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What Does the Bible Say About Revenge?

The Bible’s answer

 Even though a person may feel justified in taking revenge, doing so goes against the Bible’s counsel: “Do not say: ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will get even with him.” (Proverbs 24:29, footnote) The Bible contains advice that has helped many overcome a desire for revenge.

In this article

 What is wrong with seeking revenge?

 If someone offended or harmed you, it is natural to feel angry and to want the other person to be punished for what he or she did. However, taking personal revenge is not in harmony with the Bible’s message. Why?

 When humans seek their own revenge, it displeases God. In the Bible, Jehovah * God says: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” (Romans 12:19) The Bible encourages those who have been wronged to seek peaceful ways to resolve matters when possible instead of pursuing revenge. (Romans 12:18) But what if such peaceful avenues are exhausted or unavailable? The Scriptures admonish us to trust in Jehovah to right all wrongs.—Psalm 42:10, 11.

 How does God exact punishment?

 For now, God allows secular authorities to administer punishment. (Romans 13:1-4) In time, he will bring to justice all who have been guilty of cruelty and he will eliminate suffering forever.—Isaiah 11:4.

 How can I overcome a desire for revenge?

  •   Avoid acting on impulse. (Proverbs 17:27) People who give in to anger often do things that they later regret. But those who take time to think before reacting are more likely to make better decisions.—Proverbs 29:11.

  •   Seek the facts. (Proverbs 18:13) Someone who has been wronged would do well to ask himself, ‘Are there factors unknown to me that could explain why the offender acted the way he did? Is he under pressure? Or did he act out of ignorance?’ Sometimes what seems like an intentional offense may simply be an honest mistake.

 Misconceptions about revenge

 Misconception: The Bible authorizes revenge when it says “an eye for an eye.”—Leviticus 24:20, Contemporary English Version.

 Fact: The “eye for an eye” law in ancient Israel discouraged acts of personal revenge. Generally, the rule helped judges impose appropriate punishments. *Deuteronomy 19:15-21.

 Misconception: Since the Bible does not authorize personal revenge, we cannot defend ourselves when attacked.

 Fact: If attacked, a person has the right to defend himself or seek help from the authorities. However, the Bible says we should avoid violent confrontations whenever possible.—Proverbs 17:14.

^ Jehovah is God’s name as revealed in the Bible.

^ For a detailed discussion of this rule, see the article “What Does ‘an Eye for an Eye’ Mean?