Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
or Warfare the attempt to decide a contest or difference between princes, states, or large bodies of people, by resorting to extensive acts of violence, or, as the phrase is, by an appeal to arms. The Hebrews were formerly a very warlike nation. The books that inform us of their wars display neither ignorance nor flattery; but are writings inspired by the Spirit of truth and wisdom. Their warriors were none of those fabulous heroes or professed conquerors, whose business it was to ravage cities and provinces, and to reduce foreign nations under their dominion, merely for the sake of governing, or purchasing a name for themselves. They were commonly wise and valiant generals, raised up by God "to fight the battles of the Lord," and to exterminate his enemies. Such were Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, David, Josiah, and the Maccabees, whose names alone are their own sufficient encomiums. Their wars were not undertaken upon slight occasions, or performed with a handful of people. Under Joshua the affair was of no less importance than to make himself master of a vast country which God had given up to him; and to root out several powerful nations that God had devoted to an anathema; and to vindicate an offended Deity, and human nature which had been debased by a wicked and corrupt people, who had filled up the measure of their iniquities. Under the Judges, the matter was to assert their liberty, by shaking off the yoke of powerful tyrants, who kept them in subjection.
Under Saul and David the same motives prevailed to undertake war; and to these were added a farther motive, of making a conquest of such provinces as God had promised to his people. Far was it from their intention merely to reduce the power of the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Idumeans, the Arabians, the Syrians, and the several princes that were in possession of those countries. In the later times of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, we observe their kings bearing the shock of the greatest powers of Asia, of the kings of Assyria and Chaldea, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Nebuchadnezzar, who made the whole east tremble. Under the Maccabees a handful of men opposed the whole power of the kings of Syria, and against them maintained the religion of their fathers, and shook off the yoke of their oppressors, who had a design both against their religion and liberty. In still later times, with what courage, intrepidity, and constancy, did they sustain the war against the Romans, who were then masters of the world!
We may distinguish two kinds of wars among the Hebrews: some were of obligation, as being expressly commanded by the Lord; but others were free and voluntary. The first were such as God appointed them to undertake: for example, against the Amalekites and the Canaanites, which were nations devoted to an anathema. The others were undertaken by the captains of the people, to revenge some injuries offered to the nation, to punish some insults or offences, or to defend their allies. Such was that which the Hebrews made against the city of Gibeah, and against the tribe of Benjamin, which would support them in their fault; that which David made against the Ammonites, whose king had affronted his ambassadors; and that of Joshua against the kings of the Canaanites, to protect the Gibeonites. Whatever reasons authorize a nation or a prince to make war against another, obtained, likewise, among the Hebrews; for all the laws of Moses suppose that the Israelites might make war, and might defend themselves, against their enemies. When a war was resolved upon, all the people that were capable of bearing arms were collected together, or only part of them, according as the exigence of the existing case and the necessity and importance of the enterprise required. For it does not appear that, before the reign of King David, there were any regular troops or magazines in Israel. A general rendezvous was appointed, a review was made of the people by tribes and by families, and then they marched against the enemy. When Saul, at the beginning of his reign, was reformed of the cruel proposal that the Ammonites had made to the men of the city of Jabesh-Gilead, he cut in pieces the oxen belonging to his plough, and sent them through the country, saying, "Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and Samuel, to the relief of Jabesh-Gilead, so shall it be done unto his oxen," 1 Samuel 11:7 . In ancient times, those that went to war generally carried their own provisions along with them, or they took them from the enemy. Hence these wars were generally of short continuance; because it was hardly possible to subsist a large body of troops for a long time with such provisions as every one carried along with him. When David, Jesse's younger son, stayed behind to look after his father's flocks while his elder brothers went to the wars along with Saul, Jesse sent David to carry provisions to his brothers, 1 Samuel 17:13 . We suppose that this way of making war prevailed also under Joshua, the Judges, Saul, David at the beginning of his reign, the kings of Judah and Israel who were successors to Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and under the Maccabees, till the time of Simon Maccabaeus, prince and high priest of the Jews, who had mercenary troops, that is, soldiers who received pay, 1Ma_14:32 . Every one also provided his own arms for the war. The kings of the Hebrews went to the wars in person, and, in earlier times, fought on foot, as well as the meanest of their soldiers; no horses being used in the armies of Israel before David. The officers of war among the Hebrews were the general of the army, and the princes of the tribes or of the families of Israel beside other princes or captains, some of a thousand, some of a hundred, some of fifty, and some of ten, men. They had also their scribes, who were a kind of commissaries that kept the muster roll of the troops; and these had others under them who acted by their direction.
Military fortifications were at first nothing more than a trench or ditch, dug round a few cottages on a hill or mountain, together with the mound, which was formed by the sand dug out of it; except, perhaps, there might have sometimes been an elevated scaffolding for the purpose of throwing stones with the greater effect against the enemy. In the age of Moses and Joshua, the walls which surrounded cities were elevated to no inconsiderable height, and were furnished with towers. The art of fortification was encouraged and patronized by the Hebrew kings, and Jerusalem was always well defended, especially Mount Zion. In later times, the temple itself was used as a castle. The principal parts of a fortification were,
1. The wall, which, in some instances, was triple and double, 2 Chronicles 32:5 . Walls were commonly made lofty and broad, so as to be neither readily passed over nor broken through, Jeremiah 51:58 . The main wall terminated at the top in a parapet for the accommodation of the soldiers, which opened at intervals in a sort of embrasures, so as to give them an opportunity of fighting with missile weapons.
2. Towers, which were erected at certain distances from each other on the top of walls, and ascended to a great height, terminated at the top in a flat roof, and were surrounded with a parapet, which exhibited openings similar to those in the parapet of the walls. Towers of this kind were erected, likewise, over the gates of cities. In these towers guards were kept constantly stationed; at least, this was the case in the time of the kings. It was their business to make known any thing that they discovered at a distance; and whenever they noticed an irruption from an enemy, they blew the trumpet, to arouse the citizens, 2 Samuel 13:34; 2 Samuel 18:26-27; 2 Kings 9:17-19; Nahum 2:1; 2 Chronicles 17:2 . Towers, likewise, which were somewhat larger in size, were erected in different parts of the country, particularly on places which were elevated; and these were guarded by a military force, Judges 8:9; Judges 8:17; Judges 9:46; Judges 9:49; Judges 9:51; Isaiah 21:6; Habakkuk 2:1; Hosea 5:8; Jeremiah 31:6 . We find, even to this day, that the circular edifices of this sort, which are still erected in the solitudes of Arabia Felix, bear their ancient name of castles or towers.
3. The walls were erected in such a way as to curve inward; the extremities of them, consequently, projected outward, and formed a kind of bastions. The object of forming the walls so as to present such projections, was to enable the inhabitants of the besieged city to attack the assailants in flank. We learn from the history of Tacitus, that the walls of Jerusalem, at the time of its being attacked by the Romans, were built in this manner. These projections were introduced by King Uzziah, B.C. 810, and are subsequently mentioned in Zephaniah 1:16 .
4. The digging of a fosse put it in the power of the inhabitants of a city to increase the elevation of the walls, and of itself threw a serious difficulty in the way of an enemy's approach, 2 Samuel 20:15; Isaiah 26:1; Nehemiah 3:8; Psalms 48:13 . The fosse, if the situation of the place admitted it, was filled with water. This was the case at Babylon.
5. The gates were at first made of wood, and were small in size. They were constructed in the manner of valve doors, and were secured by means of wooden bars. Subsequently, they were made larger and stronger; and, in order to prevent their being burned, were covered with plates of brass or iron. The bars were covered in the same manner, in order to prevent their being cut asunder; but it was sometimes the case that they were made wholly of iron. The bars were secured by a sort of lock, Psalms 107:16; Isaiah 45:2 .
Previously to commencing war, the Heathen nations consulted oracles, soothsayers, necromancers, and also the lot, which was ascertained by shooting arrows of different colours, 1 Samuel 28:1-10; Isaiah 41:21-24; Ezekiel 25:11 . The Hebrews, to whom things of this kind were interdicted, were in the habit, in the early part of their history, of inquiring of God by means of Urim and Thummim, Judges 1:1; Judges 20:27-28; 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 30:8 . After the time of David, the kings who reigned in Palestine consulted, according to the different characters which they sustained, and the feelings which they exercised, sometimes true prophets, and sometimes false, in respect to the issue of war, 1 Kings 22:6-13; 2 Kings 19:2 , &c. Sacrifices were also offered, in reference to which the soldiers were said to consecrate themselves to the war, Isaiah 13:3; Jeremiah 6:4; Jeremiah 51:27; Joel 3:9; Obadiah 1:1 . There are instances of formal declarations of war, and sometimes of previous negotiations, 2 Kings 14:8; 2 Chronicles 25:27; Judges 11:12-28; but ceremonies of this kind were not always observed, 2 Samuel 10:1-12 . When the enemy made a sudden incursion, or when the war was unexpectedly commenced, the alarm was given to the people by messengers rapidly sent forth, by the sound of warlike trumpets, by standards floating on the loftiest places, by the clamour of many voices on the mountains, that echoed from summit to summit, Judges 3:27; Judges 6:34; Judges 7:22; Judges 19:29-30; 1 Samuel 11:7-8; Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 30:17; Isaiah 49:2; Isaiah 62:10 . Military expeditions commonly commenced in the spring, 2 Samuel 11:1 , and were continued in the summer, but in the winter the soldiers went into quarters. The firm persuasion that God fights for the good against the wicked, discovers itself in the Old Testament, and accounts for the fact, that, not only in the Hebrew, but also in the Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldaic languages, words, which originally signify justice, innocence, or uprightness, signify likewise victory; and that words, whose usual meaning is injustice or wickedness, also mean defeat or overthrow. The same may be said in respect to words which signify help or aid, inasmuch as the nation which conquered received aid from God, and God was its helper, Psalm 7:9; 9:9; 20:6; 26:1; 35:24; 43:1; 44:5; 75:3; 76:13; 78:9; 82:8; 1 Samuel 14:45; 2 Kings 5:1; Isaiah 59:17; Habakkuk 3:8 .
The attack of the orientals in battle has always been, and is to this day, characterized by vehemence, and impetuosity. In case the enemy sustain an unaltered front, they retreat, but it is not long before they return again with renewed ardour. It was the practice of the Roman armies to stand still in the order of battle, and to receive the shock of their opposers. To this practice there are allusions in the following passages: 1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1; Ephesians 6:14; Php_1:27; 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 . The Greeks, while they were yet three or four furlongs distant from the enemy, commenced the song of war; something resembling which occurs in 2 Chronicles 20:21 . They then raised a shout, which was also done among the Hebrews, 1 Samuel 17:52; Joshua 6:6; Isaiah 5:29-30; Isaiah 17:12; Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 25:30 . The war shout in Judges 7:20 , was as follows, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." In some instances it seems to have been a mere yell or inarticulate cry. The mere march of armies with their weapons, chariots, and trampling coursers, occasioned a great and confused noise, which is compared by the prophets to the roaring of the ocean, and the dashing of the mountain torrents, Isaiah 17:12-13; Isaiah 27:2 . The descriptions of battles in the Bible are very brief; but although there is nothing especially said, in respect to the order in which the battle commenced and was conducted, there is hardly a doubt that the light- armed troops, as was the case in other nations, were the first in the engagement. The main body followed them, and, with their spears extended, made a rapid and impetuous movement upon the enemy. Hence swiftness of foot in a soldier is mentioned as a ground of great commendation, not only in Homer, but in the Bible, 2 Samuel 2:19-24; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Psalms 18:33 . Those who obtained the victory were intoxicated with joy; the shout of triumph resounded from mountain to mountain, Isaiah 42:11; Isaiah 52:7-8; Jeremiah 50:2; Ezekiel 7:7; Nahum 1:15 . The whole of the people, not excepting the women, went out to meet the returning conquerors with singing and with dancing, Judges 11:34-37; 1 Samuel 18:6-7 . Triumphal songs were uttered for the living, and elegies for the dead, 2 Samuel 1:17-18; 2 Chronicles 35:25; Judges 5:1-31; Exodus 15:1-21 . Monuments in honour of the victory were erected, 2 Samuel 8:13; Psalms 60:1; and the arms of the enemy were hung up as trophies in the tabernacle, 1 Samuel 31:10; 2 Kings 11:10 . The soldiers who conducted themselves meritoriously were honoured with presents, and had the opportunity of entering into honourable matrimonial connections, Joshua 14; 1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Samuel 28:17; 2 Samuel 18:11 . See Armies , and See Arms .
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
Conflicts between nations occur for a variety of reasons, but always they are evidence of sin in the world. Some nations go to war because they are aggressive, others because they have to defend themselves against aggression. But in neither case do nations have unlimited right to do as they like. This applies even when nations are God’s instrument to carry out his judgment on the wicked ( Isaiah 10:5-14; Habakkuk 2:12-13; Habakkuk 2:16-17).
Instructions for Israel
According to God’s plan for Israel, the conquest of Canaan was not merely for political or material gain, but had a moral and religious purpose. God had given the Canaanites time to repent but they had consistently refused. Finally, their sin reached the extent where God could postpone judgment no longer ( Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 9:5). The destruction of the Canaanites along with their idols, and at times their animals and possessions, was also of significance in God’s purposes for Israel. It helped to protect Israel from the corrupt religion, moral filth and physical disease that characterized life throughout Canaan ( Deuteronomy 7:1-2; Deuteronomy 7:16; Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 20:16-18).
This policy of total destruction applied only to Israel’s conquest of Canaan. The Israelites were not to destroy non-Canaanite cities unless the people refused Israel’s terms of peace. They attacked only when all else failed. Even then they were to attack only the soldiers, not the women and children ( Deuteronomy 20:10-15; cf. Judges 11:12-28), and they were not to destroy the natural environment ( Deuteronomy 20:19-20). They were to treat prisoners of war well, and if they took any of the captive women as wives, they had to treat them with consideration and respect ( Deuteronomy 21:10-14; cf. 2 Kings 6:21-22).
Not all Israelite men were required to fight for their country. Those excused from military service included any who had recently committed themselves to some undertaking that could be ruined if they suddenly abandoned it ( Deuteronomy 20:1-7). If any went out to battle but then became afraid, they were to be sent home ( Deuteronomy 20:8; cf. Judges 7:3).
Israel’s leaders usually consulted priests or prophets before going to war, to ensure they were acting with God’s approval ( 1 Samuel 30:7-8; 2 Kings 3:11). They could be confident of victory if God was on their side ( Joshua 23:10; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalms 68:1). They could celebrate their triumphs with victory songs ( Exodus 15:1-3; Judges 5:1-5; Psalms 18:1-6), but they were not to delight in war, and neither were their enemies ( Psalms 68:30). God gained no pleasure from bloodshed, even when it resulted in victory ( 1 Chronicles 22:8; Psalms 11:5). He preferred to work for peace ( Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 4:3-4; Zechariah 9:9-10).
The Old Testament record
In the early days of their settlement in Canaan, the Israelites enjoyed a fairly peaceful existence and saw no need for a regular army. Later, when hostile neighbours began to invade Israel’s territory, a local leader would arise to assemble a fighting force and drive out the enemy ( Judges 3:1-3; Judges 5:14-15; Judges 6:33-35; Judges 7:24; Judges 10:18; see Judges, Book Of )
With the appointment of Saul as Israel’s first king, a regular army was established ( 1 Samuel 11:6-8; 1 Samuel 13:2; 1 Samuel 17:2). At that time most of Israel’s fighting was done by foot soldiers who used swords, spears, and bows and arrows ( 1 Samuel 31:1-4; 2 Samuel 2:23; see Armour ; Weapons ). Armies set up their bases in well protected camps ( 1 Samuel 17:20; 1 Samuel 25:13), and usually went to war in spring or summer, when weather conditions were favourable ( 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Kings 13:20).
David improved Israel’s army till it was the strongest among the nations of the region (2 Samuel 8). As he seized the chariot forces of conquered enemies, Israel’s army began to use chariots. The next king, Solomon, enlarged Israel’s chariot force considerably ( 2 Samuel 8:4; 2 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 9:22; 1 Kings 10:26; cf. 1 Kings 22:35; see Chariot ). A later king, Uzziah, further modernized the army by providing it with better armour and weapons, including special equipment for use against besieging armies ( 2 Chronicles 26:14-15).
Siege was a common part of warfare, and was often considered essential if an aggressor failed to take a city in a surprise attack or head-on assault. The more powerful armies had huge pieces of siege equipment, some of which were designed to shoot over the city walls, others to break down the walls. The attackers usually heaped earth against the walls to enable them to get closer to the top, where the walls were thinner and easier to break through ( 2 Kings 6:24; 2 Kings 25:1; Ezekiel 4:2). Meanwhile, people inside the city slowly starved to death or died of disease ( 2 Kings 25:2-3; Jeremiah 32:24; Lamentations 2:10-12; Lamentations 2:19-21; Lamentations 4:4-9). The victorious siege often ended with senseless butchery, rape, plunder and destruction ( 2 Kings 25:4-17; Psalms 74:4-8; Psalms 79:1-3; Lamentations 5:11-12; Nahum 2:5-9; Nahum 3:1-3).
Christians and war
As long as there is sin in the world there will be war ( Matthew 24:6; James 4:1), and governments will be forced to protect their people from aggression. The Old Testament record seems to support the view that this use of force by a government is within the authority given it by God. That authority allows it to punish wrongdoers and preserve the well-being of its citizens ( Romans 13:4; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-14; see Government ).
Christians, however, should never try to expand or defend the kingdom of God through war ( Matthew 26:52-54; John 18:36). God alone has the right to impose his kingdom by force, and he will exercise that right when Jesus Christ returns and finally destroys all enemies (Revelation 16; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:11-21; see Kingdom Of God ).
In the meantime, Christians live in a world where they are members of God’s kingdom and at the same time members of earthly nations (see Nation ). God’s kingdom is of a different kind from the ‘kingdoms’ of the world, and Christians must not apply the legal procedures of civil government to their personal behaviour. Civil law requires legal retaliation for wrongdoing, and therefore imposes a punishment to suit the offence. Christian morality requires believers to forgive those who do them wrong ( Matthew 5:38-42; cf. Romans 12:17-21 with Romans 13:1-6).
War is one of those cases where Christians at times see tension between these two responsibilities. In the New Testament, as in the Old, believers seem to have had no objection to engaging in military service themselves or accepting the protection that those in military service provided for them ( Luke 3:14; Luke 7:2-9; Acts 10:1-4; Acts 23:17-35; Hebrews 11:33-34). But in the century immediately following the apostolic era, most Christians were strongly pacifist. They believed all war to be wrong and they refused to participate in military service.
Throughout the history of the church, sincere Christians have held a variety of views ranging from total pacifism to total commitment to military service. Some Christians, while not believing all involvement in war to be wrong, believe it to be wrong for Christians to take part in war. Others, still condemning war, consider that when the state of affairs becomes so bad that the ideal is no longer possible, they may be forced to accept the lesser of two wrongs (cf. Matthew 19:8). While refusing to initiate aggression themselves, they consider that to resist an evil attacker is not as bad as allowing the evil to triumph unhindered. They do not enjoy such action, but at the same time they do not believe they should leave the protection of the defenceless entirely to non-Christians (cf. Isaiah 1:17).
Even if Christians believe it is right for them to take part in war, they must not accept the decisions of their government without question. Governments can make decisions that are so unjust or immoral that Christians may feel they must disobey them if they are to remain obedient to God. God alone can demand absolute obedience (cf. Daniel 3:17-18; Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29). Whatever the circumstances, Christians must, like their God, work to achieve justice and peace (cf. Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:2-7; Isaiah 11:1-9; Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:9; see Justice ; Peace ).
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
WAR . 1. In the days before the monarchy the wars of the Hebrew tribes must have resembled those of early Greece, when ‘the two armies started out, marched till they met, had a fight and went home.’ Rarely, as in the case of the campaign against Sisera ( Judges 4:1-24 ), was it necessary to summon a larger army from several tribes. From the days of Saul and David, with their long struggle against the Philistines, war became the affair of the whole nation, leading, also, to the establishment of a standing army, or at least of the nucleus of one (see Army). In the reign of Solomon we hear of a complete organization of the kingdom, which undoubtedly served a more serious purpose than the providing of ‘victuals for the king and his household’ ( 1 Kings 4:7 ).
Early spring, after the winter rains had ceased, was ‘the time when kings go out to battle’ ( 2 Samuel 11:1 ). The war-horn (EV [Note: English Version.] ‘trumpet’), sounded from village to village on their hilltops, was in all periods the call to arms ( Judges 6:34 , 1 Samuel 13:3 , 2 Samuel 20:1 ). How far the exemptions from military service specified in Deuteronomy 20:5-8 were in force under the kings is unknown; the first express attestation is 1Ma 3:55 .
2 . War, from the Hebrew point of view, was essentially a religious duty, begun and carried through under the highest sanctions of religion. Israel’s wars of old were ‘the wars of Jâ€³ [Note: Jahweh.] ’ ( Numbers 21:14 ), and was not Jahweh TsÄ•bÃ¢’Ã´th , especially ‘the God of Israel’s battle-array’ ( 1 Samuel 17:45 ).? His presence with the host was secured by ‘the ark of Jâ€³ [Note: Jahweh.] ’ accompanying the army in the field ( 2Sa 11:11 , cf. 1 Samuel 4:3 ff.). As an indispensable preliminary, therefore, of every campaign, the soldiers ‘sanctified’ themselves ( Joshua 3:5 ) by ablutions and other observances preparatory to offering the usual sacrifices ( 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 13:9 ). The men thus became God’s ‘consecrated ones’ ( Isaiah 13:2 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), and to open a campaign is in Heb. phrase ‘to consecrate war’ ( Joel 3:9 , Jeremiah 6:4 etc.). Isaiah 21:5 ‘anoint the shield’ (cf. 2 Samuel 1:21 ) is commonly taken to allude to a practice of smearing shields with oil, that hostile weapons might more readily glance off (see, for another explanation, Marti or Duhm, Jesaia, ad loc. ).
To ascertain the propitious moment for the start, and indeed throughout the campaign, it was usual to ‘enquire of the Lord’ by means of the sacred lot ( Judges 1:1 , 1 Samuel 23:2 and oft.), and in an age of more advanced religious thought, by the mouth of a prophet ( 1 Kings 22:6 ff.). Still later a campaign was opened with prayer and fasting ( 1Ma 3:47 ff.).
As regards the commissariat , it was probably usual, as in Greece, to start with three days’ provisions, the soldiers, for the rest, helping themselves from friends (cf. however, the voluntary gifts, 2 Samuel 17:27 ff.) and foes. The arrangement by which ‘ten men out of every hundred’ were told off ‘to fetch victual for the people’ ( Judges 20:10 ), is first met with in a late document.
3. As the army advanced, scouts were sent out to ascertain the enemy’s position and strength ( Judges 1:24 [AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘spies,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘watchers’], 1 Samuel 26:4 , 1Ma 5:38 ). Where the element of secrecy enters, we may call them spies (so Joshua 2:1 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , 2 Samuel 15:10 , 1Ma 12:28; cf. Gideon’s exploit, Judges 7:11 ff.).
Little is known of the camps of the Heb. armies. The men were sheltered in tents and booths ( 2 Samuel 11:11; this reference, however, is to a lengthy siege). The general commanding probably had a more elaborate pavilion’ ( 1 Kings 20:12; 1 Kings 20:16 , see Tent). The obscure term rendered by RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘place of the wagons’ ( 1 Samuel 17:20; 1 Samuel 26:5; 1 Samuel 26:7 ) is derived from a root which justifies us in supposing that the Hebrew camps were round, rather than square. Of the 20 Assyrian camps represented on the bronze plates of the gates of Balawat, 4 are circular, 14 almost square, and 2 have their long sides straight and their short sides curved outwards. Two gates are represented at opposite ends, between which a broad road divides the camp into two almost equal parts (Billerbeck u. Delitzsch, Die Palasttore Salmanassars , II. , 104). The Hebrews divided the night into three watches ( Judges 7:19 , 1 Samuel 11:11 ).
4. The tactics of the Hebrew generals were as simple as their strategy. Usually the ‘battle was set in array’ by the opposing forces being drawn up in line facing each other. At a given signal, each side raised its battle-cry ( Judges 7:21 , Amos 1:14 , Jeremiah 4:19 ) as it rushed to the fray; for the wild slogan of former days, the Ironsides of the Jewish Cromwell, Judas the Maccabee, substituted prayer ( 1Ma 5:33 ) and the singing of Psalms ( 2Ma 12:37 ). It was a common practice for a general to divide his forces into three divisions ( Judges 7:16 , 1Sa 11:11 , 2 Samuel 18:2 , 1Ma 5:33 ). A favourite piece of tactics was to pretend flight, and by leaving a body of men in ambush , to fall upon the unwary pursuers in front and rear ( Joshua 8:15 , Judges 20:36 ). As examples of more elaborate tactics may be cited Joab’s handling of his troops before Rabbath-ammon ( 2 Samuel 10:9-11 ), and Benhadad’s massing of his chariots at the battle of Ramoth-gilead ( 1 Kings 22:31 ); the campaigns of Judas MaccabÃ¦us would repay a special study from this point of view. The recall was sounded on the war-horn ( 2 Samuel 2:23; 2 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 20:22 ).
5. The tender mercies of the victors in those days were cruel, although the treatment which the Hebrews meted out to their enemies was, with few exceptions ( e.g . 2 Kings 15:16 ), not to be compared to what Benzinger only too aptly describes as ‘the Assyrian devilries.’ It is one of the greatest blots on our RV [Note: Revised Version.] that 2 Samuel 12:31 should still read as it does, instead of as in the margin (see Cent. Bible, in loc ). The Hebrew wars, as has been said, were the wars of Jâ€³ [Note: Jahweh.] , and to Jâ€³ [Note: Jahweh.] of right belonged the population of a conquered city (see Ban). Even the humane Deuteronomic Code spares only the women and children ( Deuteronomy 20:13 f.). The captives were mostly sold as slaves. A heavy war indemnity or a yearly tribute was imposed on the conquered people ( 2 Kings 3:4 ).
The booty fell to the victorious soldiery, the leaders receiving a special share ( Judges 8:24 ff., 1 Samuel 30:26 ff.). The men ‘that tarried by the stuff’ in other words, who were left behind as a camp-guard shared equally with their comrades ‘who went down to the battle’ ( 1 Samuel 30:24 f., a law first introduced by David, but afterwards characteristically assigned to Moses, Numbers 31:27 ). The returning warriors were welcomed home by the women with dance and song ( Exodus 15:20 ff., Judges 11:34 , 1 Samuel 18:6 etc.). The piety of the MaccabÃ¦an age found a more fitting expression in a service of thanksgiving ( 1Ma 4:24 ). See also Army, Armour Arms, Fortification and Siegecraft.
A. R. S. Kennedy.
Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
Israel at its Exodus from Egypt went up "according to their armies," "harnessed," literally, "arranged in five divisions," van, center, two wings, and rearguard (Ewald): Exodus 6:26; Exodus 12:37; Exodus 12:41; Exodus 13:18. Pharaoh's despotism had supplied them with native officers whom they obeyed ( Exodus 5:14-21). Moses had in youth all the training which a warlike nation like Egypt could give him, and which would enable him to organize Israel as an army not a mob. Jehovah as "a man of war" was at their head ( Exodus 15:1; Exodus 15:3; Exodus 13:20-22); under Him they won their first victory, that over Amalek ( Exodus 17:8-16). The 68th Psalm of David takes its starting point from Israel's military watchword under Jehovah in marching against the enemy ( Numbers 10:35-36). In Joshua 5:13-6; Joshua 5:5.
Jehovah manifests Himself in human form as "the Captain of the host of the Lord." Antitypically, the spiritual Israel under Jehovah battle against Satan with spiritual arms ( 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:7; Revelation 6:2). By the word of His mouth shall He in person at the head of the armies of heaven slay antichrist and his hosts in the last days ( Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:11-21). The Mosaic code fostered a self defensive, not an aggressive, spirit in Israel. All Israelites (with some merciful exemptions, Deuteronomy 20:5-8) were liable to serve from 20 years and upward, thus forming a national yeomanry ( Numbers 1:3; Numbers 1:26; 2 Chronicles 25:5). The landowners and warriors being the same opposed a powerful barrier to assaults from without and disruption from within.
The divisions for civil purposes were the same as for military ( Exodus 18:21, compare Numbers 31:14); in both cases divided into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and the chiefs bearing the same designation ( Sariy ). In Deuteronomy 20:9 Vulgate, Syriac, etc., translated "the captains at the head of the people shall array them." But if "captains" were subject to the verb and not, as KJV object, the article might be expected. In KJV the captains meant are subordinate leaders of smaller divisions. National landholders led by men already revered for civil authority and noble family descent, so long as they remained faithful to God, formed an army ensuring alike national security and a free constitution in a free country. Employed in husbandry, and attached to home, they had no temptation to war for conquest. The law forbidding cavalry, and enjoining upon all males attendance yearly at the three great feasts at Jerusalem, made war outside Palestine almost impossible.
Religion too treated them as polluted temporarily by any bloodshed however justifiable ( Numbers 19:13-16; Numbers 31:19; 1 Kings 5:3; 1 Chronicles 28:3). A standing army was introduced under Saul ( 1 Samuel 13:2; 1 Samuel 14:47-52; 1 Samuel 18:5). (See Army .) Personal prowess of individual soldiers determined the issue, as they fought hand to hand ( 2 Samuel 1:28; 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Amos 2:14-16), and sometimes in single combat (1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 2:14-17). The trumpet by varied notes sounded for battle or for retreat ( 2 Samuel 2:28; 2 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 20:22; 1 Corinthians 14:8).
The priests blew the silver trumpets ( Numbers 10:9; Numbers 31:6). In sieges, a line of circumvallation was drawn round the city, and mounds were thrown out from this, on which towers were erected from whence slingers and archers could assail the defenders ( Ezekiel 4:2; 2 Samuel 20:15; 2 Kings 19:32; 2 Kings 25:1). The Mosaic law mitigated the severities of ancient warfare. Only males in arms were slain; women and children were spared, except the Canaanites who were doomed by God ( Deuteronomy 20:13-14; Deuteronomy 21:10-14).
Israel's mercy was noted among neighbouring nations ( 1 Kings 20:31; 2 Kings 6:20-23; Isaiah 16:5; contrast Judges 16:21; 1 Samuel 11:2; 2 Kings 25:7). Abimelech and Menahem acted with the cruelty of usurpers ( Judges 9:45; 2 Kings 15:16). Amaziahacted with exceptional cruelty ( 2 Chronicles 25:12). Gideon's severity to the oppressor Midian (Judges 7-8), also Israel's treatment of the same after suffering by Midian's licentious and idolatrous wiles, and David's treatment of Moab and Ammon (probably for some extraordinary treachery toward his father and mother), are not incompatible with Israel's general mercy comparatively speaking.
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
One of the evil fruits of the fall, and an appalling manifestation of the depravity of mankind, Genesis 6:11-13 Isaiah 9:5 James 4:1-2 , often rendered apparently inevitable by the assaults of enemies, or commanded by God for their punishment. See Amalekites and Canaan .
By this scourge, subsequently to the conquest of Canaan, God chastised both his own rebellious people and the corrupt and oppressive idolaters around them. In many cases, moreover, the issue was distinctly made between the true God and idols; as with the Philistines, 1 Samuel 17:43-47; the Syrians, 1 Kings 20:23-30; the Assyrians, 2 Kings 19:10-19,35; and the Ammonites, 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 . Hence God often raised up champions for his people, gave them counsel in war by Urim and by prophets, and miraculously aided them in battle.
Before the period of the kings, there seems to have been scarcely any regular army among the Jews; but all who were able to bear arms were liable to be summoned to the field, 1 Samuel 11:7 . The vast armies of the kings of Judah and Israel usually fought on foot, armed with spears, swords, and shields; having large bodies of archers and slingers, and comparatively few chariots and horsemen. See ARMS.
The forces were arranged in suitable divisions, with officers of tens, hundreds, thousands, etc., Judges 20:10 1 Chronicles 13:1 2 Chronicles 25:5 . The Jews were fully equal to the nations around them in bravery and the arts of war; but were restrained from wars of conquest, and when invaders had been repelled the people dispersed to their homes. A campaign usually commenced in spring, and was terminated before winter, 2 Samuel 11:1 1 Kings 20:22 . As the Jewish host approached a hostile army, the priests cheered them by addresses, Deuteronomy 20:2 1 Samuel 7:9,13 , and by inspiring songs, 2 Chronicles 20:21 . The sacred trumpets gave the signal for battle, Numbers 10:9,10 2 Chronicles 13:12-15; the archers and slingers advanced first, but at length made way for the charge of the heavy-armed spearmen, etc., who sought to terrify the enemy, ere they reached them, by their aspect and war-cries, Judges 7:18-20 1 Samuel 17:52 Job 39:25 Isaiah 17:12,13 .
The combatants were soon engaged hand to hand; the battle became a series of duels; and the victory was gained by the obstinate bravery, the skill, strength, and swiftness of individual warriors, 1 Chronicles 12:8 Psalm 18:32-37 . See Paul's exhortations to Christian firmness, under the assaults of spiritual foes, 1 Corinthians 16:13 Ephesians 6:11-14 1 Thessalonians 3:8 . The battles of the ancients were exceedingly sanguinary, 2 Chronicles 28:6; few were spared except those reserved to grace the triumph or be sold as slaves. A victorious army of Jews on returning was welcomed by the whole population with every demonstration of joy, 1 Samuel 18:6,7 . The spoils were divided after reserving an oblation for the Lord, Numbers 31:50 Judges 5:30; trophies were suspended in public places; eulogies were pronounced in honor of the most distinguished warriors, and lamentations over the dead.
In besieging a walled city, numerous towers were usually erected around it for throwing missiles; catapults were prepared for hurling large darts and stones. Large towers were also constructed and mounds near to the city walls, and raised if possible to an equal or greater height, that by casting a movable bridge across access to the city might be gained. The battering-ram was also employed to effect a breach in the wall; and the crow, a long spar with iron claws at one end and ropes at the other, to pull down stones or men from the top of the wall. These and similar modes of assault the besieged resisted by throwing down darts, stones, heavy rocks, and sometimes boiling oil; but hanging sacks of chaff between the battering-ram and the wall; by strong and sudden sallies, capturing and burning the towers and enginery of the assailants, and quickly retreating into the city, 2 Chronicles 26:14,15 . The modern inventions of gunpowder, rifles, bombs, and heavy artillery have changed all this. See Battering-Ram .
As the influence of Christianity diffuses itself in the world, war is becoming less excusable and less practicable; and a great advance may be observed from the customs and spirit of ancient barbarism towards the promised universal supremacy of the Prince of peace, Psalm 46:9 Isaiah 2:4 Micah 4:3 .
"Wars of the Lord" was probably the name of an uninspired book, long since lost, containing details of the events alluded to in Numbers 21:14-15 .
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
War. The ancient battles were truly murderous. Scarcely ever was any quarter given, except where the vanquished were retained as slaves. 2 Chron. IS:17. Enemies were then, as now, surprised and overcome by unexpected divisions of the forces, by ambushes, and by false retreats. Genesis 14:15; Joshua 8:12; Judges 20:36-39; 2 Kings 7:12. In lack of artillery, unwieldy machines for casting heavy stones and other destructive missiles were invented. Uzziah "made in Jerusalem engines invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal." 2 Chronicles 26:15. There was no part of the ancient military preparations more terrible than chariots. Exodus 14:7; Deuteronomy 20:1; Joshua 17:16; Judges 4:3. They were in common use wherever there was any cavalry. 2 Samuel 10:18; 1 Chronicles 18:4; 2 Chronicles 12:3; 2 Chronicles 14:9. Walls and towers were used in fortifications, and the latter were guarded by soldiers, and are called "garrisons." 2 Samuel 8:6; Ezekiel 26:11. Various passages lead to the opinion that divisions of the army were common, as in modern times. Genesis 14:15; Judges 7:16; 1 Samuel 11:11. The most frequent division of the host was into tens, hundreds, and thousands, and each of these had its commander or captain. Judges 20:10; 1 Samuel 8:12; 2 Kings 11:4. Among the Hebrews these divisions had some reference to the several families, and were under the heads of families as their officers. 2 Chronicles 25:6; 2 Chronicles 26:12. The captains of hundreds and of thousands were of high rank, or, so to speak, staff officers, who were admitted to share in the councils of war. 1 Chronicles 13:1. The whole army had its commander-in-chief or captain, who was over the host, and its scribe or keeper of the muster-roll. 1 Kings 4:4; 1 Chronicles 18:15-16; 1 Chronicles 27:32-34; 2 Chronicles 17:14; 2 Chronicles 26:11. In Isaiah 33:18 the words translated "he that counted the towers" probably indicate what we should call a chief engineer. Under David the army of 288,000 men was divided into twelve corps, each of which was consequently 24,000 strong and had its own general. 1 Chronicles 27:1-34. Under Jehoshaphat this was altered, and there were five unequal corps, under as many commanders. 2 Chronicles 17:14-19. The cohort had 500 or 600 men, and the legion embraced ten cohorts. The light troops were provided with arms which they used at some distance from the enemy, such as bows and arrows. They are designated in 2 Chronicles 14:8; while the heavy-armed were those who bore shield and spear. 1 Chronicles 12:24. The light troops of the army of Asa were taken principally from the tribe of Benjamin because of their extraordinary accuracy of aim. Judges 20:16. See Arms, Armor. The troops were excited to ardor and bravery by addresses from their priests, who were commanded to appeal to them. Deuteronomy 20:2. In later times kings themselves were accustomed to harangue their armies. 2 Chronicles 13:4. Finally, perhaps, after the sacrifices had been offered, the summons was given by the holy trumpets. Numbers 10:9-10; 2 Chronicles 13:12-14. It was the practice of the Greeks, when they were within half a mile of the enemy, to sing their war song. A similar custom probably prevailed among the Jews. 2 Chronicles 20:21. Next followed the shout, or war cry, which the Romans accompanied with the noise of shields and spears struck violently together. This war cry was common in the East, as it is to this day among the Turks. It was the "alarm" or "shout" so often mentioned in Scripture. 1 Samuel 17:52; 2 Chronicles 13:15; Job 39:25; Jeremiah 4:19.
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
War. The most important topic in connection with war is the formation of the army which is destined to carry it on. See Army . In 1 Kings 9:22, at a period (Solomon's reign) when the organization of the army was complete, we have apparently a list of the various gradations of rank in the service, as follows:
1. "Men of war" = Privates;
2. "servants," the lowest rank of officers = Lieutenants;
3. "princes" = Captains;
4. "captains," perhaps = Staff Officers;
5. "rulers of the chariots and his horsemen" = Cavalry Officers.
Formal proclamations of war were not interchanged between the belligerents. Before entering the enemy's district, spies were sent to ascertain the character of the country and the preparations of its inhabitants for resistance. Numbers 13:17; Joshua 2:1; Judges 7:10; 1 Samuel 26:4. The combat assumed the form of a number of hand-to-hand contests; hence, the high value attached to fleetness of foot and strength of arm. 2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8. At the same time, various strategic devices were practiced, such as the ambuscade, Joshua 8:2; Joshua 8:12; Judges 20:36, surprise, Judges 7:16, or circumvention. 2 Samuel 5:23.
Another mode of settling the dispute was by the selection of champions, 1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 2:14, who were spurred on to exertion by the offer of high reward. 1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Samuel 18:25; 2 Samuel 18:11; 1 Chronicles 11:6. The contest having been decided, the conquerors were recalled from the pursuit by the sound of a trumpet. 2 Samuel 2:28; 2 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 20:22.
The siege of a town or fortress was conducted in the following manner: A line of circumvallation was drawn round the place, Ezekiel 4:2; Micah 5:1, constructed out of the trees found in the neighborhood, Deuteronomy 20:20, together with earth and any other materials at hand. This line not only cut off the besieged from the surrounding country, but also served as a base of operations for the besiegers.
The next step was to throw out, from this line, one or more mounds or "banks" in the direction of the city, 2 Samuel 20:15; 2 Kings 19:32; Isaiah 37:33, which were gradually increased in height until they were about half as high as the city wall. On this mound or bank, towers were erected, 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 21:22; Ezekiel 26:8, whence, the slingers and archers might attack with effect.
Catapults were prepared for hurling large darts and stones; and the Crow , a long spar, with iron claws at one end and ropes at the other, to pull down stones or men from the top of the wall. Battering-Rams , Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 21:22, were brought up to the walls by means of the bank, and Scaling-Ladders might also be placed on it.
The treatment of the conquered was extremely severe in ancient times. The bodies of the soldiers killed in action were plundered, 1 Samuel 31:8 2 Maccabees 8:27; the survivors were either killed in some savage manner, Judges 9:45; 2 Samuel 12:31; 2 Chronicles 25:12, mutilated, Judges 9:45; 2 Samuel 12:31; 2 Chronicles 25:12 mutilated, Judges 1:6; 1 Samuel 11:2, or carried into captivity. Numbers 31:26.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words 
(Eng., "polemics"), "to fight, to make war," is used (a) literally, Revelation 12:7 (twice), RV; 13:4; 17:14; 19:11; (b) metaphorically, Revelation 2:16 , RV; (c) hyperbolically, James 4:2 . See Fight , B, Note (1).
used in the Middle Voice, "to make war" (from stratos, "an encamped army"), is translated "to war" in 2—Corinthians 10:3; metaphorically, of spiritual "conflict," 1—Timothy 1:18; 2—Timothy 2:3 , AV; James 4:1; 1—Peter 2:11 . See Soldier , B.
not found in the Active Voice antistrateuo, "to make war against" (anti), occurs in Romans 7:23 .
"war" (akin to A, No. 1), is so translated in the RV, for AV, "battle," 1—Corinthians 14:8; Revelation 9:7,9; 16:14; 20:8; for AV, "fight," Hebrews 11:34; AV and RV in James 4:1 , hyperbolically of private "quarrels;" elsewhere, literally, e.g., Matthew 24:6; Revelation 11:7 . See Battle.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words 
Milchâmâh ( מִלְחָמָה , Strong'S #4421), “war; battle; skirmish; combat.” This word has a cognate only in Ugaritic. Biblical Hebrew attests it 315 times and in all periods.
This word means “war,” the over-all confrontation of two forces (Gen. 14:2). It can refer to the engagement in hostilities considered as a whole, the “battle”: “… And they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim” (Gen. 14:8). This word is used not only of what is intended but of the hand-to-hand fighting which takes place: “And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp” (Exod. 32:17). Milchâmâh sometimes represents the art of soldiering, or “combat”: “The Lord is a man of war …” (Exod. 15:3).
There are several principles which were supposed to govern “war” in the Old Testament. Unjust violence was prohibited, but “war” as a part of ancient life was led (Judg. 4:13) and used by God (Num. 21:14). If it was preceded by sacrifices recognizing His leadership and sovereignty (1 Sam. 7:9) and if He was consulted and obeyed (Judg. 20:23), Israel was promised divine protection (Deut. 20:1-4). Not one life would be lost (Josh. 10:11). God’s presence in “battle” was symbolized by the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 4:3-11). His presence necessitated spiritual and ritualistic cleanliness (Deut. 23:9- 14). Before and during “battle,” trumpets were blown placing the cause before God in anticipation of the victory and gratitude for it (Num. 10:9-10), as well as to relay the orders of the commanders. A war cry accompanied the initiation of “battle” (Josh. 6:5). At the beginning Israel’s army consisted of every man over twenty and under fifty (Num. 1:2-3). Sometimes only certain segments of this potential citizens’ army were summoned (Num. 31:3-6). There were several circumstances which could exempt one from “war” (Num. 1:48-49; Deut. 20:5-8). Under David and Solomon there grew a professional army. It was especially prominent under Solomon, whose army was renowned for its chariotry. Cities outside Palestine were to be offered terms of surrender before being attacked. Compliance meant subjugation to slavery (Deut. 20:10-11). Cities and peoples within the Promised Land were to be utterly wiped out. They were under the ban (Deut. 2:34; 3:6; 20:16-18). This made these battles uniquely holy battles (a holy war) where everything was especially devoted and sacrificed to God. Israel’s kings were admonished to trust in God as their strength rather than in a great many horses and chariots (Deut. 17:16). Her armies were forbidden to cut down fruit trees in order to build siege equipment (Deut. 20:19-20). Soldiers were paid by keeping booty won in “battle” (Num. 31:21-31). The entire army divided the spoil—even those in the rear guard (Num. 31:26-47; Judg. 5:30). God, too, was appointed a share (Num. 31:28-30).
Lâcham ( לָחַם , 3898), “to engage in battle, fight, wage war.” This verb occurs 171 times in biblical Hebrew. The first appearance is in Exod. 1:10: “Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.”
King James Dictionary 
WAR, n. G., to perplex, embroil, disturb. The primary sense of the root is to strive, struggle, urge, drive, or to turn, to twist.
1. A contest between nations or states, carried on by force, either for defense, or for revenging insults and redressing wrongs, for the extension of commerce or acquisition of territory, or for obtaining and establishing the superiority and dominion of one over the other. These objects are accomplished by the slaughter or capture of troops, and the capture and destruction of ships, towns and property. Among rude nations, war is often waged and carried on for plunder. As war is the contest of nations or states, it always implies that such contest is authorized by the monarch or the sovereign power of the nation. When war is commenced by attacking a nation in peace, it si called an offensive war, and such attack is aggressive. When war is undertaken to repel invasion or the attacks of an enemy, it is called defensive, and a defensive war is considered as justifiable. Very few of the wars that have desolated nations and deluged the earth with blood, have been justifiable. Happy would it be for mankind, if the prevalence of Christian principles might ultimately extinguish the spirit of war, and if the ambition to be great, might yield to the ambition of being good.
Preparation for war is sometimes the best security for peace.
2. In poetical language, instruments of war.
His complement of stores, and total war.
3. Poetically, forces army.
Oer the embattled ranks the waves return, and overwhelm their war.
4. The profession of arms art of war as a fierce man of war. Isaiah 2 . 5. Hostility state of opposition or contest act of opposition. 6. Enmity disposition to contention.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. Psalms 55 .
Man of war, in naval affairs, a ship of large size, armed and equipped for attack or defense.
Holy war, a crusade a war undertaken to deliver the Holy Land, or Judea, from infidels. These holy wars were carried on by most unholy means.
1. To make war to invade or attack a nation or state with force of arms to carry on hostilities or to be in a state of contest by violence.
He teacheth my hands to war. 2 Samuel 22 .
And they warred against eh Midianites. Numbers 31 .
Why should I war without the walls of Troy?
2. To contend to strive violently to be in a state of opposition.
Lusts which war against the soul. 1 Peter 2 .
1. To make war upon as, to war the Scot. Not used. 2. To carry on a contest.
That thou mightest war a good warfare. 1 Timothy 1 .
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
WAR ( πόλεμος).—As the Gospels record the story of Christ, whose mission was to bring ‘peace on earth and goodwill to men,’ the references to war are not numerous. But St. Luke has three references well worthy of attention.— 1. In Luke 3:14 ‘the soldiers’ (στρατευόμενοι, (Revised Version margin) ‘soldiers on service’) consult John the Baptist. It is not possible to say who the soldiers were, or in what expedition they were engaged, but they were not Roman soldiers, or any part of the force of Herod Antipas against his father-in-law Aretas, since the quarrel between Herod Antipas and Aretas had not developed then.— 2. In Luke 14:31 (where He is enforcing the general lesson that we should not undertake what we have neither the strength nor the will to achieve, or enter upon His service unless we are prepared, if necessary, to sacrifice life itself) our Lord draws attention to the action of a king in calling a council of war. Possibly there is here a historical allusion to the war between Herod Antipas and Aretas (Josephus Ant . xviii. v. 3).— 3. In Luke 19:43 our Lord shows His familiarity with the history of warfare when He prophesies that the enemy will cast up a bank (χάραξ) or a trench round Jerusalem. This prophecy was literally fulfilled forty years afterwards, when Titus surrounded Jerusalem with a palisaded mound and wall of masonry ( agger and vallum ).
Jesus seems to have recognized war as rising from the nature of man and the constitution of society; but as His teaching lays hold upon nations, the methods of war become less barbarous, and we have good cause to anticipate a time, and to work for it, when ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ While, therefore, Jesus Christ did not condemn war in the abstract, the whole spirit of Christianity is against it (see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘War’).
Coll. A. Macdonald.
Webster's Dictionary 
(1): ( n.) The profession of arms; the art of war.
(2): ( v. i.) To make war; to invade or attack a state or nation with force of arms; to carry on hostilities; to be in a state by violence.
(3): ( n.) A condition of belligerency to be maintained by physical force. In this sense, levying war against the sovereign authority is treason.
(4): ( n.) A contest between nations or states, carried on by force, whether for defence, for revenging insults and redressing wrongs, for the extension of commerce, for the acquisition of territory, for obtaining and establishing the superiority and dominion of one over the other, or for any other purpose; armed conflict of sovereign powers; declared and open hostilities.
(5): ( a.) Ware; aware.
(6): ( n.) a state of opposition or contest; an act of opposition; an inimical contest, act, or action; enmity; hostility.
(7): ( v. i.) To contend; to strive violently; to fight.
(8): ( v. t.) To make war upon; to fight.
(9): ( v. t.) To carry on, as a contest; to wage.
(10): ( n.) Forces; army.
(11): ( n.) Instruments of war.
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
In the days of Saul and David the people of Israel engaged in many wars with the nations around, and after the division of the kingdom into two they often warred with each other. They had to defend themselves also against the inroads of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. The whole history of Israel from first to last presents but few periods of peace.
The Christian life is represented as a warfare, and the Christian graces are also represented under the figure of pieces of armour ( Ephesians 6:11-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Timothy 2:3,4 ). The final blessedness of believers is attained as the fruit of victory ( Revelation 3:21 ).
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
(prop. לָחֶם , Πόλεμος , but represented in the Heb. by many subsidiary terms), HEBREW. We may define war as "an attempt to decide a contest between princes, states, or large bodies of people, by resorting to excessive acts of violence, and compelling claims to be conceded by force."
I. Early History Of Warfare. — This we treat, however, only in its relation to the Hebrews.
1. Patriarchal. — It is probable that the first wars originated in nomad life, and were occasioned by the disputes which arose between wandering tribes for the exclusive possession of pasturage favorable to their flocks and herds. Tribes which lived by hunting were naturally more warlike than those which led a pastoral life; and the latter, again, were more devoted to war, than agricultural races. There was almost a natural source of hostility between these races; the hunters were enraged against the shepherds because they appropriated animals by domestication, and the shepherds equally hated the agriculturists because they appropriated land by tillage, and thus limited the range of pasturage. Hunting also indisposed those who lived by the chase to pursue more, toilsome and less exciting occupations; those who thus supported themselves sought to throw all the burden of manual labor on their wives, their children, and afterwards on persons whom they reduced to slavery. There is a universal tradition in Western Asia, that Nimrod, mentioned in Scripture as "a mighty hunter before the Lord," was the first who engaged in extensive wars for the purpose of obtaining slaves, and that he was also the first who introduced the practice of compelling conquered nations to rescue themselves by the payment of tribute as a ransom. So early as the days of Abraham, we find that wars were undertaken for the express purpose of obtaining slaves and tribute. Chedorlaomer forced several neighboring princes, including the king of Sodom, to pay him tribute for twelve years; and when they ceased to submit to this exaction, he invaded their territories for the purpose of reducing the inhabitants to slavery. He succeeded, and carried away a host of captives, among whom were Lot and his family; but the prisoners were rescued by Abraham.
2. Among The Early Nations, Neighbors To The Israelites . — From the existing monuments of Egypt: — and Assyria, we learn that war was, among the ancient nations, the main business of life. The Egyptians early possessed a considerable standing army, which was probably kept up by conscription. "Wherever," says Rosellini, "the armies are represented on the great monuments of Egypt, they are composed of troops of infantry, armed with the bow or lance, and of ranks of war-chariots, drawn by two horses. The few figures upon horses almost all belong to foreigners." Chariots also appear in Homer, as the principal strength of the Egyptian army ( Iliad, 9 :383). Champollion also says of the war-chariots: "This was the cavalry of the age; cavalry, properly speaking, did not exist then in Egypt." Hence, when Pharaoh pursued the fugitive Hebrews, he "took six hundred chosen chariots," evidently the royal guard; and also all the chariots of Egypt, i.e. the remainder of his disposable mounted forces; as the infantry could not well take part in the pursuit. "And the Egyptians followed them and overtook them, where they were encamped by the sea, all the chariot-horses of Pharaoh and his riders and his host" ( Exodus 14:6-7; Exodus 14:9; Exodus 14:23; Exodus 14:25-26; Exodus 14:28). The Assyrian monuments exhumed by Botta and Lavard exhibit the military force of the Assyrians as composed of infantry armed with the bow and the lance; also of war-chariots and regular cavalry ( Isaiah 36:8-9; Ezekiel 23:12). The war-chariots, which are depicted on the walls of Khorsabad are low, with two small wheels, with one or two persons standing in each, besides the driver; the horses are full of mettle, some of them splendidly caparisoned ( Nahum 3:2-3). (See Chariot).
II. Military Tactics Among The Hebrews. — (In this section we. follow Kitto's Cyclopedia. ) The Hebrew nation, so long as it continued in Egyptian bondage, might be regarded as unacquainted with military affairs, since a jealous government would scarcely permit so numerous and dense a population as the pastoral families of Israel which retained their seat in Goshen certainly were to be in possession of the means of resistance to authority; but, placed as this portion of the people was, with the wanderers of the wilderness to the south and the mountain robbers of Edom to the east, some kind of defense must have been provided to protect its cattle and, in a measure, to cover Lower Egypt itself from foreign inroads.. Probably the laboring population, scattered as bondmen through the Delta, were alone destitute of weapons; while the shepherds had the same kind of defensive arms, which are still in use and allowed to all classes in Eastern countries, whatever be their condition. This mixed state of their social position appears to be countenanced by the fact that, when suddenly permitted to depart, the whole organization required for the movement of such a multitude was clearly in force; yet not a word is said about physical means to resist the pursuing Egyptians, although at a subsequent period it does not appear that they were wanting to invade Palestine, but that special causes prevented them from being immediately resorted to. The Israelites were, therefore, partly armed; they, doubtless, had their bows and arrows, clubs, and darts, wicker or ox-hide shields, and helmets (caps) of skins or of woven rushes.
From their familiar knowledge of the Egyptian institutions, the Israelites, doubtless, copied their military organization, as soon as they were free from bondage, and became inured to a warlike life during their forty years wandering in the desert; but with this remarkable difference, that while Egypt reckoned her hundred thousands of regulars, either drawn from the provinces or names by a kind of conscription, such as is to be seen on the monuments, or from a military caste of hereditary soldiers, the Hebrew people, having preserved the, patriarchal institution of nomads, were embodies by families and tribes, as is plainly proved by the order of march; which was preserved during their pilgrimage to the Land of Promise. That order likewise reveals a military circumstance which seems to attest that the distribution of the greatest and most warlike masses was not on the left of the order of movement — that is, towards their immediate enemies — abut always to the front and right, as if even then the most serious opposition might be expected from the east and north-east-possibly from a reminiscence of past invasions of the giant races and of the first conquerors, furnished with, cavalry and chariots, having come from those directions.
At the time of the departure of Israel, horses were not yet abundant in Egypt, for the pursuing army had only six hundred chariots; and the shepherd people were even prohibited from breeding or possessing them. The Hebrews were enjoined to trust, under divine protection, to the energies of infantry alone, their, future country being chiefly within the basin of high mountains, and the march thither over a district of Arabia where, to this day, horses are not in use. We may infer that the inspired lawgiver rejected horses because they were already known to be less fit for defense at home than for distant expeditions of conquest, in which it was not intended that the chosen people should engage.
Where such exact order and instruction existed, it may not be doubted that in military affairs, upon which, in the first years of emancipation, so much of future power and success was to depend, measures no less appropriate were taken, and that, with the Egyptian model universally known, similar institutions or others equally efficient were adopted by the Israelites. Great tribal ensigns they had, and thence we may infer the existence of others for subordinate divisions. Like the Egyptians, they could move in columns and form well ordered ranks in deep fronts of battle; and they acted upon the best suggestions of human ingenuity united with physical daring, except when expressly ordered to trust to divine interposition. The force of circumstances; caused in time modifications of importance to be made, where doctrine had interfered with what was felt to hinge on political necessities; but even then they were long and urgently wanted before they took place, although the people in religion were constantly disregarding the most important points, and forsaking that God who, they all knew and believed, had taken them out of bondage to make them a. great nation. Thus, although, from the time thee tribes of Reuben and Manasseh received their allotment east of the Jordan, the possession of horses became in some measure necessary to defend their frontier, still the people persisted for ages in abstaining from them and even in the time of David would not use them when they were actually captured; but when the policy of Solomon hid made extensive conquests, the injunction was set aside, because horses became all-important. From the Captivity till after the destruction of Jerusalem, the remnant of the Eastern tribes were in part warlike equestrian nomads, who struck terror into the heart of the formidable Persian cavalry, won great battles, and even captured Parthian kings. When both the kingdoms of Judah and Israel were again confined to the mountains, they reduced their cavalry to a small body; because, it may be, the nature of the soil within the basin of the Libaunus was, as it still is, unfavorable to breeding horses. Another instance of unwillingness to violate ancient institutions is found in the Hebrews abstaining from active war on the Sabbath until the time of the Maccabees.
There are, however, indications in their military transactions, from the time Assyrian and Persian conquerors pressed upon the Israelitish states, and still more after the Captivity, which show the influence of Asiatic military ideas, according to which the masses do not act with ordered unity, but trust to the more adventurous in the van to decide the fate of battle. Later still, under the Maccabees, the systematic discipline of Macedonian importation can be observed, even though in Asia the Greek method of training, founded on mathematical principles, had never been fully complied with, or had been modified by the existence of new circumstances and new elements of destruction; such, for example, as the use of great bodies of light cavalry, showering millions of arrows upon their enemies, and fighting elephants introduced by the Ptolemies.
But all these practices became again modified in Western Asia when Roman dominion had superseded tile Greek kingdoms. Even the Jews, as is evident from Josephus, modeled their military force on the Imperial plan; their infantry became armed and was maneuvered in accordance with that system which everywhere gave victory by means of the firmness and mobility, which it imparted. The masses were composed of cohorts, or their equivalents, consisting of centuriae and deculrise, or subdivisions into hundreds, fifties, and tens-similar to modern battalions, companies, and squads; and the commanders were of like grades and numbers. Thus the people of Israel and the nations around them cannot be accurately considered, in a military view, without taking into account the successive changes here noticed; for they had the same influence which military innovations had in Europe between the eras of Charlemagne and the emperor Charles V, including the use of cannon that invention for a long time making no greater alteration in the constitution of armies than the perfection of war machines produced upon the military institutions of antiquity.
The army of Israel was chiefly composed of infantry, as before remarked, formed into a trained body of spearmen, and, in greater numbers, of slingers and archers, with horses and chariots in small proportion, excepting during the periods when the kingdom extended over the desert to the Red Sea. The irregulars were drawn from the families and tribes, particularly Ephraim and Benjamin; but the heavy armed derived their chief strength from Judah, and were, it appears, collected by a kind of conscription-by tribes, like the earlier Roman armies-not through the instrumentality of selected officers, but by genealogists of each tribe under the superintendence of the princes. Of those returned on the rolls, a proportion greater or less was selected, according to the exigency of the time; and the whole male population might be called out on extraordinary occasions. When, kings had rendered the system of government better organized, there was an officer denominated שׁוֹטֵר , Shoter, a sort of muster-master, who had returns of the effective force or number of soldiers ready for. service, but who was subordinate to the סוֹפֵר , sopher, or scribe, a kind of secretary of state. These officers, or the Shoterim, struck out' or excused from service:
(1) those who had built a house without having yet inhabited it;
(2) those who had planted an olive or vineyard and had not tasted the fruit, which gave leave of absence for five years;
(3) those who were betrothed, or had been married less than one year;
(4) the fainthearted, which may mean the constitutionally delicate, rather than the cowardly, as that quality is seldom owned without personal inconvenience, and where it is no longer a shame the rule would destroy every levy.
The levies were drilled to march in ranks ( 1 Chronicles 12:38), and in column by fives ( חֲמֻשַּׁים , Chamushim ) abreast ( Exodus 13:18); hence it may be inferred that they borrowed from the Egyptian system a decimal formation-two fifties in each division making a solid square, equal in rank and file for twice tell in rank and five in file being told off by right-hand and left-hand tiles, a command to the left-hand files to face about and march six or eight paces to the rear, then to front and lake one step to the right, would make the hundred a solid square, with only the additional distance between tie right-hand or unmoved files necessary to use the shield and spear without hindrance; while the depth being again reduced to five files, they could face to the right or left and march firmly in column, passing every kind of ground without breaking or lengthening their order. The pentastichous system, or arrangement of five men in depth, was effected by the simple evolution just mentioned, to its own condensation to double number, and at the same time afforded the necessary space between the standing files of spearmen, or light infantry, for handling their weapons without obstacle — always a primary object in every ancient system of training. Between the fifth and sixth rank there was thus space made for the ensign-bearer, who, as he then stood precisely between the companies of fifty each, had probably some additional width to handle his ensign, being stationed between the four middlemost men in the square having five men in file and five in rank before, behind, and on each side. There he was the regulator of their order, coming to the front in advancing, and to the rear in retreating; and this may explain why Στίχος , a file, and the Hebrew Degel and Nes , an ensign, are in many cases regarded as synonymous. Although neither the Egyptian depth of formation, if we may judge from their pictured monuments, nor the Greek phalanx, nor the Roman legion, was constructed upon decimal principles, yet the former was no doubt so in its origin, since it was the model of the Israelites; and the tetrastichal system, which afterwards succeeded, shows that it was not the original, since even in the phalanx, where the files formed, broke, and doubled by fours, eights, sixteens, and thirty-twos, there remained names of sections which indicated the first-mentioned division. Such was the pentacontarchy, denoting some arrangement of fifty, while in reality it consisted of sixty-four; and the decany and mecurio, though derived from a decimal order, signified an entire file or a compact line in the phalanx, without reference to number.
With centuries thus arranged in masses, both movable and solid, a front, of battle could be formed in simple decimal progression to a thousand, ten thousand, and to an army at all times formidable by its depth, and by the facility it afforded for the light troops, chariots of war, and cavalry to rally behind and to issue from thence to the front. Archers and slingers could ply their missiles from the rear, which would be more certain to reach an enemy in close conflict than was to be found the case with the Greek phalanx, because from the great depth of that body missiles from behind were liable to fall among its own front ranks. These divisions were commanded, it seems, by קְצַינַים , Ketsinim, officers in charge of one thousand, who, in the first ages, may have been the heads of houses, but in the time of the kings were appointed by the crown, and had. a seat in the councils of war; but the commander of the host, שִׂר עִל הִצָּבָא , Sar Al Hatsaba such as Joab, Abner, Benaiah, etc. — was either the judge, or, under the judge or king, the supreme head of the army, and one of the highest officers in the State. He as well as the king had an armor-bearer, whose duty was not only to bear his shield, spear, or bow, and to carry orders, but, above all, to be at the chief's side in the hour of battle ( Judges 9:54; 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 31:4-5). Besides the royal guards there was, as early, at least, as the time of David, a select troop of heroes, who appear to have had an institution very similar in principle to our modern orders of knighthood, and may have originated the distinctive marks already pointed out as used by the Romans; for it seems they strewed their hair with gold dust. (See Armor).
In military operations, such as marches in quest of, or in tie presence of, an enemy, and in order of battle, the forces were formed into three divisions, each commanded by a chief captain or commander of a corps, or third part ( שָׁלַישׁ , Shalish ) , as was also the case with other armies of the East; these constituted the center and right and left wing, and during a march formed the van, center, and rear. The great camp in the wilderness was composed of four of these triple bodies disposed in a quadrangle, each front having a great central standard for its leading tribe, and another tribal one in each wing.
The war-cry of the Hebrews was not intonated by the ensign-bearers, as in the West, but by a Levite; for priests had likewise charge of the trumpets and the sounding of signals; and one of them, called "the anointed for war," who is said to have had the charge of animating the army to action by an oration, may have been appointed to utter the cry of battle ( Deuteronomy 20:2). It was a mere shout ( 1 Samuel 17:20), or, as in later ages, Hallelujah! while the so-called mottoes of the central banners of the four great sides of the square of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan were more likely the battle songs which each of the fronts of the mighty army had sung on commencing the march or advancing to do battle ( Numbers 10:34-36; Deuteronomy 6:4). These verses may have been sung even before the two books wherein they are now found were written, and indeed the sense of the text indicates a past tense. It was to these, we think, Jehoshaphat addressed himself when about to engage the Moabites he ordered the singers before the Lord to chant the response ( 2 Chronicles 20:21), "Praise the Lord, for his mercy endureth forever." With regard to the pass-word, the sign of mutual recognition occurs in Judges 7:18, when, after the men had blown their trumpets and shown light, they cried, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon" — a repetition of the very words overheard by that chief while watching the hostile army.
Before an engagement the Hebrew soldiers were spared fatigue as much as possible, and food was distributed to them; their arms were enjoined to be in the best order, and they formed a line, as before described, of solid squares of hundreds, each square being ten deep, and as many in breadth, with sufficient intervals between the files to allow of facility in the movements, the management of the arms, and the passage to the front or rear of slingers and archers. These last occupied posts according to circumstances, on the flanks or in advance, but in the heat of battle were sheltered behind the squares of spearmen; the slingers were always stationed in the rear, until they were ordered forward to cover the front, impede a hostile approach, or commence an engagement, somewhat in the manner of modern skirmishers.
Meantime the king, or his representative, appeared clad in the sacred ornaments ( קֹדֶשׁ הִדְרֵי , Hadrey Kadesh, in our version rendered "the beauty of holiness," Psalms 110:3; 2 Chronicles 20:21), and proceeded to make the final dispositions for battle, in the middle of his chosen braves, and attended by priests, who, by their exhortations, animated the ranks within hearing, while the trumpets waited to sound the signal. It was now, with the enemy at hand, we may suppose, that the slingers would be ordered to pass forward between the intervals of the line, and, opening their order, would let fly their stone or leaden missiles, until, by the gradual approach of the opposing fronts, they would be hemmed in and recalled to the rear, or ordered to take an appropriate position. Then was the time when the trumpet bearing priests received command to sound the charge, and when the shout of battle burst forth from the ranks. The signal being given, the heavy infantry would press forward under cover of their shields, with the רֹמִח , romach, protruded directly upon the front of the enemy; the rear ranks might then, when so armed, cast their darts, and the archers, behind them all, shoot high, so as to pitch their arrows over the lines before them into the dense masses of the enemy beyond. If the opposing forces broke through the line, we may imagine a body of charioteers in reserve rushing from their post and charge in among the disjointed ranks of the enemy before they could reconstruct their order; or, wheeling round a flank, fall upon the rear; or being encountered by a similar maneuver, and perhaps repulsed, or rescued by Hebrew cavalry.
The king, meanwhile, surrounded by his princes, posted close to the rear of his line of battle, and, in the middle of showered missiles, would watch the enemy and strive to remedy every disorder. Thus it was that several of the sovereigns of Judah were slain ( 2 Chronicles 18:33; 2 Chronicles 35:23), and that such an enormous waste of human life took place; for two hostile lines of masses, at least ten in depth, advancing under the confidence of breastplate and shield, when once engaged hand to hand, had difficulties of no ordinary nature to retreat; because the hindermost ranks, not being exposed personally to the first slaughter, would not, and the foremost could not, fall back; neither could the commanders disengage the line without a certainty of being routed. The fate of the day was therefore no longer within the control of the chief, and nothing but obstinate valor was left to decide the victory. Hence, with the stubborn character of the Jews, battles fought among themselves were particularly sanguinary; such, for example, as that in which Jeroboam, king of Israel, was defeated by Abijah of Judah ( 2 Chronicles 13:3-17), wherein, if there be no error of copyists, there was a-greater slaughter than in ten such battles as that of Leipsic, although on that occasion three hundred and fifty thousand combatants were engaged for three successive days; provided with all the implements of modern destruction in full activity.
Under such circumstances defeat led to irretrievable confusion, and, where either party possessed superiority in cavalry and chariots of war, it would be materially increased; but where the infantry alone had principally to pursue a broken enemy, that force, loaded with shields and preserving order, could overtake very few who chose to abandon their defensive armor, unless they were hemmed in by the locality. Sometimes a part of the army was posted in ambush, but this maneuver was most commonly practiced against the garrisons of cities ( Joshua 8:12; Judges 20:38). In the case of Abraham ( Genesis 14:15), when he led a small body of his own people, suddenly collected, and, falling upon the guard of the captives, released them, and recovered the booty, it was a surprise, not an ambush; nor is it necessary to suppose that he fell in with the main army of the Enemy. At a later period there is no doubt-the Hebrews formed their armies, in imitation of the Romans, into more than one line of masses, and modeled their military institutions as near as possible upon the same system.
Such were the instruments and the institutions of war which the Hebrew people, as well as the nations which surrounded them, appear to have adopted; but in the conquest of the Promised Land, as regarded their enemies, the laws of war prescribed to them were, for purposes which we cannot now fully appreciate, more severe than in other cases. All the nations of antiquity were cruel to the vanquished, perhaps the Romans most of all even the Egyptians, in the sculptures of their monuments, attest the same disposition; the males being very generally slaughtered, and the women and children sold for slaves. With regard to the spoil, except in the special case just referred to, the Hebrews divided it in part with those who remained at home, and with the Levites, and a portion was set apart as an oblation to the Lord ( Numbers 31:50). This right of spoil and prey was a necessary consequence of military institutions where the army received no pay. שָׁלָל , Shaldl, that is, the armor, clothes, Money, And furniture, and מִלְקוֹח , Malkoach, prey, consisting of the captives and live-stock, were collected into one general mass, and then distributed as stated above; or, in the time of the kings, were shared in great part by the crown, which then, no doubt, took care to subsist the army and grant military rewards. (See Army).
III. Military Preparations, Operations, And Results. (In this section we follow Smith's Dict. Of The Bible. ) Before entering on a war of aggression, the Hebrews sought for the divine sanction by consulting either the Urim and Thummim ( Judges 1:1; Judges 20:27-28; 1 Samuel 14:37; 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 30:8) or some acknowledged prophet ( 1 Kings 22:6; 2 Chronicles 18:5). The heathens betook themselves to various kinds of divination for the same purpose ( Ezekiel 21:21). Divine aid was further sought in actual warfare by bringing into the field the ark of the covenant, which was the symbol of Jehovah himself ( 1 Samuel 4:4-18; 1 Samuel 14:18); a custom which prevailed certainly down to David's time ( 2 Samuel 11:11; comp. Psalms 68:1; Psalms 68:24). During the wanderings in the wilderness, the signal for warlike preparations was sounded by priests with the silver trumpets of the sanctuary ( Numbers 10:9; Numbers 31:6). Formal proclamations of war were not interchanged between the belligerents; but occasionally messages either deprecatory or defiant were sent, as In the cases of Jephthah and the Ammonites ( Judges 11:12-27), Ben-hadad and Ahab ( 1 Kings 20:2), and again Amaziah and Jehoash ( 2 Kings 14:8). Before entering the enemy's district, spies were sent to ascertain the character of the country and the preparations of its inhabitants for resistance ( Numbers 13:17; Joshua 2:1; Judges 7:10; 1 Samuel 26:4). When an engagement was imminent, a sacrifice was offered ( 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 13:9), and an inspiriting address delivered either by the commander ( 2 Chronicles 20:20) or by a priest ( Deuteronomy 20:2). Then followed the battle- signal, sounded forth from the silver trumpets as already described, to which the host responded by shouting the war cry ( 1 Samuel 17:52; Isaiah 42:13; Jeremiah 1:42; Ezekiel 21:22; Amos 1:14). The combat often assumed the form of a number of hand-to-hand contests, depending on the qualities of the individual soldier rather than on the disposition of masses. Hence the high value attached to fleetness of foot and strength of arm ( 2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8). At the same time, various strategic devices were practiced, such as the ambuscade ( Joshua 8:2; Joshua 8:12; Judges 20:36), surprise ( Judges 7:16), or circumvention ( 2 Samuel 5:23). Another mode of settling the dispute was by the selections of champions (1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 2:14), who were spurred on to exertion by the offer of high reward ( 1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Samuel 18:25; 2 Samuel 18:11; 1 Chronicles 11:6). The contest having been decided, the conquerors were recalled from the pursuit by the sound of a trumpet ( 2 Samuel 2:28; 2 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 20:22).
The siege of a town or fortress was conducted in the following manner: A line of circumvallation ( מָצוֹר , lit an "enclosing" or "besieging," and hence applied to the wall by which the siege was effected) was drawn round the place ( Ezekiel 4:2; Micah 5:1), constructed out of the trees found in the neighborhood ( Deuteronomy 20:20), together with earth and any other materials at hand. This line not only cut off the besieged from the surrounding, country, but also served as a base of operations for the besiegers. The next step was to throw out from this line one or more" mounts" or "banks" ( סֹלְלָה . Saalsch Ü tz [ Archa '''''Ö''''' L'' 2, 504] understands this term of the scaling-ladder, comparing the cognate Sulleam [ Genesis 28:12], and giving the verb shaphah, which accompanies solelah, the sense of a "a hurried advancing" of the ladder) in the direction of the city ( 2 Samuel 20:15; 2 Kings 19:32; Isaiah 37:33), which was gradually increased in height until it was about half as high as the city wall. On this mound or bank towers ( דָּיֵק . Some doubt exists as to the meaning of this term.
The sense of "turrets" assigned to it by Gesenius [ Thesaur. P. 330] has been objected to on the ground that the word always appears in the singular number, and in connection with the expression "round about" the city. Hence the sense of "circumvallation" has been assigned to it by Michaelis, Keil [ Archa '''''Ö''''' L'' 2, 303], and others. It is difficult, however, in this case, to see any distinction between the terms Dayek and Matszor. The expression "round about" may refer to the custom of casting up banks at different points: the use of the singular in a collective sense forms a greater difficulty) were erected ( 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 21:22; Ezekiel 26:8), whence the slingers and archers might attack with effect. Battering-rams ( כָּרַים , Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 21:22) were brought up to the walls by means of the bank, and scaling-ladders might also be placed on it. Undermining the walls, though practiced by the Assyrians (Layard, Nineveh, 2, 371), is not noticed in the Bible: the reference to it in the Sept. and Vulg., in Jeremiah 51:58, is not warranted by the original text. Sometimes, however, the walls were attacked near the foundation, either by individual warriors who protected themselves from above by their shields ( Ezekiel 26:8), or by the further use of such a machine as the Helepolis, referred to in 1 Maccabees 13:43. This is described by Ammian'us Marcellinus (23: 4, 10) as a combination of the testudo and the battering- ram, by means of which the besiegers broke through the lower part of the wall, and thus "leaped into the city;" not from above, as the words prima facie imply, but from below. Burning the gates was another mode of obtaining ingress ( Judges 9:52). The water-supply would naturally be cut off, if it were possible ( Judith 7:7). The besieged, meanwhile, strengthened and repaired their fortifications ( Isaiah 22:10), and repelled the enemy from the wall by missiles ( 2 Samuel 11:24), by throwing over beams and heavy stones ( Judges 9:53; 2 Samuel 11:21; Josephus, War, 5, 3, 3; 6, 3), by pouring down boiling oil (ibid. 3, 7, 28), or, lastly, by erecting fixed engines for the propulsion of stones and arrows ( 2 Chronicles 26:15). (See Engine).
Sallies were also made for the purpose of burning the besiegers works ( 1 Maccabees 6:31; War, 5, 11, 4), and driving them away from the neighborhood. The foregoing operations receive a large amount of illustration from the representations of such scenes on the Assyrian slabs. We there see the "bank" thrown up in the form of an inclined plane, with the battering-ram hauled up on it assaulting the walls; movable towers of considerable elevation brought up, whence the warriors discharge their arrows into the city; the walls undermined, or attempts made to destroy them by picking to pieces the lower courses; the defenders: actively engaged in archery, and averting the force of the battering-ram by chains and ropes; the scaling-ladders at length brought, and the conflict become hand-to-hand (Layard, Nineveh, 2, 366-374). (See Battering-Ram); (See Lever).
The treatment of the conquered was extremely severe in ancient times. The leaders of the host were put to death ( Joshua 10:26; Judges 7:25), with the occasional indignity of decapitation after death ( 1 Samuel 17:51; 2 Maccabees 15:30; Josephus, War, 1, 17, 2). The bodies of the soldiers killed in action were plundered ( 1 Samuel 31:8; 2 Maccabees 8:27); the survivors were either killed in some savage manner ( Judges 9:45; 2 Samuel 12:31; 2 Chronicles 25:12), mutilated Judges 1:6; 1 Samuel 11:2), or carried into captivity ( Numbers 31:26; Deuteronomy 20:14). Women and children were occasionally put to death with the greatest barbarity ( 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16; Isaiah 13:16; Isaiah 13:18; Hosea 10:14; Hosea 13:16; Amos 1:13; Nahum 3:10; 2 Maccabees 5:13); but it was more usual to retain the maidens as concubines or servants ( Judges 5:30; 2 Kings 5:2). Sometimes the bulk of the population of the conquered country was removed to a distant locality, as in the case of the Israelites when subdued by the Assyrians ( 2 Kings 17:6), and of the Jews by the Babylonians ( 2 Kings 24:14; 2 Kings 25:11). In addition to these measures, the towns were destroyed ( Judges 9:45; 2 Kings 3:25; 1 Maccabees 5:28; 1 Maccabees 5:51; 1 Maccabees 10:84), the idols and shrines were carried off ( Isaiah 46:1-2), or destroyed ( 1 Maccabees 5:68; 1 Maccabees 10:84); the fruit-trees were cut down, and the fields spoiled by overspreading them with stones ( 2 Kings 3:19; 2 Kings 3:25); and the horses were lamed ( 2 Samuel 8:4; Joshua 11:6; Joshua 11:9). If the war was carried on simply for the purpose of plunder or supremacy, these extreme measures would hardly be carried into execution; the conqueror would restrict himself to rifling the treasuries ( 1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:14; 2 Kings 24:13), or levying contributions (18:14). (See Captive).
The Mosaic law, however, mitigated to a certain extent the severity of the ancient usages towards the vanquished. With the exception of the Canaanites, who were delivered over to the ban of extermination by the express command of God, it was forbidden to the Israelites to put to death any others than males bearing arms; the women and children were to be kept alive ( Deuteronomy 20:13-14). In a similar spirit of humanity the Jews were prohibited from felling fruit-trees for the purpose of making siege-works ( Deuteronomy 20:19). The law further restricted the power of the conqueror over females, and secured to them humane treatment ( Deuteronomy 21:10-14). The majority of the savage acts recorded as having been practiced by the Jews were either in retaliation for some gross provocation, as instanced in the cases of Adoni-bezek ( Judges 1:6-7), and of David's treatment of the Ammonites ( 2 Samuel 10:2-4; 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3); or else they were done by lawless usurpers, as in Menahem's treatment of the women of Tiphsah ( 2 Kings 15:16; comp. Judges 9:45). The Jewish kings generally appear to have obtained credit for clemency ( 1 Kings 20:31; comp. 2 Kings 6:20-23; Isaiah 16:5).
The conquerors celebrated their success by the erection of monumental stones ( 1 Samuel 7:12; 2 Samuel 8:13, where, instead of "gat him a name," we should read "set up a memorial"), by hanging up trophies in their public buildings ( 1 Samuel 21:9; 1 Samuel 31:10; 2 Kings 11:10), and by triumphal songs and dances, in which the whole population took part ( Exodus 15:1-21; Judges 5; 1 Samuel 18:6-8; 2 Samuel 22; Judith 16:2-17; 1 Maccabees 4:24). The death of a hero was commemorated by a dirge ( 2 Samuel 1:17-27; 2 Chronicles 35:25), or by a national mourning ( 2 Samuel 3:31). The fallen warriors were duly buried ( 1 Kings 11:15), their arms being deposited in the grave beside them ( Ezekiel 32:27), while the enemies corpses were exposed to the-beasts of prey (Samuel 17:44; Jeremiah 25:33). The Israelites were directed to undergo the purification imposed only those, who had touched a corpse, before they entered the precincts of the camp or the sanctuary ( Numbers 31:19). (See Fight).
IV. Moral Principles Involved. — We may distinguish two kinds of wars among the Hebrews. Some were of obligation, being expressly commanded by the Lord; others were free and voluntary. The first were such as those against the Amalekites, and the intrusive and wicked Canaanites, nations devoted to an anathema. The others were to avenge injuries, insults, or offences against the nation. Such was that against the city of Gibeah, and against the tribe of Benjamin; and such was that of David against the Ammonites, whose king had insulted his ambassadors. Or they were to maintain and defend their allies, as that of Joshua against the kings of the Canaanites, to protect Gibeon. In fact, the laws of Moses suppose that Israel might make war, and oppose enemies.
As to details, the laws of war among the Hebrews, as we have seen, permitted severities in the treatment of the conquered such as we should not now approve. Probably in practice limitations were put upon the abstract rights of conquerors among the Jews just as among Christian nations. This is not invalidated by severities such as those of Gideon towards the kings who had enslaved Israel ( Judges 7:25; Judges 8:18-21); or of David cutting off and carrying away the head of the Philistine champion ( 1 Samuel 17:54); nor: by such exceptional dealings as those with the Midianites, who had made themselves almost as obnoxious to punishment as the devoted Canaanites (Numbers 31). The same may be said of the fearful threatening in Psalm 137:8. 9; but, as a matter of practice, contrast the cruelty of putting out eyes by the Philistines, the Ammonites, and the Chaldeans ( Judges 16:21; 1 Samuel 11:2; 2 Kings 25:7). The treatment of the men of Succoth and Penuel by Gideon, of the Ephraimites by Jephthah, and of the men of Jabesh-gilead by the assembled Israelites ( Judges 8:4-7; Judges 12:1-6; Judges 21:8-12), are unmistakably punishments of extraordinary severity on account of aggravated acts of treason against Jehovah. The treatment of ten thousand Edomites by Amaziah is a parallel on the part of one whose principles and practice ought to have been better ( 2 Chronicles 25:12). On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that these were not usages of Judaism as such, nor peculiar to the Hebrews; but manifestations of the common spirit of the age and region, which the Mosaic law did all it could, as we have seen, to soften and lessen. Nor should we try a distant sera by the rules of modern humanity which is the offshoot of Christianity. (See Mosaism).
It has been questioned whether wars are, under any circumstances, justifiable from Jewish example. While it is certain that the practice of offensive' wars cannot be defended by reference to sacred history, it is equally clear, if wars must be, that they can only be consistent with the light of that dispensation which breathes forgiveness and forbearance on the clear and obvious ground of necessity and self-defense. When the principles of the Bible shall have illuminated the minds of all nations, wars shall cease from the ends of the earth, and all men will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good-will will universally prevail ( Psalms 46:9; Psalms 76:3; Isaiah 2:4; Ezekiel 39:9; Luke 2:14). (See Peace).
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Under this head we may notice some of the usages of Hebrew warfare which have not been considered under other heads, referred to at the end of this article.
The army of Israel was chiefly composed of infantry, formed into a trained body of spearmen, and, in greater numbers, of slingers and archers, with horses and chariots in small proportion, excepting during the periods when the kingdom extended over the desert to the Red Sea. The irregulars were drawn from the families and tribes, particularly Ephraim and Benjamin, but the heavy armed derived their chief strength from Judah, and were, it appears, collected by a kind of conscription, by tribes, like the earlier Roman armies; not through the instrumentality of selected officers, but by genealogists of each tribe, under the superintendence of the princes. Of those returned on the rolls, a proportion greater or less was selected, according to the exigency of the time; and the whole male population might be called out on extraordinary occasions. When kings had rendered the system of government better organized, there was a sort of muster-master, who had returns of the effective force, or number of soldiers ready for service, but who was a kind of secretary of state. These officers, or the shoterim, struck out, or excused from service:— 1st, those who had built a house without having yet inhabited it; 2nd, those who had planted an olive or vineyard, and had not tasted the fruit—which gave leave of absence for five years; 3rd, those who were betrothed, or had been married less than one year; 4th, the fainthearted, which may mean the constitutionally delicate, rather than the cowardly.
The levies were drilled to march in ranks , and in column by fives abreast hence it may be inferred that they borrowed from the Egyptian system a decimal formation, two fifties in each division making a solid square, equal in rank and file: for twice ten in rank and five in file being told off by right hand and left hand files, a command to the left hand files to face about and march six or eight paces to the rear, then to front and take one step to the right would make the hundred a solid square, with only the additional distance between the right hand or unmoved files necessary to use the shield and spear without hindrance; while the depth being again reduced to five files, they could face to the right or left, and march firmly in column, passing every kind of ground without breaking or lengthening their order.
With centuries thus arranged in masses, both movable and solid, a front of battle could be formed in simple decimal progression to a thousand, ten thousand, and to an army at all times formidable by its depth, and by the facility it afforded for the light troops, chariots of war, and cavalry, to rally behind and to issue from thence to the front. Archers and slingers could ply their missiles from the rear, which would be more certain to reach an enemy in close conflict, than was to be found the case with the Greek phalanx, because from the great depth of that body missiles from behind were liable to fall among its own front ranks. These divisions were commanded, it seems, by ketsinim, officers in charge of one thousand, who, in the first ages, may have been the heads of houses, but in the time of the kings were appointed by the crown, and had a seat in the councils of war; but the commander of the host, such as Joab, Abner, Benaiah, etc. was either the judge, or under the judge or king, the supreme head of the army, and one of the highest officers in the state. He, as well as the king, had an armor-bearer, whose duty was not only to bear his shield, spear, or bow, and to carry orders, but, above all, to be at the chief's side in the hour of battle (;; ). Beside the royal guards, there was, as early at least as the time of David, a select troop of heroes, who appear to have had an institution very similar in principle to our modern orders of knighthood.
In military operations, such as marches in quest of, or in the presence of, an enemy, and in order of battle, the forces were formed into three divisions, each commanded by a chief captain or commander of a corps, or third part, as was also the case with other armies of the east; these constituted the center, and right and left wing, and during a march formed the van, center, and rear.
The war-cry of the Hebrews was not intonated by the ensign-bearers, as in the West, but by a Levite; for priests had likewise charge of the trumpets, and the sounding of signals; and one of them, called 'the anointed for war,' who is said to have had the charge of animating the army to action by an oration, may have been appointed to utter the cry of battle . It was a mere shout , or, as in later ages, Hallelujah! while the so-called mottoes of the central banners of the four great sides of the square, of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan, were more likely the battle-songs which each of the fronts of the mighty army had sung on commencing the march or advancing to do battle .
Before an engagement the Hebrew soldiers were spared fatigue as much as possible, and food was distributed to them; their arms were enjoined to be in the best order, and they formed a line, as before described, of solid squares of hundreds, each square being ten deep, and as many in breadth, with sufficient intervals between the files to allow of facility in the movements, the management of the arms, and the passage to the front or rear of slingers and archers. These lasts occupied posts according to circumstances, on the flanks, or in advance, but in the heat of battle were sheltered behind the squares of spearmen; the slingers were always stationed in the rear, until they were ordered forward to cover the front, impede an hostile approach, or commence an engagement. Meantime, the king, or his representative, appeared clad in holy ornaments, and proceeded to make the final dispositions for battle, in the middle of his chosen braves, and attended by priests, who, by their exhortations, animated the ranks within hearing, while the trumpets waited to sound the signal. It was now, with the enemy at hand, we may suppose, that the slingers would be ordered to pass forward between the intervals of the line, and, opening their order, would let fly their stone or leaden missiles, until, by the gradual approach of the opposing fronts, they would be hemmed in and recalled to the rear, or ordered to take an appropriate position. Then was the time when the trumpet-bearing priests received command to sound the charge, and when the shout of battle burst forth from the ranks. The signal being given, the heavy infantry would press forward under cover of their shields, the rear ranks might then, when so armed, cast their darts, and the archers, behind them all, shoot high, so as to pitch their arrows over the lines before them, into the dense masses of the enemy beyond. If the opposing forces broke through the line, we may imagine a body of charioteers reserve, rushing from their post, and charging in among the disjointed ranks of the enemy, before they could reconstruct their order; or wheeling round a flank, fall upon the rear; or being encountered by a similar maneuver, and perhaps repulsed, or rescued by Hebrew cavalry. The king, meanwhile, surrounded by his princes, posted close to the rear of his line of battle, and in the middle of showered missiles, would watch the enemy and strive to remedy every disorder. Thus it was that several of the sovereigns of Judah were slain , and that such an enormous waste of human life took place; for two hostile lines of masses, at least ten in depth, advancing under the confidence of breastplate and shield, when once engaged hand to hand, had difficulties of no ordinary nature to retreat; because the hindermost ranks not being exposed personally to the first slaughter, would not, and the foremost could not, fall back; neither could the commanders disengage the line without a certainty of being routed. The fate of the day was therefore no longer within the control of the chief, and nothing but obstinate valor was left to decide the victory. Sometimes a part of the army was posted in ambush, but this maneuver was most commonly practiced against the garrisons of cities . In the case of Abraham , when he led a small body of his own people, suddenly collected, and falling upon the guard of the captives, released them, and recovered the booty, it was a surprise, not an ambush; nor is it necessary to suppose that he fell in with the main army of the enemy. At a later period there is no doubt the Hebrews formed their armies, in imitation of the Romans, into more than one line of masses, and modeled their military institutions as near as possible upon the same system [[[Armor; Encampments; Engines Of War; Fortifications; Standards]]]
- ↑ War from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- ↑ War from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- ↑ War from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ War from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ War from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- ↑ War from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ War from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ War from Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words
- ↑ War from Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words
- ↑ War from King James Dictionary
- ↑ War from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- ↑ War from Webster's Dictionary
- ↑ War from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ War from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- ↑ War from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature