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Holman Bible Dictionary


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A nation's military personnel organized for battle. Thus in Egypt, Israel could be referred to as having “armies” even when they did not have a political organization (Exodus 6:26 ; Exodus 7:4 ; Exodus 12:17 ). Goliath learned that to defy God's people was to defy the “armies of the living God” (1Samuel 17:26,1 Samuel 17:36 ), for God was the “God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45 ). In face of God, humans can only confess, “Is there any number of his armies?” (Job 25:3 ). Israel recognized God's anger when God did not go out with their armies (Psalm 44:9 ). To announce salvation, the prophet proclaimed the fury of God upon all armies (Isaiah 34:2 ). In the New Testament the writer of Hebrews looked back on the heroes of faith and proclaimed that through faith they “turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:34 ). John's vision of the end time included the armies of heaven following the King of kings to victory over the beast and the false prophet (Revelation 19:11-21 ).

Armies were organized in different ways during Israel's history. The patriarchs called upon servants and other members of the household (Genesis 14:1 ). In the wilderness Joshua led men he had chosen to defend against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:9-10 ). In the conquest Joshua led the tribes of Israel into battle after being commissioned by the “captain of the host of the Lord” (Joshua 5:14 ). At times tribes joined together to take territory (Judges 1:3 ; Judges 4:6 ).

Deborah summoned many of the tribes to battle, but some did not answer (Judges 5:1 ). Other judges summoned clans (Judges 6:34 ) and tribes (Judges 6:35 ; Judges 7:29 ). Saul first established a standing, professional army in Israel (1 Samuel 13:2 ), at first leading it himself with his son but then appointing a professional commander (1 Samuel 17:55 ). David apparently hired foreign troops loyal to him personally (2 Samuel 9:18 ; 2 Samuel 15:18 ). Solomon enhanced the foot soldiers with a chariot corps and calvary (1 Kings 10:26 ). The army was organized into various units with officers over each, but the precise chain of command cannot be determined (2 Chronicles 25:5 ). Humanitarian laws determined who was excused from military service and how war was conducted (Deuteronomy 20:1 ).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Army'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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