Holy War (6)


Sung Psalm 135:8-15

Reading Ex.17:8-16

There are a surprising number of wars in the Pentateuch. In the first of these after the Red Sea crossing, namely against Amalek the outcome depended on Moses’ arms being held aloft with the rod of God the symbol of his authority and God’s power.


The first wars were all defensive, in that Israel were attacked first. They lost the next battle in Num.14:40ff. The next three (Num.21) concerned King Arah, King Sihon and King Og, all of whom were defeated in a holy war (as per Ps.135). The war against Midian (Num.31) was one called by God to exact his vengeance on the wicked people who had caused Israel to sin at Baal-Peor.

When we come to Joshua, the whole book is about the conquest of Canaan and the distribution of the land. God often promises victory beforehand e.g. 3:10. He causes great fear among the opponents 5:1 and the first great battle of Jericho (Josh.6) is typical in that priests, trumpets and the ark are involved (because it is a spiritual war too) and of course the miracle of city walls falling down flat. All had to be destroyed (consecrated to God). Ai was a defeat because of sin. Ai the second time ended in victory after God’s promise, the command not to fear, and the use of the spear as Joshua’s symbol of authority. It was also the battle thus far with the most strategy involved.

The battle against Adonizedec in Joshua 10 was remarkable in that God suspended the normal running of the universe to stop sun and moon in their course and also rained massive hail from heaven upon Israel’s enemies. In Joshua 11 a confederacy of Kings are defeated.


So these battles in the holy war were characterised by certain recorded facts:

  • God instigated them (either in defence or offense)
  • God commanded the people not to fear
  • God promised victory
  • God performed supernatural feats
  • God used unusual instruments (apart from arms) to gain the victory.

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