In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul wrote that we must put on the whole armor of God in order to stand against the “wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-18).  One of these pieces of armor is called the “Sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17.  This “Sword” is a vital piece of equipment in our spiritual warfare while we are on this earth, so if we want to be pleasing to God we need to learn as much as we can about this sword. 

            To begin, the English word, sword, is mentioned four hundred and forty seven times in the Old Testament and thirty six times in the New Testament of the King James Translation of the Bible.  In the Old Testament it comes from four different Hebrew or Chaldean words:

     Baraq [as found in Job 20:25], is mentioned only one time, and mean: lightning; by analogy, a gleam; concrete, a flashing sword.  

    Chereb [as found in Genesis 3:24] is mentioned 411 times, and is also translated as axe, dagger, knife, mattock, and tool.  It means: a drought; also a cutting instrument (from the destructive effect), as a knife, sword, or other sharp implement. It is from another word, charab, which is a primitive root meaning to parch (through drought), i.e. (by analogy) to desolate, destroy, kill

     Retsach [as found in Psalm 42:10] mentioned twice, translated as slaughter and sword, and meaning: a crushing; specifically a murder-cry. (from a primitive root; properly to dash in pieces, i.e. kill (a human being), especially to murder). 

     Shelach [as found in Job 33:18 and 36:12] is mentioned seven times as a noun and 15 times as a verb, and means: a missile of attack, i.e. spear; also (figurative) a shoot of growth, i.e. branch (also translated as: dart, plant, X put off, sword, weapon).  (It is from a primitive root meaning to send away, for, or out (in a great variety of applications.) 

            After Adam and Eve disobeyed, God drove them out of the Garden and placed a “flaming sword (chereb)” that turned to “keep the way of the tree of life.”  The Hebrew word that has been translated as “turned” is only used in the Old Testament when indicating a reversal of direction or a change in composition.  The word, “keep”, means to ‘hedge about (as with thorns)’.  Figuratively, it is defined as a guarding or protecting.  We’re told that God placed the ‘flaming sword’ at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to prevent Adam and Eve from returning and partaking of the tree (which means ‘solidity’ that is free from defects or flaws) of life in his fallen state and living forever (Genesis 3:22), thereby perverting God’s determination regarding the death penalty for sin (the ‘missing the mark of the righteousness of God’, Genesis 2:16-17).  Considering the definition of the Hebrew words used in this verse we can be assured that, just like Jesus said in the Gospel of John (14:6) there is no way that mankind can find or work his way back into this perfect Garden of everlasting life by his own initiative and/or strength.

            In the New Testament Jesus declared that, in addition to being the ‘way’ and the ‘truth’, He is also the ‘life’ (John 14:6).  Like the ‘tree of life’ in the Garden of Eden, Jesus Christ, too, is ‘free from defects or flaws’…He was without sin (II Corinthians 5:21); and He paid the penalty for our sins with His own life (Hebrews 2:9).  Now, “whosoever” believes in Him is promised to once again have everlasting life (John 3:16).  Every benefit furnished back in the Garden of Eden is made available to us while we live in our flesh on this earth through faith in Christ (the Twenty-third Psalm and Matthew 6:25-34).  In addition to our needs being supplied, “…all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies…” are also available to us while we are still in our flesh on this earth.  Now, instead of that original Garden of Eden God created on the earth that must have been plenteous beyond imagination and beautiful beyond description, when we leave this earthly life we are promised eternal life in the spiritual abode of God ((Ephesians 1:3) that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9). 

            That first sword in Genesis “turned” to prevent man’s contaminating the ‘way’ for eternal life while he was still in a state of being spiritually separated from God. The “sharp, two-edged sword coming out of the Lord’s mouth in Revelation 1:16 ‘keeps’ (hedges about, guards, protects) the ‘way’ in the hearts of believers, “turning” us toward the “…measure and the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

            As stated, the word, sword, is found thirty-six times in the New Testament, and has been translated from two different Greek words.  I believe the difference between these two is important to know about because of the various ways they are translated in the King James Translation of the New Testament which tends to confuse, and even seems to be contradictory at times (as the “2-edged” one in Hebrews 4:12 vs. Revelation 1:16 for example).

            One sword is translated from the Greek word, rhomphaia.  The rhomphaia is only mentioned seven times in the entire New Testament, and means: (probably of foreign origin) a saber, i.e. a long and broad cutlass (any weapon of the kind, literal or figurative). All but one of these seven swords is located in The Revelation, and has to do specifically with the ‘sword’ that John saw coming out of the Lord’s mouth in Revelation 1:16.  The rhomphaia is defined as a ‘brandishing’ weapon, that ‘flourishes triumphantly, menacingly, or defiantly’, causing God’s children to grow spiritually.  Even Mary, the physical mother of Jesus who was ‘highly favored (Luke 1:28), was told in Luke 2:35 that a sword (rhomphaia, the same as that in Revelation 1:16) would ‘pierce’ her soul.  The rhomphaia (sword of the Spirit) is never used in the New Testament in conjunction with non-believers.


            The other twenty-nine uses of the term, sword, in the New Testament come from the Greek word, machaira.  The machaira is defined as a fighting weapon that is used offensively against an enemy.  It is described as a knife or dirk, and is used both literally and figuratively in conjunction with either physical or spiritual warfare, controversy, or judicial punishment.  The Apostle Peter used a literal machaira to cut the ear off of one of the servants of the high priest (John 18:10).  Even though we can have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus declared that He didn’t come to send “peace on earth…but a machaira (sword)” (Matthew 10:34).  We’re told in Hebrews 4:12 that the “Word of God is “…quick (alive), and powerful, and sharper (more keen) than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul (“the animal sentient principle only, breath”-physical) and spirit (“the rational and immortal soul-spiritual), and of the joints (unity of bodily activity) and marrow (the essence or vitality), and is a discerner (discriminating judge) of the thoughts (mental deliberation) and intents (deep-rooted desires and moral understanding) of the heart (the feelings will, and intellect).”  The sword in this verse is the “machaira”…indicating in context that it is something either man-made or empowered by man, such as a literal weapon, or medication and psychiatry, etc.  Mankind can gain much learning, develop ‘self-control’ and conform to man’s standards, or even take medication to keep his emotions on an even keel. He can change his “learned” habits and life style and perform a lot of good deeds, and so forth, in his own strength.  But he cannot become renewed in the “spirit” of his mind apart from God (Ephesians 4:22-23). 

            The rhomphaia (sword) is the Word of God that originates in His thoughts and feelings, and proceeds “out of His mouth” (Revelation 1:16) toward His spiritual children in Christ.  It is never used in conjunction with the unbelievers in the world.  Unlike the machaira, the rhomphaia (the Word of God), used by His Holy Spirit toward His children, proceeds forth from the origin of His thoughts and feelings, and pierces the soul of every sincere believer in Christ.  Some mistake this “piercing” to be limited to man’s conscience (which has been influenced from childhood to some degree by outside influence in all of us, saved and un-saved alike).  In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in First Timothy 4:1-3 that in the latter times some would depart from the faith, “speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron (moral consciousness cauterized or rendered insensitive).”  When God does the “piercing”, however, it is called the ‘chastening’ of the Lord (Hebrews 12:6). This chastening includes instruction, guidance, and correction, as well as scourging or some form of punishment if and as needed.   Unlike man’s conscience, God’s chastening turns our hearts and minds toward growing and thriving to the peak of spiritual development.     

            It is the machaira, however, as the sword of His Spirit, which is the Word of God, that God supplies to believers to enable us to “stand (upright and active) against the wiles (method, manipulation, adroit sophistry, and deceit, etc.,) of the devil” in our spiritual battles, according to  Ephesians 6:17.  Regardless of what kind of sword we attempt to use, it is only through faith in the truthfulness of God’s Word that we are enabled to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil, and win spiritual victories in our daily life.  Remember, when the devil tried to tempt Jesus He (Jesus) always used the Word of God (i.e. “It is written,” Matthew 4: 4, 7, & 10).   

            It is the Word of God (the ‘sword [machaira] of God’s Spirit) that He uses to “…reprove (show to be wrong, convict) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).  It is also the machaira (sword) by which the Lord will “fight against” us…His spiritual children…when we are rebellious and disobedient (I Peter 3:12).  And, according to Ephesians 6:17, the Word of God is the spiritual sword (figurative machaira) that believers in Christ are given to enable us to “stand (upright and active) against the wiles of the devil” (his method, manipulation, adroit sophistry, and deceit, etc.) in our spiritual battles.  Most real Christians want to please God in our daily life.  One can hear, and try to apply a lot of rules and regulations to daily living that some think makes one righteous, but if we really want to be please God, and our life on this earth be “approved” by Him, then we have to be reading, studying, and assimilating the Word of God (the “Sword of God’s Spirit,”) and learning to apply it in every circumstance in our daily life (II Timothy 2:15).  It is the choice of each individual child of God’s.  It is your choice.


            The rhomphaia (sword), used only seven times in the New Testament, is found in the following Bible verses: Luke 2:35; Revelation 1:16; 2:12; 2:16; 6:8; 19:15; and 19:21.  All of the rest of the swords mentioned in the New Testament (29 in total) is from the Greek word, machaira.

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