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): Exodus 6:26; Exodus 12:37; Exodus 12:41; Exodus 13:18. Pharaoh's despotism had supplied them with native officers whom they obeyed (Exodus 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 (Exodus 15:1; Exodus 15:3; Exodus 13:20-22); under Him they won their first victory, that over Amalek (Exodus 17:8-16). The 68th Psalm of David takes its starting point from Israel's military watchword under Jehovah in marching against the enemy (Numbers 10:35-36). In Joshua 5:13-6;Joshua 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 (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:7; Revelation 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 (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:11-21). The Mosaic code fostered a self defensive, not an aggressive, spirit in Israel. All Israelites (with some merciful exemptions, Deuteronomy 20:5-8) were liable to serve from 20 years and upward, thus forming a national yeomanry (Numbers 1:3; Numbers 1:26; 2 Chronicles 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 (Exodus 18:21, compare Numbers 31:14); in both cases divided into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and the chiefs bearing the same designation (sariy). In Deuteronomy 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 Israel almost impossible.
Religion too treated them as polluted temporarily by any bloodshed however justifiable (Numbers 19:13-16; Numbers 31:19; 1 Kings 5:3; 1 Chronicles 28:3). A standing army was introduced under Saul (1 Samuel 13:2; 1 Samuel 14:47-52; 1 Samuel 18:5). (See ARMY.) Personal prowess of individual soldiers determined the issue, as they fought hand to hand (2 Samuel 1:28; 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Amos 2:14-16), and sometimes in single combat (1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 2:14-17). The trumpet by varied notes sounded for battle or for retreat (2 Samuel 2:28; 2 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 20:22; 1 Corinthians 14:8).
The priests blew the silver trumpets (Numbers 10:9; Numbers 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 (Ezekiel 4:2; 2 Samuel 20:15; 2 Kings 19:32; 2 Kings 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 (Deuteronomy 20:13-14; Deuteronomy 21:10-14).
Israel's mercy was noted among neighbouring nations (1 Kings 20:31; 2 Kings 6:20-23; Isaiah 16:5; contrast Judges 16:21; 1 Samuel 11:2; 2 Kings 25:7). Abimelech and Menahem acted with the cruelty of usurpers (Judges 9:45; 2 Kings 15:16). Amaziahacted with exceptional cruelty (2 Chronicles 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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