What Does The Bible Say About War And Killing

The Bible is one of the most powerful books in the world and it is recognized as a source of divine truth. It is a guideline for the responsibilities, actions and relationships humans should have with one another and with God. Moral values, guidance and warnings are all to be found in the Bible, including passages related to war and killing.

Most people are aware of the saying “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). This is a concise and straightforward prohibition against taking the life of another human being. This commandment is one of the Ten Commandments and it stands as a timeless moral truth that transcends all cultures, societies and religious systems.

The Bible’s prohibition of killing, however, is more intricate and nuanced than this phrase implies. Despite the famous “Thou shalt not kill” commandment, the Bible speaks both in militant language and in peace-loving language in regard to war and killing. On one hand, it is written that God wants his people to fight against oppressive nations with all their might (Numbers 24:8). On the other hand, restraining cautions are expressed when it comes to war and creating boundaries with enemies (Deuteronomy 23:1-7).

For example, the Old Testament encourages maintaining cordial relations with all neighbours, even those of another faith. Leviticus 19:18 reads: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Wars can be waged with legitimate motives, but the Bible notes that one should seek only justice, not revenge. The New Testament speaks about the effect of war upon those involved; for example, the hardships, grief and suffering that are brought about by it. It also warns of the potential danger of becoming too used to violence and of forgetting to act in a peaceful and responsible manner.

In a battle, it is only acceptable to kill enemy combatants; people who are not participating in the battle at hand are to be spared. People with mental disabilities, women and children are not to be targets of war either. Though war is looked upon as a necessary evil, we should never forget the preciousness of life and the importance of nonviolence.

God’s view on Defence

The Bible clarifies God’s view on defense. It is clear that human life is precious to God and He commands people to treat it with reverence and respect. In Nehemiah 4:14, the Bible states that “Do not be afraid of them, remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses”. God is wounded when lives are snuffed out for no good reason. But He doesn’t expect those He loves to be weak. He wants them to live and protect those who can’t protect themselves.

Despite the horrors of war, God is clear that if you are faced with violence and injustice, it is acceptable to fight back in self-defense. In this, God defends us. He does not expect us to remain vulnerable to enemies. He is ready to give us strength and courage when we are faced with trying times.

The verse “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) reminds us that we control our destiny. By taking the lead in righteousness and selecting the paths of life instead of the paths of death, we can choose peace. That being said, the Bible doesn’t condemn all forms of defense. It reveals to us that war is not the only solution in matters of injustice. There are peaceful ways to resolve conflicts, such as through mediation rather than through aggression and violence.

Just War

That said, the Bible does recognize that in some instances war is unavoidable. In such circumstances, it calls for the concept of ‘just war’. This is a situation where it is morally acceptable to fight. For example, when an oppressive nation invades and refuses to leave, it is acceptable to drive them out by force. According to just war theory, a war is morally permissible only if there is just cause, just authority, just means and if the consequences are not disproportionate to the action taken.

Be that as it may, not all wars are just, and not all violence is (or can be) contained within the framework of the just war doctrine; war has consequences and the Bible recognizes this. It speaks of the sorrow, pain and suffering that war can facilitate.

The book of Proverbs cautions that “those who take up the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52), warning us that holding on to a spirit of vengeance can complicate matters and leave individuals more prone to violence and destruction.

Non-violent Conflict Resolution

The Bible encourages the use of non-violent means of conflict resolution whenever and wherever possible. Prayers of supplication and intercession, seeking wise counsel, fasting, speaking out and engaging in peaceful protests are some of the methods that we can use. When our conflicts are in line with God’s love, our chances of winning with the least amount of harm done are greatly increased.

Even in difficult situations and emergencies, we must strive to find a peaceful solution and not just resort to violence. In 1 Peter 3:9-11, it is written that we should “turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”. To prevent and resolve conflicts, it is important to engage in open and honest dialogue. This dialogue takes a lot of courage, patience and humility.

The Bible is clear that war is an evil, but in some cases, all else has failed and a state of war has become a necessary evil. Violence must be a very last resort and the Bible in general, emphasizes the use of non-violent means of conflict resolution.

Justification for War

The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid war, but it doesn’t condone it either. Therefore, it may be argued that at times, war can be justified. The Bible calls for justice and it is possible to fight a righteous and just war. It is also possible to act out of self defense and fend off an aggressor. It is significant to note, however, that we should use our best judgment on when war is justified and when it is not.

Further, we should never set out to be deliberately violent and never use excessive amounts of force. It is up to us to evaluate the best course of action in particular cases and decide based upon ethical considerations and wisdom. The Bible can guide us in our decision, but it is ultimately still up to our own judgement to determine the best way to move forward.


In conclusion, the Bible calls for peace and calls for justice. It is a book that can give us moral guidance and direction when it comes to war and just killing. It urges us to be prudent and wise and seek peaceful solutions whenever possible. It cautions us against excessive force and reminds us to show restraint. It is clear that killing should not be taken lightly, and it has to be treat with utmost reverence and respect. War should always be a last resort, with moral justification and wise consideration.

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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