The ancient practice of non-retaliation

If we recognize that only God is truly able to judge others, we relieve ourselves of that burden and responsibility.

Matthew 5:39 – “But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

While many people claim that Yeshua began a revolutionary concept of non-retaliation in his day, it was actually a godly principle from ancient times, evidenced by the narrative of Scripture.

1 Samuel 24:12-13 – “May Yahweh judge between me and you, and may Yahweh take vengeance on you for me, but my hand will never be against you. “As the old proverb says, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’ My hand will never be against you.

As David was confronted with the continuing persecution of Saul, he makes the commitment that he would never do Saul harm as Saul was attempting to do to him, since Saul is God’s anointed ruler. David fulfilled that commitment.

What I find fascinating from an historical perspective is that David quoted “an old proverb” regarding how wickedness in action stems from those who are wicked. As far as we know, this is not a quote from Moses or any biblical writer prior to David, but it was a quote that had become common enough to be routinely mentioned as proverbial within that culture. This idea of non-retaliation appears to be very ancient, indeed.

Ironically, or perhaps because of David’s parenting influence, his son Solomon would become associated with thousands of proverbs. Likely influenced by that same godly motivation of his father, Solomon would ultimately pen the following proverb:

Proverbs 24:29 – Don’t say, “I’ll do to him what he did to me; I’ll repay the man for what he has done.”

This is a line of thinking carried all the way down to New Testament writers. Even beyond the life and teaching of Yeshua, the apostle Paul expands on this perspective that was modeled by his Lord and Master and the ancient forefathers.

Romans 12:17-19 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says Yahweh.

That vengeance belongs to God is a statement that is an echo of David’s words to Saul. If we recognize that only God is truly able to judge others, we relieve ourselves of that burden and responsibility, and allow him to do whatever is appropriate in regard to our situation. This takes a strong measure of faith on our part, as we may have an opportunity to “right” a wrong, or provide a retaliatory measure of what we would consider justice.

By staying our hand and allowing God to work, we may endure injustice for the moment but in the process God can be glorified. When others see that we are willing to suffer an injustice at the hands of others and yet not retaliate, we provide a strong witness to our faith that God is in control and that only he is the true judge.

When we choose to forego those opportunities and instead trust God for ultimate judgment, we also demonstrate our like-minded discipleship and faithfulness to our Lord and Messiah and can rightfully assume our place in a long line of historical and spiritual ancestors before us.


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