A Quick Bible Study Vol. 187: What the Hebrew Bible Says About War

A Quick Bible Study Vol. 187: What the Hebrew Bible Says About War

Thanks for joining our study. The Word of God has much to say about war and why we need two weeks to discuss a handful of Old and New Testament verses between the goalposts of war and peace. (Speaking of “goalposts,” I am an alumnus of Ohio State Univ. Long ago, the guest lecturer in my military history class was Woody Hayes, OSU’s legendary football coach. His opening words were, “Football is war!” I was appalled.)

Here is one more non-biblical war quote attributed to Confederate General Robert E. Lee (who did not lecture my college class.) However, I was a longtime member of his boyhood church in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Lee said:

“It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it.”

God speaks in the Hebrew Bible’s war-related passages, and others write about their great faith and trust in the Lord before and during battle. God-sanctioned violence also occurred when He ordered the Israelites to defeat and annihilate their adversaries.

War ensued — when in line with God’s will — the Israelites needed to escape slavery, overcome threats, conquer, protect, and maintain control of the Promised Land. Furthermore, throughout the Hebrew Bible, defeat in battle was attributed to God’s wrath and judgment on the Israelites when they were disobedient sinners who fell away from Him after ignoring warnings from prophets.

You are correct if you surmise today’s study topic was headline-induced. However, no politics will be injected since this is the “Switzerland of Bible studies.” Most importantly, in the Old Testament, as with all things in the universe, God’s hand was/is on the battlefield and at the peace table. That said, we begin with a familiar Hebrew Bible verse (especially for Baby Boomers):

“..a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). Note: See Vol.102 about the Byrds’ 1965 hit song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Upon reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, we understand that “a time for war” is part of human existence. The first time “war” is mentioned is in Genesis 14:1-2 beginning the chapter when Abram rescues Lot. (Kings with unpronounceable names “went to war” against other kings with equally unpronounceable names.)

Exodus 15 begins with “The song of Moses and Miriam” (his sister) just after the Israelites escaped Egyptian bondage through God’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea. In verses 1-18, they sang about God’s great power and how He will “reign forever and ever.” Verses 3 and 4 are relevant to this study:

“The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea” (Exodus: 15:3-4).

Continuing the theme that God determined which side was victorious, in Deuteronomy, He spoke through Moses and said,

“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you” (Deuteronomy 20:1). And:

“For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4).

In the Book of Joshua, General Joshua was tasked by God (and appointed by Moses before his death) to conquer Canaan, the Promised Land. Here is part of God’s marching orders to Joshua:

“ ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go ’ ” (Joshua 1:9).

Moving to 1 Samuel, we read about horrific God-sanctioned violence against Israel’s enemy in a message to King Saul channeled through the prophet Samuel from the Lord:

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys ’ ” (1 Samuel 15:2-3).

Turning to the Book of  Psalms, David, who fought many battles, often wrote about war and his faith in the Lord:

“Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me” (Psalm 144:1-2). 

In Proverbs, we read a familiar theme acknowledging God’s hand in victory:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31 ).

The book of Isaiah has an intriguing passage where weapons of war are transformed into agricultural implements, representing a peaceful transition facilitated by God:

“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

Then, the book of Joel records the exact opposite language from peace to war:

“ The Lord has spoken. Proclaim this among the nations: ‘Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!” Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, Lord! ’ ” (Joel 3: 8-11). Yikes!

This Bible study was written in my office while cable news aired continuous footage of Israel at war. I am out of words — until next week when we read:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. “Part 2,” with the same title, reprints Vols. 57-113 Order it here.   

Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org and the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit. Both are educational donorsupported ministries dedicated to building a permanent Shroud of Turin exhibit in Washington, D.C. Visit the life-sized Shroud replica in D.C. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com.

Myra Kahn Adams

Myra Kahn Adams

Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and political writer. She was on the 2004 Bush campaign's creative team and the 2008 McCain campaign's ad council. Writing credits include, National Review, Washington Examiner, World Net Daily, Breitbart and many others. Contact Myra at MyraAdams01@gmail.com

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