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war

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A Dictionary of the Bible What is This? Contains accessibly written entries for topics covering the religious, historical, and social aspects of the Bible.

    war

    War was a frequent fact of life throughout the OT era, and the geographical situation of Palestine between great powers inevitably dragged Israel and Judah into their conflicts. The Hebrews themselves, in coming out of Egypt, fought the existing inhabitants of Canaan according to Joshua (though there is no archaeological corroboration) in order to secure territory for themselves, and the kings from Saul to the time of the Exile (586 BCE) were engaged in constant warfare to maintain or extend territory. After the Exile the Jews were in conflict with neighbours as well as with the great empires, and there were popular uprisings led by the Maccabees in the 2nd cent. BCE and Simon Bar-Kochba in the 2nd cent. CE. With such a history of war it is not surprising that Israel's God is often described as a warrior (Isa. 42: 13) who helps his people against their enemies (1 Sam. 30: 26). When the nation experienced a disaster it was interpreted as the withdrawal of God's help (Ezek. 23: 24–5). After the Exile war was seen as a possible means of winning freedom from foreign oppressors, possibly under the leadership of a Messianic Son of David (Pss. of Sol.) or by direct divine intervention. War had become an eschatological concept. In the NT the use of military force is disavowed (Acts 1: 6; John 18: 36) though expected to continue (Luke 14: 31 f.), and war is used in the sense of spiritual conflict (Eph. 6: 12).

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