Word Study: Men Of War



Joshua 5:6: “For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people [that were] men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.”

When I was teaching the Old Testament in Bible College I often asked my class: “Why did God not allow Israel to enter the Promise Land? Why did they have to wander the wilderness for forty years?” Almost without exception my students would say that it was because Israel was afraid, or disobeyed God and refused to enter the Promised Land because of the giants.

Just who was afraid to enter the land? The women and children? They would not have to fight the giants. The elderly? They too would not have to fight the giants. The sickly or disabled (if there were any) they would not be called upon to fight. It was the men of war who were supposed to fight off the giants. The word men that is used here in the Hebrew is not adam which is an earthly man or woman. It is the ‘anesh from the root word ‘ish. This is purely the male gender as a woman is an ‘ishah. The word is sometimes used for champions or great men. These were the ones that everyone looked up to defend them if they were invaded. In the Akkadian language the ‘ish has the idea of a man of strength.

But note that these were no just ‘ish, strong men, champions, but ‘ish milchamah which comes from the root word lachem or bread. In ancient times, as even today, wars were fought for food. Often conflicts arouse over water rights or land rights. Not just any land, but land that was fertile and able to produce food. Israel had an army that God used to protect the people while on their journey. They were men who knew the power of God, men fought the Amalekites in the wilderness.

But who were these men of war or ‘anesh milchamah? Another question is if they were going to whimp out why did they bring back the fruits of the land to show it off? Now I am going to indulge in pure speculation here. Well, after all there is more speculation in Archaeology than we care to admit. I remember one Archaeology professor who said that facts in Archaeology last about 25 years.

Anyway, there was a period in Egyptian history when the Egyptian never ruled Egypt. A group of people of mixed origins from Western Asia settled in the Eastern Nile Delta area. They were known as the Heqa Chaseshet or the Hyksos. This was during the time of the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt. I believe this was the period of Joseph. The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasty was a time of decline for Egyptian power due to famine and plague. This created a power vacuum which led to the uprising of the Hyksos who formed the Fifteenth Dynasty. The ruler’s power really laid in his ability to predict when the Nile River would overflow.

If the people planted too soon the overflow of the Nile would not nourish the seeds in time and they would dry up. If they planted too late the overflow would wash away the seeds. The Nile River was considered a god and the Pharaoh was considered a son of this god who could predict the overflow of the Nile. Many believe the pyramids were astronomical indicators and this may explain why as it helped the Pharaoh in his predictions.

It would stand to reason that this is why Joseph and his family were welcomed as Joseph really hit a sore spot on predicting a famine. The Pharaoh was terrified of famine as such an event would end his rule. That and the fact that the Hyksos were foreigners and a mixed breed to begin with. When a new Pharaoh arose this was the return of the Egyptians to power and they enslaved the Hebrews and the Hyksos to keep them from another uprising.

Archaeological discoveries in recent years has shed new light on this slavery business. They did not have it all that bad. They were well fed, allowed to live in their own homes and actually paid for their work. To be sure there were sometimes brutal overlords, but for the most part people enjoyed a half way decent life, but they were still enslaved. I remember hearing a former politician who spent time in one of those so called Country Club prisons. He said life may not have been that rough as in a penitentiary, but you were still a prisoner and had no freedom and that was torture in itself.

We know that there were foreigners, most likely Hyksos, among the Hebrews who also joined the Exodus against the command of God. The Hyksos were warlike people where the Hebrews were the more administrative types. The Hyksos probably made up a good portion of the Israelite army. The Hebrew leaders from each tribe who spied out the land probably knew the Hyksos would turn tale and run back to Egypt. This is evident in earlier accounts where they tried to arouse the people to return to Egypt. So when the spies returned they brought back some of the goods in hopes of maybe persuading the Hyksos to enter the land and fight. After some consultation with the Hyksos who most likely refused, even when confronted with the goodies, still wanted to return to Egypt where they could have those goodies without fighting off giants. This would be when the spies made their report. It fell on the Hebrews to trust God not the Hyksos. God gave them the land army or no army and only Joshua and Caleb understood this. The rest were trusting in the arm of the flesh.

My point is this and I may be wrong in my assessment of this whole thing, but I find a spiritual lesson in this. More times than not the Israelites suffered defeat because they trusted in the arm of the flesh, in foreign powers and not God. This would just be one more example of Israel turning to Godless people rather than God to fight their battles for them. Even today the United States is a sort of Cyrus but there is the belief among many orthodox Jews that if the U.S. turns its back on Israel, fine, go ahead, they will trust God.

I wonder, could I have that confidence in God. Am I trusting in my job, social security, etc. That could all end quickly. Where is my trust? Where is our trust. As a nation is our trust in chariots (nuclear weapons, powerful army, weapons)? Or is it in God? One Aspie computer hack from China or Russia could paralyze our weapons and us. But no pimple faced geek can paralyze God.