War (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" (Ex 14:6-7,9,23,25-26,28). 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 (Isa 36:8-9; Eze 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 (Na 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 (1Ch 12:38), and in column by fives (חֲמֻשַּׁים, chamushim) abreast (Ex 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 קצַינַים, 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 (Jg 9:54; 1Sa 14:6; 1Sa 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 (De 20:2). It was a mere shout (1Sa 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 (Nu 10:34-36; De 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 (2Ch 20:21), "Praise the Lord, for his mercy endureth forever." With regard to the pass-word, the sign of mutual recognition occurs in Jg 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 הִדרֵי, hadrey kadesh, in our version rendered "the beauty of holiness," Ps 110:3; 2Ch 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 (2Ch 18:33; 2Ch 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 (2Ch 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 (Jos 8:12; Jg 20:38). In the case of Abraham (Ge 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 (Nu 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
מִלקוֹח, 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 (Jg 1:1; Jg 20:27-28; 1Sa 14:37; 1Sa 23:2; 1Sa 28:6; 1Sa 30:8) or some acknowledged prophet (1Ki 22:6; 2Ch 18:5). The heathens betook themselves to various kinds of divination for the same purpose (Eze 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 (1Sa 4:4-18; 1Sa 14:18); a custom which prevailed certainly down to David's time (2Sa 11:11; comp. Ps 68:1,24). During the wanderings in the wilderness, the signal for warlike preparations was sounded by priests with the silver trumpets of the sanctuary (Nu 10:9; Nu 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 (Jg 11:12-27), Ben-hadad and Ahab (1Ki 20:2), and again Amaziah and Jehoash (2Ki 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 (Nu 13:17; Jos 2:1; Jg 7:10; 1Sa 26:4). When an engagement was imminent, a sacrifice was offered (1Sa 7:9; 1Sa 13:9), and an inspiriting address delivered either by the commander (2Ch 20:20) or by a priest (De 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 (1Sa 17:52; Isa 42:13; Jer 1:19; Eze 21:22; Am 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 (2Sa 1:23; 2Sa 2:18; 1Ch 12:8). At the same time, various strategic devices were practiced, such as the ambuscade (Jos 8:2,12; Jg 20:36), surprise (7:16), or circumvention (2Sa 5:23). Another mode of settling the dispute was by the selections of champions (1Sa 17; 2Sa 2:14), who were spurred on to exertion by the offer of high reward (1Sa 17:25; 1Sa 18:25; 2Sa 18:11; 1Ch 11:6). The contest having been decided, the conquerors were recalled from the pursuit by the sound of a trumpet (2Sa 2:28; 2Sa 18:16; 2Sa 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 (Eze 4:2; Mic 5:1), constructed out of the trees found in the neighborhood (De 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" (סֹללָה. Saalschütz [Archaöl. 2, 504] understands this term of the scaling-ladder, comparing the cognate sulleam [Ge 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 (2Sa 20:15; 2Ki 19:32; Isa 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 [Archaöl. 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 (2Ki 25:1; Jer 52:4; Eze 4:2; Eze 17:17; Eze 21:22; Eze 26:8), whence the slingers and archers might attack with effect. Battering-rams (כָּרַים, Eze 4:2; Eze 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 Jer 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 (Eze 26:8), or by the further use of such a machine as the
helepolis, referred to in 1 Macc. 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 (Jg 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 (Isa 22:10), and repelled the enemy from the wall by missiles (2Sa 11:24), by throwing over beams and heavy stones (Jg 9:53; 2Sa 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 (2Ch 26:15). SEE ENGINE. Sallies were also made for the purpose of burning the besiegers works (1 Macc. 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 (Jos 10:26; Jg 7:25), with the occasional indignity of decapitation after death (1Sa 17:51; 1Sa 2 Macc. 15:30; Josephus, War, 1, 17, 2). The bodies of the soldiers killed in action were plundered (1Sa 31:8; 1Sa 2 Macc. 8:27); the survivors were either killed in some savage manner (Jg 9:45; 2Sa 12:31; 2Ch 25:12), mutilated Jg 1:6; 1Sa 11:2), or carried into captivity (Nu 31:26; De 20:14). Women and children were occasionally put to death with the greatest barbarity (2Ki 8:12; 2Ki 15:16; Isa 13:16,18; Ho 10:14; Ho 13:16; Am 1:13; Na 3:10; Na 2 Macc. 5, 13); but it was more usual to retain the maidens as concubines or servants (Jg 5:30; 2Ki 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 (17:6), and of the Jews by the Babylonians (24:14; 25:11). In addition to these measures, the towns were destroyed (Jg 9:45; 2Ki 3:25; 2Ki 1 Macc. 5, 28, 51; 10:84), the idols and shrines were carried off (Isa 46:1-2), or destroyed (1 Macc. 5, 68; 10:84); the fruit-trees were cut down, and the fields spoiled by overspreading them with stones (2Ki 3:19,25); and the horses were lamed (2Sa 8:4; Jos 11:6,9). 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 (1Ki 14:26; 2Ki 14:14; 2Ki 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 (De 20:13-14). In a similar spirit of humanity the Jews were prohibited from felling fruit-trees for the purpose of making siege-works (ver. 19). The law further restricted the power of the conqueror over females, and secured to them humane treatment (De 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 (Jg 1:6-7), and of David's treatment of the Ammonites (2Sa 10:2-4; 2Sa 12:31; 1Ch 20:3); or else they were done by lawless usurpers, as in Menahem's treatment of the women of Tiphsah (2Ki 15:16; comp. Jg 9:45). The Jewish kings generally appear to have obtained credit for clemency (1Ki 20:31; comp. 2Ki 6:20-23; Isa 16:5).
The conquerors celebrated their success by the erection of monumental stones (1Sa 7:12; 2Sa 8:13, where, instead of "gat him a name," we should read "set up a memorial"), by hanging up trophies in their public buildings (1Sa 21:9; 1Sa 31:10; 2Ki 11:10), and by triumphal songs and dances, in which the whole population took part (Ex 15:1-21; Jg 5; 1Sa 18:6-8; 2Sa 22; Judith 16:2-17; 1 Macc. 4:24). The death of a hero was commemorated by a dirge (2Sa 1:17-27; 2Ch 35:25), or by a national mourning (2Sa 3:31). The fallen warriors were duly buried (1Ki 11:15), their arms being deposited in the grave beside them (Eze 32:27), while the enemies corpses were exposed to the-beasts of prey (Samuel 17:44; Jer 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 (Nu 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 (Jg 7:25; Jg 8:18-21); or of David cutting off and carrying away the head of the Philistine champion (1Sa 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 Ps 8:9; but, as a matter of practice, contrast the cruelty of putting out eyes by the Philistines, the Ammonites, and the Chaldeans (Jg 16:21; 1Sa 11:2; 2Ki 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 (Jg 8:4-7; Jg 12:1-6; Jg 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 (2Ch 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 (Ps 46:9; Ps 76:3; Isa 2:4; Eze 39:9; Lu 2:14). SEE PEACE.