Where we’ve come so far

So, after a very long exploration of the history of pre-exilic Israel, what can we say?

Firstly, it is obvious that God commanded Israel to fight wars. However, it was not a generic command, but a very specific one directed at a certain group of peoples. The reason of these wars is given – to take the land and to keep Israel pure from their gods. At no point does Israel engage in war with any other nation and win.

Secondly, God is in control. Every battle that Israel engages in is in his hands, and the result occurs as he decrees. This is both a theological conclusion from God’s sovereign power as the creator and ruler of the universe, and from the constant references to his decrees and actions throughout Israel’s history. Equally, when Israel is threatened by an enemy, God constantly shows his capability to protect his people miraculously, without them drawing a single sword.

This means that, thirdly, war is a matter of faith in God. When a war is commanded by God, Israel are expected to prosecute it. When they win, it is through God’s providence, and when they lose, it is his punishment. Equally, however, it means that when God has not called Israel to arms, they are called to trust him for their protection. Israel’s treaties with Egypt and, later, Aram and Assyria, show a lack of faith in God, and always end badly.

Fourthly, God often uses evil nations actions to achieve his own good purposes. When Israel disobeyed him, he sent enemy armies to attack them. This was not simply “allowing” the nations to attack, this was an active direction. This does not justify the nations’ actions – just because God uses a person’s evil actions does not make them good.

Finally, wars in the history of Israel are intimately connected with God’s salvation plan; Either they are about the taking of the land that God promise to his people or they are about God’s covenantal punishment of his people.

Many ethicists attempt to create a set of principles for just war. If a war fulfils these conditions, then the war is just. From the OT narrative so far, these seem to be the requirements for a war approved of by God:

  1. The target of the war is specifically commanded by God
  2. God directly intervenes in miracles or supplying tactical commands
  3. The war fulfils or promotes an aspect of God’s salvation plan

In short, nothing in the OT historical narrative suggests that God’s people are directed or permitted to engage in a war with anybody other than the original inhabitants of the Promised Land.

I know I’m sounding like a broken record. I could have made my point from Deuteronomy (and, indeed, I did). The point of this very detailed survey is to highlight that there is nothing in the OT historical narrative that contradicts my original argument. Nothing.

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