We really do need to understand "warfare" in the OT,
especially under the nation of Israel.
We need to clearly see some BASICS first of all.
One very important principle is found in Matthew 19. Here it
is regarding Marriage, Divorce and Re-marriage.
Read it carefully. Ah, do you see it? The principle is, God
ALLOWED certain things in the OT, for the "hardness of the
heart".....yet.....from the BEGINNING, it was NOT SO!
God's original intent and desire and wish, was not what He later
came to ALLOW, because of the hard heartedness of people.
God allowed quite a freedom on divorce and re-marriage under
Moses, but Jesus said it was not so from the beginning, not God's
desire and liking at all, and under the New Testament (NT) Jesus
tightened it back up, said such freedom to live and act was not
going to be allowed under the NT.
I have written fully on the subject of Polygamy (one of the
studies on this Website). In it I show that from the beginning
God never wanted to allow polygamy. It was not His desire, His
wish, His ideal for men to have more than one wife at any given
time. Polygamy was ALLOWED under the OT, because of the heart of
people. Yes, as shocking as it may sound, even the heart of some
of God's men.
Slavery, was ALLOWED in ancient Israel under the laws of
Moses, but it was not God's wish, ideal, or desire that people
should be "slave" other people. It was ALLOWED because of the
hardness of the heart of people. The Israelites would have done
it in any case, despite God's wish and desire on the matter. So,
likewise with polygamy, and divorce and re-marriage.
But, in God allowing certain living practices such as I've
mentioned above, He also gave some laws to regulate it all, to
try at least to make it somewhat "livable" or "workable" in a
humane way, as we might say.
The reader can read through the books of Moses (first five
books of the Bible) and see all this laid out, as to what I'm
saying so far.
By reading the books of Moses and the first number of
chapters of 1 Samuel, we can see that God's original "from the
beginning" intent was that Israel would ONLY have GOD as their
king, that they would not be like other nations with a "human
king government" structure. But Israel, because of the hardness
of their heart, and a lack of faith (as the NT in the writings of
Paul, brings out), and a desire to WANT to be LIKE other nations
around them, rejected having only God as their king, and wanted
to be like other nations. They wanted a physical king government
God even foreknew they would want to go this way, and in the
books of Moses gave some laws for "kings" to follow. One was that
for a king, he should NOT practice polygamy, but only have one
wife (see Deut.17: 14-20), as well as other ways of living
that he, as king, especially should live.
God foreknew many things that Israel, as a people, would
want to practice, as a way of life, because He knew their heart.
He knew they did not have a heart to fully obey His ideal, and
from the beginning desires, wishes, and ways of life that He
would have wanted people to live. Notice what God said about the
"heart" of the Israelites in Deuteronomy 5: 29 and 29:4.
The Israelites were in the main a bunch of carnal,
unbelieving, faithless, and heartless people, in going the way of
the Lord (Paul writes about that in his epistles a number of
times), and SO, God ALLOWED a number of things to be practiced as
a way of life in Israel, that were NOT His ideal, or His desire
FROM THE BEGINNING!
We need to clearly understand that there are MANY
DIFFERENCES under the New Testament than under the Old Testament
(OT). Many things that God allowed for, because of the hardness
of the heart of the people under the OT is NOT allowed for God's
people under the NT or as some want to put it, New Covenant.
There are a number of DIFFERENCES under the New Covenant as
compared to the Old Covenant.
One of the main differences is that under the New Covenant,
God WILL give people a NEW heart, a heart filled with His Spirit
and love, to enable people to OBEY and LOVE and SERVE His laws
and commandments, to live "as from the beginning" with God. This
is clearly brought out in the book of Hebrews, chapters 8 through
God would under the New Covenant give a heart to perceive,
eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a heart where God's "from the
beginning" laws would be written, and would be served (see again
Deut 29:4 and 5: 29).
These TWO basics above, an "allowing" of certain things
because of the hardness of the heart, and God not given the
masses of the people, a heart to be receptive to His ideal ways,
is fundamental to grasp as one of THE major keys to understanding
large portions of the Old Testament.
GOD WOULD FIGHT - HE ALONE WOULD PUNISH AND KILL
As God is the LIFE giver, the one who gives life, creates
lives. He is also the one who has the right to take life, how and
when, and in the manner He decides. We may not always understand
His working in life and death. We are many times as the Bible
says, to live by faith. We must have faith that God is always
holy, good, just, righteous and perfect in character, and that
all will work out correct in the end, even when we may be
puzzled and just simply do not understand the way God works at
A reading through the Old Testament, will show the prudent
observer, that God has the POWER and the AUTHORITY to deal with
people and nations, WITHOUT THE AID of any HUMAN being, be it in
the singular or be it a nation or nations of people. God is
quite strong enough ALL BY HIMSELF to punish, or to destroy whole
armies of nations or whole nations themselves. We have many
instances in the OT where this is clearly demonstrated to us.
Certainly the destroying of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea is
one of the first classic examples in the Bible to show God can
deal with armies and nations quite well thank you without the aid
of physical men. He also gave us another classic example when he
destroyed much, in the days of Noah, without the aid of human
There are other examples in the books of Kings and
Chronicles, where God alone was the only weapon people needed. In
fact some kings of Israel cried out to God to be their weapon for
they admitted their physical army was no match at all against the
enemy, and unless God would fight for them, they knew they had
not got a ghost of a chance as we say, to defeat their enemy and
Now, we need to remember this next section of Scripture, for
it is another BASIC truth, another basic "from the beginning" way
God wanted to work with and for Israel under the Old Testament.
It is the passage found in Exodus 23: 20 through 31.
God said in verse 20 that He would send an ANGEL (messenger)
before the Israelites. I have proved in another study that this
messenger was none other than the second member of the Godhead -
the one who became the Jesus Christ of the NT (see my study "The
Angel of God - Who was he?").
Notice, if the Israelites would OBEY and do ALL that God
spoke, THEN God would be an ENEMY TO THEIR ENEMIES (verse 22).
Again notice verse 23 and the last words...."and I will cut
them off." Nothing here about Israel having to build a war
machine, from its own people, to defeat and destroy the nations
dwelling in the land God had promised them to inherit. To obey
God and to have full faith in Him, was all that was needed. Then
if they would so act and live, it would be God who would CUT OFF
their enemies and adversaries.
In passing we will note also that if a people would fully
serve God in all His ways, they would have NO SICKNESS, all would
be healthy and well and physically in "tip top shape" as we say
(see verses 25-26). We in the Western world do, even when not
knowing it (often just common sense tells us), obey many of the
physical laws of God in hygiene, water purity, sanitation etc.
and so we do not have many of the diseases and sicknesses that
many other countries of the world have who do not practice such
hygiene and sanitation laws that we do. But, on the other hand,
we still as nations do not fully serve God and all His ways,
hence we still have many diseases that we wish we did not have.
For serving God in full faith and obedience, notice what God
said He would do, "I WILL SEND MY FEAR before you, and WILL
DESTROY (that is God will, the 'I will') all the people to whom
you shall come in contact with, AND I WILL make all your enemies
TURN THEIR BACK'S unto you (run away in other words). And I WILL
send HORNETS before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the
Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before you. I WILL not drive
them out from before you in ONE year; lest the land become
desolate, and the beast of the field multiply before you. By
little and little I WILL DRIVE THEM OUT from before you, until
you be increased and inherit the land" (verses 27-30).
Nothing could be PLAINER! Pretty simple words these are. A
child can read them and understand them. The Israelites NEVER HAD
TO PHYSICALLY FIGHT their enemies or adversaries. God would DO IT
ALL! He would take care of their enemies, they would turn their
backs and run away like scared rabbits, when the Israelites stood
and marched into the land.
God in this instant, of Israel inheriting the land of
promise, even told them how He would do it, and that He would not
do it all in one year. And we certainly see from the book of
Joshua that Israel did not settle the land of promise in one
year, it took a number of years, even when doing it "their way" -
through fighting with their war machine of human beings. It was
NOT God's original "from the beginning" wish, desire, or intent,
to have Israel inherit the land flowing with milk and honey
through THEM making for themselves an army of physical fighting
men to conquer their enemies dwelling in the land God was giving
Obviously, and not having it spelled out for us in direct
words, Israel did not have the FAITH or the OBEDIENCE to believe
what God had said here in Exodus 23, and hence we find them
trying to inherit the land through warfare, which cost them
dearly in lives lost. God's promise to them, to inherit the land
of promise, was still going to come to pass. God's overall plan
for Israel would not be broken because they did not have the
faith to accept God's promise and word as in this passage in
Exodus we have just read. But He did allow them to disregard His
way of inheriting the land, and do it "their way" which was much
more destructive to their families. What they chose to do as to
the way to inherit the land cost them many young lives, much
sorrow, much crying, much needless death, that they did not have
to experience, IF they had exercised trust, faith, and obedience
towards God, and towards the Angel sent to lead them (the "rock"
that followed Israel, which was Christ, as Paul put it in 1 Cor.
Exodus 23: 31 God said He would deliver the inhabitants of
the land into their hands; and they would drive them out.
Some, would try to say God was here talking about Israel
having a war fighting machine made up of people, that would wage
war on the inhabitants of the promised land.
Not so, for the preceding context explains this verse 31.
The inhabitants of the land would be, figure of speech,
"delivered into your hands" by what God had ALREADY TOLD THEM!
God's FEAR would have already gone before Israel, the inhabitants
would already be filled with the fear of Israel's God. They would
already be shaking in their boots. When Israel entered the land,
the inhabitants would turn their backs to them, and run off, run
as fast as they could in the opposite direction! And with God
using "hornets" (think about some of the "killer" bees now
invading North America) by the millions or billions.....well,
that was how Israel would drive them out. Just walking into the
land with God as their power and with God going to make sure they
inherited the land, the inhabitants of the land, would fall into
the inheriting hands of the Israelites, in a manner of speech.
They actually would be driven out in time, not killed per se
please notice, but "driven out."
The inhabitants of the land would be driven out, they were
not to dwell in the land, nor was Israel to make a covenant of
any kind with them, nor their gods (verses 32-33). So we see that
originally, from the beginning, God was not intending the
Israelite people to have "captives" or "slaves" of the
inhabitants of the land. Of course not, for from the beginning
God never desired or sanctioned the idea of "slavery" of people
to other people. God just foreknew that Israel would not have the
heart to do it "his way" but would indeed want to follow the ways
of the nations around about them. Hence he knew Israel would
practice slavery, so gave certain laws in the books of Moses to
try and make it humane, and somewhat "livable." For the hardness
of their heart God allowed many things that were not His ideal,
and certainly not "from the beginning" way to live.
From the beginning God showed Israel that He ALONE could
take care of their enemies. He demonstrated it OVER AND OVER
AGAIN while they were still in Egypt, under slavery bonds. He
showed them He had ALL KINDS OF WAYS to take care of their
enemies, from beasts, to boils, to insects, to weather, to
plagues. Israel did not have to develop a war machine of people
to escape from the bondage of the Egyptians. Nor did they have to
build one when delivered and pursued by the Egyptian army. God
showed them He could protect them and deliver them from their
enemies when He took them across the Red Sea and destroyed the
Egyptian army in the same sea.
You talk about God showing them His MIGHT and His POWER to
defeat ANY enemy of His people, that would come against
them....well this is it in the first chapters of the book of
He tells them afterwards, that if they would obey Him, and
serve Him, and put their trust and faith in Him, HE ALONE would
be all they ever needed to have their enemies running away from
them with their backs to them, running away from them like a
million deadly hornets were chasing them (and in some cases God
said it would be literally so).
As I've mentioned, reading through the books of Kings and
Chronicles, you will find examples of kings of Israel or Judah,
who when their backs were against the wall, when they stopped
putting their trust in their physical army of men, when they knew
their physical everything was useless against their enemy, when
they were willing to put all that they had physically to one
side, when they were willing to repent towards God, cry out to
Him for mercy, when they put all their FAITH in HIM, to fight for
them, to deliver them from their enemies....GOD ONCE MORE SHOWED
HIS MIGHTY FIGHTING POWER TO KILL AND DESTROY THE ARMIES OF THE
ENEMIES OF HIS PEOPLE OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH.
Who can stand and be protected with the power of God, when
He is your defense? No one, no army on the face of the earth,
however large or physically great it may be, or thinks it may be,
can defeat God.
But it takes FAITH to look to God, and not man and physical
implements man may invent to kill others. Such FAITH Israel
seldom, very seldom ever exhibited in all of its history. And so
it is the same today among the nations of modern Israel.....the
leaders of those nations and the majority of the people in those
nations, do NOT have the FAITH. They do not practice the truths
of God, they are not willing to OBEY the ways and laws and
commandments of the true God. God tells us through His prophets
in His word, that the leaders of Israel today are MAD, and the
prophets are PROFANE. He tells us that He looked for "A man" who
would stand in the hedge to hold up the wall that is falling
apart and crumbling in the nations of Israel, AND COULD NOT FIND
This tells us pretty clearly the state of the faith that is
NOT in the lands of Israel TODAY!
Hence, like Israel of old, we also reap the pain, suffering,
crying, and death, of fighting wars that we need not fight IF we
only had full FAITH in the word and powerful hand of the God who
still loves us, and cries over us because of our wayward ways and
AN ARGUMENT ANSWERED
Some want to put forth the argument: "Well I do not see God
saying to Israel, 'Now I do not want you to ever build a physical
army of soldiers and weapons to kill other people with, I want
you to only let me be your army.' All we see is that Israel just
had an army and went to war. So war fighting for God's people
must be okay."
This fails to take into account, first the clear passage we
have just looked at in Exodus 23.
Second, it fails to take into account the way the Bible was
inspired to be written by God. Some examples:
God says no where in plain direct words that He wanted the
Israelites to only accept Himself as their king, and not to have
a physical man as king, like the others nations. We cannot find
in the books of Moses such words by God as saying, "Now, listen,
I want to be your king. And I do not want you to take a human man
for your king like other nations."
We do not find until the book of Samuel, God saying to
Samuel that Israel had rejected Him from reigning over them, from
being their king, and wanting to have a human kind, to be like
the other nations. You can read it all in 1 Samuel chapter 8.
Until then, it is just assumed that God was their king, and
that He did not want Israel to ever have but Himself as their
king, to never have a human king, to never be like the other
nations around them. This is the truth of the sense of the books
of Moses and the book of Joshua and Judges. God always, from the
beginning, wanted to be Israel's KING, the one and only to rule
and reign over them. But it is not until 1 Samuel 8 that we
see this spelled out for us.
Yes, God knew it would happen (Israel wanting a human king
like other nations), as we have seen above, and as He gave
instruction and laws to Moses regarding some of the ways such a
physical king of Israel should conduct his life. But, knowing
something in advance, does not mean you approve of it, or desire
it to ever take place. Obviously from 1 Samuel 8, God never
wanted this situation to happen among His people. But such is not
all clearly and neatly laid out for us to see in the books of
Moses with plain words.
Take also the example of SLAVERY. It is simply just not
stated in clear plain words in the books of Moses, that
practicing slavery was WRONG in the eyes of God, that Israel
should not follow many other nations in the practice of slavery.
No words can be found coming from God, such as: "Now, I want to
tell you that the practice of slavery is very wrong, and I do not
want you to inculcate it in the national life style of Israel."
Such words or anything like them, cannot be found in the books of
Moses. All we find is God giving laws to make slavery somewhat
humane. It was a part of Israel's life as they inherited the
promised land, but that does not mean God approved of it, or that
it was His "from the beginning plan and desire" that Israel
should practice such things.
As I've stated, and more importantly as Jesus stated, there
were a number of things God ALLOWED the people of Israel to
practice as part of their life style, BECAUSE of the HARDNESS of
But, from ALL the Bible, from getting to know the mind of
God from all the Bible, or even just the Old Testament, as we are
looking at things in the Old Testament right now, we can soon
come to see that practices such as slavery, were never right,
correct, or holy, in God's eyes. Slavery was never a part of
God's righteousness, nor a part of His "from the beginning" way
of life He intended and desired that mankind should live.
Some things in the Bible are just NOT put into neat little
boxes for us to clearly have placed before us, so nothing can get
mixed up, put out of place, get lost in the shuffle, and end up
in a box made up from the deceived and incorrect thoughts, ideas,
imaginations of man. And with Satan and the demons working their
work of twisted deceptions, it is no wonder we have more little
wrong boxes of ideas about the Bible and the ways of God, than
there are fish in the sea (maybe not literally, but you get the
idea of what I mean).
The Bible was deliberately written as some here and some
there, so if you do not do as the noble Bereans did in Acts 17
(when the apostle Paul preached to them) and SEARCH the
Scriptures, you will never come to the truth. You will be as Paul
elsewhere said, "Ever learning but never able to come to the
knowledge of the truth."
ISRAEL SET ITS PATH FOR THE MOST PART
WHEN, after Exodus 23, that Israel decided they had to have
and put their efforts into and trust a physical war machine made
up of humans, we are not told. As I've stated above, there are a
number of things we are not told about directly in the Bible.
Israel we know and understand from what is written after Exodus
23, did not want to trust and have full faith in God. They wanted
to trust in the physical, in themselves to a great point. And
so they did form an army of human people and material weapons.
They set their mind in the main to want to go this route, to be
like the other nations around them. It does not matter WHEN all
this happened per se, it obviously did happen, and Exodus 23 was
disregarded, and so the "from the beginning" plan of God as to
how Israel would inherit the promised land was put to one side,
and God ALLOWED them to "do it their way" (does it remind you of
the popular song "MY Way" ? ).
God's plan for the overall of Israel would not be thrown out
of the window onto the rubbish pile, no not at all. God's overall
plan would still go ahead, but the way it would be accomplished
God would allow to be done another way, from the original way He
had in mind. He would allow Israel to be carnally faithless, to
have a heart that could not see or hear much of the Lord's way.
He would allow them to have their trust in the forces of the
human arm and weapons of war. And so it was in the main, that
life style we read about for the most part from then on out with
Israel, and later with Israel and Judah when they became divided
into two nations.
God would still work His work, and His plan overall would
still go ahead and be fulfilled, but Israel would often do it in
their carnal way. It would be to their loss, as they would lose
many young and older men in many a battle of war with other
nations. There would be much weeping and crying among the people
as death came upon many of their loved ones.
It could have been different, if they had listened to,
obeyed, and had faith in Exodus 23: 20-33.
Now and again, as I've said, a king in Israel or Judah,
would revert to only looking to God for the battle's win over
their enemies. Now and again a leader would cry out to God, and
ask God to do the fighting and give deliverance, and give the
victory over the enemy....and God WOULD DELIVER AND FIGHT AND
DESTROY WITH HIS MIGHTY HAND THE EVIL ENEMY.
GOD IS LIFE GIVER AND LIFE TAKER
What about those times in ancient Israel's history when God
commanded their army to destroy a whole people, even down to the
animals (see 1 Samuel 15: 3).
Well we need to back up some. First, if Israel had obeyed
and had faith in God as He wanted them to have in Exodus 23, they
would never have needed to have an army, a war killing machine of
any kind for any reason. Hence 1 Samuel 15 would have had a
different story and a different happening. Now, if God in His
holiness and perfect righteousness, wanted to destroy a people,
even down to the animals, could He not do so? Is God dependant
upon man, any part of mankind, to carry out such a destruction?
The answer, reading from Genesis up to 1 Samuel 15, is of course
a resounding NO!
God can IF He so decides, destroy any of His creation for
the holy reasons that He decides is best. And He does not need
any part of mankind to help Him out. We only have to look at the
flood in Noah's day, and the destruction of the evil people in
the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as the destruction of
the Egyptian army at the time of Israel's freedom from captivity,
to quickly see that God needs not mankind to help Him
destroy anything of what He has created.
The Eternal can use a hundred different ways to punish or
destroy any people.
So, if Israel had been an obedient and faith full people, as
God wanted them to be in Exodus 23, then God would have
PERSONALLY taken care of destroying those in 1 Samuel 15, that He
decided in His perfect judgment needed to be destroyed.
As Israel and most of its human kings (starting here with
Saul) were not obedient and did not have a heart of faith, as
they had set their minds to have a war machine army, as they
liked, at times, to be able to fight and kill the way other
nations did, God decided to let them obliterate those whom the
Lord said should be completely destroyed from off the face of the
earth. He decided NOT to send fire, or an earthquake, or a
plague, which He could easily have done, but to send the army of
Israel to destroy those people, even down to the animals.
Now, I certainly do not claim to know the answer to the WHY
of all this. Why destroy even the child and the animals (then
again we could say the same for those who perished in the flood
of Noah's day, some would have been babies, and children, and
animals). And God does not tell us all the answers to all the why
questions we may have on this situation and happenstance in 1
Samuel 15. I have to admit, there are some things in the Bible
that I have a very hard time trying to understand. I frankly do
not understand the answer to the "why" of a number of instances
in the Bible. I must have faith that God knew what He was doing,
knew very well, had extremely good reasons to have these people
destroyed, even down to the animals. The rest I look at as
through a glass darkly, as the apostle Paul once said, and will
know one day as I'm known.
God used a carnal people, a people who wanted a standing
army, a people who wanted to fight and kill at times, like other
nations of the world. He used them in their mind-set of attitude,
to destroy a people that He could easily have done for Himself in
any number of ways. But He decided the army of Israel would do
it. Perhaps, one of the answers is that maybe, just maybe, it
would turn their stomachs so much that they would want to abandon
their killing machine, called a military army, and never want to
establish one ever again, putting their faith and trust in God to
protect and deliver them from their enemies. I say "maybe" that
is one answer as to why God let them and even told them to
destroy those people. Naturally there are more answers to it all.
As I've said, the Eternal does not give us all the answers to our
questions. They are there but it would seem we will have to wait
the return of Jesus to get those answers to our questions.
As we see from the beginning of the Bible, God is the
creator of life, He is the one who gave it, and so He is the one
who has the right to take it, if for the perfect reasons He deems
that a particular life should no longer live. But we notice in
such passages as 1 Samuel 15, it is GOD HIMSELF who orders it be
that way. And that is a huge difference than men deciding when
and where and to whom "killing in a war" shall be declared.
The situation in 1 Samuel 15 does not give authority for
man, with his own human governments, to erect and build human war
machines, to kill others when the human government decides it
needs to kill others. 1 Samuel 15 is no endorsement or proof that
the Lord sanctions Christians partaking in a national army of any
country, to fight and kill others, that that nation declares war
against. Kind of silly really to think so, because what if other
Christians in the other nation also think the same, and believe
their nation has the justifiable reason to make war against the
nation with the other same thinking Christians in it. How can God
be on both sides at the same time. As Jesus said a house divided
against itself cannot stand.
No, the context of 1 Samuel 15, must be understood within
the context of the whole, from "the beginning" with Exodus 23,
and from what God "allowed" for the hardness of people's hearts.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Christians need to come to understand that the New Covenant
DOES HAVE SOME, if not many, differences than the Old Covenant,
in some specifics. The New Covenant or New Testament makes it
clear that physical circumcision is not required. The Temple and
Levitical priesthood has been abolished, so then animal
sacrifices are not for the New Covenant. Jerusalem is no longer
the "place where God has placed His name" for central worship or
observing the Festivals of Leviticus 23. For a somewhat in-depth
study on doing what Jesus said to do (live by every word of God,
Matthew 4: 4) see my two studies called "Living by every word of
God - How?
The fact and truth of the matter is, there are differences
in many areas of life and living under the New Testament than
under the Old Testament. Many of the "allowances" permitted under
the Old Testament ARE NOT allowed or permitted under the New
Testament (see Matthew 19 and the subject of "divorce and
re-marriage" as from the Old to the New Covenant, for one example
of what was allowed under the Old, but is not allowed under the
King David of Israel was allowed to be a "bloody man" under
the Old Covenant, God even called him that, a bloody man, but
because he was a bloody man, he was not by God allowed to build
the Temple, that he so wanted to build for God.
Some under the Old Covenant practiced polygamy (having more
than one wife at the same time). It was allowed by God, but under
the New Covenant that allowance has been taken away and ended
(see my study called "Polygamy and Concubines?").
So likewise, carnal warfare, that was allowed for God's
people under the Old Covenant, is NOT allowed for them under the
New Covenant. The New Covenant is higher than the Old Covenant,
it is established upon better promises, it includes the
"spirit" of the heart and mind, and not just the letter of the
Jesus said, "You have heard it said, but now I say unto
you...." (Matthew 5,6,7). He did change a lot of the old ways to
think and act. What God allowed for the hardness of the heart
under the Old Covenant, is not so for the New Covenant, for God
was going to correct that situation of the heart, and give His
people a heart that could see and hear, a heart that was filled
with His Spirit and love. He would take the stony heart out and
put within His people a heart of flesh (see the middle chapters
of the book of Hebrews).
In reading the whole New Testament, getting the sense and
spirit of what Jesus taught, what Paul taught, Peter, James, and
John, it is I believe just not possible to come up with a
teaching or a doctrine that allows Christian people to be a part
of a nation's (or a church's) war machine of an army, that fights
and kills, other people (often innocent people and children being
killed in the whole fighting scenario) in whatever situation you
want to dream up.
There was MUCH persecution of God's people from time to
time, as covered in the New Testament, but not once can we find a
verse anywhere that teaches Christians could kill and fight in a
physical war with their enemies. We can see that Christians are
allowed not to be "door mats" and walked all over in certain
ways, but can claim the rights of the laws of the land and rulers
for justice (we see that when Paul appealed to Rome, when the
Jews wanted to bring charges against him that could have put him
in prison or to death, book of Acts). But the New Testament STOPS
SHORT at that point, and NEVER does any writer come close to
teaching that Christians could kill others in a nation's or
church's war army against their enemies.
What the New Testament does show is that Christians, when
coming under fire (literally) from enemies, is that they have the
freedom of TWO choices. The two choices are: 1) You flee....you
run for your life 2) You stay and take what comes, even dying for
The twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation gives the
overview of the true Church of God down through the centuries
since Christ, even up to the last few years before the
return of Jesus to the earth. We find the Church of Christ either
in the "wilderness" fleeing from persecution and its enemies, or
we find them dying for their faith. We also notice that in the
end time years when part of the church flees to the wilderness
that God is able to protect them. He protects them with the earth
itself. When Satan sends forth his army to attack them in the
wilderness, the earth opens its mouth and swallows up the armies
of the Devil.
WHEN JESUS RETURNS
Chapter 19 of the book of Revelation makes it very clear
that when Jesus returns in power and glory He will make war and
fight those who come against Him (as Revelation shows some armies
of nations on earth will try to fight Him when He comes again). I
have no problem at all with this, and no problem accepting that
those saints in the first resurrection (to meet Christ in the
clouds - 1 Thes. 4:13-18) will fight along side Jesus against the
Devil's armies. When the saints are made immortal at Jesus'
return, they will be holy and perfect as He Himself now is, we
shall be like Him John the apostle wrote (1 John 3: 1-3). Those
who will one day be born of God, who will be full members
of God's family, will be perfect and sinless, only ever
righteous. God being perfect can destroy humans with perfect
righteousness, never making a mistake when He so acts. Human
mankind in the flesh cannot be so perfect in a perfect way. As
stated before, God is the life giver and has authority to take
life, but He does so in perfect righteousness, although at times
we may not fully understand some situations as that in 1 Samuel
TWO BIG DIFFERENCES
In the laws of Moses God allowed some personal self-defence,
even to killing someone if they broke into your home at NIGHT,
but such drastic action was permitted at night only. Obviously
this was the basic law, and individual situation could vary under
individual circumstances. There was in Israel a set of judges who
judged all and various cases of the applications of the laws of
Moses (a example is Exodus 18: 13-27).
The situation of individual self-defense is from a basic
unexpected attack upon ones person or family (could of course be
friends or relatives who are visiting you). God does not expect
you to sit by and watch someone rape your wife or daughter, and
do nothing to stop it if you are in a position to try and stop
There is a large difference between such a happenstance and
a New Covenant Christian being part of a trained army of persons
dedicated to fight and kill, learning to fight and kill, at the
command of men, and knowing that sometimes many innocent men,
women, and children, may also die from the fighting that ensues.
The whole mind-set, training, mental teaching, within an
army trained to fight and kill, is altogether different from the
mind-set of a person allowed some self-defense, under certain
conditions, that the laws of Moses covered.
The mind-set of anyone in a nation's war machine (and some
take offense that I call it "a war machine" but the bottom line
is, that is exactly what it is, a human machine made and designed
for the purpose of war against another nation or people and their
human war machine) was vividly shown when in 2002 a TV network
interviewed one of the top USA ace fighter pilots, who just
happened to be a woman (one of a very few to make it as a fighter
pilot let alone an ace fighter pilot). She was asked if it
bothered her that she would kill others. Her answer was given in
a cool matter of fact manner, that it was her job, one she was
trained to do, and in a war situation she lost no sleep over
having to kill others if that was what she needed to do. When
asked about the sometimes innocent people that are killed, and
ones killed in so-called "friendly fire" her answer was
that no one wants or likes to see innocent people killed, but
again all who fight in a war know it sometimes happens, it is
part of the territory that goes with fighting a war.
Well such attitudes, training, and such an overall mind-set
may have been ALLOWED under the Old Testament, as it indeed was
allowed, because of the hardness of the heart as we have seen,
but reading through the Gospels and the rest of the New
Testament, I cannot see that such a mind-set can be for the New
Covenant individual Christian. Of course what nations and their
leaders do and practice under this New Covenant age, is another
matter altogether, and is not to effect the individual Christian.
Then, how does a Christian, in an army (be it an army of a
nation or a church) that is engaged in a war with another army,
observe the 4th commandment, and keep holy the Sabbath day, if
the war continues passed 6 days or continues for months or even
years? Most army wars do not stop to take a day off to worship
God and keep the 7th day holy.
Some may argue that the individual Christian in an army
would be given freedom to observe the Sabbath in a war situation,
but that I believe is fiction dreaming, that would not be granted
on any kind of regular on going basis, especially if there was a
whole group of Sabbath keepers, or if your position in the armed
forces was deemed important enough that very few could take over
from you. Just way too many variables I see for a Sabbath keeper
to be able to observe the Sabbath as God directs in the Ten
Commandments, if the army is in actual fighting mode.
What ancient Israel did when in war combat concerning the
Sabbath is not mentioned in the Old Testament, either because
they ALL as an army observed the Sabbath and did not fight on
that day, or they were as often was the case hard hearted
enough to ignore the Sabbath when it arrived while fighting. The
latter is probably closer to the truth if the fighting was not
between Sunday and Friday. Then again, how do you regulate the
opposing army to NOT fight on the Sabbath, if they do not believe
in your religion. And if they do follow the same religion as you,
even observing the weekly Sabbath, why are two of God's children
trying to kill and injure each other?
Under the New Covenant, reading it, and seeing what it tells
us to practice as a way of life, I cannot see it allowing any
person to be a part of this world's physical war machines. I
cannot see it allowing a "church group" to build a war fighting
machine of humans, to fight against those who would hate them and
want to harm them, even to kill them. I see the New Testament
giving two alternatives for Christians under literal attack
from enemies, either you flee to the hills, the wilderness, or
you willfully stay and be persecuted by the enemy, even to being
a martyr for the faith of God.
OTHER ARGUMENTS ANSWERED
There are really just a few that people try to use from the
New Covenant. One is that Jesus talked to, helped and healed a
centurion's (army man) son. Jesus helped and healed and talked to
many, such as hated tax collectors, prostitutes etc. Jesus
mingled pretty freely with people, and physically helping them
with healing is just that, serving them in a specific way and
need, because they had specific faith in Him for that specific
need. It was to do with that need and that help that they came to
Him, nothing further should be read into such accounts, for
nothing further is accounted. The recorded narratives in the
Gospels STOP right there, they add no more, and so we should not
ASSUME because Jesus helps and heals a centurion's son that Jesus
was approving of a Christian being part of a nation's war
machine. Just as Jesus helped or talked to a prostitute, does not
mean He approves of a Christian being part of prostitution.
People (even Jesus) in the New Testament using figurative
analogies and parables that may include things like the apostle
Paul's famous "put on the whole armor of God" passage in
Ephesians 6, cannot be taken that God wants or is teaching that
New Covenant Christians literally put on armor, join a nation's
fighting army and wage warfare upon other human beings. It was an
analogy that Paul was using to demonstrate and teach another
meaning, for another purpose in a Christian's live, just as he
used running in a race or winning a crown at the "Sporting
Competition of National Games" that some nations held in his day
(and still held today by many nations). Paul in those instances
was again using something just about everyone was familiar with,
to teach another point of importance for the Christian, in their
walk of life as a Christian. He was not trying to teach that
Christians should be in physical races or trying to win gold
crown (or gold medals today) in national sports competitions.
The right or wrong of that, participation in competitive
sports, he was not even addressing. That would have been another
topic altogether. By using that analogy of sporting competitions
he was getting another point across to Christians, the only point
he wanted them to see and understand, and was not try to answer
the question of whether it was right or wrong for Christians to
partake in competitive sports.
Hence likewise, for his use of putting on the whole armor.
He was using something very familiar with people in his day (not
so in any literal way with us today), to get another or many
other points across in a spiritual way for Christians to do as
they walked and fought their spiritual battle with Satan, the
world, and themselves. Paul was not trying in that analogy to
answer the question as to whether it was right or wrong to
literally take up arms and fight physical battles and wars with
other people. That question would have to be answered at another
time or in another context.
Parables and analogies break down usually at some point.
Jesus once gave the parable of a woman coming to, and not giving
up coming to, a judge that Jesus called "the unjust judge" (Luke
18: 6). Now, from the context of the parable it is obvious that
the "judge" in this case represented God the Father, who will
answer and avenge His children's cries to Him. Now, God the
Father is not "unjust" in any way. He is perfect righteousness.
So the parable breaks down at this point. Jesus was not giving
and using the language in the parable to convey things that
people could take the wrong way, in this case the wrong way as to
the character of God the Father. A parable or analogy is not
to be looked at in its fine print per se. It is given from things
that people would be familiar with in everyday society, and it is
given to mainly teach one or two MAIN POINTS. It has a main theme
that the person bringing the parable or analogy WANT TO GET
ACROSS to his or her listeners or readers.
For the reader or the listener to try to do other things
with the parable or analogy, which the giver was not in the least
trying to convey or teach, surely would lead people to think up
and make up and dream up, all kinds of wrong ideas and doctrines
of theology, as we are in our case talking about God, the Bible,
and so theology.
The use of Cornelius in Acts 10 leads to huge jumps in
theology ideas. Jumps that really have no bridges or safety nets
to support those jumps. Cornelius, a centurion, hence in a
nation's war army, is called a devout man, one that feared God.
Wow, that is it some declare. God must surely endorse a
Christian being a part of a nation's war machine, some go on to
Well first, Cornelius was still in his mind under the Old
Covenant, and was not King David of ancient Israel a devout man,
one that feared God, and also a man of war? Yes, indeed so, hence
nothing too unusual here, so far at all. Cornelius was going to
be called to the New Covenant, to be shown the truths of the New
Covenant, to be converted to and with the Spirit of the New
Covenant, as the rest of the chapter goes on to show.
What happened to Cornelius and the way he lived, the work he
did, the every day life occupation he did from the day he was
converted to New Testament Christianity, is NOT TOLD TO US!
To assume he continued to bear arms and fight and kill in
his nation's war army, is just that....assumption!
The best a person can do is simply never try to use this
passage to prove anything one way or the other as far as the
subject we are covering under this article. That is the best and
honest approach to Acts chapter 10: 1-2.
OLD TO NEW
Let me finish with once more taking the overview of the Old
Covenant to the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was built around
a people who were in the main not converted in the heart to God's
"spirit" of the law. Even trying to get them to obey the
Lord's commandments and laws in the "letter" was very difficult
most of the time. Some few were converted and granted the Holy
Spirit (see Numbers 11). But the majority did not have the heart
to serve and obey, God did not even try to give them a new heart
of flesh, but left them with their heart of stone, as I've shown
at the start of this study.
The Eternal added many physical rituals, rites, and
sacrifices (Jeremiah 7) to try to help them stay in line along
the good pathway, to some degree, even then they did not do so
for much of their history. And to obey the letter of the law is
really not outside what the human natural heart is able to do,
for most cities and countries have at least "letter of the law"
laws for its citizens to obey, in order to have basic peace and
harmony, and not degenerate into utter chaos, confusion,
pandemonium, and a plain mess of disorder. And most citizens are
able to live within those letter of the law rules.
Israel, the people thereof, had difficulty even living
within the letter of God's laws, hence the many rituals and
physical rites added along the way to try and help them live
the Lord's way of life, in the letter at least. They really could
have lived and obeyed in the letter of God's law (sometimes under
a good leader or king they indeed did do so), and hence could
have received all the blessings God said they would receive if
they lived His way of life. One of those blessing as we have seen
would have been to have God always fight and protect them against
their enemies. But that would have taken "faith" and true
faith is something that Israel very seldom ever exhibited, as the
apostle Paul tells us in the first chapters of the book of
So under all of this situation with ancient Israel, God also
ALLOWED certain practices within the nation to be practiced and
lived, such as polygamy and easy divorce and re-marriage (but He
gave laws within those allowances to keep such practices humane
and in check to some extent, as I've shown before). He allowed
them to have a physical king like other nations around them, and
He allowed them to build and have a human war army.
Such allowances were granted to them, but from the beginning
it was not God's desire or wish or ideal, that such should be
allowed. But for the hardness of the their heart such things were
Of course such allowances could at any time be ignored and
people could live more within God's ideal. We see that king David
did put away his many wives and held to the practice of only
having one wife. At the time of Christ polygamy was seldom
practiced among the Jewish nation. And I have referred to the
fact that some kings of Israel in the Old Testament did put their
trust in God and not their physical army to deliver them from
their enemies, who were coming to attack and destroy them, and
God came through with flying colors as we say, to destroy the
The New Covenant would bring changes to the Old Covenant.
Jesus in His famous so-called "sermon on the mount" (Matthew
5,6,7) shows and brings forth the basic heart and spirit of the
New Covenant. While the good and holy laws of God (as Paul calls
them in his epistle to the church at Rome), were never to be
abolished, the heart and spirit of them was now to be seen and
obeyed, while certain ceremonial rites, animal sacrifices,
were to cease (not officially until 70 A.D. when the Temple and
Levitical Priesthood came to an end with the destruction of the
Temple in Jerusalem) and laws of "allowances" because of the
hardness of the heart, was to cease, and were not under the New
Covenant, to be allowed. God would give people under the New
Covenant a heart to obey His laws even in the spirit of the law
and not just the letter. He would take away the stony heart and
give them a heart of flesh, a heart filled with His Spirit, so
His laws could be written in their hearts and minds (see Hebrews
chapter 8 and read all of 1 John).
Not all "allowance" laws of the Old Covenant are
specifically brought forth in the New Testament for mentioning
that they would no longer be allowed under the New Covenant. The
allowance law of easy divorce and re-marriage is mentioned as we
see in Matthew 19. But the allowance law of polygamy is not
mentioned in any specific way in the New Testament. Certain
things are mentioned that would show the practice of polygamy is
not allowed under the New Covenant (see my study called "Polygamy
and Concubines" for an in-depth look at that subject), but the
subject of not having more than one wife at any one time is not
specifically discussed in the pages of the New Testament.
Hence and likewise, the specific subject of Christians being
part of a war fighting army, trained and on duty to kill others
in warfare is not specifically brought up as a subject of
discussion in the New Testament.
Because certain topics that may have been an overall part of
the Old Testament are not brought up in the New Testament, does
NOT mean they automatically continue as before under the New
The spirit and intent of God's ideal way of life for the
Christian, with the understanding of certain changes to take
place under the principle of "but from the beginning it was not
so" MUST be part of the New Testament Christian now having the
"mind of Christ" as the inspired apostle Paul said Christians
Within all of that I cannot but see and tell you that under
the New Covenant, Christians today cannot be part of a war
fighting, human killing machine, set up and built for so doing,
either by a carnal nation or by a "church" organization that
believes it has the right to wage holy war on its enemies that
may come against them, or on behalf of God, thinking they are
winning the world for God, even if by warfare.
Written December 2002
Permission is given to copy, email, publish, distribute, all
studies by Keith Hunt, as the Spirit leads. Mr. Hunt trust
nothing will be changed (except for spelling and punctuation
error) without his consent.