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Archive for August 12th, 2014

Editor’s Note: I (“SlimJim”) am away in a family trip and this is a pre-scheduled post.  Responses will be delayed.

Warfare in the Old Testament The Organization, Weapons, and Tactics of Ancient Near Eastern Armies

Available on AMAZON

This is a wonderful book by an Old Testament professor who has done his doctoral dissertation related to ancient warfare.  Given the prevalence of war in the Old Testament, this book serves as an important resource in giving the background information for our understanding of Scripture.  The content of the book is well researched and interesting.  It also helps that the book is filled with beautiful illustrations that feature ancient drawings, archaeological finds, helpful maps and contemporary painting recreating what warfare in the past must have looked like.  They are very helpful and the author Boyd Seevers did a good job coordinating what he has to say with the illustrations.

The book focuses primarily on warfare in the Ancient Near East.  The author begins with the Hebrews during the era when they entered into the promise land.  Two chapters are devoted towards Israel and their military.  This is followed by two chapters on Egypt, one chapter on the Philistines, two chapters on the Assyrians, one chapter on the Babylonians and the final chapter on the Persians.

Every kingdom’s military is presented in an organized and clear manner. Each time a certain kingdom is introduced, the author takes the literary license of giving us a fictional “eye witness” account of a warrior so we can get the idea of what it must have been like.  This is followed by discussion of the specific kingdom’s historical background, military organization (structure, military branches, etc), weapons (long-medium-short range offensive weapons and defensive measures), and strategies/tactics.  Each section and subsection is clearly labeled which makes this an easy access reference for later use.

Over all, the book has more strengths than it did weakness.

STRENGTHS

  • In the introduction the author is conscious of cultural experience with warfare and he acknowledges that he never served in the military and grew up in the United States during a time of social upheaval where serving in the military was not necessarily valued.  Realizing his limitation, the author took the initiative to share a Marine sergeant’s insight concerning war.  It was really good especially concerning tactics!  I must confessed my own biases: I myself am a Marine veteran of Iraq.
  • There were a lot of things I learned from this book that I didn’t know beforehand: The book made the point that the Babylonians and Persians seem to be generally less cruel than the Assyrians during warfare and the Assyrians tend to use a lot of psychological warfare with their opponents.  I learned what a composite bow is (a bow that was glued together of various pieces of wood which allow the arrows to go futher).
  • I appreciated the fact that Seevers cited primary sources and also important secondary sources in the study of the Ancient Near East; especially exciting for me is his reference to Yadin’s work on Old Testament warfare in light of archaeological finding.  I have been thinking about getting Yadin’s work for some time now but I have hesitated given how it is somewhat outdated; this new volume by Seevers is a much needed update on the topic.
  • The end of the book has a good list of recommended resources for further study.

WEAKNESS

  • The input of the Marine concerning strategy waned by the time we get to the middle of the book.  It would have been nice to see more insights from him!
  • Some of the colors on some of maps were clashing and hard to distinguished at time given how they were a few shade different.

CONCLUSION

I highly recommend this book for anyone with interests in the Old Testament, the Ancient Near East and military history.  Pastors and Bible Students will gain much from this work.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

To purchase the book CLICK HERE.

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