What Does the Bible Say About Violence?
As we look to the world around us, it often feels that it is crumbling into disarray. Injustice, violence, and suffering are on the forefront of our social media outlets, websites, and news networks. What does the Bible say about violence? What is our role as Christians to combat violence and injustice? As we begin today’s discussion it is really important to note that we are here for a Bible study rather than a political debate. So with that approach and grace, let’s begin tonight’s study
Do you see God as a peaceful or violent God?
How do you think that Christians are called to respond to violence?
What are Christians called to do in our violent world? Can we even make a difference?
Violence in the Bible
As we read the Bible, we can see that God seems to have a bit of a different temperament between the
Old Testament: the first half of the Bible that follows the life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacobs descendants, the Israelites and the
New Testament: the second half of the Bible that follows the story of Jesus, sent to provide forgiveness and eternal life to all people – not just the Israelites).
The Old Testament God seemed to be more violent and reactionary.
The New Testament God is made a person in Jesus, a person of peace, love, and overflowing grace for all.
So today, we are going to look at two passages – one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament to answer our question: what does the Bible say about violence?
Old Testament Texts
Read Genesis 6:5-7
This is the story of God deciding to send a flood to the Earth. He spares Noah and His family, but gets rid of all other life on Earth.
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”
Why do you think God does this?
God desires to rid all creation of the corruption and evil that has invaded all human life.
He promises through a rainbow, after the flood, to never destroy the Earth through a flood again.
But this act was one that showed God’s power and might, while also setting up a promise for all of the people from Earth descended from Noah and his family, that God would never send a flood again.
Read Joshua & Jericho 6:1-25
This is the story of Joshua, the new leader of the Israelite people after Moses, who will lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. A place of rest and restoration for God’s chosen people. God tells them to walk around the city of Jericho 7 times, and on the 7th, God would bring the walls down. Pay attention to the command at the end of the chapter. Another key point is that Rahab is to be spared because earlier she sheltered Israelite spies when they came to Jericho and hid them from the enemy. Rahab ends up being in the family line of Jesus!
Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”
6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”
8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.
12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.
15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”
20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
What stands out to you in this chapter? Do you think that God could have achieved for the Israelites the same kind of glory, renown, and power without violence?
2,000 years ago the only way that you came into power was through conquest. It was impossible not to take rule, or lead, without violence.
We cannot expect Israel to not participate in the culture of the day, one that communicates through violence.
God redeems this violence in that it continues to sustain His chosen people, Israel, through which Jesus would one day come through to save all of mankind.
When we see these violent commands through the wide story of what God is going to do through Christ and in the world, we see that it isn’t senseless, but with a specific purpose to one day bless and save all of humankind.
New Testament Text
Read Matthew 5: 38-47 This comes from Jesus’ sermon on the mount, where he is speaking to hundreds of people by the Sea of Galilee. In this Sermon he talks at length about a number of ways that Christians are called to a different way of life. The following verses speak about peace vs. violence.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
What do you think Jesus is saying here? What is Jesus saying about anti-violence or peace? How did Jesus live a life of peace or violence?
As we think about violence, we must see all of it through the lens of Jesus. Christ is the revelation of God to us today. Israel and the Old Testament lived in a time where violence was as common-place as Tim Horton’s in Canada.
God needed to use violence in order to communicate to the surrounding people groups that He was an all-powerful God, and that Israel was His chosen people.
But, through Jesus over 1000 years later, violence is no longer needed to communicate this message.
And Jesus brings an even better message that than God has chosen one group of people – Israel. Instead, Jesus brings a message that says all people are God’s chosen and beloved people.
1 John 3:1 - See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, you’ve been chosen, forgiven, and called a child of God. You do not need to be from Israel, nor do you need to impress surrounding people groups with your might or power, you just need to accept what Jesus has done for you.
End in Prayer