War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence

War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence

War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence

War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence

Synopsis

This book is a sympathetic study of the writers of Israelite tradition who are themselves dearly troubled by issues in the ethics of war. The book sets in a new and more complex light the various and sometimes conflicting biblical attitudes to war.

Excerpt

On 1 September 1689 Cotton Mather preached his sermon "Souldiers Counselled and Comforted," a charge to members of the armed forces engaged in the ongoing battles with the native inhabitants of New England. One can imagine oneself a young man preparing to fight those whom the minister calls "Murderers" or picture oneself a mother preparing herself to let the son go to face the "Wolvish Persecutors." the mood is intense, electric with blood- stirring references to beloved friends killed by Indians (Mather:9, 31, 32), to the need for courage, and to the faith owed a supportive but demanding God. the sermon is rich in the words and syntax of the King James version of the Hebrew Scriptures, for these are folk for whom the written Scriptures have been "reoralized." the Bible is alive to the people gathered at the Old North Meeting House, Boston, in the oral formulations of the Puritan preacher who combines traditional phrases and ancient images to describe perceptions of current realities. the cadences of the Bible speak the listeners' myth. They are Israel in the wilderness, confronted by Amalek (Mather:37), Israel who must approach the enemy with a priestly purity of body and soul (Mather:17, 24, 25, 38). Amalek, deserving of vengeance and total destruction, is to be "beat(en) small as the Dust before the Wind," "Cast out as the Dirt in the Streets," (Mather:28) eliminated, exterminated. the war against the Indians of New England is justified on grounds both . . .

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