What does the Bible tell us about gun control?
While on the surface one might think that the Bible doesn’t have much to say about this ostensibly modern political issue, in reality, plenty is said both from the standpoint of biblical law as well as in accounts of enemy oppression of the early Israelite nation.
First off, biblical precepts are quite clear that individuals are responsible for their own actions.
There is no biblical discussion of the restriction of weapons, for instance, to prevent violence and murder. A murderer is personally responsible for his or her actions and is liable for the death penalty after a proper legal process and the examination of multiple witnesses (Numbers 35:29-31). The method of murder or what weapons may or may not have been used are of absolutely no concern in biblical law. Perhaps even more telling, if a man owns an ox that habitually attacks and gores people, that man is held responsible for not controlling his property (Exodus 21:28-31).
In fact, only two objects are completely and universally prohibited according to biblical tenets. The first item is an idol, and the second is a false weight or measure.
In the first case, the idolatrous object has no purpose besides the worship of a false deity (Exodus 20:3-6). In the second case, false weights and balances are solely intended to cheat and defraud others in business or commercial matters (Deuteronomy 25:3-6). In other words, the only two objects that are biblically prohibited have no possible good purpose — only sinful and evil ones.
The implication is clear: The Bible does not prohibit or limit ownership of weapons because these objects can have positive uses, such as justified self-defense, appropriate military action, etc.
While biblical law might not delve into the matter of weapon ownership beyond the aforementioned principles, the biblical accounts of ancient Israel do provide an interesting description of events involving gun control — or perhaps “sword control” is more accurate — in the chapters leading up to the famous story of David and Goliath.
In 1 Samuel 13-14, we read that Saul had recently been crowned as king over the land of Israel in the 11th century BC. At this time the Philistines, a marauding Cretan sea people who had settled along the Mediterranean coastal plains of Israel, oppressed the early Jewish nation.
1 Samuel 13:19-22 informs us that the Philistines had taken all of the iron swords, spears and other weapons of the Israelites. Further, the Philistines taxed all of the smithing operations, even the sharpening of basic tools. In other words, the Bible makes it clear that two and a half millennia before the American patriots defied the British, the Philistines employed strict weapon control and taxation to maintain a policy of occupation and oppression.
1 Samuel tells us that only Saul and his son Jonathan possessed swords. Additionally, 600 warriors from the tribe of Benjamin stood firm with the new king against the massive incoming Philistine army (1 Samuel 13:15). This brings us to an obvious question: If only Saul and Jonathan had swords, then what were the 600 Benjaminite warriors intending to fight with?
While the Bible doesn’t answer this question explicitly, preceding contextual accounts might give us our answer. Previously, in Judges 20:15-16, we read that the tribal fighting force of Benjamin maintained a unit of 700 expert slingers of stones. And now, as the Philistine army approached, Saul was accompanied by 600 Benjaminite warriors whose fighting abilities were not impeded by the control of metal weaponry. Reading between the lines, it seems that Saul’s small military detachment most likely consisted of the present generation of Benjaminite slingers.
Ultimately, Jonathan and his armor-bearer struck a Philistine garrison with their own swords, apparently taking advantage of the Philistines’ assumption that all of the Israelites were completely unarmed. Panic ensued among the ranks of the Philistines, allowing Saul and his warriors to strike fiercely. The Israelite victory over the Philistines was incomplete, however, due to Saul’s foolishness in leadership (1 Samuel 14).
Several chapters later, in 1 Samuel 17, the Philistine hordes again massed for battle. This time they presented their champion, a giant warrior over 9 feet tall named Goliath. For 40 days he challenged Saul and the Israelite army to a duel to decide the entire battle, even daring to defy the Almighty himself.