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KILLING AND THE PHINEHAS PRIESTHOOD
Authored By : Bill Kochman (aka The WordWeaver)
Published On : November 12, 1997
Last Updated : February 20, 2012
An In-Depth Study Of The Meanings Of "Kill" In The Old Testament, And A Quest To Determine If God Condones The Active Participation Of Christians In Human Warfare
The following commentary is based on an interview I watched on American television where news anchorman Dan Rather interviewed one of the incarcerated leaders of the Phinehas Priesthood. From what the detained member said during the broadcast, it appears that the Phinehas Priesthood is a loosely-structured organization comprised of fundamentalist Christians who have declared war on the Government of the United States Of America. This is not just limited to spiritual warfare, but also includes physical warfare. The members of this civilian militia believe that killing, robbing banks, assassinations and other violent acts are condoned by God because the American Government is evil, anti-God and against the Bible. This organization consists of individual cells which act independently of each other. This is the only information I currently have on this resistance movement.
While I can agree with some of their views, particularly in regards to the American government being against God, in my view, the members of this organization have clearly misunderstood the Scriptures. There are some vast differences between what happened in the Old Testament before Christ's arrival on Earth, and the message we are given in the New Testament by both Jesus Himself, and those who continued to propagate His Message after His return to Heaven.
As I have pointed out in other articles such as "The Fruits of Disobedience", God did in fact condone killing in the Old Testament so that the Hebrews could inherent the Promised Land, and thus safely continue the lineage of the tribe of Judah up through King David until the eventual birth of our Savior about one thousand years later. Jacob, also known as Israel, foresaw the arrival of the Saviour far in the future. Prior to his death, he made the following prophecy regarding the tribe of Judah:
"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."
Genesis 49:10, KJV
It is for this reason that Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah in the Book of Revelation:
"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof."
Revelation 5:5, KJV
As the Phinehas Priesthood leader correctly stated, God looked at the wars to conquer the Promised Land as the necessary killing of the pagan idol-worshipping nations of the Canaanites who rejected the true God of Israel. The Lord did not view this as wholesale murder, but rather as a necessary cleansing of the land. He viewed it just as a bug exterminator would view a house infested with cockroaches. While this analogy may surprise and offend some, it is nevertheless the absolute truth. For example, consider the following words spoken to the Children of Israel by Moses on the final day of the fortieth year when they were about to cross the Jordan River in order to enter the land of Canaan:
"Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee."
Deuteronomy 9:3, KJV
That word "destroy" is translated from the Hebrew word "shamad" which means to destroy, exterminate or annihilate. Just as the Germans are said to have sought to exterminate the Jews, the ancient Israelites were ordered by the Lord to do the very same thing to the idol-worshipping Canaanites! Tragically, as I explained in the article "The Fruits of Disobedience", they failed miserably in this task. In the very next verse, the Lord warns them to not get puffed up in their own conceit thinking that they will have done it by their own hand, or because they deserve it. He tells them that the only reason they will be able to drive out the Canaanites will be because the Lord is punishing the Canaanites for their wickedness. What a contrast in attitude with the haughty Israelis of today who depend not only upon their own military strength, but also upon military agreements made with other nations:
"Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee."
Deuteronomy 9:4, KJV
Thus we see that this was not considered murder in the Lord's eyes. Murder is a conscious pre-meditated act motivated by greed, lust or some other negative human desire. As far as the Lord was concerned, the conquest of the Promised Land was a righteous cause, unlike many wars which have been fought since then. There have been a number of heated debates regarding the correct meaning of the word "kill" as it is used in the original Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. In the Book of Exodus we read in the twentieth chapter:
"Thou shalt not kill."
Exodus 20:13, KJV
This word "kill" is derived from the Hebrew "ratsach" which is translated sixteen times as "slayer", fourteen times as "murderer", five times as "kill", and then in other ways even lesser times. As we can see, the overall idea seems to be a conscious choosing to take another person's life. In other words, murder. Other examples where "ratsach" is used to mean manslayer or murderer is in the following verses. Notice that while the Lord did command the Israelites to not murder, there were situations in the Old Testament were it was permissible. This is what would be referred to as "justifiable homicide". This is still recognized and is unpunishable by law in certain areas of the world, such as in Arab countries:
"And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment."
Numbers 35:12, KJV
"But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:"
Numbers 35:26-27, KJV
I find the above verses very interesting because they show that penal colonies are actually based on the Scriptures. Rather than build one building to house dangerous violent criminals, the Lord commanded the ancient Israelites to set aside entire cities for them where they could flee while they awaited their judgment. Just imagine if you were a criminal in those days. There were no hot meals served, no guards to protect you from other criminals. You were basically on your own! We can only wonder how many lived long enough to be properly judged. Notice too that it says that if they were to come out of the penal cities, they were fair game to those seeking to slay them for their crimes!
What makes this issue of killing and murder even more difficult for the English reader is that I have discovered that there are actually at least nine different Hebrew words used in the Old Testament for our one English word "kill". For example, in the case of animal sacrifices, the word used for slay or kill is "shachat". From the research I did, it appears that this word is only used to refer to a sacrificial killing by the Levitical priesthood, and for nothing else, as in the following verses:
"And thou shalt kill the bullock before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation."
Exodus 29:11, KJV
"So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses."
2 Chronicles 35:6, KJV
One unusual occurrence I found was with the Hebrew word "naqaph". Normally, it means to compass, to go round about or to go about. However, in the following verse, it is used like "sachat" to kill a sacrifice:
"Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices."
Isaiah 29:1, KJV
Another word translated into English as "kill" is the Hebrew word "muwth". This word is specifically used in regards to Pharaoh's orders for the Hebrew midwives to kill all of the Hebrew male babies. It is also used when the Israelites accuse Moses of bringing them out of Egypt just to kill them in the wilderness. In these two examples, it appears to be used to describe massive or wholesale killing as opposed to just killing one person:
"And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live."
Exodus 1:16, KJV
"And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
Exodus 16:3, KJV
However, "muwth" is also used to mean die, or to make dead as in these examples:
"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."
Genesis 2:17, KJV
"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:"
Genesis 3:4, KJV
"And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died."
Genesis 5:5, KJV
Another Hebrew word used is "harag". This is used in the story where Abram tells the Egyptians that Sarai is his sister for fear that they might kill him otherwise. This word is also used where Rebekah warns Jacob that his brother Esau is seeking to kill him. It is also used in the case of Moses killing the Egyptian. The overall idea here seems to be that "harag" is used to signify killing which is an act of revenge, retribution or to unrightfully obtain something from another person. In fact, the Lord used this word with Himself in the Book of Exodus when He says He will kill those who afflict the widow or the fatherless child:
"And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon."
Genesis 26:7, KJV
"And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee."
Genesis 27:42, KJV
"And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known."
Exodus 2:14, KJV
"And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless."
Exodus 22:24, KJV
In the case of slaughtering or killing livestock for food, we find the word "zabach" used. It may mean killing animals which are normally reserved for sacrifice, but I am not certain:
"Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart."
Deuteronomy 12:15, KJV
"If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after."
Deuteronomy 12:21, KJV
We also find the word "tabach" used to mean the general killing of animals, not necessarily for food purposes, and also when comparing the killing of people to a slaughter of animals in the following verses:
"And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon."
Genesis 43:16, KJV
"If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep."
Exodus 22:1, KJV
"But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered."
Jeremiah 11:19, KJV
"Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel."
Jeremiah 25:34, KJV
"I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams with he goats."
Jeremiah 51:40, KJV
In the case of the prophecy about Jesus in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the variation "tebach" -- instead of "tabach" -- is used:
"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."
Isaiah 53:7, KJV
In the story of the chastisement of the sodomite Benjamites of Gibeah by the other tribes of Israel, it appears that "chalal" might mean the killing or slaying of one group of people by another group of people:
"And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel."
Judges 20:31, KJV
"And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle."
Judges 20:39, KJV
Lastly, we find the Hebrew word "nakah" in the following verses. According to the lexicon, it means to smite, slay, kill, beat or slaughter with a few other lesser-used meanings as well. The only common denominator I see in all of these verses is that they all refer to the killing of just one person, that is, Cain, Joseph and Goliath:
"And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him."
Genesis 4:15, KJV
"And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him."
Genesis 37:21, KJV
"If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us."
1 Samuel 17:9, KJV
"And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel."
1 Samuel 17:25, KJV
So then, in all, we have at least nine different Hebrew words in the Old Testament which are all translated as "kill" in the English language: chalal, harag, muwth, nakah, naqaph, ratsach, shachat, tabach and zabach. Being as I am not a Hebrew scholar, I am not sure of their precise meanings, and am only making educated guesses based on how they are used in the previous verses. If there is one thing we can definitely see, it is that Hebrew is a much more precise and exact language than English. We can also determine that the issue of killing, and the kind of killing involved, was taken very seriously by the Lord and the Hebrews.
Having now thoroughly examined the Old Testament examples of killing, let's take a look at what the New Testament has to say regarding this issue. In my view, the contrast in messages is quite clear. With Christ's arrival on Earth, through His own preaching, life, and ultimate example on the Cross at Calvary, He made it quite clear that this type of violence was no longer condoned or acceptable by God. No where do we see Jesus encouraging any kind of physical violence, revolt, or war against the system of His day. Some people wanted to make Him their king after He had done some miracles; the Zealots wanted Him to become their leader to revolt against their Roman occupiers; but in every case, Jesus refused to yield to their demands. He was not here to declare a physical war, but only a spiritual one; a war to win souls out of the clutches of Satan the deceiver. Even up to the moment of His betrayal and death on the Cross, He made this message very clear through His own example.
When Peter smote off the ear of Malchus, servant of the high priest in the Mount of Olives, much to the amazement of all, Jesus immediately healed him to once again show that He did not condone such violence. He in fact rebuked Peter saying that all who take the sword shall be killed by the sword. As Jesus Himself also said, this was also to ensure that His Father's Will would be fulfilled by His death on the Cross. When Jesus was questioned before the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, He likewise stated that His Kingdom is not of this world, and that for this reason, His servants would not fight to save Him from His impending death:
"Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough . . . And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him."
Luke 22:36-38, 50-51, KJV
"Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
John 18:10-11, KJV
"And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"
Matthew 26:51-54, KJV
Some have questioned the incident where after the Last Supper, Jesus instructed His Disciples to sell their purse, scrip and garment to buy swords. The Disciples presented Jesus with two swords and He is recorded as having said "It is enough". This can be found in the twenty-second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, as well as in several of the other Gospels.
Since I first read the above passages many years ago, I've gained some new insight. Originally, I understood the incident in the garden to mean that Jesus was actually condoning the Disciples having swords. But then we have Jesus a short time later healing the ear of the servant of the High Priest after Peter actually uses his sword to defend the Lord. One possible explanation I can offer is the following: Did Jesus allow this incident to occur just to teach the Disciples a valuable lesson about the spiritual nature of their warfare? Possibly; but a better explanation might be that Jesus knew He had to bear testimony of His Father's Love right up to the end by healing the servant's ear. This would definitely reinforce what Jesus had said some time earlier:
"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;"
Matthew 5:44, KJV
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John 13:35, KJV
This incident in the Garden would reconcile the fact that He told His Disciples to obtain swords previously. After all, there were Twelve Disciples. If Jesus really meant for them to arm themselves, why would He tell them "It is enough" after they had only acquired two swords? Obviously, two swords wouldn't have been enough to defend all of them against a band of Roman soldiers, or against an angry mob. I suspect that if they had only acquired one sword, Jesus would still have said "It is enough", as Peter would have still been able to cut of the servant's ear, thus allowing Jesus to manifest another token of His Father's Love. In addition, this incident would also serve as a testimony against them in the Day of Judgement. In other words, Jesus could say, "I healed your servant to show my good intentions and peaceful nature, yet you still arrested me". I am reminded of something else King David said which may have been prophetic in nature:
"I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war."
Psalms 120:7, KJV
In the Book of Psalms, we find many prophecies about Jesus written by King David. Psalm twenty-two is a prime example, as well as Psalm two which appears to be Millennial in nature.
This one incident in Gethsemane aside, all other New Testament indications are that we are not to resort to any form of physical violence to defend ourselves or to fight against any government which we deem to be anti-God, including the very reign of the Antichrist or Beast of the Book of Revelation. We are constantly told that we are not of this world and that our Kingdom is not of this world. Consider these verses:
"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
John 15:19, KJV
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
John 18:36, KJV
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
James 4:4, KJV
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
1 John 2:15-16, KJV
From the Old Testament Endtime prophecies such as in the Book of Daniel, up to Revelations, we are told that the true followers of Christ will be persecuted and killed by the forces of the Antichrist. We are told that the Antichrist will declare war against the Saints of the Most High and eventually wear them out:
"And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed."
Daniel 11:33-35, KJV
"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations."
Revelation 13:7, KJV
According to one interpretation of events, some Jews living in Israel may possibly have a special place of refuge prepared for them in the wilderness. However, nowhere is there any mention of the Endtime believers turning around to fight against the followers of the Beast, at least not in a physical sense. As the Apostle Paul clearly stated in his letter to the Corinthians, the Ephesians and the Hebrews, our weapons are clearly of a spiritual nature, because our real enemy is a spiritual being:
"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)"
2 Corinthians 10:4, KJV
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
Ephesians 6:10-13, KJV
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12, KJV
"Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:"
Ephesians 2:2, KJV
Please go to part two for the conclusion of this article.
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