Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Old Testament and Holy War

One of the common apologetic questions regarding the Bible, especially the Old Testament, regards the numerous wars most of which are ordered by God. Recently while preparing for a sermon on the battle against the Amalekites in Exodus 17:8ff, I came across Douglas Stuart's brief excursion on the issue of the Old Testament and holy war that was helpful. I offer his twelve points only in brief. For a fuller treatment, pick up his Exodus commentary (pages 395-397)

1. No standing army was allowed.

2. No pay for soldiers was permitted.

3. No personal spoil/plunder could be taken

4. Holy war could be fought only for the conquest or defense of the promised land. Israel had no right to any other land or to warfare for any other purpose.

5. Only at Yahweh's call could holy war be launched.

6. Solely through a prophet could hat divine call come. . . . Neither priest nor king nor nobles nor tribal leaders nor any other authorities except a prophet were in a position to declare a holy war.

7. Yahweh did the real fighting in holy war because the war was always his.

8. Holy war was a religious undertaking, involving fasting, abstinence from sex, and/or other forms of self denial. it was an act of obedience to God and not of national pride or military strategy.

9. A goal of holy war was the total annihilation of an evil culture (the enemy, the Canaanites).

10. the violator of the rules of holy war became an enemy.

11 Exceptions and mutations were possible, especially in the case of combat with those who were not original inhabitants of the promised land, and therefore who were not automatically to be exterminated.

12. Decisive, rapid victory characterized faithful holy war.

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