1 Samuel gives us a little taste of the horrors of war. In the first battle of the book, the Israelites lose, and the Ark of God is taken by the Philistines. The Philistines think that they've won a major victory. But God punishes the Philistines with a plague because they took the Ark. If plagues aren't bad enough, next we meet a really weird guy named Nahash. He'd loved to make a treaty with you. But his treaty has one twisted condition: he must be allowed to gouge out your right eye. This seems like a natural response, we say sarcastically.
Fortunately, there are some good guys. Jonathan is Saul's son, and he has one of the few swords in Israel. See, the Philistines tried to keep weapons out of the hands of Israelites and for good reason. Jonathan uses his sword to defeat the Philistines and bring a great victory to Israel. Still, there's not much good news to tell. Men, women, children, and animals are slaughtered. In the end of the book, Saul and his sons have their heads cut off, and their bodies are hung on a wall.
As fun as playing war can be, real war, no matter how long ago, is never fun.
Questions About Warfare
- What kinds of war do we see in 1 Samuel? Small skirmishes? Big battles? How are these moments of war described? Are they glorified at all? Do we ever see the nitty gritty horrors?
- The punishment for losing a battle is severe. The Israelites often completely destroy their enemies. Does this seem fair to you? Why or why not?
- The Bible says Goliath has been training to be a soldier since he was a boy. And David fights Goliath when he's quite young himself. Why do you think these cultures relied on such young people in battle?