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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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MILITARY. The Hebrews, under the direction of inspired prophets, celebrated their victories by triumphal processions, the women and children dancing, and praying upon musical instruments, and singing hymns and songs of triumph to the living and true God. The song of Moses at the Red Sea, which was sung by Miriam and the women of Israel to the dulcet beat of the timbrel, is a majestic example of the triumphal hymns of the ancient Hebrews. The song of Deborah and Barak, after the decisive battle in which Sisera lost his life, and Jabin his dominion over the tribes of Israel, is a production of the same sort, in which the spirit of genuine heroism and of true religion are admirably combined. But the song which the women of Israel chanted when they went out to meet Saul and his victorious army, after the death of Goliath, and the discomfiture of the Philistines, possesses somewhat of a different character, turning chiefly on the valorous exploits of Saul and the youthful champion of Israel: "And it came to pass, as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music: and the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands," 1 Samuel 18:6-7 . But the most remarkable festivity, perhaps, on the records of history, was celebrated by Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, in a succeeding age. When that religious prince led forth his army to battle against a powerful confederacy of his neighbours, he appointed a band of sacred music to march in front, praising the beauty of holiness as they went. before, the army, "and to say, Praise the Lord, for his mercy endureth for ever." After the discomfiture of their enemies, he assembled his array in the valley of Beracha, near the scene of victory, where they resumed the anthem of religious praise: "Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the fore front of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies. And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries, and harps, and trumpets, unto the house of the Lord," 2 Chronicles 20:21 ; 2 Chronicles 20:27 . Instead of celebrating his own heroism, or the valour of his troops, on this memorable occasion, that excellent prince sung with his whole army the praises of the Lord of hosts, who disposes of the victory according to his pleasure. This conduct was becoming the descendant and successor of David, the man according to God's own heart, and a religious people, the peculiar inheritance of Jehovah.

The Roman conquerors used to carry branches of palm in their hands when they went in triumph to the capitol; and sometimes wore the toga palmate, a garment with the figures of palm trees upon it, which were interwoven in the fabric. In the same triumphant attitude, the Apostle John beheld in vision those who had overcome by the blood of the Lamb, standing "before the throne, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands,"

Revelation 7:9 . The highest military honour which could be obtained in the Roman state, was a triumph, or solemn procession, in which a victorious general and his army advanced through the city to the capitol. He set out from the Campus Martius, and proceeded along the Via Triumphalis, and from thence through the most public places of the city.

The streets were strewed with flowers, and the altars smoked with incense. First went a numerous band of music, singing and playing triumphal songs; next were led the oxen to be sacrificed, having their horns gilt, and their heads adorned with fillets and garlands; then, in carriages, were brought the spoils taken from the enemy; also golden crowns sent by the allied and tributary states. The titles of the vanquished nations were inscribed on wooden frames; and images or representations of the conquered countries and cities were exhibited. The captive leaders followed in chains, with their children and attendants; after the captives came the lictors, having their faces wreathed with laurel, followed by a great company of musicians and dancers, dressed like satyrs, and wearing crowns of gold; in the midst of whom was a pantomime, clothed in a female garb, whose business it was, with his looks and gestures, to insult the vanquished; a long train of persons followed, carrying perfumes; after them came the general, dressed in purple, embroidered with gold, with a crown of laurel on his head, a branch of laurel in his right hand, and in his left an ivory sceptre, with an eagle on the top, his face painted with vermilion, and a golden ball hanging from his neck on his breast; he stood upright in a gilded chariot, adorned with ivory, and drawn by four white horses, attended by his relations, and a great crowd of citizens, all in white. His children rode in the chariot along with him; his lieutenants and military tribunes, commonly by his side. After the general followed the consuls and senators, on foot; and the whole procession was closed by the victorious army drawn up in order, crowned with laurel, and decorated with the gifts which they had received for their valour, singing their own and their general's praises. The triumphal procession was not confined to the Romans; the Greeks had a similar custom; for the conquerors used to make a procession through the middle of their city, crowned with garlands, repeating hymns and songs, and brandishing their spears; the captives followed in chains, and all their spoils were exposed to public view.

The great Apostle of the Gentiles alludes to these splendid triumphal scenes in his Epistle to the Ephesians, where he mentions the glorious ascension of his Redeemer into heaven: "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," Ephesians 4:8 . These words are a quotation from the sixty-eighth Psalm, where David in spirit describes the ascension of Messiah in very glowing colours: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive," or an immense number of captives; "thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also; that the Lord God might dwell among them. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with his benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah," Psalms 68:17-19 . Knowing the deep impression which such an allusion is calculated to make on the mind of a people familiarly acquainted with triumphal scenes, the Apostle returns to it in his Epistle to the Colossians, which was written about the same time: "Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it," Colossians 2:15 . After obtaining a complete victory over all his enemies, he ascended in splendour and triumph into his Father's presence on the clouds of heaven, the chariots of the Most High, thousands of holy angels attending in his train; he led the devil and all his angels, together with sin, the world, and death, as his spoils of war, and captives in chains, and exposed them to open contempt and shame, in the view of all his angelic attendants, triumphing like a glorious conqueror over them, in virtue of his cross, upon which he made complete satisfaction for sin, and by his own strength, without the assistance of any creature, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. And as mighty princes were accustomed to scatter largesses among the people, and reward their companions in arms with a liberal hand, when, laden with the spoils of vanquished nations, they returned in triumph to their capital; so the Conqueror of death and hell, when he ascended far above all heavens, and sat down in the midst of the throne, shed forth blessings of his grace and Holy Spirit, upon people of every tongue and of every nation.

The officers and soldiers, also, were rewarded according to their merit. Among the Romans, the noblest reward which a soldier could receive, was the crown, made of leaves. Alluding to this high distinction, the Apostle says to his son Timothy, "I have fought a good fight; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing," 2 Timothy 4:7-8 . And lest any one should imagine that the Christian's crown is perishable in its nature, and soon fades away, like a crown of oak leaves, the Apostle Peter assures the faithful soldier of Christ that his crown is infinitely more valuable and lasting: "Ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away," 1 Peter 5:4 . And this account is confirmed by St. James: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him," James 1:12 . The military crowns were conferred by the general in presence of his army; and such as received them, after a public eulogium on their valour, were placed next his person. The Christian also receives his unmerited reward from the hand of the Captain of his salvation: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life," Revelation 2:10 . And, like the brave veteran of ancient times, he is promoted to a place near his Lord:

"To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I

also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne,"

Revelation 3:21 .

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Triumphs'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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