Does God Kill?

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

 Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)

 Does a comparison of those two verses raise a question in your mind? It should.  Does God Kill – yes or no? We’ll collect some evidence on either side of the question and then take a careful look.

Verses Saying God Kills or Orders Killing

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. … I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.” (Deut 32:39,42)

“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (1 Sam 15:3)

“And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.” (Jer 27:8)

The ”by his hand” referring to the king of Babylon is a clue that what is referred to as punishment by God can take the form of punishment by others which is not prevented by God.

Verses Implying that God Does Not Kill

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt 5:44)

“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:26)

The reasoning being that why would God use an enemy to destroy His enemy?

The obvious point in the parallel construction of that verse is that it is evil to kill. God does not do evil. See this study about Isa 45:7 “I create evil.”

How to Resolve?

It is not hard to show that there are lots of verses that could be added to both categories. In a sense, the God-does-kill side would seem to have an advantage. Verses on the other side do not so clearly and literally say “God does not kill” yet there are very many that are plainly worded as though He does kill. That can make it hard.

If God does kill, then we are left with a very scary and dangerous God and many questions:

  • What does that do for our attitude towards Him?
  • What does that do for our law keeping?
  • Are we still expected to reflect the character of God?
  • Could that make sinners afraid of Him or rebellious towards Him?
  • Why doesn’t He practice what He preaches?

If God does not kill, then all the statements saying or implying that He does are in question and that is a lot of statements.

Before some accuse this author of having a bias, I will freely admit that I do. But that is not without evidence.

These approaches will help to resolve the question:

  • Jesus’ example
  • Miller’s Rules
  • Misunderstandings
  • Translations
  • Idioms
  • Verb forms
  • Literal or Figurative
  • Accommodation
  • Logical approach
  • God thinks differently
  • God “kills” but how?

Jesus’ Example

Here is a very key verse:

“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9)

Isn’t that saying like Father, like Son? Jesus never harmed anyone during His earthly ministry much less killing. But many of the verses reading as though God does kill are from Old Testament stories. While that was before Jesus walked on earth, the evidence is that it was Jesus, the Son of God Who was interacting with Israel in the Old Testament:

“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10:4)

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)

“For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46)

Jesus would have acted in the Old Testament consistently with how He acted in the New Testament and He has the same character as His Father.

Miller’s Rules

It is quite reasonable that we should have to resolve apparent contradictions. A good guide for this is a set of rules devised early in the 19th century – Miller’s Rules for Bible Study. Here are just a few key points from William Miller’s 14 rules:

  • All Scripture is necessary, and may be understood by a diligent application and study.
  • To understand doctrine, bring all the Scriptures together on the subject you wish to know; then let every word have its proper influence …
  • Scripture must be its own expositor …


Here is a misunderstood verse:

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22)

What does that sound like, as far as what God requires or wants? Pagan religions require a blood sacrifice to appease their gods. That should be a clue. Learn the true meaning of Hebrews 9:22 here.

The first verse in the Bible that says anything about death is this one:

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:17)

There are two ways to understand that verse:

  • A threat is warning of what I might do to you. God saying He would punish – with death.
  • A warning is telling of danger from another source. God saying the natural consequence would be death.

This will become important at the end of our study.


The Hebrew language has very few words compared to English. There are Hebrew words in the Bible that have been translated into over 50 English words and so the meaning often has to be determined by the context. We go by the English which has been subjected to translator bias. If a translator believed God imposes punishment, then he would often express it that way.

In my studies, I have often had to look not only at context but also examine how the Bible itself uses the original words to help determine the meaning. Those investigations have resulted in word studies in The Character of God and the Gospel Glossary

An example would include the term smite/smote, the study showing that the Bible, at times, uses it in a totally non-violent way including to smite the conscience.

Another example is the account of the overthrow of Nineveh where it can be seen that God was not predicting or threatening its destruction.


“Anger, an abstract word, is actually the Hebrew word אף (awph) which literally means “nose”, a concrete word. When one is very angry, he begins to breathe hard and the nostrils begin to flare. A Hebrew sees anger as “the flaring of the nose (nostrils).” If the translator literally translated the above passage [Psa 103:] “slow to nose”, the English reader would not understand.” (Jeff Benner, The Ancient Hebrew Language and Alphabet, p23)

One can experience other very strong emotions such as grief in a similar way physically. This passage suggests that God is not coming against Israel in what we would call anger, but departing from them in what would be better termed affliction or grief:

“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?” (Deut 31:17)

God honors the free-will choices of man and will leave them to the results of the choices they have made. Israel, at times even recognized this. And God is hurt when we hurt:

“In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isa 63:9)


Have you heard the saying “it’s raining cats and dogs”? That is one of about 25,000 idioms in the English language.

“Idiom (noun) a group of words whose meaning considered as a unit is different from the meanings of each word considered separately: Mastering the use of idioms can be hard for a learner. ‘Shoot yourself in the foot’ is an idiom that means to do something that hurts yourself. “(

The Hebrew language has idioms as well, such as the very commonly-used idiom of permission:

“… in the language of Scripture God is sometimes said to do what he only permits to take place under his moral government.” (Kendall, James, A Sermon, Delivered at the Ordination of Rev. Oliver Hayward, Samuel T. Armstrong, 1816, p7-8)

“Active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do.” (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1968, 2008, p823)

See about 30 examples of writers acknowledging this idiom and more about understanding idioms.

Verb Forms

“And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.” (Gen 6:17)

bring” in Hebrew is in the Hiphil verb form

“When it comes to God, the phrase ‘I will destroy’ is used as a Hebrew idiom. There are two classes of idioms that can be used. 1. Causative. 2. Permissive. The writer’s (not the translator’s) use of the phrase is most often in the permissive form when it comes to quoting God— especially when the verb is negative, such as destruction and sickness. This permissive verb form in Hebrew is called Hiph`il, to which William Lowth explains:

“…the form called Hiphil in Hebrew often denotes only permission, and is rendered elsewhere to that sense by our translators.’ (A Commentary Upon the Prophet Isaiah, p. 501)” (Kevin J. Mullins, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified p. 44)


Have you ever said something that was not meant to be taken literally?

Is it just a possibility that Deuteronomy 32:39 “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal” was not meant literally? Isn’t that a simple thing to consider?

Does scripture say anything similar and we take it to be only figurative?

“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1 Cor 15:31)

“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Rom 8:36)

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53)

These issues of translation errors, idioms (and many other figures of speech), tenses, figurative language, metaphors etc mean that we can’t just surface-read scripture:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matt 22:29)

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)

Just maybe there is a deeper meaning to “I kill and I make alive.”


The principle of Divine accommodation shows that God is willing to accommodate the needs and condition of man according to circumstances and, at times, even man’s wants and desires. This very much has an effect on how we understand much of the difficult-to-understand wording in scripture. See many examples of Divine accommodation. God does this because He honors free will, He recognizes that we are children and He takes into account our circumstances.

It is not a case of God changing (Mal 3:6). That verse is not saying that He never makes little adjustments to how He does things or His requirements. It is saying He never changes in character. He always has been and always will be love and because of that He will always do the best thing for the creatures He loves according to their circumstances.

Logical approach

Just using simple logic shows that God would not kill as explained in a series of tracts.

Tract covers

 #1 God is Love

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18)

“Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;” (1 Cor 13:5)

If God is love and therefore does not seek His own good or will or ways, is it logical that He would put others first? Of course.

#2 The Law of God

If God puts others first, is it logical that He would make laws/rules to protect us from harm and for our good, not His? This cartoon illustrates the role of God’s law:

Fence or Guard Rail

His laws are not arbitrarily-imposed rules requiring Him to use His power to inflict punishment. Rather, they are natural design laws – the laws that reality functions upon and breaking them produces natural negative consequences.

God’s purpose in sending His Son and in His law is:

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Understanding God’s law is critically important to having a correct view of His character

#3 God’s Justice

 If God’s laws are to protect us from harm, is it logical that breaking those laws would naturally result in harm? Therefore, God does not need to use some form of justice (including death, His enemy, 1 Cor 15:26), to maintain His purposes. Any “punishment” is built in as the natural consequence of breaking God’s laws; He does not need to impose any punishment, much less death. That disobedience naturally brings punishment is shown by:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

“For sin pays its wage–death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23; Good News Translation)

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal 6:7)

“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15)

God’s justice needs to be correctly understood.

God Thinks Differently

The fact that God is different than us, that He tells us His ways are different and higher than ours should prompt us to investigate more closely reasoning that may not seem correct to us at first.

“These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” (Psa 50:21)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” (Isa 55:8)

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Phil 2:5)

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33)

We have to have the attitude and the humility that perhaps we do not fully understand God and His ways.

God could only be said to kill in the figurative sense that He allows the natural consequences of our free-will choices which expose us to mortal danger, by not preventing the actions of others – enemies, invading foreign powers etc. or in a figurative sense.

Your Choice

Two Trees

The two trees represent two understandings of God’s character and methods.

God’s system, represented by the Tree of Life, blesses all:

“The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psa 145:9)

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt 5:45)

“Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.” (Matt 22:9-10)

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” (Luke 6:35)

 Satan’s System, represented by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is a merit-based system. Essentially, it is a Tree of Death.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents Satan’s system of reward and punishment. It is hard to see God as non-violent when we have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, when we have accepted the idea that God personally punishes evildoers.

 A basic common misunderstanding is that sin must receive imposed punishment. And so, the system of good and evil tempts even good people to impose punishment on evildoers. Satan does this to promote his system of justice to the world. There is a mass conditioning in our society. “You do the crime you do the time.” Everywhere people are suing each other and the news has as great amount of reporting about “justice.” The “good” in Satan’s system use violence against the “bad.”

The nature of God’s law is a very basic principle. If our study and knowledge of scripture is not correctly based on the right principles, on a solid foundation, the result is:

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3:7)

Free Will

God respects free will so much (God is love) that He allows the other side to be an option; there is no censorship with God.

 Effect of Choice

“For all people will walk every one in the name [character] of his god, and we will walk in the name [character] of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5)

 Of course, “walk” refers to conduct and “name” refers to character. All will think and act according to the perceived character of their god.

We can make our own god (version of God)

“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.” (Psa 115:4-8)

When you believe Jesus’ statement “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,” then you are eating of the tree of life.

Summary of Sides

 Evidence that God Kills

  •  The Bible (in the translated English that we read) literally says so

That is all they have for support

 Those believing that often don’t want to change because they:

  • want it that way
  • don’t want to admit they are wrong
  • want to go along with the majority understanding
  • may have a job or position threatened
  • are too lazy to investigate

Evidence that God Doesn’t Kill 

  • Jesus never killed anyone, and He showed us His Father.
  • Miller’s rules, properly followed, will exonerate God.
  • Misunderstanding because we don’t think like God
  • Translations are often done with a bias.
  • Idioms can’t be literally translated.
  • Verb forms need to be accounted for.
  • Often there is a figurative meaning to the words.
  • Accommodation to our situation may require Him allowing certain actions.
  • Logic says He couldn’t and doesn’t.
  • God’s ways and thoughts are different than ours.

Also, see

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