War in Exodus

The first act of violence in Exodus (apart from the slaughtering of babies, which is clearly condemned) is Moses’ killing of the Egyptian. This is an act of defense of other, but there is no comment in the text as to whether it was good or bad. The results, however, are clearly negative for Moses. Not even the Israelites see his actions as a positive defense of their rights or freedom. A subtle response to this action is seen later when God shows that he is capable of bringing his people out of Egypt through his own miracles. Moses’ actions just seem so … pathetic. A little man’s aggressive response to his situation, when God had such a bigger plan in motion.

The first war that we see in Exodus is the war between God and Egypt. The plagues, followed by the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army are presented as a contest between God and the powers of Egypt – Pharaoh, the Egyptian gods, the army, etc. In this entire war, Israel are merely spectators or, in the case of Moses, heralds of the coming defeat. This war theme is made explicit in chapter 14, when Pharaoh marches out with his 600 chariots – a force of phenominal power in the ancient world. Moses response to Israel’s fear is important

Ex 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

14:24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

Interesting line in 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle..

Moses’ song in ch 15

3 The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.
4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.

Ex 17

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

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