The Hebrew word for “war” occurs more than 300 times in the OT. The strategic position of Palestine between Mesopotamia and Egypt made war a harsh reality for most of its inhabitants during biblical times. Israel gained a foothold in this land by means of a war of conquest, and thereafter, by frequently defensive actions against intruders and invaders. Unfortunately, the history of war in Israel also included several civil conflicts.

For most of the ancient Near East, war was considered a sacred undertaking in which the honor and power of the national god was a stake. For Israel, however, war intimately involved the transcendent power of the God who created the heavens and the earth. The biblical writers refer to the conflicts Israel faced as the “Wars of the Lord” (Num 21:14; 1 Sam 18:17; 25:28).

God is described as a “man of war” (Exod 15:3; Isa 42:13) and “mighty in battle” (Ps 24:8). He is “the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Sam 17:45 NASB). It is God who leads them out and lights for them (Deut 20:4; Josh 10:14,42; Judg 4:14). God set the code of conduct in war (Deut 20:10-18), and the spoils belongs to Him (Josh 6:19).

Before the armies of Israel went out of war, they offered a sacrifice to God (1 Sam 7:9) and sought His guidance (2 Sam 5:23-24). The warriors who marched into battle had to be pure and consecrated to God (Josh 3:5). The presence of God in the area of battle was symbolized by the ark of the covenant (1 Sam 4:5-7). After the victory, praises were offered to God in a victory celebration (Exod 15:1-3). END OF PART 1.

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