What Does the Bible Say About the Israel-Hamas War?
On October 7, 2023, Hamas militants infiltrated the Israeli border, brutally massacring more than 1,400 innocent Israelis—mostly civilians—and kidnapping more than 212 hostages. Their brutality included raping, torturing, burning alive, and mercilessly shooting men, women, and children in their homes and at a music festival. Many of the victims were found decapitated, including helpless babies in their cribs.
Dr. Chen Kugel, the head of Abu Kabir (Israel’s National Center of Forensic Medicine) told reporters,
I’ve seen many things in my thirty-one-year career, but the magnitude and the cruelty [here] is terrible. . . . Many have gunshot wounds in their hands, showing they put their hands up to their faces in defense. Many were burned alive in their homes. . . . We know they were burned alive because there is soot in their trachea, their throats—meaning they were still breathing when set on fire.
Israeli forensic pathologists showed and explained the harrowing images to the global press. As one reporter explained,
Among the images were those of charred hands with marks that revealed where the victims’ hands were bound behind their backs with metal wire before being burned alive. Perhaps the most disturbing image in the slideshow was a completely charred mass of flesh. . . . Two spinal cords—one belonging to an adult, one to someone young—a parent and child bound together by metal wires in a final embrace before being set alight.
United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who spent many years fighting ISIS, said of the atrocities:
The deliberate cruelty of Hamas vividly reminds me of ISIS: bloodthirsty, fanatical, and hateful. And like ISIS, Hamas has nothing to offer but zealotry, bigotry, and death. The world has just witnessed a great evil: the deadliest attack on civilians in the history of the State of Israel, and the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the end of the Holocaust.
In addition to Hamas’ harrowing and merciless ground assault on innocent Israeli civilians, at the time of this writing, the terror group has launched 7,300 rockets into civilian areas in Israel, bringing the number of wounded Israelis to 4,500. Of course, the number of Israeli civilians and causalities injured from rockets would be much higher if it were not for the Iron Dome, Israel’s missile defense system, which intercepts the majority of rockets.
Hamas continues to refuse to negotiate peace with Israel, rescind its stated goal to annihilate Jewish people both in Israel and worldwide, and release its more than 200 Israeli hostages. As a result, Israel has been forced to defend herself, leading to the loss of many innocent Palestinian lives in Gaza due to Hamas’ war on Israel.
As believers, it is natural to wonder if the Bible has anything to say about this war. Let us look to Scripture.
After God created the world, the first book of the Bible, Genesis, records He “saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). No sin, death, suffering, or war existed. Adam and Eve lived in perfect fellowship with God in the beautiful Garden of Eden. Not until Satan deceived Adam and Eve into sinning against God did evil, sin, death, and war enter the world (Genesis 3:1–7). Theologians call this event “the fall.”
For those who trust in God’s Word, we have reason to hope. One day, the effects of the fall will be overturned. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the defeat of sin and death for all who trust in Him, and His return will usher in a perfect state of righteousness and peace once again. The ancient Hebrew prophets foretold this future day when Messiah will reign from His throne in Jerusalem:
Now it will come about that in the last days . . . many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 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. (Isaiah 2:2–4, emphasis added)
We look forward to this future day when there will be no more wars, as the Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote. But what does the Bible say concerning war while we continue to live in this fallen world?
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men,” the apostle Paul wrote (Romans 12:18). Peace is always preferable. But when peace is impossible––and in the case of the Israel-Hamas war, Hamas remains determined to destroy Jewish people and refuses to release innocent hostages—love of one’s neighbors demands their defense. As the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, there is “a time for war and a time for peace” (Eccl 3:8).
While Jesus commanded us not to retaliate regarding personal offenses (Matthew 5:38–39), He did not speak against the government’s requirement to uphold justice and punish evildoers. Indeed, the New Testament affirms the Hebrew Scriptures’ (Old Testament’s) teaching on state-sponsored justice and capital punishment (Romans 13).
In the Torah, God instituted state-sponsored capital punishment for crimes like murder. (Notice the distinction between murder and the state-sanctioned judgment of the murderer.) Genesis 9:6 reads, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed. For in the image of God He made man.” Exodus 21:12 says, “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.”
The Torah also allowed for killing during war. We can identify many examples of Israelite heroes being responsible for the deaths of others in war. Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, David, and many others were either personally responsible for killing others in war or commanded others who did, and the Bible never assigns moral guilt to them for doing so. Notice how David’s many war killings were not called murder, but his intentional killing of Uriah through battle was called morally evil by God (2 Samuel 11:27).
The New Testament likewise affirms the governmental role of state-sanctioned justice and capital punishment. Paul wrote,
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13:1–4, emphasis added)
John the Baptist also affirmed this understanding of the role of governing authorities when a group of Roman soldiers asked him what it would look like for them to live righteously:
Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:14)
Instead of telling them to stop being soldiers––serving as the state’s authorities to enact justice and punish evil––he told them to carry out their job fairly.
For these reasons, we believe Israel is biblically justified in its war against Hamas, to the extent it continues to do everything in its power to avoid the deaths of innocent civilians. Israel has already gone to great lengths to avoid civilian deaths by warning buildings and neighborhoods ahead of time to give civilians time to evacuate. Israel has also organized safe routes, dropped thousands of leaflets in Arabic warning residents to leave, called phones, and provided at least twenty-four hours of notice.
Hamas, in its evil attempt to create a humanitarian crisis and accuse Israel of war crimes, uses its own civilians as human shields; fires rockets from and houses weapons in Palestinian schools, homes, hospitals, and mosques; and refuses to allow civilians to evacuate their homes after Israel’s warnings. While Hamas intentionally targets Israeli civilians in both ground assaults and rocket launches––and purposely places its own civilians in harm’s way—Israel intentionally targets terrorists and tries to avoid as many civilians deaths in war as possible.
As Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus of law at Harvard Law School explains,
Hamas wants these human shields—especially children, women, and the elderly—to remain in harm’s way. . . . As one of its leaders boasted in 2008: “For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry . . . The elderly excel at this, and so do . . . the children.” . . . This boast has been repeated over the years in the form of the Hamas slogan, “We love death as our enemy loves life,” as has the use of children as human shields to protect legitimate military targets against lawful Israeli bombing. In giving civilians sufficient warning to leave, Israel has gone further than other Western nations at war. In World War II, the U.S. did not warn the civilians of Japanese cities (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) that were about to be nuclear targets or were firebombed (Tokyo). Great Britain did not give the civilians of Dresden the opportunity to leave. In more recent wars—such as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan—advance warnings were not provided before bombs were dropped. Israel is generally held to a higher standard of morality by other governments, the media, and academia. Hamas knows this and exploits it as a weapon of war. Hamas understands that the killing of civilians—whether deliberate or collateral to legitimate military actions—is seen as wrong. But when dead children are shown on TV, many viewers fail to distinguish between deliberate targeting of civilians and unintentional collateral deaths. Hamas takes advantage of this psychological reality.
Though Israel targets terrorists and tries to avoid civilian deaths, as believers, we know the Bible teaches all humans are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, the loss of innocent lives—both Israeli and Palestinian—should break our hearts and move us to pray for peace in the Middle East (Psalm 122:6) while affirming Israel’s moral right and obligation to defend her citizens.
We pray, in Jesus’ name, Hamas be stopped (whether through repentance or war), hostages be returned, innocent lives be spared, and Israelis and Palestinians come to know the Prince of Peace, Yeshua the Messiah.
Click here to read part two.
by Jennifer Miles, director of communications
 Lloyd Austin, “Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at a Joint Press Conference in Israel (As Prepared),” October 23, 2023, https://www.defense.gov/News/Speeches/Speech/Article/3556833/remarks-by-secretary-of-defense-lloyd-j-austin-iii-at-a-joint-press-conference/.
 “Hamas Covenant 1988,” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, August 18, 1988, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp.
 Pamela Falk et al., “Israel Warns Northern Gaza Residents to Leave, Tells U.N. 1.1 Million Residents Should Evacuate within 24 Hours,” CBS News, October 13, 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-military-tells-united-nations-over-one-million-palestinians-should-evacuate-southern-gaza-within-24-hours/.
 “Hamas’ Use of Human Shields in Gaza,” NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, accessed October 23, 2023, https://stratcomcoe.org/cuploads/pfiles/hamas_human_shields.pdf.
 Falk et al.
 Alan Dershowitz, “Hamas Uses Western Morality as a Weapon Against Israel: Opinion,” Newsweek, October 14, 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/hamas-uses-western-morality-weapon-against-israel-opinion-1834774.