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Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich in the United Nations Art Collection[1]

Swords to ploughshares is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications. The plowshare is often used to symbolize creative tools that benefit mankind, as opposed to destructive tools of war, symbolized by the sword, a similar sharp metal tool with an arguably opposite use. The common expression "beat swords into plowshares" has been used by disparate social and political groups. The phrase originates from a biblical quote:

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3

One of the greatest efforts in this vein has been various peace movement goals. An example might be the destruction of nuclear weapons and the use of that technology in the development of power sources. Nuclear fission has been applied to many civilian purposes since its use at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and nuclear fusion requires further research before it can become practical to the same degree.


References in popular culture

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
  • The popular anti-war song "The Vine and Fig Tree" repeats the verse [2]
"And everyone neath their vine and fig tree
shall live in peace and unafraid,
Everyone neath their vine and fig tree
shall live in peace and unafraid.
And into ploughshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more.
And into ploughshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more."
  • Create a world with no fear
Together we'll cry happy tears
See the nations turn
Their swords into plowsharesHeal The World by Michael Jackson (1991)
  • They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the ploughshare,
They will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward. — Finale of the musical Les Misérables
  • You took your sacrifice to the gods of war
Traded your children's lives for a mess of gold
And beat your ploughshares into swords
Breathing free. — "Protect and Survive" by Runrig
  • The Don Henley song The End of the Innocence contains the line: They're beating plowshares into swords, for the tired old man that we elected king (a reference to then-President Ronald Reagan).
  • The Stephen Stills song Feed the People includes the line: Turn your swords to ploughshares everywhere, and feed the people.
  • The phrase Pax Arva Colat meaning Let Peace Cultivate the Fields is the motto of the World Ploughing Organization.
  • In the song What Good are Plowshares if we use them like Swords? Hoots and Hellmouth ask:
What good are plowshares if we use them like swords?
Don't spoil the harvest, we ain't got much more.
  • The collectible card game Magic: The Gathering features a card named Swords to Plowshares. It exiles a creature (removes a creature from the game entirely), and its controller gains life equal to its power rating. It costs one white Mana to cast.


  • "And they'll beat swords into ploughshares and ploughshares into swords, and so on and so on, and back and forth." 'Sort of an Apocalypse,' Yehuda Amichai, 1958
  • "The plough dishonored, fields left lying waste now that men are drafted; curving scythes are pounded into shape for ruthless swords." - Virgil, Georgics, Book One

List of notable cases

Main article: Dual-use technology

Not all of the following examples actually express the idea of the phrase, which stresses the destruction of weapons of war and recycling the materials for peaceful purposes. Although interesting and somewhat related to the concept, these show the dual-use nature of technology, which does not always clearly convey the intention of the phrase nor how it is used today.

The Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares statue at United Nations headquarters, New York.

See also


External links



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