but He does ask that they have courage and trust in Him. The Lord God expects those in the military to do all that they can to serve with honor and obedience.

The Bible also speaks directly to those in the position of military leadership. In 1 Timothy 1:18, Paul explains the importance of teaching soldiers to stay away from drunkenness and other sinful things. Paul explains that soldiers who follow this teaching “have done their duty” and will receive God’s mercy and grace. This passage reveals that leaders of the military must set a standard of ethical behavior, which is essential in promoting morality within a military organization.

Overall, the Bible does not spell out an exact answer to the question of killing in war. Instead, it provides moral guidance on how those in the military should conduct themselves. Whether it is through the concept of a just war, the respect for human life, or the importance of loyalty and obedience in the military, the Bible presents us with a wide range of teachings about how soldiers should conduct themselves in battle.

Justice and Compassion

Another key concept found throughout the Bible is the idea of justice in war. It is repeatedly stated in the Bible that justice should always be pursued, and war should be seen as an example of justice. In this way, war is seen as a tool to bring an end to evildoers, to protect the innocent, and to promote a sense of justice. In Deuteronomy 20:11, the Lord says, “there shall not be a man left in it, but that shall pass away by the edge of the sword”, indicating a divine judgement on those who wrong His people.

In addition to justice, the Bible also speaks to the importance of compassion when approaching war. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus spoke about loving one’s enemies, and in the books of Proverbs and Job, we are reminded that it is better to be compassionate than to avenge wrongs. The Bible also speaks about mercy, compassion, and peace in a variety of other books and verses. These teachings likely mean that even in war, God expects us to show mercy and kindness to those who are in desperate need, regardless of the situation.

Ultimately, although war is unavoidable at times, the Bible conveys a clear message that its acceptable use should be restricted and handled with much care. Jesus, in particular, gives instructions to his followers emphasizing mercy over vengeance as well as avoiding conflict whenever possible. As a result, killing in war should always be a last resort and should be pursued only when it is truly necessary.

Consequences of Taking a Life

The Bible does not just condemn killing in war but speaks about the long-term mental and physical repercussions for taking a life. A good example of this can be found in 1 Samuel 20, where David expresses his fear of killing Goliath. He admitted that he was afraid to kill any man and states “I have not taken anyone’s life”. In this way, the text emphasizes the psychological toll that taking a life has on a soldier. In addition, Proverbs 8:36 says “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul”, teaching us that taking a life takes away from a person’s conscience.

The Bible also speaks to the physical and emotional impact of killing in battle. In the book of Leviticus, the Lord speaks of how the “soul that killeth any person shall be put to death.” In this passage, we learn that the death of a person has long lasting and severe effects that may take a tremendous physical, psychological, and emotional toll on the soldier and those around them.

Another example is found in Jeremiah 51:20, where the Lord speaks of how conflict has an effect on all parties involved. The Lord explains that “all the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and the people are weary.” In this passage, it is clear the Lord understands the cost of war, both for the victor and the vanquished.

Ultimately, the Bible speaks to the need for mercy, justice, and compassion when dealing with the act of killing in war. It also underscores the consequences of taking a life on a personal level, and the psychological, emotional, and physical costs of war.


In conclusion, the Bible does not provide a definitive answer on what it means for a soldier to take part in a ‘just war’. Instead, it provides moral guidance on how a Christian should conduct themselves in battle. It emphasizes justice, compassion, mercy, and love. It speaks to the importance of courage and obedience, and cautions against the physical and emotional burdens of taking a life. As a result, the Bible serves as an important source of ethical and moral guidance when it comes to deciding whether or not to engage in the act of killing in war.

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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