Ancient Israel: Military History
Weapons, Warfare , and Wars
Alexander The Great Bows to the High Priest in Jerusalem
It is a fascinating and worthwhile study to understand this ancient time period and its high priests. According to the Bible the high priest was the most important man in the world, for he represented the nation before God, and God before the nation. Unfortunately there were times when the priesthood became corrupt and blinded to its original intent. There were no doubt high priests in Israel's history who sought after God. Every high priest has a story and the history of the intertestamental period is packed with adventures. One interesting story is related in the Talmud concerning Simon the Just:
The Talmud relates that when Alexander the Great and his conquering legions advanced upon Jerusalem, they were met by a delegation of elders, led by the High Priest Shimon Ha Tzaddik (Simon the Righteous). When Alexander saw Shimon approaching, he dismounted and prostrated himself before the Jewish Sage.
To his astonished men, Alexander explained that each time he went into battle, he would see a vision in the likeness of this High Priest leading the Greek troops to victory. In gratitude, and out of profound respect for the spiritual power of the Jews, Alexander was a kind and generous ruler. He canceled the Jewish taxes during Sabbatical years, and even offered animals to be sacrificed on his behalf in the Temple.
Unfortunately, history would prove that Alexander's heirs failed to sustain his benevolence.
Ammon and Zobah
The Bible gives much more detail to Israel's war with Ammon (see 2 Sam 10). The Bible records David's kindness to Hanun, a new king of Ammon, and his kindness was scorned and David sent Joab out for war. Hanun hired mercenary soldiers from Aram (Beth-rehob, Zobah, and Maacah). When Joab met the combined armies he displayed outstanding military foresight and defeated them. He then returned to Jerusalem and Hadadezer, king of Zobah came against him with fresh troops. Israel met him across the Jordan at Helam and were victorious. Israelite supremacy was acknowledged once again.
Joab then laid siege to Rabbah (site of the present day Amman Jordan) 22 miles east of the Jordan River to utterly defeat Ammon. It was during this siege that David sinned with Bathsheba, and had her husband Uriah killed by ordering Joab to place him at the front of the battle, where the fighting was the heaviest. (2 Sam 11:1-27). Rabbah was finally taken and David made it a part of his own kingdom.
Damascus, Zobah and Hamath
In the north David conquered Zobah and their mighty army which possessed 1000 chariots, 700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers.
2 Sam 8:3-4
David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his territory at the River Euphrates. David took from him one thousand chariots, seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand foot soldiers.
It is interesting that David's army did not depend on chariots as the king of Zobah, as well as the Philistines and the Canaanites.
When the men of Aram Damascus (see map) heard of the battle they came to assist Zobah and were too late. David utterly defeated them as well and they paid tribute to Israel. At this same time the king of Hamath sent his son to pay tribute to David and this secured the northern region. David placed garrisons in Damascus as he had done in Edom.
David's Last Days
David was Israel's greatest and truly ideal king. He was a great warrior and a man who loved God. He brought great peace and prosperity to the land. But David also had his weaknesses. He took many wives, like other kings, and this was forbidden by God. He even arranged the murder of one of his soldiers so that he could marry the man's wife who he had already seduced. David was a great sinner, but he was also very remorseful and repentant. David also took a census (headcount) of his army, showing a lack of trust in God. God punished David and Israel for his sins. The good qualities found in David are a picture of Christ who would be a descendant of David.
As David, in his old age, looked back on his life and pondered on how God had delivered him from all of his enemies he sang:
2 Sam 22:4
"I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies."
2 Sam 23:1-2
"Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel: "The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. . ."
Events in Biblical History
From King David to the Return from the Babylonian Captivity. Bible History Online.
From the River of Egypt to the Euphrates
King David's authority reached as far as the Euphrates River in the north, all the way down to the Gulf of Aqaba and the River of Egypt (45 miles southwest of Gaza). It is disputed whether or not this or the Nile River is the River of Egypt mentioned in the Lord's promise to their ancestor Abraham and their descendants over 800 years earlier.
"On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates"""
Israel was not to be compared to the mighty empires of the ancient world like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece or Rome, but David was undoubtedly the strongest ruler of his day.
The tribes in the south were extremely distressed and appealed to David. He was anointed king of Judah in Hebron. It wasn't long before the tribes in the north came to Hebron and anointed him king over Israel, it was 7 years after Saul's death. David immediately captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites. He brought the Ark of the covenant (gold box containing the 10 commandments and symbolizing the throne of God) to Jerusalem, which he established as the capital (2 Sam 1-5). Jerusalem became the symbol of a unified kingdom. This all took place about 1000 B.C.
When the Philistines realized what had fully happened it was too late, for Israel was a unified kingdom. David defeated them in two successive battles in the Valley of Rephaim near Jerusalem and he drove them from the hill country. The Philistines were reduced to a minor power and were not a danger to Israel anymore.
In the years that followed, David conquered all his surrounding enemies one by one until his kingdom had become all-powerful, with boundaries stretching from Levo-Hamath in the Valley of the Lebanon to the River of Egypt.
Phoenicia and the Coastal Cities
David had long since been friends with the Phoenicians and had made a treaty with Hiram, king of Tyre, who he had received materials and labor for his palace. This brought peace between them and there were never any wars between David and Phoenicia.
The Extent of David's Kingdom
King David's military victories were quite impressive and magnified his authority and the boundaries of Israel. The kingdom included all of the land originally allotted to the 12 tribes of Israel (except a small portion of Philistia along the southern Mediterranean coast) and also the kingdom of Ammon. Map
The King's Highway
The King's Highway was an ancient trade route that began in Egypt, and stretched across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba and then northward to Damascus and the Euphrates River. One of the earliest references to the King's Highway is found in the Bible (Numbers 20:17), where the Israelites request for a safe passage through Edom:
Num 20:17-21 "Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King's Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.'" Then Edom said to him, "You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword." So the children of Israel said to him, "We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more." Then he said,"You shall not pass through." So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him. During the 1st millennium BC, the King's Highway linked the kingdoms of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. Several centuries later the Nabateans used this road as a trade route for luxury goods such as frankincense and spices coming up from the southern Arabian peninsula. Later the Romans renamed it the Via Nova Traiana. The highway has long been an important pilgrimage route for both Christians and Muslims: Christians used it to visit nearby holy sights such as Mount Nebo and Al Maghtas at the Jordan River, and Muslims used it as the main Haj route to Mecca until the Ottomans built the Tariq al-Bint in the 16th century."
The Second Punic War (218-202 BC) Timeline
Almost yearly timeline of events leading up to and through the Second Punic War. Also Livy`s analysis of the causes of the Second Punic War | Causes of the Second Punic War | Timeline of the Second Punic War | Alternative scenarios | After the Second Punic War
Certain nations were allowed to keep their own kings, these were called vassal states. These included Moab (east of the Dead Sea ) and Edom (south of the Dead Sea), and the Damascus territory (far in the northeast). Zobah was most likely included as well but this in not conclusive. There was also a territory even farther north called Hamath which acknowledged Israel's sovereignty and submitted to David's authority. Hamath's territory stretched northeast to the Euphrates River.
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