War or peace? Exodus 15:3 says The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. Romans 15:33 says Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. Can God be both a man of war and a man of peace? This question is so important I feel because it deals with the aspect of God. I don’t think we can truly have a great relationship with God if we don’t understand him. I do know we are not gonna know him completely but I feel this is something in the Bible we should address.
Both passages should be interpreted within the context of what the author is discussing and what he is trying to teach. In Exodus 15:3 Moses is talking about how God protected his people from being destroyed by Pharaoh’s troops. (By the way, I do not know what translation you found, but the Hebrew does not literally say that Jehovah is a man of war. A better translation is that God is a warrior, which is not the same as saying he is a God who seeks war) The protection was spiritual, but it also was physical. God did not start a war with Pharaoh. Neither did Moses or Israel. They were simply trying to gain their freedom from slavery and God was helping them to do so. When Moses exuberantly declared that “Jehovah is a warrior” he was using poetry to praise how God had used the physical elements to defend his people from destruction at the hands of a military power. This is not a statement that God is a war-monger or a soldier or an instigator of war.
We should interpret Romans 15:33 in its context as well. Here Paul calls God a “God of peace.” In this case, he is talking about our relationship with him. He is a God who grants emotional and spiritual peace. War or the lack of war is not even under consideration in this passage. Paul is not even talking about human warfare. Therefore, Exodus 15:3 and Romans 15:33 could not possibly be a contradiction because they are not even talking about the same thing.
God is a god of peace. This does not mean that God does not come into conflict with human beings because of their rebellion to him. God is a God who always prefers peace. He always seeks peace. But there are people and there are spiritual powers who have rebelled against God and who are fighting what God is trying to do. Therefore, there are times and situations in which God comes into conflict with the enemies of those who love God. Let me give two more passages—a little like the ones you have found—which could be used to show that the Bible contradicts on God’s nature with regard to peace, but which actually do not contradict at all.
Consider Isaiah 9:6 which calls Jesus the Messiah the “Prince of Peace.” Consider Matthew 5:5:9 which tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Yet, in what could be seen as a contradiction, Jesus said to his apostles in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”
Like the passage you quoted, these verses can be used to claim that there is a conflict here, but there simply is not. God is a god of peace. God’s desire is always for peace between humans and peace between himself and us. However, the fact is that humans have rebelled against God and have turned to sin. This rebellion has brought in warfare between people and spiritual battle with God. Followers of Jesus should be aware that if they decide to follow Jesus, this will cause conflict in some cases. Jesus is simply telling the truth in Matthew 10:34, and this truth has come to happen millions of times. When we decide for God we come into conflict with the spiritual enemies of God. There is spiritual warfare and sometimes people get caught in the middle. Is God a God of peace? Absolutely. Does that mean that he will not oppose those who are enemies? No, it does not.