THE WAR AND THE COMMANDMENT “THOU SHALT NOT KILL”

The sixth of the Ten Commandments given by God in the Old Testament says: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). It is impossible not to violate this commandment even for self-defense, in times of warfare. So, even those people, who defend themselves from the attackers, oppose the will of God? How does the Church explain this circumstance?

God is the one who gives life and only He can take that life back. The sixth of the Ten Commandments forbids a man to touch the human life (Exodus 20:13). However, church authors have taught that during the wars the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is not violated by them who war with the authority given from God or according to His laws.

In particular, church famous author of the earliest Christian period Augustine explains this in his work “The City of God”. The Armenian ecclesiastical writer Saint Yegishe answered this question not only by the theoretical interpretation of the Holy Scripture but also by the description of the war events in the Armenian history.

He describes the war in 451 when the Armenians leading by the commander Saint Vardan and the Armenian clergy defended their Christian faith and Motherland from Persian attackers. The historian mentions that the archpriest Saint Ghevond encouraged the Armenians by referring to Scripture, inspiring with the examples of the praiseworthy persons who acted with the zeal for the people and sacred values.

Moses killed the Egyptian, and God made him the leader of the people for the zeal he showed (Exodus 2:12-14, 3:2-12). The priest Phinehas eliminated the abomination from the people by murder, and God established the priesthood of his descendants (Numbers 25.6-13). The prophet Elijah, with just jealousy, destroyed the idolaters and then ascended to heaven with a chariot of fire (1 Kings 18:37-40, 2 Kings 2:11). During his childhood, David killed Goliath with a stone, rescued his people from war and its misery and was designated by God as the king of Israel and called the father of the Son of God. (1 Samuel 17: 4-10, 40-52; 2 Samuel 5:3-4; Matthew 1:1, 9:27 12:23, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9, 15, 22:42; Mark 10:47-48, 12:35; Luke 1:32, 69, 18:38; John 7:42).

The war for defense is considered as the fulfillment of Christ’s commandment. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).