February 14, 2018 is a day that US citizens will never forget. It had all the markings of a normal Valentine’s Day, a day of love, but the day was characterized by hate because a former student of Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School walked into the school with an AR-15 and shot 17 people, killing fourteen students and three teachers in what was the eighteenth shooting in schools in the US this year.
The slaughtering was senseless, the weapon was designed to not only wound or hurt but kill, and the event itself was yet another mass school shooting that should’ve never happened. And yet, it is in times like these that God comes under attack. There are many atheists who, not believing in God or Jesus, use mass school shootings to ask the question, “Where was God when those students were killed by a former student?” And it is in these times that Christians must give an answer regarding their belief in an invisible God who created all that is visible — and why we continue to believe in God, even in the midst of all the evil, suffering, and pain in this world.
Armed with the grace of God and the Word of God, Christians can witness to the unbelieving, but questions about recent mass school shootings are bound to come up in the witness encounter. In these times, Christians need to know how to address those who question our faith and our God. What the Bible says about violence is that God is against it, that God sees all that happens, and that there is a reckoning day for those who commit violence and harm innocent life. This may not prove a comfort for the hurting today, but you can rest assured that, as sure as God created the world, sent His Son to reconcile it back to Himself, and will return one day to judge the world, God will make mass school shooters pay for their crimes. They will have to answer to a God who has the power to throw their body and soul into Hell.
So, with that said, it’s time to examine just where God stands on the issue of violence so that unbelievers can know (from believers) where God stands on it. He doesn’t always intervene to stop violence, but that doesn’t mean He is for it.
Violence in the Old Testament
Violence, to give a definition, is “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something,” or “the unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation.” Violence involves murder, of course, but it can also involve other acts such as robbery and theft, assault, and even rape.
Our study will cover the Bible’s stance on violence in the Old Testament, which is where violence began. In the first few chapters of the history of the world, we find that Cain kills his brother Abel out of jealousy. A few chapters from the murder of Abel, in Genesis 6, we find that violence has now become a common occurrence throughout the earth:
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.
In the beginning of Genesis 6, we see that “the sons of God,” the angels, decided to go in and have sexual relations with the “daughters of men,” human women. God never intended for human women and angelic males to have sexual relations; humans were to procreate together, and angels were never created to have sexual relations. Jesus refers to the angels when He says that humans will not be given in marriage in heaven because “they will be like the sons of God,” which means that humans will be celibate in the new heaven and the new earth.
The sin on the earth grieves God, and He turns angry and decides to destroy the earth. In verses 11 and 13, it is said that “the earth was/is filled with violence,” meaning that the first murder of Abel had led to murder on the earth becoming a normal occurrence. The word violence in Genesis 6:11, 13 is the Greek word ἀδικίας or adikias, meaning “unrighteousness.” As I just mentioned, Cain killed Abel, but in addition to the first murder, Cain’s descendant, Lamech, was also guilty of murder. He tells his two wives in the same chapter:
19 Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. 20 And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. 22 And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.
23 Then Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!
For I have killed a man for wounding me,
Even a young man for hurting me.
24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:19-24)
When Cain killed Abel, Cain was aware of the death sentence on his head for taking a life: “My punishment is greater than I can bear!…it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:13-14). Cain realized that he deserved death for taking a life, but here, we see Cain’s great-great-grandson, Lamech, kill a man “for wounding me.” Of course, the punishment didn’t fit the crime here, but that’s the point: violence consumed the earth in such a way that humans were no longer devastated at the thought of murder; as is the case with Lamech, humans began to praise killing someone and claim protection (as Lamech does when he says, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:24).
In Genesis 6, God has had enough. He never designed the earth and put humans on it to see them kill and slaughter one another, which is why He protects Cain in lieu of his murder by placing a seal of protection upon him so that no one would find him and kill him. By Genesis 9, after the Flood, the Lord allows humans to be killed for murdering another human, while allowing humans to kill animals only:
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Bring forth abundantly in the earth
And multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:1-7)
Prior to the Flood, the green herbs and vegetation were given to humans for food:
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. (Genesis 1:29-30)
Now, post-Flood, the Lord not only reiterates the green herb as food but also gives the cattle and beasts of the field for food:
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. (Genesis 9:3)
“Every moving thing…shall be food for you” and “I have given you all things, even as the green herbs,” tells us that all animals are now food for humankind. Humans can kill and eat all the animals it desires to without concern that eating them is a violation of divine law. And yet, the Lord doesn’t allow humans to kill other humans: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). As was the case with Cain when he murders Abel and is aware that he could be killed, so it is now, post-Flood, that the Lord has put His foot down about mankind. Mankind bears the image of God, mankind was created to live forever, and man is not to kill him. Ultimately, God has the right to take life since He alone gives it, and He never relinquishes His power over death to mankind.
This prohibition against homicide comes because of the violence that appears on the earth prior to the Flood. It is because of the Cain murder of Abel that mankind (his great-great grandson Lamech) turns to homicide. As with Lamech, who claims that he deserves more protection for his homicide than Cain did (“If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold,” Genesis 4:24). In other words, the violence that had erupted on the earth proved sinful not only because it involved the killing of human life, but because humans, like Cain, wanted to murder and evade responsibility for it. And if one murders, then one should take responsibility for what he or she has done. Here, we see that God is not okay with violence, specifically, homicide, and if someone commits homicide, then God allows the murderer to be killed in return. God’s grace, the seal of protection on Cain to deter homicide and murder, was used to sin and “get away with it.” Humanity can take anything good from God and make it terrible.
In the Book of Exodus, we discover that the Jews are in bondage in Egypt; though they were free when Joseph was promoted second-in-command by Pharaoh, and they were free when Joseph’s family came to live in Egypt, the kind Pharaoh died and a new Pharaoh took the reigns, one who, as Exodus says, “did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8).
The nation of Israel was viewed as a political threat by the Egyptian establishment because there were more Jews than Egyptians in Egypt (Exodus 1:9-10), and the government sought to eliminate the large number of Jews who outnumbered them. To this end, the “king of Egypt” (Greek ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Αἰγυπτίων or ho Basileus ton Aiguption) told the Hebrew midwives, Sephora (Greek Σεπφωρα) and Puah (Greek Φουα), to kill the male Hebrew children when the mothers give birth to them, but spare the female children. Yet, the midwives refused to kill the strength of their nation and were blessed by God because they preserved life:
15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?”
19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. 21 And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them. (Exodus 1:15-21)
There are many Republicans today who are outraged at Roe v. Wade and the pro-abortion stance of government, legally allowing women to kill their children before a set point when pregnant women are too far along to kill them, by law, but life in Egypt didn’t involve choice; Hebrew women who gave birth to children could be killed because the government said so. The king of Egypt went to the Hebrew midwives first to kill their own, but the midwives refused “because the midwives feared God” (Exodus 1:21).
Their love of God and their desire to preserve life prevented them from killing their own future men and manpower, and God blessed them (showing His approval of their decision to rebel against the Egyptian government). After all, the Egyptians wanted the midwives to kill the male children because they feared that the nation of Israel would rise up against them, declare war, and gain their freedom:
8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” (Exodus 1:8-10)
They multiplied the Israelite work, but that didn’t kill them; then they asked the midwives to kill the Jewish male babies, but the midwives didn’t do it. With these solutions out of the way, the government resorted to a nationwide statute to kill all Jewish males. When the midwives wouldn’t kill their own (which would’ve been a subtle way of murdering the innocents), the Egyptian government decided to kill the male babies born to the Hebrew mothers. These Hebrew women didn’t get a choice to kill their own children; they didn’t get a choice to decide whether or not the government would kill their sons. They were victims who had no control over their Hebrew boys being slaughtered. Moses survived, by the grace of God, and was raised in Pharaoh’s house for God’s glory, but an entire generation of Hebrew males were annihilated.
God was against the slaughtering of His people, which is why He blessed the midwives who feared Him and refused to kill the male babies. And, in turn, the Lord got revenge for His people: as He freed the Israelites by night, He killed every firstborn Egyptian male in Egypt because their homes did not have the blood of the lamb on the lintels and doorposts (Exodus 11:1; 12:1-13, 21-30). When the Egyptians wouldn’t give up, the Lord Pharaoh’s army drown in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:5-31).
In Exodus 20, when the Lord gives His Law on Mount Sinai and enters into covenant with His people, He tells His people to not commit homicide against each other:
13 “You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
Exodus 20:13 is Exodus 20:15 in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament, LXX), and the word for “murder” here is the Greek f??e?se??, meaning “to slay, murder, or kill.” Now, keep in mind that the Lord said that humans can kill beasts and cattle but not eat its blood (Genesis 9:3-4), so this commandment is not a commandment that means “you cannot kill anything.” Keep in mind, too, that there is also justifiable homicide, such as killing someone in self-defense isn’t considered to be murder. There were specific laws in the Old Testament that allowed someone to strike down a person if the victim was an intruder or thief into one’s home in the middle of the night:
2 If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. 3 If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4 If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double. (Exodus 22:2-4)
Exodus 22 tells us that some thieves can be killed, namely those who break into a place or home before daylight. “If the sun has risen on him,” if daylight has come when you catch the thief, then “there shall be guilt for his bloodshed” if someone decides to kill him anyway (Exodus 22:3). The goal of the laws here is to protect those who kill someone in self-defense, in darkness where one can’t see very well and can often be confused. In the event that someone sees a person breaking in, the individual could not kill the thief because the theft does mandate the punishment of murder. Murder is only reasonable in the event of a homicide, not in the event of a theft. The punishment must fit the crime, and this is righteous judgment.
Exodus 21 provides God’s Violence Laws for Israel:
12 “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.
14 “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.
15 “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
16 “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.
17 “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
18 “If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed, 19 if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.
20 “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.
22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:12-25)
Exodus 21 says that someone who strikes another, and he dies, is to be put to death (Exodus 21:12). In verse 14, someone who “acts with premeditation” and lies in wait to kill someone, then murders the victim, “you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.” The word for premeditation here is the Greek word?p???ta? or epithetai, meaning to attack, come upon, or lay upon someone in order to kill the individual. Someone who acts with premeditation has committed premeditated murder, and that individual is to be taken from God’s altar and killed. There is to be no mercy for the life of the murderer in such a situation.
Exodus 21 points to other situations, such as two men fighting and one man wounding or killing the other (vv.18-19), a master who beats his slave (v.20), and a man who strikes a pregnant woman (a woman with child) and the child is either born prematurely or dies. The punishment for the pregnant woman shall be administered by the pregnant woman’s husband. If the child dies in-vitro because of the attack, then there shall be “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:23-25).
In other words, if the child dies, then the striker or attacker also dies. Unlike the laws in America today, where someone such as a mass school shooter could be sentenced to jail for life and not be given the death penalty, in God’s nation of Israel, a murder didn’t have a trial; the murderer was put to death in cases where he or she slayed the innocent.
In Exodus 23, the Lord gives some idea into who Israel is not to commit murder against:
7 Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. (Exodus 23:7)
The innocent are not to be killed, but the mass school shooter in Parkland killed the innocent, students who were just trying to go to high school and have a normal day and teachers who were just trying to do their duty. None of those students or teachers at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School did anything to him; they did not harm him in any way, did not kill a relative of his, didn’t try to kill him, violate him, and so on. He simply went into his former high school and shot and killed students and teachers because he wanted to be a professional school shooter. He wanted to harm them, and he premeditated the affair. One year before the shooting, he started buying guns, bulletproof vests, and ammunition.
17 ‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 24:17)
This is the only verse in Leviticus that tackles the subject of homicide, but even the priests were not to commit murder against innocent life — or else be subject to death themselves. No one in God’s Israel was above the law, or above the consequences thereof (including death).
9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there. 12 They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment. 13 And of the cities which you give, you shall have six cities of refuge. 14 You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge. 15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.
16 ‘But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 17 And if he strikes him with a stone in the hand, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 18 Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. 20 If he pushes him out of hatred or, while lying in wait, hurls something at him so that he dies, 21 or in enmity he strikes him with his hand so that he dies, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
22 ‘However, if he pushes him suddenly without enmity, or throws anything at him without lying in wait, 23 or uses a stone, by which a man could die, throwing it at him without seeing him, so that he dies, while he was not his enemy or seeking his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments. 25 So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, 27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood, 28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.
29 ‘And these things shall be a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 30 Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty. 31 Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. 32 And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest. (Numbers 35:9-32)
Numbers 35 is all about the six cities of refuge for the manslayer, the person who accidentally kills someone (akin to the manslaughter charges in our day), and how accidental killers are distinguished in punishment from intentional killers. Those who kill intentionally, those who strike someone to kill them and have planned it in their hearts, are those who are to be put to death. They are not to be spared at all. And yet, they can only be put to death by the testimony of two or more witnesses; they cannot be killed on the testimony of one person. As can be seen here, the Lord is not okay with intentional murderers getting away with their crimes, but He does give grace to manslayers who didn’t strike their victims with any intention of harming them because they weren’t angry at them. Manslayers are distinguished from those who kill in self-defense, and they are to flee to one of six refuge cities until the death of the high priest at the time.
The Lord tells us that the manslayer must stand trial: he or she must “stand before the congregation in judgment” (Numbers 35:12). If the congregation determines that the manslayer killed by accident, then the congregation can allow the manslayer to return to his or her refuge city until the death of the high priest. But, if the manslayer returns to the refuge city, he cannot be found outside the city — for, if the avenger of blood, the one designated to kill the guilty, finds him outside the refuge city, the avenger can kill him.
In Deuteronomy 5:17, the Lord says the same thing He’s said in Exodus 20:13: that is, the Israelites are not “to commit murder.” In Deuteronomy chapter 21, though, we read of God’s Law concerning unsolved murders:
“If anyone is found slain, lying in the field in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities. 3 And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man will take a heifer which has not been worked and which has not pulled with a yoke. 4 The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with flowing water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the Lord; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled. 6 And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 7 Then they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it. 8 Provide atonement, O Lord, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.’ And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood. 9 So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)
The presence of a law for unsolved murders is indicative of the level of violence in the nation of Israel. If you thought unsolved murders were a problem today in our world (and that this problem is recent), think again. The Lord says that in the event of an unsolved murder, the city nearest where the dead body was found must make atonement by getting a heifer, laying one’s hand over it and praying for atonement, then by killing it. God is so concerned with not having His name stained with innocent blood that cities have to atone for murders if the exact murderer is unknown. This shows just how divorced the Lord is from murder. He doesn’t want His name to be identified with murder or violence. In other words, even in murder and violence, God Himself remains pure and perfect.
God and Violence: God Defended in the Psalms, Proverbs, and Ezekiel
While God’s Law in the Old Testament tells us that God does not look favorably upon violence, believers also need to know that God’s character is opposed to violence. To see this, we turn to the Psalms, a book that is about songs (or psalms) written about the Lord and His goodness and character.
In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?
2 For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
3 If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
4 The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
5 The Lord tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
Shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the Lord is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright. (Psalm 11:1-7)
“The wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates,” a statement made in contrast to the Lord’s testing the righteous (Psalm 11:5). The Lord loves the righteous, and it is in His testing of those He loves that character is proven. However, the Lord does not love the wicked; rather, “His soul hates” them. This tells us that the Lord detests violence and those who commit it.
The word “violence” here in Psalm 11:5 is the Greek word?d???a? or adikian, meaning “unrighteousness.” In Psalm 10 (Septuagint, LXX), where we find our English Psalm 11, we see that the Lord “hates” the one who loves unrighteousness. In the context of Psalm 11, the unrighteousness refers to violence, since the wicked in this Psalm “bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart” (Psalm 11:2). We don’t know if David meant this figuratively or literally, but both apply here. In one sense, the violence plot against the righteous in ways that many not involve murder, but some of the wicked do “shoot” at the upright in heart. Back in October 2017, at the Las Vegas Massacre, the shooter “shot secretly” at those in attendance at a Las Vegas country music concert — he shot them in the backs, and few could see him from as high as he stood on the Mandalay Bay Resort. Both apply here.
In Psalm 73, Asaph describes the wicked so that we can make the connection between evil and violence:
Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment. (Psalm 73:1-6)
In verse 6, we read that unrighteousness and ungodliness (Greek ἀδικίαν or adikian; Greek ἀσέβειαν or asebeian) is Greek verb περιεβάλοντο or periebalonto, meaning “thrown around them.” There is no Greek word for “garment” in this verse, but the word for clothing is used here to give an analogy of how something is “thrown around” a person (such as a small jacket, shawl for women, etc.) We’re told by Paul in the New Testament to “put off” the old man and “put on” the new (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-11), but the wicked don’t put off the old man; rather, they put on violence as much as they change clothes every day. This analogy tells us that the wicked are steeped in unrighteousness, that, as they dress themselves to define who they are, they commit wickedness as much. They embrace unrighteousness and evil deeds.
In Jeremiah 22, the Lord tells Israel directly not to rob and violate others:
Thus says the Lord: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word, 2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, you who sit on the throne of David, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates! 3 Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you indeed do this thing, then shall enter the gates of this house, riding on horses and in chariots, accompanied by servants and people, kings who sit on the throne of David. 5 But if you will not hear these words, I swear by Myself,” says the Lord, “that this house shall become a desolation.”’” (Jeremiah 22:1-5)
The Lord tells Israel “do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3). First, the Lord tells Israel to “deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor,” the phrase “deliver the plundered” being in the Greek ἐξαιρεῖσθε διηρπασμένον or eksaireisthe dierpasmenon, the phrase referring to protecting victims from robbers. To fail to protect or come to the aid of victims makes one as guilty as the oppressors and robbers themselves. By helping and aiding the oppressed, the person(s) shows that he or she has no part in the deed. This is why the Lord tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan (and praises the Samaritan) who saw the man beaten among thieves and left for dead and aided him while the Levites, for example, passed by the man on the way to the synagogue (Luke 10:25-37).
Next, the Lord says “do no violence to the stranger,” using the Greek καταδυναστεύετε, meaning “to use one’s power against another, to oppress.” Robbery and violating persons is all part of what it means to oppress and use one’s power against another.
In Ezekiel 18, we read of fathers and sons who either commit violence or do not:
“If he begets a son who is a robber
Or a shedder of blood,
Who does any of these things
11 And does none of those duties,
But has eaten on the mountains
Or defiled his neighbor’s wife;
12 If he has oppressed the poor and needy,
Robbed by violence,
Not restored the pledge,
Lifted his eyes to the idols,
Or committed abomination;
13 If he has exacted usury
Or taken increase—
Shall he then live?
He shall not live!
If he has done any of these abominations,
He shall surely die;
His blood shall be upon him.
14 “ If, however, he begets a son
Who sees all the sins which his father has done,
And considers but does not do likewise;
15 Who has not eaten on the mountains,
Nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
Nor defiled his neighbor’s wife;
16 Has not oppressed anyone,
Nor withheld a pledge,
Nor robbed by violence,
But has given his bread to the hungry
And covered the naked with clothing;
17 Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor
And not received usury or increase,
But has executed My judgments
And walked in My statutes—
He shall not die for the iniquity of his father;
He shall surely live!
18 “ As for his father,
Because he cruelly oppressed,
Robbed his brother by violence,
And did what is not good among his people,
Behold, he shall die for his iniquity. (Ezekiel 18:10-18)
In Ezekiel 18, we read that the old proverb about the sons suffering for the sins of their father is a proverb that will no longer apply in Israel; rather, fathers and sons will suffer for their own sin. In Ezekiel 18:12, the phrase “robbed by violence” is reduced to two Greek words: ἅρπαγμα ἥρπασεν or harpagma herpasen, which means “seized (something) by robbery.” The word for “robbery” is translated as “violence” in the New King James Version (NKJV), but robbing someone is characterized as violence. When one “takes something by force” (remember our definition of violence?), then he or she is committing violence.
The word “violence” is not far from “violate,” and it means to disregard a person in order to take or seize something of theirs, something belonging to them, something that doesn’t belong to the one “seizing” the item, product, or possession. In verse 13, the one who robs and seizes by violence is the one who will die: “He shall not live,” “He shall surely die.” In other words, those who commit violence and rob others are wicked and will pay for their sin.
On the other hand, there are those who don’t do these things, and Ezekiel says that those who have not “robbed by violence” (the same phrase as Ezekiel 18:12) are those who “shall not die…he shall surely live” (v.17). Violence, therefore, which includes robbery, is against God, for the Lord who cries out against violence in Israel is the same one who has said, “You shall not commit murder” (Exodus 20:13) and “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). And then, there is the word of the Lord in Leviticus:
13 ‘You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. (Leviticus 19:13)
The word for “rob” here is the Greek ἁρπάσεις or harpaseis, a word that means to illegally seize that which belongs to another, or, in our language, “to rob” someone.
The Lord has spoken in His Word against violating the property of a person or another human being. Now, we’ll investigate specific cases of violence in the Old Testament.
Offenses Committed: Violence in the Old Testament
The Old Testament provides some cases of violence for us to examine. These are not provided in a set order.
1 Samuel 23
In 1 Samuel 23, the Philistines are robbing the threshing floors in Keilah:
Then they told David, saying, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.”
2 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”
And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.”
3 But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” 4 Then David inquired of the Lord once again.
And the Lord answered him and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” 5 And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. (1 Samuel 23:1-5)
The Philistines were robbing Keilah, and the Lord told David to go to Keilah and rescue the citizens there from the plundering of the Philistines. To rob the threshing floor was all about taking away the harvest, the crops, the wheat and grain that the ground provided. Wheat, of course, was used to make bread, so to rob Keilah was to take away the bread of the inhabitants there — removing their food supply and thus, slowly but surely murdering them. The Lord tells David to rescue Keilah because the Philistines were removing the food that belonged to Keilah, not to the Philistines. They were taking away what didn’t belong to them, unlawfully seizing the food of a specific population as their own when they didn’t work for it.
Judges 19-21: the concubine’s murder
Judges 19, 20, and 21 refer to the rape of a woman and her subsequent death:
22 As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!”
23 But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!” 25 But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go.
26 Then the woman came as the day was dawning, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was,till it was light.
27 When her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28 And he said to her, “Get up and let us be going.” But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went to his place.
29 When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And so it was that all who saw it said, “No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!” (Judges 19:22-30)
Judges 19 is rather reminiscent of Genesis 19, where the townsmen demand the male angels to be brought out to them, but Lot (in Genesis) offers his virgin daughters instead. Here are some similarities between the two passages:
22 As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!” (Judges 19:22)
4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” (Genesis 19:4-5)
23 But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!” (Judges 19:23-24)
6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” (Genesis 19:6-8)
The elements of Genesis 19 and Judges 19, and their word similarities above, as demonstrated by the bold font of words above from verses in both passages, attests to their similarities. This is no coincidence, however, for it shows just how sinful Israel had become in the days when there was no king in Israel. In Genesis 19, the land was wicked and immoral and depraved before the Lord sent the Flood upon it, and Judges 19 is designed to show what life was like before a king was placed on the throne in Israel. The goal we see here is that the men of the town in Judges 19 abuse the woman, though the men of the city of Sodom in Genesis 19 do not abuse the male angels. In other words, Judges 19 is designed to tell the reader, “the land of Israel at this point was worse, even worse than the Gentiles of Genesis 19, who wanted to rape two male angels but did not.” How bad was the land of Israel? So bad that the language of what happened with the rape and abuse of a Levite’s concubine “surpassed that of Genesis 19,” or so the thought goes. Judges 19:30 says it all, relating the event of the concubine’s sexual abuse and death back to Genesis 19:
30 And so it was that all who saw it said, “No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!” (Judges 19:30)
Job 24: Job says that violence persists, yet perpetrators are not judged
“ Since times are not hidden from the Almighty,
Why do those who know Him see not His days?
2 “ Some remove landmarks;
They seize flocks violently and feed on them;
3 They drive away the donkey of the fatherless;
They take the widow’s ox as a pledge.
4 They push the needy off the road;
All the poor of the land are forced to hide.
5 Indeed, like wild donkeys in the desert,
They go out to their work, searching for food.
The wilderness yields food for them and for their children.
6 They gather their fodder in the field
And glean in the vineyard of the wicked.
7 They spend the night naked, without clothing,
And have no covering in the cold.
8 They are wet with the showers of the mountains,
And huddle around the rock for want of shelter.
9 “ Some snatch the fatherless from the breast,
And take a pledge from the poor.
10 They cause the poor to go naked, without clothing;
And they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
11 They press out oil within their walls,
And tread winepresses, yet suffer thirst.
12 The dying groan in the city,
And the souls of the wounded cry out;
Yet God does not charge them with wrong. (Job 24:1-12)
Job says in Job 24 that violence is in abundance on the earth, showing that our times bring nothing new to light in this regard: as violence was then, so it is now, if not worse in the different kinds of violence than it once was. Some thieves remove landmarks; they do that now. Though I’m glad to see the Confederate statues come down (it should’ve happened years ago), I still disagree with how those statues were brought down (by protesters). I would have rather have seen the state take down the Confederate statues in a civil manner than see protesters rejoicing over knocking down the head or the body of a Confederate soldier (on a flag), or some Confederacy member.
Some people “seize flocks violently and feed on them” (Job 24:2), while others “drive away the donkey of the fatherless” (v.3). The Greek phrase for “seize flocks violently” here is ἁρπάσαντες ποιμένι, the word “harpasantes” referring to seizing something by force, violently. In other words, these robbers and thieves take flocks that aren’t theirs by force, no matter how much force they must apply to get what they want. There are those in Job 24 who have no clothing to shelter them in the cold because the robbers and thieves have stolen their clothing (v.10, “They cause the poor to go naked, without clothing”). In verse 9, they “snatch the fatherless from the breast,” meaning that they take children while they are being breastfed by their mothers. The children are already “fatherless,” meaning that they don’t know who their fathers are (their mothers don’t know either, or the fathers have neglected the children and their mother pre-pregnancy), and then, they have another vulnerability when snatched away from the only parent who’d protect them.
2 Samuel 12: Nathan tells David about one ewe lamb, shows his sin of murder and adultery
Job 24:2 refers to seizing flocks violently. The idea of stealing someone’s flock from another becomes a story used by the prophet Nathan to tell David about his murder of Uriah the Hittite, and the theft of taking Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, to be his own:
Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. 3 But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 4 And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “ As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! 6 And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’” (2 Samuel 12:1-12)
Nathan the prophet tells David about a rich man and a poor man, how the poor man had one ewe lamb while the rich man had many flocks; yet, that didn’t stop the rich man from taking the one ewe lamb of the poor man. David immediately responded by saying “The one who did this shall die!,” not knowing that Nathan was talking about him and his sin against Uriah and with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:9-10).
David killed Uriah not out of a sense of justice, as though Uriah had wronged him, but out of covetousness and greed. Uriah, a Hittite (and thus, a Gentile), was a loyal soldier of David’s, so loyal in fact that, even after David tried to send him home, he wouldn’t go until all his fellow soldiers had come out of battle. David tried to hide his adultery with Bathsheba, trying to get Uriah drunk so that he’d sleep with Bathsheba and presume the pregnancy to be a result of he and Bathsheba together; when Uriah refused to sleep with Bathsheba, and David knew that Uriah would suspect infidelity on the part of his wife, then David told Joab to put Uriah on the front lines to be killed:
2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “ Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”
6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah departed from the king’s house, and a gift of foodfrom the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?”
11 And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”
12 Then David said to Uriah, “Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war, 19 and charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling the matters of the war to the king, 20 if it happens that the king’s wrath rises, and he says to you: ‘Why did you approach so near to the city when you fought? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Was it not a woman who cast a piece of a millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go near the wall?’—then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”
22 So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent by him. 23 And the messenger said to David, “Surely the men prevailed against us and came out to us in the field; then we drove them back as far as the entrance of the gate. 24 The archers shot from the wall at your servants; and some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.”
25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.” (2 Samuel 11:2-25)
In the end, the Lord punishes David for his sin: David doesn’t lose his life, but “the sword” (the symbol of death and murder) never leaves David’s house. He loses his son Absalom, for example, and his first child with Bathsheba (Solomon’s older brother) dies after some days of being sick. All of this is punishment for David taking the life of innocent and righteous Uriah.
Judges 9: Abimelech dies because he murders his brothers
22 After Abimelech had reigned over Israel three years, 23 God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the crime done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might be settled and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who aided him in the killing of his brothers. 25 And the men of Shechem set men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was told Abimelech.
26 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brothers and went over to Shechem; and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him. 27 So they went out into the fields, and gathered grapes from their vineyards and trod them, and made merry. And they went into the house of their god, and ate and drank, and cursed Abimelech. 28 Then Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? 29 If only this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech.” So he said to Abimelech, “Increase your army and come out!”
30 When Zebul, the ruler of the city, heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was aroused. 31 And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Take note! Gaal the son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem; and here they are, fortifying the city against you. 32 Now therefore, get up by night, you and the people who are with you, and lie in wait in the field. 33 And it shall be, as soon as the sun is up in the morning, that you shall rise early and rush upon the city; and when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may then do to them as you find opportunity.”
34 So Abimelech and all the people who were with him rose by night, and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies. 35 When Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance to the city gate, Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from lying in wait. 36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”
But Zebul said to him, “You see the shadows of the mountains as if they were men.”
37 So Gaal spoke again and said, “See, people are coming down from the center of the land, and another company is coming from the Diviners’ Terebinth Tree.”
38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where indeed is your mouth now, with which you said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out, if you will, and fight with them now.”
39 So Gaal went out, leading the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech. 40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled from him; and many fell wounded, to the very entrance of the gate. 41 Then Abimelech dwelt at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his brothers, so that they would not dwell in Shechem.
42 And it came about on the next day that the people went out into the field, and they told Abimelech. 43 So he took his people, divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the field. And he looked, and there were the people, coming out of the city; and he rose against them and attacked them. 44 Then Abimelech and the company that waswith him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city; and the other two companies rushed upon all who were in the fields and killed them. 45 So Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city and killed the people who were in it; and he demolished the city and sowed it with salt.
46 Now when all the men of the tower of Shechem had heard that, they entered the stronghold of the temple of the god Berith. 47 And it was told Abimelech that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 Then Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an ax in his hand and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it and laid it on his shoulder; then he said to the people who were with him, “What you have seen me do, make haste and do as I have done.” 49 So each of the people likewise cut down his own bough and followed Abimelech, put them against the stronghold, and set the stronghold on fire above them, so that all the people of the tower of Shechem died, about a thousand men and women.
50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he encamped against Thebez and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower in the city, and all the men and women—all the people of the city—fled there and shut themselves in; then they went up to the top of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came as far as the tower and fought against it; and he drew near the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man, his armorbearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed, every man to his place.
56 Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers. 57 And all the evil of the men of Shechem God returned on their own heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal. (Judges 9:22-57)
Abimelech killed 68 of his brothers, while the 69th, Jotham, escaped. And yet, Abimelech was paid back for his murdering of his 68 siblings. The men of Shechem helped Abimelech kill his brothers. What we read about Abimelech is that he ends up getting a millstone dropped on his head, with his skull crushed. Realizing that a woman had done it, he told his armorbearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, ‘A woman killed him’” (Judges 9:54).
Abimelech gets his just desserts, as do the men of Shechem. Murdering innocent life is forbidden by God (as we’ve seen earlier). Though the sixty-eight brothers Abimelech murdered couldn’t avenge their deaths, God avenged their deaths.
1 Kings 21: Jezebel murders Naboth the Jezreelite, Ahab takes his vineyard
And it came to pass after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel, next to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 So Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near, next to my house; and for it I will give you a vineyard better than it. Or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its worth in money.”
3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!”
4 So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food. 5 But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, “Why is your spirit so sullen that you eat no food?”
6 He said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite, and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”
7 Then Jezebel his wife said to him, “You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
8 And she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who were dwelling in the city with Naboth. 9 She wrote in the letters, saying,
Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people; 10 and seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him, saying, “You have blasphemed God and the king.” Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die.
11 So the men of his city, the elders and nobles who were inhabitants of his city, did as Jezebel had sent to them, as it was written in the letters which she had sent to them. 12 They proclaimed a fast, and seated Naboth with high honor among the people. 13 And two men, scoundrels, came in and sat before him; and the scoundrels witnessed against him, against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth has blasphemed God and the king!” Then they took him outside the city and stoned him with stones, so that he died. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.”
15 And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16 So it was, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.
17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who lives in Samaria. There he is, in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone down to take possession of it. 19 You shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours.”’”
20 So Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?”
And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord: 21 ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. 22 I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin.’ 23 And concerning Jezebel the Lord also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ 24 The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.”
25 But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. 26 And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
27 So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning.
28 And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.” (1 Kings 21:1-29)
Ahab, king of Samaria, wanted Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth’s vineyard was his inheritance in his family line, and it was like a family heirloom to him. Ahab asks for the vineyard, and Naboth tells him that he won’t give up his family heirloom. Ahab wanted the vineyard because it was right beside the palace, but Naboth said no with a strong sense of family commitment and the sanctity of family inheritance. Ahab, as a result, gets so depressed and downtrodden that he doesn’t eat. When his wife, Queen Jezebel, inquires as to his sadness, he explains that it’s due to Naboth’s refusal to give him the vineyard right next to the palace. Jezebel encourages her husband, telling him that she’ll get him the vineyard that he wants. She sends out letters in Ahab’s name, commanding his servants to throw a feast in Naboth’s honor and to seat him in a high place at the table. In the midst of the feast, there would be seated two false witnesses who would come out of the woodwork and claim that “Naboth has blasphemed God and the king!” (1 Kings 21:10, 13) At the feast, Jezebel’s orders were carried out: two men claimed Naboth had blasphemed God and the king; Naboth was carried out and stoned to death. The servants sent word back to Jezebel that Naboth was dead, at which point, Jezebel told Ahab to go seize the vineyard because it belonged to him (and he did so).
And yet, Ahab and Jezebel didn’t fear God. They presumed that “might makes right,” and so they went off to seize a vineyard that wasn’t theirs and didn’t belong to them. They killed an innocent man who had done them no harm, all because of a little vineyard that was a family heirloom to Naboth. And yet, God punishes both Ahab and Jezebel for their sin: Ahab is told that he will die, at which point he puts on sackcloth and goes about mourning. The Lord is pleased with Ahab’s humiliation and humbling of himself before God, though the Lord doesn’t modify His punishment on Jezebel. Eventually, she dies by the wall of Jezreel, where dogs lick her blood because she shed the innocent blood of Naboth the Jezreelite (2 Kings 9:30-37). God’s words regarding her punishment came true, even though it took a while. If the Lord speaks something, whether blessing or curse, you can be sure that, apart from the Lord’s sovereign decision to prevent it from happening, it will happen.
We have seen from the examples of violence (robberies and murders) that God is not pleased with it. David murdered Uriah, an innocent man who was a faithful husband and a devoted soldier to David. He thought he would avoid the judgment of God, but he didn’t. There are others that we’ve detailed earlier in this article.
This tells us that Parkland’s God (yes, God was there in Parkland when the shooting happened on Valentine’s Day 2018) is a God who hates violence as much, if not more, than many of us do. This study of violence reveals that God is against the shedding of innocent blood, that, when innocent blood is shed, God will get His revenge on those who do it — and do it swiftly. God made humans in His image, after His likeness, and throughout biblical history, has upheld the prohibitions against murder, theft, assault, rape, and other violations of the human person.
When the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting happened, the nation’s eighteenth earlier this year, it was an attack on the US population as a whole because what happened at Stoneman-Douglas could happen anywhere. Unbelievers have always asked the question, “Where was God…?,” but now, the MSD school shooting will give them one new event to add to the decades-old question about the existence of God.