If you’ve read the Bible, you may have encountered some verses that seem to condone or even promote violence. This can be a complex topic, especially if you’re trying to reconcile these verses with believing in a loving and peaceful God. But it’s important to understand the context and meaning behind these verses before jumping to conclusions.
One such verse is in Exodus, where God commands the Israelites to destroy the Amalekites and leave nothing alive. This may seem like a harsh and violent command. Still, it’s important to remember that the Amalekites were brutal and aggressive people who had attacked the Israelites unprovoked. God was protecting his people from further harm.
Another verse that may be difficult to understand is the book of Psalms, where the author writes, “Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!” This verse is often cited as an example of the violent and vengeful nature of the Old Testament God. However, it’s essential to understand that the author is expressing his anger and frustration at the enemies of Israel, who were threatening the safety and security of his people. It’s not a command or endorsement of violence.
Old Testament Verses
In Genesis, several instances of violence exist, including the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4:8, Cain kills Abel out of jealousy and anger. Later on, in Genesis 34:25-29, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, kill all the men in a town after their sister is raped.
In Exodus, there are also several instances of violence. In Exodus 32:27-28, the Levites kill 3,000 people after Moses comes down from Mount Sinai and sees that the Israelites have made a golden calf. Also, in Exodus 21:23-25, the law of retaliation states that if someone causes injury, they shall receive the same injury.
Leviticus has many laws and regulations, including those regarding violence. Leviticus 24:17-22 establishes the concept of “an eye for an eye” and “a tooth for a tooth.” Additionally, Leviticus 20:10 states that anyone who commits adultery shall be put to death.
In Numbers, several instances of violence exist, including the story of the Israelites and the Midianites. In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all Midianite men, including their kings, and take the women and children as captives.
In Deuteronomy, there are many laws and regulations regarding violence. Deuteronomy 19:16-21 establishes the punishment for bearing false witness, which is to receive the punishment that the accused would have received if found guilty. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 states that if a man has a rebellious son who will not obey his parents, the parents can take him to the town’s elders, and he shall be stoned to death.
In Judges, there are many stories of violence and war. Judges 1:4-7 tells the tale of Adoni-bezek, who had his thumbs and big toes cut off by the Israelites after he had done the same to seventy kings.
In 1 Samuel, several instances of violence exist, including in the story of David and Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17:50-51, David kills Goliath with a stone from his sling.
In 2 Samuel, there are many stories of war and violence. 2 Samuel 12:31 tells the story of David and the Ammonites, where he puts them under saws, iron picks, and axes and burns them with fire.
The book of Psalms is a collection of songs and prayers, and many instances of violence exist in these writings. Psalm 137:9 states, “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”
In Proverbs, there are many verses about violence and punishment. Proverbs 20:30 states, “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.”
In Isaiah, there are many prophecies of violence and punishment. Isaiah 13:15-18 tells of the destruction of Babylon, where the conquerors will dash the Babylonian children against the rocks.
In Jeremiah, there are many prophecies of violence and punishment. Jeremiah 50:21-22 tells of the destruction of Babylon, where the conquerors will slay the young men and dash the Babylonian children against the rocks.
In Ezekiel, there are many prophecies of violence and punishment. Ezekiel 9:5-7 tells of the judgment of Jerusalem, where the Lord commands the executioners to kill all who do not have the mark on their foreheads.
That concludes the section on Old Testament verses about violence.
New Testament Verses
In Matthew 5:39, Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek.” This verse emphasizes the importance of non-violence and turning the other cheek instead of retaliating.
Luke 6:27-28 states, “But to you who are listening, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” This verse encourages forgiveness and Love towards those who may have wronged you.
John 18:36 says, “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.'” This verse shows that Jesus did not condone violence and that his followers should not engage in it.
In Acts 7:59-60, Stephen says, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” This verse highlights the importance of forgiveness and non-violence, even in the face of persecution.
Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” This verse emphasizes the importance of leaving justice in the hands of God and not seeking revenge.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 states, “Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.” This verse emphasizes the importance of Love and non-violence towards others.
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” This verse emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and eliminating negative emotions that may lead to violence.
Colossians 3:12-13 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” This verse emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and non-violence towards others.
1 Timothy 6:11 says, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” This verse emphasizes the importance of pursuing non-violent and peaceful actions rather than engaging in violence.
When interpreting Bible verses about violence, it is vital to consider the historical and cultural context in which they were written. Many passages that appear violent or aggressive to modern readers were actually intended to convey a message of Love, justice, and mercy.
One common theme in the Bible is the idea of self-defense. For example, Exodus 22:2-3 is written: “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.” This passage suggests that using force to protect oneself and one’s property is acceptable, but only in certain circumstances.
Another important factor to consider when interpreting Bible verses about violence is the role of divine justice. In many cases, violent acts are portrayed as punishment for wrongdoing. For example, in Genesis 6-9, God sends a flood to destroy the earth because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. While this may seem harsh, it is essential to remember that the Bible teaches that God is just and righteous and that he punishes sin.
When interpreting Bible verses about violence, it is essential to approach the text with humility and an open mind. While some passages may be difficult to understand or reconcile with modern values, it is necessary to remember that the Bible is complex and multifaceted and can be interpreted in many different ways. By studying the historical and cultural context of the text and the broader themes and messages of the Bible, you can gain a deeper understanding of its teachings about violence and justice.