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What does the Bible say about Israel and Palestine at war?

What does the Bible say about Israel and Palestine at war? First of all, let’s look at at the specific, biblical question: “Whose Side Are You On?” This is the question everyone wants to know the answer to as soon as someone mentions war in Israel. What does God say about war?

In any war, there is suffering, and mistakes are made on both sides. So then, how do we know whom to listen to, what is right, and whose side to be on?

I want to draw your attention to when this very question appears in the Bible. What is more, it was God’s great warrior, Joshua, who asked it. 

Israel had just entered the Promised Land, after God told them to go take the land and wipe out its inhabitants. As Joshua was near Jericho, he encountered a man with a drawn sword. “Whose side are you on?” He asked.

It’s a fair question, given what they were about to do. But the response wasn’t what he expected. “No,” the armed man replied. 

“No. But as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

That’s not how you answer an either-or question. What a strange thing to say, since it was the Lord who told Joshua to take the land. Why wouldn’t the commander of the Lord’s army be on Joshua’s side? Regardless, this was Joshua’s response:

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” (Joshua 5:14) 

Joshua’s quick response to the Lord is equally humble and admirable. It showed that first and foremost Joshua was a servant and not a general. (Can we say the same about ourselves?)

The Lord then proceeded to tell Joshua what the battle plan was for Jericho. While it wasn’t what anyone expected, Joshua recognized who was in charge. It wasn’t him. The Lord had bigger plans for Israel and for the land He was giving them that was far above human plans.

Remains of Jericho

God’s Side

Ultimately, God is on His own side and is sovereign over all. God is just, and He is the One who has established what justice is, according to His terms. 

He is God of heaven and the earth. As we learn from Noah’s day, He is grieved over what men do and His patience with mankind does not last forever.

The nations within Canaan in Joshua’s time were known to be brutal, wicked, and grotesquely immoral. Leviticus 18 describes it, and that it had been brewing for centuries. The land would be punished and would “vomit out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-27). God’s instructions were to completely wipe them out.

Similarly, the Amalekites were just as violently evil. They were the first to wage war on Israel upon leaving Egypt. They attacked the weak and tired stragglers from the rear (Deut 25:17-19). 

Because of this, the Lord said He would have “war against Amalek from generation to generation” and He would “blot out their memory from under heaven”. 

But doesn’t that seem a little harsh…?

What Did God Say About War? 

No one likes war and suffering. We often don’t have the answers to the hard questions of why things escalate to such an extreme measure. What does God say about the war in Israel and Palestine? We do know that God is just and does not allow the wicked to prevail. “How” and “why” are His decisions.

God knows everyone’s heart and is able to deliver the righteous from among the wicked before their destruction. Although they were not blameless, He did that for Lot’s family in Sodom and for Rahab’s family in Jericho. In the same way, God knows every heart of those in Gaza right now; We do not.

Today, many in the west, even in Israel, have trouble understanding why, according to the Bible, God would wipe out entire cities or peoples. Then a few years ago, the world helplessly watched the shocking ISIS atrocities. 

As if not to be outdone, the Hamas massacre of Oct 7 happened in Israel, graphically streamed live for the world on social media. The war broke out in Israel. Now many are beginning to understand why God would give those instructions. 

Destruction from Hamas' October 7th massacre

Choosing Between Life and Death

What else can you do with an unrepentant and committed enemy, like Amalek or Hamas, whose goal is to massacre the innocent and weak. And no matter the cost, they are openly preparing the younger generation for the next opportunity to do it again! 

While this love of death may be hard for western Christians to fathom, the Bible tells us exactly how God feels about that and how He will handle it. 

Zechariah 12 says that by the arrival of our Messiah, all nations will gather for war against Jerusalem and God’s people. It may have been difficult to fathom before, but today we see that the world may be heading in that direction. 

Jesus’ imminent arrival on the Mount of Olives will not be to love on those who hate Him this time. He is not coming to oversee mutual compromises or to discuss His enemies’ grievances. 

According to the prophets, He is coming to defend His people, to execute His judgments on His enemies, and to establish His kingdom. He will be seated on David’s throne just as was promised. The Prince of Peace will establish peace on His terms and according to God’s justice. 

I have no idea how He will sort all peoples in all nations, but He knows, and He will do it. 

A Time for Peace and a Time for War

The real challenge for us during these chaotic times is to do what Joshua did. Ask God, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” 

The answer to this question will be different for everyone – for those in the IDF defending their homes, for international leaders, for western Christians, and more. 

Whatever the answer may be, we ought to remember that we are not the generals we sometimes think we are. We are servants attempting to follow His Word and avoid the distractions.

Imagine now for a moment if there were ancient social media reports from those in Jericho and Canaanite “influencers” in the time of Joshua. Can you imagine watching the daily reels and commentaries about these “violent desert tribes of freed slaves” (Israelites)?

“They are spreading unbelievable propaganda!” 

The people of Israel keep talking about their God who wiped out the Egyptians and walked them through the Red Sea! And now, these warmongers are creating fear in the local family villages and are coming to invade peaceful Canaanite lands! 

Whom would you believe? What does God say about war?

Israeli soldier praying at the Western Wall

Whom Should We Listen To?

What does God say about Israel and Palestine and war? Without God’s perspective, all the news reports and social commentaries on the war in Israel get messy and confusing. We must be grounded in His Word and His promises to understand.

Several years ago, I was leading a tour group to Jordan. We stopped for lunch at a place that had some English books about the region’s local history. As I flipped through one of them, I stumbled upon the ancient history section. I had to reread a few words a couple times, just to make sure I understood what I saw on the page. 

It spoke of events 3500 years ago, when a group of Jewish tribes, led by their brutal warlord, “Joshua the Butcher”, conquered the region. According to this historical account, “Joshua the Butcher” brought war to a “peaceful Palestine”, and the Jews pillaged cities, stole livestock, and killed everyone they found. 

While it was a curious take on biblical history, I decided not to buy a copy. 

There are always multiple perspectives on every war. As humans, we want to know who is right and who is wrong. Ultimately, it was God who established that distinction, as He taught us how to tell right from wrong. Thus, we need His perspective.  

What does the Bible say about Palestine?

With the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and biased western media reports, there are multitudes of opinions about right and wrong. In many circles, it is assumed that if you are “pro-Israel,” you must be “anti-Arab”. Or if you sympathize with the “Palestinian suffering,” Israel is the oppressor and thus your enemy.

I can see how Christians struggle with these contrasting views. Especially since both sides use the Scriptures to support their position. The Bible clearly lays out the past and the future of the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation. At the same time, it also teaches us compassion, charity, and caring for the needy. 

Because of this difficulty of interpretation, some churches and pastors avoid this topic altogether. But this is a major mistake. Because the Word of God is very clear about some important events.  

In the coming days, God will continue to move Israel to the center stage of the world’s attention. To ignore Israel is to become more irrelevant in our current world. And to ignore prophecies about Israel’s return to the land is to ignore God’s plan for the end of the age.

So, as Christians, whose side are we supposed to be on? Our answer is often the same as the one given to Joshua: “No.”

the history of Palestinians and the land of Israel

God’s Perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Take a moment to look at the letter to Ephesians. God “seated Him [Jesus] at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…” (Eph. 1:20-21). And then, believers are “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (2:6)

In short, this is actually our answer to the troubling question of picking sides. Believers are seated with Jesus above the spiritual powers behind these conflicts – including the war in Israel! And don’t get distracted, we are not seated there for the great views.

God’s plan for us is not to solely choose man’s side in a conflict, even if, like Joshua, we are acting on God’s instructions. But God wants us to see reality from His perspective. We need to be alert and watchful to see what He is doing and follow His lead.

Heart for Israel? Heart for the Palestinians?

Do you have a heart for Israel? Then walk it out knowing that God passionately loves the Arab people and nations, even the ones enslaved in hateful ideologies. He wants them to come to His House for All Nations while still allowing them to willingly choose.

Do you have a heart for the Palestinians? Then walk it out while honoring the imperfect Israeli sovereignty. In our day, and without a historical equal, God is bringing His scattered people back from the nations to their Promised Land. It is the fulfillment of almost every biblical prophet. And it just so happens that it has provided the most prosperous place for Arabs to live in the Middle East.

Like with Joshua, the Lord is not looking to back our position. It is not about us (especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). He is looking for us to seek Him. We are to follow His plan and respond to His leadership.

Hope and Healing in the Middle East

Over the last few months, many people have been hurting during this war, both in Israel and in Gaza. 

As believers, following the Lord means seeing things from His perspective and following His lead. We get to choose if we will get caught up in the polarizing sides… Or if we will bring hope and healing to those who are suffering and in the greatest need during this time. 

What does God say about the war in Israel? Continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and look to Him, the commander of the Lord’s army, for instructions. 

If you want to support FIRM’s efforts to bring hope and healing to the people of this land, visit www.firmisrael.org/hope 

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Doug Hershey
Doug Hershey shares from a perspective of historian and storyteller. He is the author of the best-selling book ISRAEL RISING. His new online video course, "10 Prophecies Fulfilled in Our Lifetime" connects bible prophecy with its fulfillments in Israel today. Doug is the founder of Ezra Adventures, a travel and education company, specializing in exclusive customized small group travel throughout Israel and the Middle East. For more info, go to DougHershey.co or keep up with Doug Hershey, Author on FB, IG and Youtube.
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