A Handbook of Bible Law - Warfare and military laws

Copyright 1991 by Charles A. Weisman. 2nd Edition: Aug., 1992; 3rd Edition: Dec., 1994

Warfare and military laws

Comments: While the Bible promises a time that there will be no war (Isa. 2:4), it also shows the inevitable fate of a nation to be subject to war, and thus provides for the laws and rules for war and dealing with enemy nations.

In no instant did Christ condemn national defense but rather only unrestrained aggression (Matt. 26:52). Christ had in fact commanded His disciples to be armed so as to defend themselves (Luke 22:36). War thus can exist for purposes of defense. And in John's vision, Christ is depicted as leading armies and waging war for the cause of righteousness (Rev. 19:11-16).

In the O.T. an army was raised by a kind of conscription of all the male population from twenty years old and upwards and who are able (physically fit and trained) to bear arms. A number of deferments were recognized and all who were fearful of battle were exempt from service. Many of these principles for armed forces were adopted in the American State Militias.

The biblical rules of war require that an offer of peace be made to enemy forces before attacking them:

"When you go near a city to fight against it,, then proclaim an offer of peace to it"" (Deut. 20:10).

This was to give the opposing forces the alternative of either surrender or battle, relieving the nation offering it from any wrong or fault. War thus should be viewed as a last resort measure, for those who delight in war are destined to be scattered (Psa. 68:30).

22A - Rules and Conduct of War

  1. When an enemy nation attacks, plead to God that He will deliver the enemy into your hand. Num. 21:1-3.
  2. You are not to destroy the produce of a region besieged and occupied. Deut 20:19-20.
  3. Before a nation goes to battle the people should pray to God that He will maintain their cause. 1 Kings 8:44-45.
  4. The use of spies towards enemy or hostile nations. Num. 13:1-21; Num. 21:32; Josh. 2:1; Josh. 7:2.
  5. Priests (chaplains) are to encourage the people before battle that God will fight for them. Deut. 20:2-4.
  6. The LORD your God goes with you into battle, to fight for you against your enemies. Exod. 14:14; Deut 20:1, 4; 2 Chron. 13:12.
  7. We should inquire of the LORD as the whether or not we are to go to battle with another nation. Judges 6:33-40; 1 Sam. 30:8; 2 Sam. 5:19, 23.
  8. Blowing of a trumpet before going into battle. Num. 10:9; Num. 31:6; Josh. 6:20; Judges 7:16-22.
  9. The conquering nation may take as spoils of war: cattle, money, land, and goods of the defeated nation (to the victor belongs the spoils of war). Num. 31:9-11; Deut 2:35; Deut 3:7;
  10. Josh. 8:2, 27; 1 Chron. 20:2; 1 Chron. 26:27; Isa. 10:6.
  11. You shall not take as a spoil those things accursed of God (pagan artifacts, idols, etc.). Josh. 7:1-2, 11-13, 21-26.
  12. Abstain from every evil thing when at war against your enemies. Deut 23:9.
  13. You shall not unnecessarily oppress kindred nations you are at war with. 2 Chron. 28:8-15.
  14. The tabernacle of testimony is to be brought into the camp of the army. Num. 1:50-53.
  15. When encamped during war you are to cover up excrement outside of the camp. Deut 23:12-14.
  16. Cleanliness in the camp is to be maintained. Num. 31:19-24; Deut 23:9-11.
  17. The spoils of war are to be divided between those who served in battle, and between all the inhabitants of the nation. Num. 31:27; Josh. 22:8.
  18. When you besiege a city you are to build bulwarks and fortified defenses within it until it be subdued. Deut. 20:20.
  19. Do not plunder or fight any nation without just cause. Psa. 7:4; Psa. 35:1, 7-8.
  20. When forces march out to battle, a detachment is to remain to watch over the camp. 1 Sam. 30:24.
  21. An army is divided into three divisions to divert the attention of the enemy and to conceal the attack. Judges 7:16; 1 Sam. 11:11; 2 Sam. 18:2.

22B - Armed Forces

  1. Males 20 years old and up are to be mustered and enrolled for military service. Num. 1:2-3,17-46; Num. 2; Num. 26:2; 2 Sam. 18:1.
  2. Only those who are able-bodied for war are to be enrolled for armed service. Num. 1:3, 17-46; Num. 26:2.
  3. Military leaders or captains to be appointed over divisions of armed forces. Num. 2:2-29; Deut 20:9; 1 Chron. 27:1-15.
  4. Military chain of authority is to be established --Officers over thousands, the captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens. Num. 31:48; Deut 1:5; 2 Sam. 18:1.
  5. Military aides assigned to aid officers with their equipment and in battle. Judges 9:54; 1 Sam. 14:6-14; 1 Sam. 16:21.
  6. Military advisors or counselors are to be used in conducting war. Prov. 20:18; Prov. 24:6.
  7. A need to establish different branches of the armed forces with different leaders: captains of the guard (2 Chron. 12:10); captains of chariots and captains of the cavalry (2 Chron. 8:9); chief of those armed with bows (1 Chron. 12:2-3); chief of the infantry (Judges 20:2).
  8. A chief of captains, or general, is to be established over the armed forces; one who has demonstrated his military ability. 2 Sam. 5:8; 2 Sam. 20:23; 2 Sam. 23:8; 1 Chron. 11: 6; 1 Chron. 12:18.

22C - Exemptions and Deferments From Service

  1. Those who have built a new house and have not yet dedicated it may be deferred from service. Deut. 20:5.
  2. Those who have planted a crop but have not yet reaped its fruits can be deferred from service. Deut 20:6.
  3. Those that are fearful of battle or are faint-hearted are to be exempt from service. Deut. 20:8.
  4. A man that has been married less than one year is not to go to war or be charged with any military duties. Deut. 20:7; Deut 24:5.
  5. Ministers are not eligible for military service. Num. 1:47.

22D - Conduct Towards Enemies

  1. When faced with the alternative of battle we are not to be afraid of strong enemies. Deut. 20:1; Josh. 11:6; Psa. 27:3.
  2. Enemies are to be given an opportunity to surrender in peace before engaging in battle. Deut. 20:10.
  3. Enemies that surrender peaceable should be put under tribute but not killed. Deut. 20:11.
  4. If an enemy city or territory will not surrender in peace, but wills to war against us, we are then to go to war against it and besieged the it. Deut. 20:12; Josh. 11:19-20.
  5. We are not to destroy enemies taken captive or conquered but rather provide for them. 2 Kings 6:22-23.
  6. Heathen enemies within our own nation are to be totally destroyed. Deut 7:2; Deut 20:16-18; Josh. 6:21; Josh. 8:24-28; Josh. 11:1-11.
  7. The kings or leaders of a conquered enemy are to be executed. Num. 31:8; Josh. 8:29; Josh. 10:23-26, 28, 30, 39; Josh. 11: 10 1 12; Judges 7:25.
  8. We are not to have pity or mercy on heathen or ungodly enemies, but are to destroy all those who God shall deliver to us. Deut. 7:2, 16.
  9. A defeated enemy nation is subject to pay tribute taxes to the conquering nation. 1 Kings 9:21; 2 Kings 18:14; 1 Chron. 18:21 6; 2 Chron. 8:8; 2 Chron. 27:5; 2 Chron. 36:3.
  10. All males of heathen nations are to be killed. Num. 31:7, 17; Deut 20:13; Josh. 11:14.
  11. Prisoners of war, cattle, and goods of a defeated nation are to be taken as a spoil. Num. 31:9-18; Deut 20:14; Josh. 11: 14.
  12. We may take possession of the lands of defeated enemies. Num. 21:24-25, 35.

22E - Reasons and Causes of War

  1. War and defeat may be brought by God as punishment for national sins. Deut. 28:25, 49-53; Josh. 7:5-12; 2 Sam. 12:9-10; 2 Chron. 6:24, 36; 2 Chron. 12:1-5; 2 Chron. 24:23-24; 2 Chron. 28:1-5; Job 19:29; Jer. 42:13, 16; Ezek. 25:12-13; Ezek. 35:4-9; Amos 1:13-15.
  2. War may be of God or commanded by God. Num. 25:16-18; Num. 31; Deut. 2:24; Deut. 7:1-2; Deut. 20:16-17; Josh. 8:1; 1 Sam. 15:2-3; 1 Chron. 5:22; Job 38:23; Jer. 51:20.
  3. Lust brings wars and fighting. James 4:1-2.
  4. War as a defense from unprovoked attack. Exod. 17:8-16; 1 Sam. 30:1-18; 2 Sam. 5:17-25; 2 Sam. 10:1-9; 2 Sam. 21:15-22.
  5. Evil men who continually stir up war. Psa. 140:1-2.
  6. War is not to be undertaken but by the will of God. Deut. 1:41; Deut. 2:5, 9, 19; 2 Chron. 11:3-4.
  7. He that kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Matt. 26:52; Rev. 13:10.

22F Ė Peace & Victory

  1. There is a time for war and a time for peace. Eccl. 3:8.
  2. If you walk in Godís statutes and keep His commandments, and do them, He will give peace in the land, and none shall make you afraid. Lev. 26:3,6; Psa. 119:165; Prov. 3:1-2; Prov. 16:7; Isa. 32:17-18; Isa. 48:18.
  3. Victory against enemies in war is from God. Deut. 7:23; Deut. 20:4; Josh. 10:8-11.
  4. God will bless His people with peace. Psa. 29:11; Isa. 26:2-3, 12; Hag. 2:9.
  5. The fear of God in our enemies can prevent war. 2 Chron. 17:10; 2 Chron. 20:29-30.
  6. God causes peace and wars to end. Psa. 46:9; Psa. 147:14; Isa. 45:7.
  7. When our ways please the LORD, He makes our enemies to be at peace with us. Prov. 16:7.
  8. In abundance of counselors there is safety. Prov. 11:14.
  9. Pray to God for deliverance from enemies, and that they may not triumph over you. Psa. 25:2; Psa. 31:15; Psa. 59:1.
  10. If a people listen to God and walk in His ways and turn to God with prayer and repentance, He will release them from captivity and subdue their enemies. Exod. 23:22, 27; 1 Kings 8:46-50; 2 Chron. 6:24-25, 36-39; Psa. 81:14.
  11. The commandments of God make us wiser than our enemies. Psa. 119:98.
  12. Wisdom is better than weapons of war. Eccl. 9:18.

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