December 12, 2016 Matt Pennock

Is the Lord a God of Peace or of War?

Kratos (above) is the main protaganist of the God of War game series. He is a spartan warrior that gained god like powers from the god of war Ares. He is seeking revenge for the slaying of his wife and daughter.

 

Is the God of the Bible a God of Peace or of War?

He couldn’t be both could he? Over at CARM, Matt Slick addresses what some have taken to resemble a biblical contradiction. The Bible apparently supports both sides:

  • God of Peace
    1. (Isaiah 2:4) – “And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.”
    2. (Romans 15:33) – “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
  • God of War
    1. (Exodus 15:3) – “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His name.”
    2. (Psalm 94:1)  – “O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!”
    3. (Joel 3:9-10) – “Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! Beat your plowshares into swords, And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”

Most of the time, if not all the time, the latter is downplayed as metaphorical or “only to be taken in context”. I’m not sure why that is. We know much of the world around us is highly skeptical and all too ready to attack and accuse Christians for anything even remotely controversial. Who cares. We want the truth. Never was the favor of the world around us the means by which we measured whether we were loving our neighbor or not.

The reality is, the latter can be taken much, much further. Warning, it might terrify you.

First thing to get out of the way is the fact that Satan is never called a “god of war” in the Bible. War is the clash of good and evil. Good is not a passive attribute. Unfortunately our modern understanding of it, is.

God is identified as a God of War by three of the most important figures in the Old Testament: Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah.

  1. Moses – “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.” Ex. 15:3
  2. Jeremiah – “But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.” Jer. 20:11
  3. Isaiah – “The LORD goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.” Isa. 42:13

Moses identified God in a song after being delivered from Egypt and Pharoah. He used the Hebrew word ish which is the Hebrew social construct for “man”. Man is a subjective thing usually referring to the soul. It first appears in Genesis 2:23 where Adam is using it as the basis of his identification of the woman, ishah. This is the only place God is ever called a “man” in the Old Testament. Many commentators say it’s just an anthropomorphism. However I get a strange feeling that many of these commentators and others attempting to interpret this verse are trying to steer me clear of actually thinking God was a man. In fact, it seems that Moses should just not have sung that. Ever. What a terrible thought—God, a man. Of course the irony is that he is as man as a man can be as revealed by none other than Jesus himself. Add to that the association with war. And you thought you knew who Jesus was. Moving on.

Jeremiah identified God with a similitude by saying God was like a dread warrior. Not just a warrior, but a dread or terrible warrior. The commentator Ellicott explains the word thus:

The word “terrible” was used with a special significance. Jehovah had promised to deliver the prophet from the “terrible” ones (Jeremiah 15:21). He, the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) would now show that He was more terrible than the prophet’s foes, that it was better to come under their wrath than His (Isaiah 8:12-13).

Isaiah says that he is like a warrior and a man of war. Yet another prophet teaching us to imagine God as a man (ish) of war. Better be careful.

The God of War in the Bible is not a redux of other mythic war deitiesAres was a god of war because he liked destruction. The Roman god Mars stood for military power as a way to secure peace. The God of the Bible is more mysterious.  He has three major narratives: First he appears to slay evil and protect his beloved (2 Kings 19:34-35), then manifests in real human flesh and allows his enemies to kill it for the sake of his beloved (John 3:16), then finally returns to, once again, slay for his beloved (Revelation 19:11-16). It’s like a hard-shelled sandwich with really delicious meat in between.

11 Then I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse. And its rider is called Faithful and True. With righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 He has eyes like blazing fire, and many royal crowns on His head. He has a name written on Him that only He Himself knows. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is The Word of God.

14 The armies of heaven, dressed in fine linen, white and pure, follow Him on white horses. 15 And from His mouth proceeds a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Revelation 19:11-16

All that said, the most significant verse associating God with war is to be found in Isaiah 9:6.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This prophecy names him.  The Hebrew for “Mighty God” is gibbor-el which means, Warrior God.  It’s no metaphor, folks.

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