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war Summary and Overview

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war in Easton's Bible Dictionary

The Israelites had to take possession of the Promised Land by conquest. They had to engage in a long and bloody war before the Canaanite 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; 1 Thess. 5:8; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4). The final blessedness of believers is attained as the fruit of victory (Rev. 3:21).

war in Smith's Bible Dictionary

The most important topic in connection with war is the formation of the army which is destined to carry it on. [ARMY] In #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; Jud 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; Jud 20:36| surprise, #Jud 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, #Jud 9:45; 2Sa 12:31; 2Ch 25:12| mutilated, #Jud 9:45; 2Sa 12:31; 2Ch 25:12| mutilated, #Jud 1:6; 1Sa 11:2| or carried into captivity. #Nu 31:26|

war in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

WAR . From the nature of the arms and the customs of the ancients, their battles were truly murderous. Scarcely ever was any quarter given, except where the vanquished was retained as a slave, and consequently the number of killed was often immense. 2 Chr 13:17. Although the military art was comparatively simple, yet ingenious stratagems of various kinds were practised. Enemies were then, as now, surprised and overcome by unexpected divisions of the forces, by ambushes, and by false retreats. Gen 14:15; Josh 8:12; Judg 20:36-39; 2 Kgs 7:12. In lack of artillery, unwieldy machines for casting heavy stones and other destructive missiles were invented. We find, however, little allusion to these in the Bible. About the end of the ninth or the beginning of the eighth century before Christ, Uzziah "made in Jerusalem engines invented by cunning men. to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal." 2 Chr 26:15. A siege was thus conducted: All the trees in the neighborhood were cut down and used in the construction of field fortifications. Deut 20:20. "Mounts" or "banks" in the direction of the city were thrown up, and gradually increased in height until they were half as high as the city's wall. 2 Sam 20:15; 2 Kgs 19:32. The next step was to erect towers on the top of these banks. 2 Kgs 25:1. These steps taken, the siege was commenced in earnest. The water-supplies of the besieged were, as far as possible, cut off: intercourse with neighboring towns or villages was ended. Thus starvation must eventually set in in the doomed city. But use was made of other measures than these passive ones. The towers spoken of bristled with armed men. Archers and slingers incessantly fired at the soldiers upon the wall. Battering-rams, which see, hammered against the gates or walls; scaling-ladders were placed against the walls; the gates were even at times fired. Jud 9:52. But the besieged had weapons also. Huge stones were hurled with terrible effect from the walls. Boiling oil. rings heated red hot, - these were employed to cripple the foe. Sallies were made to burn the besiegers' works or to drive them away. Jud 9:53; 2 Sam 11:21. But there was no part of the ancient military preparations more terrible than chariots. Ex 14:7; Deut 20:1; Josh 17:16; Jud 4:3. They were in common use wherever there was any cavalry. 2 Sam 10:18; 1 Chr 18:4; 2 Chr 12:3; 2 Chr 14:9. See Chariot. Walls and towers were used in fortifications, and the latter were guarded by soldiers, and are called "garrisons." 2 Sam 8:6; Eze 26:11. See Ward. As to the order of battle we have no certain knowledge. The prophet alludes to it. Jer 12:5. Among all ancient nations it was customary to take previous refreshment of food, in order to give strength to the army. The soldiers, and especially the commanders, arrayed themselves in their costliest garments and fairest armor, except in cases where disguise was attempted. 1 Kgs 22:30. Various passages lead to the opinion that divisions of the army were common, as in modern times. Gen 14:15; Jud 7:16; 1 Sam 11:11. The most frequent division of the host was into tens, hundreds, and thousands, and each of these had its commander or captain. Jud 20:10; 1 Sam 8:12; 2 Kgs 11:4. Among the Hebrews these divisions had some reference to the several families, and were under the heads of families as their officers. 2 Chr 25:5; 2 Chr 26:12. The captains of hundreds and of thousands were of high rank, or (so to speak) staff-officers, who were admitted to share in the councils of war. 1 Chr 13:1. The whole army had its commander-in-chief or captain, who was over the host, and its scribe, or keeper of the muster-roll. 1 Kgs 4:4; 1 Chr 18:15-16; 1 Chr 27:32-34; 2 Chr 17:14; 2 Chr 26:11. In Isa 33:18 the words translated "he that counted the towers" probably indicate what we should call a chief-engineer. Under David the army of 288,000 men was divided into twelve corps, each of Egyptian Troops in Ranks. (From Monuments at Thebes.) which was consequently 24,000 strong and had its own general. 1 Chr 27. Under Jehoshaphat this was altered, and there were five unequal corps, under as many commanders. 2 Chr 17:14-19. The cohort had five hundred or six hundred men, and the legion embraced ten cohorts. The light troops were provided with arms which they used at some distance from the enemy, such as bows and arrows. They are designated in 2 Chr 14:8; while the heavy-armed were those who bore shield and spear. 1 Chr 12:24. The light troops of the army of Asa were taken principally from the tribe of Benjamin because of their extraordinary accuracy of aim. Jud 20:16. See Armor, Arms. Kings and generals had armor- bearers, selected from the bravest of their favorites, who not only carried their armor, which was in those days a necessary service, but stood by them in the hour of danger, carried their orders, and were not unlike modern adjutants. 1 Sam 31:4. The troops were excited to ardor and bravery by addresses from their priests, who were commanded to appeal to them. Deut 20:2. In later times kings themselves were accustomed to harangue their armies. 2 Chr 13:4. Finally (perhaps after the sacrifices had been offered), the summons was given by the holy trumpets. Num 10:9-10; 2 Chr 13:12-14. It was the practice of the Greeks, when they were within half a mile of the enemy, to sing their war-song. A similar custom probably prevailed among the Jews. 2 Chr 20:21. Next followed the shout, or war-cry. which the Romans accompanied with the noise of shields and spears struck violently together. This war-cry was common in the East, as it is to this day among the Turks. It was the "alarm" or "shout" so often mentioned in Scripture. 1 Sam 17:52; 2 Chr 13:15; Job 39:25; Jer 4:19. War, like slavery and all forms of violence, is a consequence of sin; it is organized cruelty and wholesale murder; as Gen. Moltke ("the thinker of battles") says, even a victorious war is a great national calamity; but it is overruled for good by that all-wise Providence which maketh the wrath of man to praise him. Christianity was introduced into the world by the angelic announcement of "on earth peace, good-will toward men." It has done much to prevent the passions of war, to mitigate its horrors, to counteract its evils by individual and organized care of the sick, the wounded, and the prisoners, to encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful arbitration (as in the Alabama difficulty, which threatened war between England and the United States, but was peacefully adjusted by the Geneva tribunal Dec, 1871). and it looks forward to the time when men "shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3; Joel 3:10; Rev 21:3-4.

war in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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.