Smite, Smote – definition

Smite or smote is not always to strike a blow
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Traditional Legal Model – Smote or to smite is used both as a physical blow and as the conscience being smitten.

Biblical Healing Model – The word is used similarly except that this model recognizes that often when God is said to smite it is by withdrawing His protection. It is also understood in the sense of to get someone’s attention.

Smote is the simple past tense of smite.

From a Modern Dictionary

Smite (verb)

  •  to strike or hit hard, with or as with the hand, a stick, or other weapon
  • to affect mentally or morally with a sudden pang: His conscience smote him.
  • to affect suddenly and strongly with a specified feeling: They were smitten with terror.

(, accessed Dec. 10, 2018)

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Smite (verb)
To strike; to throw, drive or force against, as the fist or hand, a stone or a weapon; to reach with a blow or a weapon; as, to smite one with the fist; to smite with a rod or with a stone.
(, accessed Dev. 10, 2018)

It seems strange that Webster’s would not include a reference to the conscience being smitten while does. However, as we will see, the Bible clearly uses it that way.

Not Always a Lethal Blow

It is used for clapping (smiting hands together):

“And he brought forth the king’s son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king.” (2 Kings 11:12)

It is used in regard to non-animate objects:

“And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.” (2 Kings 2:8)

Used of “smiting” with words (the tongue).

“Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.” (Jer 18:18)

The Conscience Can be Smitten

“And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” (1 Sam 24:5)

“And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.” (2 Sam 24:10)

This is the same effect as in this New Testament verse:

“Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” (1 John 3:21)

The heart does not condemn; the conscience does not smite – if the person’s heart and actions are right with God.

The accusers of the woman caught in adultery were smitten in this same sense:

“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (John 8:9)

However, in their cases, there was no repentance; they ignored the voice of their consciences.

Attempts to Correct

Smiting can occur in attempts to correct or discipline but that would never be lethal. (You never correct your children by killing them):

“In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.” (Jer 2:30)

“O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.” (Jer 5:3)

Those verses connect “smitten” or “stricken” (from the same original word) with attempts at correction, unfortunately, without a positive response.

Smite To Get the Attention

To smite is often used in the sense of getting one’s attention, especially to call to repentance. I think this may even apply to the seven last plagues:

“These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” (Rev 11:6)

In describing the reaction to the fourth and fifth plagues, it is said that men “repented not” suggested that, if they might have chosen to do so, they could have.

Elymas the Sorcerer, while it does not use the word (as for the people of Sodom – Gen 19:11), was smitten with blindness. Read the interesting story of Elymas and the connection with Paul and how he was “smitten” with blindness perhaps as a call to repentance.

An angel “smote” Peter to wake him up and get him out of prison:

“And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” (Acts 12:7)

Mistakenly Understood as a Physical Blow

The usual understanding of the death of King Herod is that God had His angel smite Herod dead (Because God can’t stand being challenged? Does that make sense?):

“And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” (Acts 12:21-23)

However, notice that, in the same chapter, the same angel smote (same original word) Peter to get his attention:

“And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” (Acts 12:7)

Here is a detailed look at the death of King Herod including clues that he may have repented and been saved.

Who Smote Who?

To smite is often used in the sense of a lethal blow. In some verses, God is said to smite when it is also clearly stated that someone else struck the blow. For example:

“And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.” (Jud 20:35)

The death of King Saul is another good example, among others. It is a Biblical principle that God often takes responsibility for what He merely allows to happen.

See a video of a group study on the Biblical meaning of smite/smote.

Go to The Character of God and the Gospel Glossary

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