OT Theology of War

[This is an old article I wrote, which was the basis of my honours thesis, which in turn is the basis of the War section of this site. As the redesign of this site progresses, the content of this article will be absorbed. In the mean time, the article is here to give an overview of the developing argument]

Find the new section here: /war-in-the-old-testament/

In addition, there is mention of appendix 1. This is a list of all the battles in the bible, which can be found here: /every-battle-in-the-bible/

1      Old Testament

The wars of the Old Testament have frequently been used in Just War arguments to demonstrate that war is an acceptable activity for God’s people. However, as we examine the narrative of the Old Testament, we shall see that the wars of the Conquest were a specific event in God’s salvation plan, and were intimately connected to the Land. As such, these wars – and all wars involving Israel – were a function of Israel’s faithfulness; when they were faithful then they won, when they were unfaithful then they were defeated. Equally, these wars were solely an out-working of God’s providential sovereignty – Israel’s victories came from God’s direct intervention. As a result of these truths, the Old Testament narrative demonstrates that God’s people were never authorised to engage in battle outside of the initial wars of the Conquest. Quite the opposite, they were called to trust God’s sovereignty, and leave the care of the nations to him.

1.1    Genesis

There is no consideration of war or violence in the creation accounts, except for the fact that they are not there. This absence is made clearer by the account of the Fall, where God’s judgement against Adam and Eve includes a breaking of relationship. The very first sin committed after this is Cain’s pre-meditated murder of Abel. Genesis 4 continues with the account of Cain’s descendants, culminating with Lamech, who uses murder for vengeance and intimidation. In Noah’s time, one of the two primary descriptions of the evil of humanity was that the earth was filled with violence.[1] It is commonly observed that Genesis 4-11 details a rapid spiral of humanity into more and more degradation, culminating in Babel. Within this narrative, it is notable that murder and violence are highlighted so strongly so early. It seems that fallen humanity’s desires move swiftly to violence. We also see the first example of God’s sovereignty in judgement. In the flood, God showed that he is capable of dealing with the evil of humanity through his own divine power.

God’s sovereign power over nations was also revealed in his engagement with the Patriarchs. The covenantal promises made to Abraham in Genesis 15 were fundamentally political – they involved the movements of nations and peoples (Egypt being the greatest power of the era) and the inhabitation of land. These promises also show God’s ability to direct events 400 into the future. In the account of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18-19), we see God’s power over city-states revealed when he executes his judgement through supernatural means. Abraham’s experiences with Pharaoh and Abimelech show a different form of God’s providential care.[2] Both times, Abraham seeks to protect and himself through portraying Sarah as his sister. Both times, God shows his ability to protect his chosen people without the need for Abraham’s deception. Equally, the whole account of Jacob is one of a man trying to ‘get his’ through his own trickery and scheming. While Jacob flourishes, it is made constantly clear that it is God who is blessing him according to his own plans.[3]

Finally, the Joseph cycle shows God fulfilling his promises of Genesis 15. At times God worked through the actions of individuals, at other times he intervened supernaturally. A critical moment in our understanding of God’s sovereignty occurs in Genesis 50, where Joseph tells his brothers: ‘You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result– the survival of many people’.[4] Through the actions of individuals – some faithful, some incredibly unfaithful, and some outright evil – and through the actions of rulers and nations, God showed his sovereign power over his world to effect his plans.

1.2    Exodus

The theme of God’s providential care returns writ large in Exodus. It is interesting to note the means of resistance shown by the oppressed Israelite people. Moses is the only person recorded as killing an oppressor, and the response from his fellow Israelite is profoundly negative.[5] The midwives in Exodus 1 reveal a more underground vision of Israelite resistance – simply refusing to obey their oppressors when ordered called to commit infanticide. When Israel finally cries out to God, he rescues them. In his summons to Moses in Exodus 3, it is clear that the saving action will be God’s, and God’s alone. Moses’ job was to simply stand before Pharaoh and declare ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let My people go’.[6] Even the words were to be given to him, and when Pharaoh refused, each miraculous plague was dictated specifically by God.[7] Even the fact that Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to release the Israelites was due to God’s plan.[8] At every point of this conflict between Moses and Pharaoh, God was showing his sovereign power over the greatest nation on earth. Israel’s role in this was entirely passive: As they fled Egypt, God opened the Red Sea for them to pass through. God defeated Pharaoh’s army by first inciting him to pursue the Israelites, and then by bringing the waters of the sea down upon his army. Israel’s role in their salvation was to let God fight for them. Indeed, their great contribution to the narrative was complaining about God![9]

The Exodus is the formative event of the nation of Israel and their relationship with God. When God gave the law to Israel, he identified himself as ‘the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery’.[10] The concept of exodus is one of the strongest themes throughout the Old Testament; recapitulated in the themes of exile and restoration, and further in the New Testament. The foundation of this concept is that God acts powerfully to achieve his purposes. His people are powerless, and are simply called to obey and trust him.

The rest of the Pentateuch is about Israel’s response to God’s saving acts – the response they should have, as opposed to the response that they do have. The Law was given to teach Israel how they were to respond to the fact that God had chosen them and saved them.[11] The primary act is God’s, the role of Israel is to respond to that act in obedience and worship. Unfortunately, Israel fails. The creation of the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai is the most obvious egregious example of this failure. It has been suggested that the people were actually trying to make an image of God, and not forge an alternative. If this was the case, then what we see is people taking the initiative to worship and obey God in ways that he had not laid down. We see this happen again in Leviticus when Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offer unauthorised fire before God, and are struck down by God.[12] God’s view of innovative worship is clear. He called and saved Israel, and they were to respond to him in the ways that he laid down – not in ways that they saw fit to create.

1.3    Deuteronomy

As Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, God commanded them to drive out and to slaughter the people who already inhabited the land.[13] This was the beginning of a holy war that continued almost until the Exile. Many ethicists have pointed to this command to support wars today. However, Deuteronomy raises three important points that limit its applicability to other wars.

Firstly, the command was targeted only against the original inhabitants of the land. Deuteronomy 2 lists a number of nations whom Israel was not to fight. The reason for this is that they lived outside the land promised to Israel. In the same way, Deuteronomy 20 commanded that the nations who were far away were to be offered treaties, while those who inhabited the land were to be completely destroyed. This suggests that the wars of the Conquest were, primarily, a function of the possession of the land.

Secondly, the specific reason given for the slaughter of the original inhabitants was ‘because they will turn your sons away from Me to worship other gods’,[14] and ‘because of their wickedness’.[15] However, this was not a command to kill anyone who was wicked, or worshipped other Gods, since we have seen that the wars were limited to the inhabitants of the land. Rather, it was specifically intended to remove idolatry from the Promised Land, and prevent Israel from falling into unfaithfulness.[16] The interconnection between the land and faithfulness is demonstrated in the many passages that state that call for faithfulness as a response to God’s gift of the land.[17] This connection comes to a crescendo in chapter 28, where Moses delivers a final warning of obedience. If Israel stays faithful, then they will be blessed and will be victorious against their enemies.[18] However, if they failed to obey, then God would bring nations to attack them.[19] Finally, if they continue to reject God, then he would bring a nation to take them into exile.[20] The ultimate punishment for unfaithfulness was losing the land.

The third critical point that Deuteronomy teaches about the wars of the Conquest was that they were to be fought by God. Many times, Moses makes the point that God would win Israel’s battles for them, and drive out their enemies ahead of them.[21] However, this promise was limited to battles that God directly commanded, as demonstrated by Israel’s attempt to attack the Amalekites despite God’s command not to, which ended in a disastrous loss.[22] This incident highlights the limited role of war – Israel must only fight when it is in fulfilment of God’s plan for them. There is no space for innovation or for starting wars that God had not directly commanded.

In the theology of Deuteronomy, God’s command to wage war was not a licence to fight wars in general. Rather, it held a specific and limited function in the possession of the Promised Land. The land holds a unique and vital place within salvation history, and the possession of the land was dependent on Israel’s faithfulness. In the same way, success in the wars of conquest depended solely on God’s miraculous intervention, which was dependent on Israel’s faithfulness. There are indications that the conquest was also an enactment of God’s justice against the original inhabitants.[23] However, again, this is not a licence to enact God’s justice wherever Israel chose. Rather, it was a specific command from God. The book of Deuteronomy does not licence Israel to engage in war except where God had given them a specific command.

1.4     Early DTRh

The books of Joshua to 2 Kings are frequently called the Deuteronomic History because they reflect the theology laid out in Deuteronomy.[24] Where Deuteronomy laid out the theology behind the wars of conquest, the history books demonstrate that theology worked out in practice. Appendix 1 of this paper details every battle that occurred in Israel’s history. We can see from this table that many of the Deuteronomic themes are reinforced in the history:

Firstly, Israel’s victories came from God, not their military power. Almost every victory came with a prophetic or direct command from God to attack, tactical direction from God, clear divine intervention such as a miracle, or a direct claim that God gave the victory. Most of the exceptions are one-line descriptions, or lists of victories.

Secondly, every battle that Israel or Judah won was against one of the original inhabitants of the land. Whenever they engaged in a battle outside of the original command that God gave, they lost.

Thirdly, battles that were lost were attributed to a corresponding unfaithfulness of the people.

The book of Joshua provides a microcosm of these observations. Beginning with the conquest of Jericho, God won the battles through miraculous events. However, even then, faithfulness resulted in lost battles, such as when Achan kept some of the treasure that was committed to destruction.[25] After chapter 11, there are no accounts of battles. Instead, the rest of the book is taken up by detailing the division of the land and warnings and exhortations to stay faithful to God.[26]

In the book of Judges, we see the fulfilment of the Deuteronomic promise that God would use the surrounding nations to achieve his good purposes in disciplining his people. This is the inverse of the themes that we have seen in Joshua: God gave Israel victory with the warning to be faithful. When they were unfaithful, he gave them defeat until they returned to him. Through all this, God’s sovereign power was demonstrated in his ability to raise up enemies and defeat them whenever he chose. These victories and losses had nothing to do with the nature of the enemy, nor with Israel’s military power. They were solely a function of God’s response to Israel’s faithfulness, or lack thereof, in worshipping him.

An examination of the battles in Appendix 1 reveals the same themes resurfacing over and again throughout the history of Israel and Judah. When the people were faithful, God gave them victory through his sovereign power. When they were not, he exercised his control over the nations to discipline his people. These themes continue into the Books of Samuel, beginning with the (slightly farcical) account of the loss of the Ark and God’s recovery of it. After his coronation, Saul was filled with the Spirit of God, and continued to prosecute the war against the original inhabitants of the land. His personal faithlessness not only resulted in his loss of the crown,[27] but when Israel next lined up against the Philistines, they were facing defeat at the hands of Goliath. However, God saved them from defeat under their faithless king, through the faithfulness of their future king. David’s defeat of Goliath is an iconic demonstration of God’s ability to protect his people against any odds. Throughout his ascendency over Saul, and his reign, David was victorious against all the surrounding nations who attacked him. However, David’s own unfaithfulness resulted in civil wars in his lifetime and, eventually, the division between the two kingdoms.

1.5    The temple and peace

In 2 Samuel 7, David sought to build a temple for God. Through the Prophet Nathan, God rejected David’s innovative worship; despite what David thought, God did not need David to build him a house. Quite the opposite, God emphasised his sovereignty by stating that he would build a house for David, and he would secure the future of David’s line. At the end of 1 Chronicles, God explained that David was not to build the Temple because he had ‘shed much blood and waged great wars.’ Instead, Solomon would be ‘a man of rest’. He would build the Temple and God would ‘give him rest from all his surrounding enemies’.[28]

The building of the Temple was a statement of the permanency of God’s (and Israel’s) inhabitation of the land. It was a physical expression of the end point of the Exodus and the conquest. The close connection between peace and the Temple supports our contention that the wars that Israel fought were a function of the conquest of the land, and were intended to cease once the land was held. The beginning of Solomon’s reign seems to be moving towards this; the descriptions of his wisdom, wealth, and his respect in the international community show that God was blessing Israel through peace and trade.

At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed a prayer showing his trust in God as the controller – not just of the land of Israel – but of the whole world.[29] God’s response to that prayer included a warning that his blessing was conditional on continued faithfulness.[30] Unfortunately, it was not long before Solomon disobeyed him in spectacular ways, and God declared his judgement, first by stating that he would split the kingdoms, and second by raising enemies to once again attack Israel.[31] The peace given to Solomon was broken because of his unfaithfulness, and it was not long before Jereboam rebelled against Solomon, and began the civil war that would finally split Israel into two nations. This, too, shows God’s hand, as he directs the actions of both Rehoboam and Jereboam.[32]

1.6    The return to Egypt

During his reign, Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 3:1), made an alliance with Egypt, and imported horses and chariots from them (1 Kings 10:28-29). This is despite the fact that Deuteronomy 17 specifically banned kings from turning to Egypt for horses. There is no clear explanation of this prohibition, but the context gives us some clues. Firstly, an alliance between Israel and Egypt would not be an equal thing; Egypt would be the lord, and Israel would be the vassal, which implied a return to the slavery that God had rescued Israel from. Secondly, the alliance is about the supply of military equipment. To take horses and chariots from Egypt was to say that Israel were incapable of defending themselves adequately without help. It was to say that Israel were no longer trusting God for their protection, but their armies and, by extension, Egypt. By focussing on developing the latest in military technology, Israel have forgotten that God had given them many victories against enemies with overwhelming advantages – both numerical and technological (philistine ref). The temptation to turn to Egypt for military aid continued throughout the history of Israel and Judah, as they sought support against Assyria, Babylon and Persia. Isaiah, along with many other prophets, spoke against such alliances:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses! They trust in the number of chariots and in the great strength of charioteers. They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the LORD’s help. (Isa 31:1)

1.7    Isaiah

As we can see from Appendix 1, every one of the battles that Israel won was by God’s direct command, and against the nations that God specified in Deuteronomy. However, the history of Israel and Judah slowly became dominated by nations from further afield – Egypt, Assyria and Babylon – against whom every single battle was lost. While the historical books cover this period, it is the writing prophets who supply the most detailed theological analysis. These books reveal the same themes that we have seen developed in the histories – the link between faithfulness and the land, and God’s sovereignty over the nations. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine each prophet in detail; instead we shall focus on a few representatives, beginning with Isaiah.

There is much debate about dating Isaiah, and splitting up the book into two or three sections. While Barry Webb’s argument for the unity of the book is quite convincing,[33] many evangelical scholars consider it to be three book spanning ?? centuries.[34] At the very least, the themes of Isaiah span the history of Israel from the fall of Samaria to the return from Exile, which makes him an excellent representative of the other prophets.

One of the most dominant themes of Isaiah 1-38 (Proto-Isaiah) – along with Amos, Hosea and ???  – is God’s judgement on an unfaithful Israel.[35] Israel’s sin had reached the point that God was fulfilling his Deuteronomic threat and was bringing Assyria to remove them from the land (). Again, this reveals God’s sovereign control over the greatest empire of the day. Like other prophets, Isaiah reinforced this by highlighting the fact that God is the creator, sustainer and lord over the whole world. Before the creator of the universe, ‘the nations are like a drop in a bucket’.[36]

With this in mind, Isaiah has an international view; there are extended oracles of judgement against other nations, which God is executing, in part, through Assyria.[37] In this, God is showing that he is capable of using one evil nation to punish another, outside of any involvement from his people. This is a continuation of the pattern revealed in the Joseph Cycle; that God is capable of using humanity’s evil actions for his good purposes. This theme is present in many other prophets, to the extent that Habakkuk struggles with how God can use these evil forces to ravage his own people, and still remain holy.[38] While he receives no answer, Habakkuk’s conclusion is that God is his strength in times of suffering.[39]

Isaiah emphasises that the evil nations are not made good through God’s use of them. That is, the fact that God used Assyria to enact his good justice did not make their actions in invading Israel good in any way. Quite the opposite, Isaiah 10 recognises that Assyria is the ‘rod of God’s anger’,[40] yet ‘when the Lord finishes all His work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, He will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for his arrogant acts and the proud look in his eyes”’.[41] This cycle is repeated for Babylon in chapters 39-55 (Deutero-Isaiah). God declares that faithless Judah is to be destroyed by the Babylonians in chapter 39, yet in chapter 47 he declares judgement on Babylon for how they treated his people.[42]

God’s power over these nations extends to his ability to protect Israel. This is shown most clearly in the account of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem. If Webb’s structure of Isaiah is accurate, then this account is the centre of the book, if the three-Isaiah thesis is correct, then it is the hinge between Proto- and Deutero- Isaiah. Either way, it holds a pivotal position. While Israel was being destroyed for unfaithfulness, Hezekiah’s faith is shown in his prayer and obedience, and God saves Jerusalem through a direct miracle. This is further emphasised in chapter 45 when we see God raising Darius, not just to punish Babylon, but to restore Israel. Clearly, God is directing the entire world according to his purposes.

Isaiah also demonstrates the correct response to God’s sovereignty. In chapters 38-39, we see Hezekiah’s faithfulness as he trusts God’s provision and waits for salvation. The other example we are given is in the Servant Songs.[43] These four poems are as important to Isaiah as they are controversial. However, whether this Servant is Isaiah, Israel, Jesus or a combination of all three, this Servant gives an example of a faithful response to God. Isaiah has very few imperatives directed to his hearers. Apart from commands to pay attention, the only two imperatives are instructions to do justice.[44] In the Suffering Servant, we see how that justice is to come about

1 This is My Servant; I strengthen Him, this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him. I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry out or shout or make His voice heard in the streets. 3 He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick; He will faithfully bring justice. (Isa 42:1-3)

Justice comes from a man who does not fight back. The rest of the servant songs detail a man (or nation) who suffers for the salvation of many. His only weapons are his words.[45] This is echoed in the examples of Elijah and Elisha, who both fought against Ahab through their prophetic utterances.[46] Jeremiah also suffered intense persecution, and only ever responded with the proclamation of God’s word.[47]

Isaiah’s theology of God’s sovereignty demonstrates that whatever happens to Israel on the international stage is clearly and unambiguously God’s judgement on her faithfulness – either a judgement of condemnation when she is invaded, oppressed and defeated, or a judgement of approval when she is safe and prosperous. The response that Isaiah calls for is clear: Israel is to worry about themselves: faithfulness, holiness, justice. God will look after the ‘big’ things: the surrounding nations, the weather and the prosperity of the land. Israel’s response to God’s great providence is to trust him to care for them, to suffer the wrongs of this world with patient expectation of God’s deliverance and to proclaim his word.

1.8    Jeremiah

Leading up to the Exile, Jeremiah further develops the correct response to God’s sovereignty. God does not just command Judah to recognised Nebuchadnezzar as his just punishment. He commands them to recognise him as their new ruler. The very fact that God was allowing Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Judah was proof that God wanted him to rule, and so they must obey.[48] Judah were not to fight back. They were not to defend themselves. When God had determined that they would be safe, then enemies simply died at the gate.[49] When he determined that they would lose, resistance was (as the Vogons say) futile.[50] In his letter to the exiles in Babylon, Jeremiah revealed that this was not simply sullen non-resistance; it was a true participation in the society.[51] But he emphasised that in 70 years, God would restore them again. God’s sovereignty and his plans for future rescue were the strength for the exiles to live under Babylon. They did not need to fight for their rights, because the creator of the universe would do that for them in his good time. And he would use another nation – the Persians – to do this.

1.9    Daniel

The Book of Daniel gives us an example of what it meant for God’s people to live in exile in Babylon. Daniel and his friends worked willingly for a government whom the prophets had made clear was under the judgement of God for its evil deeds.[52] When ordered to do something that was against God’s command, they refused to obey, but otherwise continued to respect the government’s authority.[53] When punished wrongly, they did not rebel or fight back. Instead, they trusted God’s providence, that he would save them – or not! – according to his will.[54] Their only form of ‘attack’ against their oppressive rulers was to proclaim God’s judgement against them.[55] However, it was God himself who enacted the judgement.[56] The apocalyptic visions of the second half of the book give the theological foundations for this behaviour. The visions show bestial nations raging across the earth and persecuting God’s holy ones.[57] But God is seated on his throne; he will end these nations and establish his kingdom.[58] Some scholars suggest that the Book of Daniel was finally redacted in the 2nd century, during the Selucid persecution.[59] Even if this is so, this reinforces the themes of Daniel, by showing that they are true in any situation of persecution.[60]

1.10   Zechariah

These same themes appear, after the Exile, in Zechariah. Zechariah 1-6 is an exhortation to re-build the Temple. There is much historical speculation about what was happening at the time, but in chapters 3, 4 and 6 we see the suggestion that the High Priest Joshua is needed to lead the people in building the Temple, even though the King Zerubbabel is the one who started the project. There are many theories as to why Zerubbabel needs the assistance, one of the most convincing is the suggestion that Zerubbabel had been arrested by Persian forces. In the years just before the writing of Zechariah, there had been an empire-wide revolt, only to be pacified by the new emperor, Darius. Darius’ campaign took him through Yehud (Judah) to pacify Egypt. If a messianic movement had sought to make Zerubbabel the king of a free Jewish state, them he quite likely would have been arrested at the same time.

Whether or not this is why Zerubbabel was unable to continue the temple building, this historical context helps explain the book-end visions of the four horsemen and four chariots.[61] In the historical context, these vision demonstrate that God has used Darius’s forces to bring peace to the land. The purpose of that peace is found in the centre of the section – that the Temple could be rebuilt. Zechariah does not call the people to participate in God’s pacification of the world, but to praise him for it, and to return to their job of restoring correct worship in the land. In the heart of this section, we hear a message to Zerubbabel that sounds much like a rebuke: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty’.[62] God has promised that the temple will be rebuilt, and he will achieve it. The terms might (חַיִל) and power (כֹּחַ) are most often used as military terms.[63] Whether or not Zerubbabel had attempted (or considered) a military revolt to advance God’s plans, it is clear that God was rejecting the idea. He will take care of the international scene. Zerubbabel’s job was to respond faithfully and rebuild the Temple.[64]

Along with Daniel and Ezekiel, Zechariah’s apocalyptic chapters look towards a great battle where a re-united Israel’s enemies would be defeated once and for all. However, even while the Israelites are described as great warriors, it is clear that God will win the battle for them. The constant repetition of ‘on that day’ shows that this is not a pattern of self-defence that God’s people are to follow, but a single eschatological battle that will usher in the new age. Zechariah links this eschatological victory and the new age with the coming of God’s king, who would shatter the spear and bring peace to the nations.[65]  As with Daniel, Zechariah’s understanding of the future undergirds how the people were to live in the present. It is because God will bring his justice that they could live under the heel of Persia.

1.11   Summary

As we have seen, the war of a conquest held a very specific place in salvation history, it was the only war Israel was ever commanded to participate in and it was the only war they ever won. This war was not an end in itself, but existed as a function of the possession of the Promised Land. Though the war was, in part, an enactment of God’s justice, Israel only took part because God commanded them to. There is nothing that gives licence for Israel to wage a war without a direct command from God.

The rest of the history of the Old Testament shows that God enacts his international justice without any involvement from his people – raising one nation to punish another. This does not make the nations’ actions good, or justify the wars that they waged. Rather, God is using the evil actions of people to enact his good purposes.

A faithful reader of the Old Testament, waiting for the Messiah, does not find themselves commanded to enact God’s justice on the surrounding nations – or even their own government. Instead, they are commanded to live lives of faithfulness and justice, and trust God’s sovereignty to care for them and bring about his justice on the Day of the Lord.

 

 


[1] Gen 6:11-13.

[2] Gen 12; 20.

[3] e.g. Gen 25:23, 28:11-16, 29:31, 30:22, 31:9.

[4] Gen 50:20.

[5] Ex 2:14.

[6] Ex 5:1.

[7] e.g., Ex 7:2, 9, 19.

[8] Ex 7:3.

[9]

[10] Ex 20:2

[11] Ex 20:2

[12] Lev 10:1-3

[13] Deut 7:1-4 etc…

[14] Deut 7:4

[15] Deut 9:4. C.f. Gen 15:16; Lev 18:24–27

[16] comm

[20] Deut 28

[21] e.g. Deut 4; 7; 8; 9; 12; 18; 19; 20; 31; 32.

[22] Deut 1:41-46.

[24] Comment on the use of Cronicles

[25] Josh 7:1-12.

[26] Lots of refs here

[27] 1 Sam 13-16

[28] 1 Chr 22:7-10

[29] 1 Kings 8. This strong monotheism has led many documentary hypotheses to claim that the theology of this prayer reflects a much later period of history, so it must have been inserted by a later redactor.

[30] 1 Kings 9:6-7

[31] 1 Kings 11.

[32] 1 Kings 12:15, 22-24; 14:5-11

[33] The Message of Isaiah

[34] refs

[35] ??

[36] Isa 40:15. C.f. Jer 10:6-13; 23:23-24; 31:35; 32:27 ** other prophets

[37] Isa 7:20; 8:4-7; 15-24. Cf other prophets

[39] Hab 3:17-19

[40] Isa 10:5

[41] Isa 10:12

[42] This is repeated in Jeremiah … and Habakkuk …

[43] Isa 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12

[44] Isa 1:17; 56:1

[45] Isa 50:1-9

[48] Jer 27:6-12

[49] c.f. 2 Kings 18-19

[50] Jer 21:4

[51] Jer 29:7

[53] Dan 1:8-20; 3:8-12; 6:12-13

[54] Dan 3:16-18

[55] Dan 4:24-27; 5:18-28

[56] Dan 4:29-33;5:30-31

[57] c.f. Dan 7:21; 8:11-14, 24; 11:30-33

[58] Dan 7:9-14; 12:1-3. Comm refs

[61] Zech 1:8-11; 6:1-8.

[62] Zech 4:6-7

[64] Zech 4:8-10

[65] Zech 9:9-10

9 thoughts on “OT Theology of War

  1. Pingback: Executive Summary « Constantly Reforming

  2. Matthew, I would actually go a step further than you. I would argue that we do not go to war for the same reason that we do not sacrifice sheep in a temple – because that is an OT theme that has been fulfilled by Jesus and has been replaced. The temple has been replaced first by Jesus as the Temple, and secondly by us as the temple of the Holy Spirit. War has been fulfilled by Jesus by defeating the final enemies – sin and death. Now it is continued in us through the spiritual warfare in Eph 5 of faithfulness and participating in Jesus victory.

    There is no prophet who will call us to war, because Jesus is the Lamb who has Won. The war is over. As Revelation points us to, we look at the victorious lamb, and simply wait for the time when his victory will be made complete and obvious in the last day.

  3. Keep up the great work. I am planning to write a series of posts about war from a Biblical perspective on our blog at fightingtheevilsofmammon.blogspot.com.au. This article has really helped me.

    God bless you

    PS: please check out our blog at fightingtheevilsofmammon.blogspot.com.au and our fb page at ‘Anti Mammon and Usury Conquerors’

  4. Your “Every battle in the Bible” section is saving me having to do the same as I prepare the women’s group lesson on the name of God: the Lord of Hosts. Even though I really dislike war and the idea of war, I have been fascinated since my teens with the amazing ways God wins those wars without man’s help or with man just setting up a little framework or taking advantage of the opportunity God has just given them (putting the enemy unwittingly right into the middle of their camp, for example). As an adult, I notice the pattern you mention above, of God protecting His people and wiping out enemy armies when His people are walking with Him properly, and letting the enemy win (or even sending the enemy in to take them away) when they are being disobedient. I’ve only read the first couple of entries at the top of this page (the OT summary and Genesis), but it’s good stuff and I’m looking forward to getting to read the rest of it. 🙂 I also loved your attitude and discussion in the comments section of the “Every battle in the Bible.” God bless you, brother! 🙂

  5. Pingback: The Peaceful Muslim and the Qur’an | ...and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory

  6. Wow I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your blog. It’s so interesting and really thought provoking. Thanks for putting this out there 🙂

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