The Bible and Self Defense (pt 1)

Caveat up front – I’m not a Bible scholar, I’m not a religious scholar; I am just an average person offering MY take on what the Bible says about self defense.

First, let’s start with the Old Testament, I’ll explain why we start with the Old Testament later.

What does the Old Testament have to say about the use of violence and / or self defense.
First, GOD does not have a problem with the appropriate use of violence.

Exo 14:13 And Moses said to the people, Do not be afraid. Take your stand and see the salvation of Jehovah, which He will prepare for you today. For as you see the Egyptians today, you shall not continue to see them again forever.
Exo 14:14 Jehovah will fight for you, and you be silent.

2Ch 20:17 You won’t even have to fight. Just take your positions and watch the LORD rescue you from your enemy. Don’t be afraid. Just do as you’re told. And as you march out tomorrow, the LORD will be there with you.

In each case, GOD did violence on behalf of the Israelites, either directly or indirectly. GOD defended his chosen people (this isn’t a debate about Jews being the chosen people, so hold that argument for now).

God does not have a problem requiring violence to be done.

Num 31:1 The LORD said to Moses,
Num 31:2 “Before you die, make sure that the Midianites are punished for what they did to Israel.”
Num 31:7 The Israelites fought against the Midianites, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. They killed all the men,

It wasn’t just violence, but lethal force that GOD authorized, required and approved. Over and over again, we see that GOD initiated wars, helped the Israelites in wars, caused deaths in those who stood in opposition to his plan.

Some will say “well, that’s war” and not exactly self defense. I say that it shows God’s nature, but let’s keep looking in the Old Testament.

While not mentioned by name in the Book of Esther, God seems to have arranged for the effective defense of the Jews. Note that in the story, the King’s decree could not be rescinded once sealed with his ring. The Jews did not break the law to defend themselves, but were able to get another decree authorizing self – defense. That is a historical example of the use of lethal force in a self defense situation….authorized, approved and covered under the law of the land.

What else does GOD say about the use of lethal force in Self Defense.

Well, in Exodus GOD sets out his commandments and the consequences for breaking them

Exodus 21: 12-14 “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen, he is to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.

Exodus 21: 16 “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.

Exodus 22:2-3 2 “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed. “A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.

Exodus 22:2 seems to be the basis for Texas law so there is a modern connection there

Sec. 9.42. DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT PROPERTY. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property: (1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.41; and (2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary: (A) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime;

Notice that the Scriptures mandate death for a killing. A common misunderstanding is that one of the 10 Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill”.

In reality, the most accurate translation of the Hebrew word râtsach ratsach (Strong's H7523) is Murder.
to murder, slay, kill

  1. (Qal) to murder, slay
    1. premeditated
    2. accidental
    3. as avenger
    4. slayer (intentional) (participle)
  2. (Niphal) to be slain
  3. (Piel)
    1. to murder, assassinate
    2. murderer, assassin (participle) (substantive)
  4. (Pual) to be killed

Thus, it is easy to see that GOD does not violate his own commandments at all. And GOD differentiates between lawful killings and unlawful killings.

Also, notice that since at night time there is a higher degree of risk of attack versus simple robbery, GOD specifically authorizes the use of lethal force in self defense.

Now, why on earth (pun intended) did I spend so much time on the Old Testament when this is about the Christian response to and authority for self defense. That is easy…just remember a couple of simple concepts.
First, GOD is unchanging and unchanged. What he approves of in the Old Testament is still valid. Jesus did not replace the old covenant but came to fulfill it. I know of only one case of Jesus contradicting what was established by GOD in the Old Testament – that was clean and unclean foods.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (the Old Testament); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.What Jesus was saying was that He wasn’t coming to completely do away with the Law. He came to fulfill the righteous demands of the Law. Specifically, Jesus came as a sacrifice for all of mankind so that His followers (those who accept Him as the son of God – Christians) would not have to make animal sacrifices as demanded by the Law – Jesus would be the ultimate sacrifice.

Jesus fulfilled the law, He expanded on its meaning and how we should apply it but with the exception of food, he did not contradict anything. God is unchanging and unchanged.

Let’s look at some New Testament support for Self Defense.

John 18:10 -11 shows that Jesus did not need defending and at that particular time it was contrary to His plan.

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?

Notice that Jesus stated Peter was to put away his sword, not sell it, not get rid of it, not throw it away, not ‘never use it again’. Also note that Peter was carrying (there is that word from the 2nd amendment) his sword with him….even when he was with Jesus. If Jesus was against self defense, wouldn’t he have told his followers not to go armed.  Also at the same time, Jesus affirmed that He could call on Heavenly forces for defense….if He wanted

Matt 28: 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Let’s keep on with Jesus for a little longer, remember the Great Commission?

Matthew 28 16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

No where in that commission was the apostles told to make themselves martyrs, is there?

Then we can turn to other areas of the New Testament for approval of self Defense. The Bible is GOD’s holy word, so what is authorized in it is valid.

In 1 Timothy 5:8 we have the following scripture:

8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Isn’t providing for safety, security and protection part of providing for relatives and immediate family? Isn’t keeping the family’s food, belongings and money safe from robbery providing for the family? Go back to the scripture in Exodus 22:2 If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.  Since GOD is unchanging, what was approved in the Old Testament is still valid in the New Testament. Therefore self defense of money and property, including use of lethal force is justified in the New Testament.

Some people point to Jesus sending out the Apostles (as in Matthew 10) as showing that He did not endorse self-defense

9Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

What those people do not point to is later in that same chapter.

34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword

And in Luke 22

35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.

36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

He knew that he would not be present on Earth as He had been originally in Matthew 10 to protect the apostles….therefore they would need to protect themselves.

This has ran longer than I expected….sorry about that.But it was necessary to show that GOD differentiated between lawful and criminal killing (killing and murder), that GOD authorized lethal force to be used against criminals in cases (much like today’s criminal law), that GOD is unchanging and what was authorized in the Old Testament is still authorized in the Net Testament….and that Jesus did not have a problem with the use of lethal force. This point is especially valid when you consider that Jesus submitted to a sanctioned killing for our salvation.

In Part 2, I’ll discuss some common misconceptions such as “turn the other cheek”

17 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by ASM826 on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Of course. Self-defense is the most basic of rights.

    (I updated my blogroll to reflect your new address.)

  2. Posted by Jason A Clark on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    I enjoyed the article and I think you brought out a lot of good points. However, I wanted to point out that Jesus didn’t contradict what was established by GOD in the Old Testament in regards to clean and unclean foods. Mark 7:19 is generally accepted as scripture in which Jesus declared all foods clean.

    God also gave the apostle Peter a vision in which He declared that formerly unclean animals could be eaten: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15).

    Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled the Old Testament laws which includes the laws regarding clean and unclean foods. I recommend http://www.gotquestions.org/foods.html for more information.

  3. Posted by mikeb302000 on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Bob, I think you’re being humble when you say you’re not a Bible scholar. You sure seem to be.

    Congratulations on the new site. It looks great.

  4. Posted by Bob S. on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Jason,

    Thanks for letting me use your site as a resource, it is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for the additional insight on to the clean/unclean food issue.

  5. Posted by Bob S. on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    MikeB,

    Thanks for the compliment. I’ll fall back on an old saying…stealing from one person is plagiarism, stealing from many is research.
    What I can do and enjoy doing is research. This was a little long in putting together because I wanted to make sure it was right.

    I did some of this research when I was questioning the right to keep and bear arms. I did not want to contradict my beliefs. I went a little more in depth, but not much more, for this post. This is not a subject that most people take up lightly, the decision to use lethal force to protect ourselves.

    Question back to you, does it still seem “pathetic” to use the Bible as a basis for self defense?

    Is the information presented solid, accurate and accurately portrayed?

  6. Posted by Weer'd Beard on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Great post. I’m not a Christian, but I am a reader of the Bible (amoung other spiritual texts), and certainly one HUGE theme in the bible (as well as many others) are lessons of self-preservation.

    Obviously birth control will only harm efforts to bolster a population, Not having a nuclear family unit will harm offspring and lower survival rates. Charitablity will teach those who do well to help those who are having hardships, eating of pork prior to refigeration is damn stupid! (BTW I know MANY pork-eating Jews who simply cite that with modern sanitation, and cooking Pork should no longer be considered “filthy”)

    All of this is not refuted….but defending oneself from violent attack Is??? That shouldn’t make sense to ANYBODY.

    And of course as you have pointed out that defense (and war) are deeply supported in the scripture.

  7. Posted by Linoge on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Speaking as a non-demoninational Christian, I have never understood how people could use Christian teachings or the religion as a whole to advocate defenseless victimhood – after all, our lives are one of the most precious gifts granted to us by God. I can hardly believe that he would appreciate us carelessly throwing away that gift simply because we found certain tools icky. Granted, free will is free will, and due to that, we are allowed to do whatever we so desire, but that does not mean there will not be consequences or repercussions for our actions.

    Furthermore, while self-defense is well within the “approved” realm of the Christian religion, defense of others is even more-approved, as you touched on briefly and as Mr. Rhodes did as well. My favorite quote, however, is right at the bottom of the page:

    Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that “to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally.

    While they are, I believe, referring to the murder/rape/etc. of someone else, I have no doubt that they would hold the same opinions concerning allowing yourself to be murdered/raped/etc.

  8. Posted by Borepatch on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Wow.

  9. Posted by Jim Shy Wolf on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Excellent series on self defense and the Bible- you’ve covered quite a bit of territory, even got into one of my favorite parts, the commandment, “Thou shall not commit murder” which is so often mis-quoted to read “thou shall not kill”. Quite a distinction between the two. Also, your inclusion of the Old and New Testaments, for God surely has not changed His mind concerning sin of any kind. We canot separate the two books and be Faithful to any of it. As I like to tell people, “It’s all or nothing with God”. And the Timothy verse is quite possibly my favorite verse for more than just self defense or defending others, but the aspect of work and caring, sharing and helping others as well.
    Thank you for a great definition of self defense. Like the new Blog- keep it up. (I’ve been considering switching to WordPress as well since IE has been giving me so much trouble with Blogspot sites the last few months.)
    Shy III

  10. […] Bible and Self Defense (pt. 2) Jul.14, 2009 in RKBA, Soapbox, blog, culture, myths, rights In Part 1, we looked at scriptural justification for self defense. Today we will look at some of the common […]

  11. Posted by Troy B on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Bob,
    You have created a very good work. This is a subject one sees very little well researched authoratative (God) quotes. I agree with you.Well done.

    Troy

  12. Posted by When do you stop being polite? - 3 Boxes of BS on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    […] so to speak and show the reasoning, the scriptural basis for my actions and beliefs. I posted The Bible and Self Defense Part 1 and Part 2 on July 13th and […]

  13. Posted by MT on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    You might also be interested in http://www.biblicalselfdefense.com/
    for a related extended treatment of the subject. Thanks!

  14. Posted by Bob S. on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  15. […] put up two posts looking at the Scriptural basis for self defense (here and here) […]

  16. Posted by Finally Friday « MaddMedic on 13.07.09 at 05:00

    […] at 3 Boxes of BS we have a couople of posts about the Bible and Self Defense. Good Stuff Part 1 and Part […]

  17. […] an on going series (Bible and Self Defense Part 1 and Part 2, Thou Shalt Not Kill Part 1 and Part 2), let’s discuss what the Bible really says […]