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Riots, Mobs, Looting and Violence in the Bible

Riots, mobs, looting, violence - Bible teachingThe Bible describes many examples in which people caused riots or mob actions. These often involved violence, lying, false accusations intimidation, rebellion, and desire for power or personal wealth. The same is often true in our own society. Consider the Bible teaching.

News reports often describe riots, mobs, and looting. The Bible discusses this subject.

Bible Examples of Riots

Riots against Moses

Numbers 14:1-10 – Ten spies brought back a bad report about capturing the land of Israel. The people assembled against Moses and Aaron and wanted to appoint different leaders to take them back to Egypt where they had been enslaved. When Joshua and Caleb attempted to reason with them, the congregation sought to stone them.

Numbers 16 – Korah, Dathan, and Abiram gathered two hundred fifty people against Moses and Aaron claiming they had the right to serve as priests. God caused the earth to open and swallow them.

Riots against the Apostle Paul

Acts 14:1-20 – Jews from Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra and persuaded the multitudes to stone Paul.

Acts 16:16-23 – In Philippi Paul healed a demon-possessed girl resulting in loss of profit to her masters. They dragged Paul and Silas before authorities. A multitude gathered and Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned.

Acts 17:5-8 – In Thessalonica unbelieving Jews were jealous that Paul and Silas were gaining followers. They found some evil men to help gather a mob and set the city in an uproar.

Acts 19 – In Ephesus men who sold silver images of an idol became angry that Paul taught against idolatry. They began a protest and the whole city gathered together in confusion, many not knowing why they came together. For two hours they chanted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”

Acts 21:27-36 – Jews in Jerusalem falsely accused Paul of taking a Gentile into the temple. They stirred up such a crowd that the whole city was disturbed. They began beating Paul seeking to kill him, but the Roman commander rescued Paul from the violence of the mob.

Riot against Jesus

Mark 15:6-15 – Jewish leaders, motivated by envy, stirred up an angry crowd against Jesus. When Pilate wanted to release Jesus, the leaders stirred up the crowd to cry out, “Crucify him!”

Characteristics of Mob Violence

Bible examples illustrate the following common characteristics of riots.

Selfish motives: The instigators act from jealousy, desire for personal gain, desire for power, or rebellion and a desire to bring down current leadership. Other people who join the riot may be motivated by desire for personal gain (looting), rebellion, or desire for excitement.

Intimidation – Rioters hope to achieve their purposes by fear caused by large numbers of rioters, anger, shouting, and threats of violence. Efforts to reason with them are useless.

Lies and slander – Truth, reason, and good judgment become irrelevant. Their acts are rationalized by lies, false accusations, and any excuse available.

Physical violence – The goal is to take what others have, so property, safety, and human life are threatened. Theft, violence, and even murder are common.

The gospel condemns hatred, lies, and violence. It teaches God’s people to reason with others by giving evidence based on truth.

Acts 17:2,3 – Paul reasoned with people from the Scriptures explaining and demonstrating that Jesus is the Christ.

Mark 16:15,16 – Go into all the world and preach the gospel. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.

Credit for ideas to Randy J. Guliuzza, – Biblical Insights into Today’s Violent Mob Mentality Acts & Facts. 51 (7).

(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2022;

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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.

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