6 occurrences in 6 dictionaries

Reference: War


One of the evil fruits of the fall, and an appalling manifestation of the depravity of mankind, Ge 6:11-13; Isa 9:5; Jas 4:1-2, often rendered apparently inevitable by the assaults of enemies, or commanded by God for their punishment. See AMALEKITES and CANAAN. By this scourge, subsequently to the conquest of Canaan, God chastised both his own rebellious people and the corrupt and oppressive idolaters around them. In many cases, moreover, the issue was distinctly made between the true God and idols; as with the Philistines, 1Sa 17:43-47; the Syrians, 1Ki 20:23-30; the Assyrians, 2Ki 19:10-19,35; and the Ammonites, 2Ch 20:1-30. Hence God often raised up champions for his people, gave them counsel in war by Urim and by prophets, and miraculously aided them in battle.

Before the period of the kings, there seems to have been scarcely any regular army among the Jews; but all who were able to bear arms were liable to be summoned to the field, 1Sa 11:7. The vast armies of the kings of Judah and Israel usually fought on foot, armed with spears, swords, and shields; having large bodies of archers and slingers, and comparatively few chariots and horsemen. See ARMS. The forces were arranged in suitable divisions, with officers of tens, hundreds, thousands, etc., Jg 20:10; 1Ch 13:1; 2Ch 25:5. The Jews were fully equal to the nations around them in bravery and the arts of war; but were restrained from wars of conquest, and when invaders had been repelled the people dispersed to their homes. A campaign usually commenced in spring, and was terminated before winter, 2Sa 11:1; 1Ki 20:22. As the Jewish host approached a hostile army, the priests cheered them by addresses, De 20:2; 1Sa 7:9,13, and by inspiring songs, 2Ch 20:21. The sacred trumpets gave the signal for battle, Nu 10:9-10; 2Ch 13:12-15; the archers and slingers advanced first, but at length made way for the charge of the heavy-armed spearmen, etc., who sought to terrify the enemy, ere they reached them, by their aspect and war-cries, Jg 7:18-20; 1Sa 17:52; Job 39:25; Isa 17:12-13. The combatants were soon engaged hand to hand; the battle became a series of duels; and the victory was gained by the obstinate bravery, the skill, strength, and swiftness of individual warriors, 1Ch 12:8; Ps 18:32-37. See Paul's exhortations to Christian firmness, under the assaults of spiritual foes, 1Co 16:13; Eph 6:11-14; 1Th 3:8. The battles of the ancients were exceedingly sanguinary, 2Ch 28:6; few were spared except those reserved to grace the triumph or be sold as slaves. A victorious army of Jews on returning was welcomed by the whole population with every demonstration of joy, 1Sa 18:6-7. The spoils were divided after reserving an oblation for the Lord, Nu 31:50; Jg 5:30; trophies were suspended in public places; eulogies were pronounced in honor of the most distinguished warriors, and lamentations over the dead.

In besieging a walled city, numerous towers were usually erected around it for throwing missiles; catapults were prepared for hurling large darts and stones. Large towers were also constructed and mounds near to the city walls, and raised if possible to an equal or greater height, that by casting a movable bridge across access to the city might be gained. The battering-ram was also employed to effect a breach in the wall; and the crow, a long spar with iron claws at one end and ropes at the other, to pull down stones or men from the top of the wall. These and similar modes of assault the besieged resisted by throwing down darts, stones, heavy rocks, and sometimes boiling oil; but hanging sacks of chaff between the battering-ram and the wall; by strong and sudden sallies, capturing and burning the towers and enginery of the assailants, and quickly retreating into the city, 2Ch 26:14-15. The modern inventions of gunpowder, rifles, bombs, and heavy artillery have changed all this. See BATTERING-RAM.

As the influence of Christianity diffuses itself in the world, war is becoming less excusable and less practicable; and a great advance may be observed from the customs and spirit of ancient barbarism towards the promised universal supremacy of the Prince of peace, Ps 46:9; Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3.

Wars of the Lord was probably the name of an uninspired book, long since lost, containing details of the events alluded to in Nu 21:14-15.

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The Israelites had to take possession of the Promised Land by conquest. They had to engage in a long and bloody war before the Canaanitish tribes were finally subdued. Except in the case of Jericho and Ai, the war did not become aggressive till after the death of Joshua. Till then the attack was always first made by the Canaanites. Now the measure of the iniquity of the Canaanites was full, and Israel was employed by God to sweep them away from off the face of the earth. In entering on this new stage of the war, the tribe of Judah, according to divine direction, took the lead.

In the days of Saul and David the people of Israel engaged in many wars with the nations around, and after the division of the kingdom into two they often warred with each other. They had to defend themselves also against the inroads of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. The whole history of Israel from first to last presents but few periods of peace.

The Christian life is represented as a warfare, and the Christian graces are also represented under the figure of pieces of armour (Eph 6:11-17; 1Th 5:8; 2Ti 2:3-4). The final blessedness of believers is attained as the fruit of victory (Re 3:21).

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Israel at its Exodus from Egypt went up "according to their armies," "harnessed," literally, "arranged in five divisions," van, center, two wings, and rearguard (Ewald): Ex 6:26; 12:37,41; 13:18. Pharaoh's despotism had supplied them with native officers whom they obeyed (Ex 5:14-21). Moses had in youth all the training which a warlike nation like Egypt could give him, and which would enable him to organize Israel as an army not a mob. Jehovah as "a man of war" was at their head (Ex 15:1,3; 13:20-22); under Him they won their first victory, that over Amalek (Ex 17:8-16). The 68th Psalm of David takes its starting point from Israel's military watchword under Jehovah in marching against the enemy (Nu 10:35-36). In Jos 5:6-13;Jos 5:5.

Jehovah manifests Himself in human form as "the Captain of the host of the Lord." Antitypically, the spiritual Israel under Jehovah battle against Satan with spiritual arms (2Co 10:4-5; Eph 6:10-17; 1Th 5:8,28; 2Ti 2:3; 4:7; Re 6:2). By the word of His mouth shall He in person at the head of the armies of heaven slay antichrist and his hosts in the last days (Re 17:14; 19:11-21). The Mosaic code fostered a self defensive, not an aggressive, spirit in Israel. All Israelites (with some merciful exemptions, De 20:5-8) were liable to serve from 20 years and upward, thus forming a national yeomanry (Nu 1:3,26; 2Ch 25:5). The landowners and warriors being the same opposed a powerful barrier to assaults from without and disruption from within.

The divisions for civil purposes were the same as for military (Ex 18:21, compare Nu 31:14); in both cases divided into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and the chiefs bearing the same designation (sariy). In De 20:9 Vulgate, Syriac, etc., translated "the captains at the head of the people shall array them." But if "captains" were subject to the verb and not, as KJV object, the article might be expected. In KJV the captains meant are subordinate leaders of smaller divisions. National landholders led by men already revered for civil authority and noble family descent, so long as they remained faithful to God, formed an army ensuring alike national security and a free constitution in a free country. Employed in husbandry, and attached to home, they had no temptation to war for conquest. The law forbidding cavalry, and enjoining upon all males attendance yearly at the three great feasts at Jerusalem, made war outside Palestine almost impossible.

Religion too treated them as polluted temporarily by any bloodshed however justifiable (Nu 19:13-16; 31:19; 1Ki 5:3; 1Ch 28:3). A standing army was introduced under Saul (1Sa 13:2; 14:47-52; 18:5). (See ARMY.) Personal prowess of individual soldiers determined the issue, as they fought hand to hand (2Sa 1:27; 2:18; 1Ch 12:8; Am 2:14-16), and sometimes in single combat (1 Samuel 17; 2Sa 2:14-17). The trumpet by varied notes sounded for battle or for retreat (2Sa 2:28; 18:16; 20:22; 1Co 14:8).

The priests blew the silver trumpets (Nu 10:9; 31:6). In sieges, a line of circumvallation was drawn round the city, and mounds were thrown out from this, on which towers were erected from whence slingers and archers could assail the defenders (Eze 4:2; 2Sa 20:15; 2Ki 19:32; 25:1). The Mosaic law mitigated the severities of ancient warfare. Only males in arms were slain; women and children were spared, except the Canaanites who were doomed by God (De 20:13-14; 21:10-14).

Israel's mercy was noted among neighbouring nations (1Ki 20:31; 2Ki 6:20-23; Isa 16:5; contrast Jg 16:21; 1Sa 11:2; 2Ki 25:7). Abimelech and Menahem acted with the cruelty of usurpers (Jg 9:45; 2Ki 15:16). Amaziahacted with exceptional cruelty (2Ch 25:12). Gideon's severity to the oppressor Midian (Judges 7-8), also Israel's treatment of the same after suffering by Midian's licentious and idolatrous wiles, and David's treatment of Moab and Ammon (probably for some extraordinary treachery toward his father and mother), are not incompatible with Israel's general mercy comparatively speaking.

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1. In the days before the monarchy the wars of the Hebrew tribes must have resembled those of early Greece, when 'the two armies started out, marched till they met, had a fight and went home.' Rarely, as in the case of the campaign against Sisera (Jg 4), was it necessary to summon a larger army from several tribes. From the days of Saul and David, with their long struggle against the Philistines, war became the affair of the whole nation, leading, also, to the establishment of a standing army, or at least of the nucleus of one (see Army). In the reign of Solomon we hear of a complete organization of the kingdom, which undoubtedly served a more serious purpose than the providing of 'victuals for the king and his household' (1Ki 4:7).

Early spring, after the winter rains had ceased, was 'the time when kings go out to battle' (2Sa 11:1). The war-horn (English Version 'trumpet'), sounded from village to village on their hilltops, was in all periods the call to arms (Jg 6:34; 1Sa 13:3; 2Sa 20:1). How far the exemptions from military service specified in De 20:5-8 were in force under the kings is unknown; the first express attestation is 1Ma 3:55.

2. War, from the Hebrew point of view, was essentially a religious duty, begun and carried through under the highest sanctions of religion. Israel's wars of old were 'the wars of Jahweh' (Nu 21:14), and was not Jahweh Ts?b

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The most important topic in connection with war is the formation of the army which is destined to carry it on. [ARMY]

See Army


1Ki 9:22

at a period (Solomon's reign) when the organization of the army was complete, we have apparently a list of the various gradations of rank in the service, as follows:

1. "Men of war" = privates;

2. "servants," the lowest rank of officers --lieutenants;

3. "princes" = captains;

4. "captains," perhaps = staff officers;

5. "rulers of the chariots and his horsemen" = cavalry officers. Formal proclamations of war were not interchanged between the belligerents. Before entering the enemy's district spies were seat to ascertain the character of the country and the preparations of its inhabitants for resistance.

Nu 13:17; Jos 2:1; Jg 7:10; 1Sa 26:4

The combat assumed the form of a number of hand-to-hand contests; hence the high value attached to fleetness of foot and strength of arm.

2Sa 1:23; 2:18; 1Ch 12:8

At the same time various strategic devices were practiced, such as the ambuscade,

Jos 8:2,12; Jg 20:36


Jg 7:16

or circumvention.

2Sa 5:23

Another mode of settling the dispute was by the selection of champions,

1Sa 17; 2Sa 2:14

who were spurred on to exertion by the offer of high reward.

1Sa 17:25; 18:25; 2Sa 18:11; 1Ch 11:6

The contest having been decided, the conquerors were recalled from the pursuit by the sound of a trumpet.

2Sa 2:28; 18:16; 20:22

The siege of a town or fortress was conducted in the following manner: A line of circumvallation was drawn round the place,

Eze 4:2; Mic 5:1

constructed out of the trees found in the neighborhood,

De 20:20

together with earth and any other materials at hand. This line not only cut off the besieged from the surrounding country, but also served as a base of operations for the besiegers. The next step was to throw out from this line one or more mounds or "banks" in the direction of the city,

2Sa 20:15; 2Ki 19:32; Isa 37:33

which were gradually increased in height until they were about half as high as the city wall. On this mound or bank towers were erected,

2Ki 25:1; Jer 52:4; Eze 4:2; 17:17; 21:22; 26:8

whence the slingers and archers might attack with effect. Catapults were prepared for hurling large darts and stones; and the crow, a long spar, with iron claws at one end and ropes at the other, to pull down stones or men from the top of the wall. Battering-rams,

Eze 4:2; 21:22

were brought up to the walls by means of the bank, and scaling-ladders might also be placed on it. The treatment of the conquered was extremely severe in ancient times. The bodies of the soldiers killed in action were plundered,

1Sa 31:8

2 Macc 8:27; the survivors were either killed in some savage manner,

Jg 9:45; 2Sa 12:31; 2Ch 25:12


Jg 9:45; 2Sa 12:31; 2Ch 25:12


Jg 1:6; 1Sa 11:2

or carried into captivity.

Nu 31:26

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WAR, or WARFARE, the attempt to decide a contest or difference between princes, states, or large bodies of people, by resorting to extensive acts of violence, or, as the phrase is, by an appeal to arms. The Hebrews were formerly a very warlike nation. The books that inform us of their wars display neither ignorance nor flattery; but are writings inspired by the Spirit of truth and wisdom. Their warriors were none of those fabulous heroes or professed conquerors, whose business it was to ravage cities and provinces, and to reduce foreign nations under their dominion, merely for the sake of governing, or purchasing a name for themselves. They were commonly wise and valiant generals, raised up by God "to fight the battles of the Lord," and to exterminate his enemies. Such were Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, David, Josiah, and the Maccabees, whose names alone are their own sufficient encomiums. Their wars were not undertaken upon slight occasions, or performed with a handful of people. Under Joshua the affair was of no less importance than to make himself master of a vast country which God had given up to him; and to root out several powerful nations that God had devoted to an anathema; and to vindicate an offended Deity, and human nature which had been debased by a wicked and corrupt people, who had filled up the measure of their iniquities. Under the Judges, the matter was to assert their liberty, by shaking off the yoke of powerful tyrants, who kept them in subjection. Under Saul and David the same motives prevailed to undertake war; and to these were added a farther motive, of making a conquest of such provinces as God had promised to his people. Far was it from their intention merely to reduce the power of the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Idumeans, the Arabians, the Syrians, and the several princes that were in possession of those countries. In the later times of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, we observe their kings bearing the shock of the greatest powers of Asia, of the kings of Assyria and Chaldea, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Nebuchadnezzar, who made the whole east tremble. Under the Maccabees a handful of men opposed the whole power of the kings of Syria, and against them maintained the religion of their fathers, and shook off the yoke of their oppressors, who had a design both against their religion and liberty. In still later times, with what courage, intrepidity, and constancy, did they sustain the war against the Romans, who were then masters of the world!

We may distinguish two kinds of wars among the Hebrews: some were of obligation, as being expressly commanded by the Lord; but others were free and voluntary. The first were such as God appointed them to undertake: for example, against the Amalekites and the Canaanites, which were nations devoted to an anathema. The others were undertaken by the captains of the people, to revenge some injuries offered to the nation, to punish some insults or offences, or to defend their allies. Such was that which the Hebrews made against the city of Gibeah, and against the tribe of Benjamin, which would support them in their fault; that which David made against the Ammonites, whose king had affronted his ambassadors; and that of Joshua against the kings of the Canaanites, to protect the Gibeonites. Whatever reasons authorize a nation or a prince to make war against another, obtained, likewise, among the Hebrews; for all the laws of Moses suppose that the Israelites might make war, and might defend themselves, against their enemies. When a war was resolved upon, all the people that were capable of bearing arms were collected together, or only part of them, according as the exigence of the existing case and the necessity and importance of the enterprise required. For it does not appear that, before the reign of King David, there were any regular troops or magazines in Israel. A general rendezvous was appointed, a review was made of the people by tribes and by families, and then they marched against the enemy. When Saul, at the beginning of his reign, was reformed of the cruel proposal that the Ammonites had made to the men of the city of Jabesh-Gilead, he cut in pieces the oxen belonging to his plough, and sent them through the country, saying, "Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and Samuel, to the relief of Jabesh-Gilead, so shall it be done unto his oxen," 1Sa 11:7. In ancient times, those that went to war generally carried their own provisions along with them, or they took them from the enemy. Hence these wars were generally of short continuance; because it was hardly possible to subsist a large body of troops for a long time with such provisions as every one carried along with him. When David, Jesse's younger son, stayed behind to look after his father's flocks while his elder brothers went to the wars along with Saul, Jesse sent David to carry provisions to his brothers, 1Sa 17:13. We suppose that this way of making war prevailed also under Joshua, the Judges, Saul, David at the beginning of his reign, the kings of Judah and Israel who were successors to Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and under the Maccabees, till the time of Simon Maccabaeus, prince and high priest of the Jews, who had mercenary troops, that is, soldiers who received pay, 1 Mac. 14:32. Every one also provided his own arms for the war. The kings of the Hebrews went to the wars in person, and, in earlier times, fought on foot, as well as the meanest of their soldiers; no horses being used in the armies of Israel before David. The officers of war among the Hebrews were the general of the army, and the princes of the tribes or of the families of Israel beside other princes or captains, some of a thousand, some of a hundred, some of fifty, and some of ten, men. They had also their scribes, who were a kind of commissaries that kept the muster roll of the troops; and these had others under them who acted by their direction.

Military fortifications were at first nothing more than a trench or ditch, dug round a few cottages on a hill or mountain, together with the mound, which was formed by the sand dug out of it; except, perhaps, there might have sometimes been an elevated scaffolding for the purpose of throwing stones with the greater effect against the enemy. In the age of Moses and Joshua, the walls which surrounded cities were elevated to no inconsiderable height, and were furnished with towers. The art of fortification was encouraged and patronized by the Hebrew kings, and Jerusalem was always well defended, especially Mount Zion. In later times, the temple itself was used as a castle. The principal parts of a fortification were,

1. The wall, which, in some instances, was triple and double, 2Ch 32:5. Walls were commonly made lofty and broad, so as to be neither readily passed over nor broken through, Jer 51:58. The main wall terminated at the top in a parapet for the accommodation of the soldiers, which opened at intervals in a sort of embrasures, so as to give them an opportunity of fighting with missile weapons.

2. Towers, which were erected at certain distances from each other on the top of walls, and ascended to a great height, terminated at the top in a flat roof, and were surrounded with a parapet, which exhibited openings similar to those in the parapet of the walls. Towers of this kind were erected, likewise, over the gates of cities. In these towers guards were kept constantly stationed; at least, this was the case in the time of the kings. It was their business to make known any thing that they discovered at a distance; and whenever they noticed an irruption from an enemy, they blew the trumpet, to arouse the citizens, 2Sa 13:34; 18:26-27; 2Ki 9:17-19; Na 2:1; 2Ch 17:2. Towers, likewise, which were somewhat larger in size, were erected in different parts of the country, particularly on places which were elevated; and these were guarded by a military force, Jg 8:9,17; 9:46,49,51; Isa 21:6; Hab 2:1; Ho 5:8; Jer 31:6. We find, even to this day, that the circular edifices of this sort, which are still erected in the solitudes of Arabia Felix, bear their ancient name of castles or towers.

3. The wal

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