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Jacob Wright NIDB Article War Final

Jacob Wright NIDB Article War Final

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Published by Jacob L. Wright

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Jacob L. Wright on Mar 07, 2012
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Appeared 2009 in
NIB Dictionary of the Bible
. Ed. by K.D.Sakenfeld
et al.
(Nashville, TN: Abingdon)
Despite the diverse ideas of war in the Bible, much of past biblical scholarship has been undulyfocused on only one of these ideas, namely “holy war” or Y
-war.” In contrast, the presentarticle examines the various ideologies and theologies of war in the Hebrew Bible canonically,progressing from Genesis to the Prophets and Writings. (For more on this book-orientedapproach, see Wright, “Military Valor and Kingship.”) A final section treats war in the NT.Outline:1.
Accounts of Israel’s Originsa.
Genesis b.
The Prophets3.
The Writings4.
The New TestamentBibliography
1. Accounts of Israel’s Origins.
In the narrative extending from Genesis to 2 Kings, one candistinguish three accounts of Israel’s origins that correspond to what seems to have been three,formerly independent, literary works: Genesis, Exodus-Joshua, and Samuel-Kings. Accordingto this view, the book of Judges serves as a literary bridge connecting the latter two works (seeKratz). Each of these accounts sets forth a distinct idea of war.
 a. Genesis.
The political ideal of the book of Genesis is not world unity but rather a plurality ofpeoples. After recounting how Y
disrupted the building project at Babel and scatterednations over the face of the earth, the authors continue in the Patriarchal narratives to unfold
their concept of harmonious and peaceful coexistence. Thus, we read that Isaac, in order toavoid conflict over access to water sources (a typical
casus belli
), opted simply to move on and build other wells (26:15-22, see also chap. 13; for physical separation as a peace strategy inGenesis, see Petersen). Genesis declares many of Israel’s future enemies to be close familymembers. Its most poignant expression of national rapprochement is the gifts exchanged between the twin brothers Jacob-Israel and Esau-Edom (chaps. 32-33), which is paralleled by alater fraternal / tribal reconciliation (chaps. 44-45). As for two other popular peace strategies inthe ANE – intermarriage and treaties – the book rejects the former (24:2-4, 26:34-5; 38:1-30),while presenting the latter as a viable option (14:13; 21:22-34; 26:28; 31:44). The author isambivalent with respect to the military aggression of the kind displayed by Simeon and Leviagainst the city of Shechem (chap. 34; see also 49:5-7).The Patriarchs are, however, not pacifists. Abram goes to war in order to defend hissouthern Canaanite neighbors against external aggression (chap. 14). Nevertheless, he does notengage in “holy war,” and the book makes clear that the Patriarchs did not employ militarymethods to establish territorial rights or increase their wealth (for Abram, see 14:21-24; anexception is Jacob’s peculiar statement in 48:22).The book of Genesis contradicts the jaundiced view of ancient Israel as a militant people. Inorder to reconcile such a view with the book, some have argued that the stories of the peacefulPatriarchs, who lack “typical Israelitish characteristics,” are either completely unhistorical(Wellhausen) or “pre-Israelite” (Gunkel).
b. Exodus-Joshua.
Whereas Genesis portrays Israel’s autochthonous origins (Jacob/Israel is born in the land), the narrative beginning in Exodus and extending to Joshua presents Israelcoming to Canaan, a new land (described seemingly for the first time in see Exod 3:8
et passim
),from far away (Egypt). The redactional concatenation of the two works alters the interpretationof what were originally alternative concepts: The first (Patriarchal) tenure in the land ispeaceful, while the second follows liberation and military conquest. The war ideology in
Exodus-Joshua could also not be more different than that of Genesis: Whereas Abraham foughtin solidarity with his neighbors, the Israelites now wage war in order to wipe out the land’sformer inhabitants. Moreover, this work attributes military success to divine rather than humanheroic action.Israel’s most formative war is also her first war. What directly occasions the Exodus isironically the Pharaoh’s strategy to oppress the Israelites so that the latter would not pose athreat in the event of war or “go up from the land” (1:9-10). The climax of the Exodus itself ispresented as a battle between the Pharaoh and his select armies against Y
 , the divinewarrior (15:3) who fights for Israel (14:13-14). As Israel’s first war hero, Y
is also Israel’sfirst and rightful king, and is accordingly celebrated as such (cf. 15:21-22 with 1 Sam 18:6-7).Before divine kingship is replaced by that of a human war hero (see below on 1-2 Samuel), theIsraelites fight against a series of kings, and the descriptions of these battles have a pronouncedanti-monarchic tendency (Numbers 21-24; 31:8; Deut 2:26-3:1-11; 4:47; 7:24; 29:7-8; Joshua 2-13;see also Judges 3-5, 11). In Exodus-Deuteronomy, the role of the human warrior-king isassumed by the prophet Moses and his successor Joshua, who act as a mediator andrepresentative of divine power to Israel. Moses’ authority and the power of “the staff of God”are
confirmed in the victories over the Egyptians and later the Amalekites (14:31, 17:8-16).Throughout Exodus-Joshua, war is not the special responsibility of a king, a stratifiedmilitary personnel, or a standing army. Instead, all Israel is expected to fight (see esp. Numbers1-3), and insofar as they wage many wars in their journey through the wilderness and entranceinto the land, Israel may be described as a nation of warriors (see “the generation of warriors”in Deut 2:14-16) in this formative period of her history.In keeping with this identity, Israelite society is conceived as a war camp, which isorganized around the Tabernacle housing the Ark of the Covenant. The ark leads Israel on its journey through the desert, which is conceived as a battle (10:35-36). Any military actionwithout the ark is doomed to failure (14:39-45; cf. Deut 1:42). Later Moses presents the Torah hedeclared in the plains of Moab to the Levites who carry the ark (Deut 31:9, 25-26). The ark then

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