War - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H4421
Original Word: milh?amâ
Usage Notes: "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). Milh?amâ 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; Deut. 3:6; Deut. 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).

Usage Number: 2
Part Of Speech: Verb
Strong's Number: H3898
Original Word: lah?am

Usage Notes: "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."

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words