Internecine wars in biblical Israel

Y. Levin and A. Shapira (eds.), War and Peace in Jewish Tradition from the Bible to the Present, London: Routledge, 2011, pp. 89-100  Meir Bar-Ilan

 

One of the well-known “truths” of history is that every nation, at one time or another in its history, has suffered the horror of internal armed struggle. Such civil wars or any other type of internecine struggle between two branches of the same nation can be found easily in the historical annals of each and every nation, from the ancient Greeks through the Medieval English Wars of the Roses and all the way to such modern conflicts as the civil wars in the United States, Spain and Lebanon. These and other such internal struggles are often characterized by members of nations, tribes and even families fighting their own flesh and blood.

However, in most written histories of the Jewish People, references to such internal struggles are rare. Very little has been written about wars between Jews, both in antiquity and in more recent times. Recent scholarship has practically ignored the subject, as if there is no evidence that such struggles ever took place.1 This is strange in itself since, as we will see below, we do have quite a bit of evidence concerning this aspect of Jewish life in antiquity. It seems therefore that many of the historians who have written on this aspect of Jewish history are to an extent guilty of simply ignoring the facts.

It may be suspected that so far this aspect of Jewish history has been ignored, since the Jewish conception, so to speak, of Jewish historiography is based on the idea that the source of any disaster that befell the Jews must be external: be it Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, Hadrian or the Crusades, they all were enemies of the Jews that caused pain and trouble. Disaster comes from the outside and thus there is no point in dwelling on Jewish self-killing. Salo Baron called this type of historiography “lachrymose”2 and considered it to be typical of Jewish thought and thus a justification for the fact that Jewish historiography does not cover all aspects of Jewish life. In other words: it is better to mourn together and to encourage Jewish national unity than to give a balanced description of Jewish history, which includes a measure of self-criticism. A more moderate explanation is that writing about Jews who kill Jews seems not to be “politically correct” and historians are people who prefer to act according accepted norms and not to raise tough questions about “the spirit of Israel”. Moreover, since already in antiquity the Jews, as a group, have often been accused, for religious reasons, of killing their own prophets,3 modern historians have preferred not to raise such issues which, they feared, might cause trouble for contemporary Jewish communities; as such, the downplaying of this aspect of Jewish history could be considered a form of self-defense.

It is not my purpose to decide which of the above explanations is to be preferred. To me, it seems that all of them suffer from over-dogmatic thinking, as if they assume that all modern scholars of Jewish history were educated in the same school and share the same concerns. Furthermore, all of the above theories fail to acknowledge the sheer number of people, Jews and non-Jews alike, who are involved in modern Jewish historiography, representing many different schools of thought and methodologies. In my opinion, the main reason that the issue of Jewish internecine war has been all but ignored is far simpler: it is merely a result of the poor state of contemporary Jewish historiography. There is no conspiracy or bias involved; just not-quite mature historiography that is far from covering all aspects of Jewish life.

My suggestion here is that we put aside such theories and begin to discuss and to study the existing evidence that Jews, like any other nation, killed their brethren in bursts of internecine warfare. In this short paper I wish to begin by examining the evidence for such “civil wars” within the Hebrew Bible, in which one part of the nation of Israel fought the other. It should be added that the historical credibility of the biblical sources will not be discussed here. The sources used by the biblical authors, as well as their motivation, will stay in the shadows.

A. Before the Monarchy

It is well known that the family life of many of the major characters of the biblical narrative is described as having been far from ideal. On the contrary, from the very beginning it is shown that “real life”, as described in the Bible, is far from what we would consider “normative”. First, Cain, one of the first children born in this world, kills his own brother Abel (Gen. 4:8). Later on, Esau attempts to kill his twin brother Jacob, who is forced to flee for his life (Gen. 27:41-45), and then the children of Jacob almost kill their brother Joseph, selling him into slavery instead (Gen. 37). Whatever the historical and literary sources of these stories may be, this is the way in which the biblical writers chose to present the origins of humanity in general and of the Israelite nation in particular. After such an “introduction”, it is no wonder that the later history of Israel is filled with such struggles, many of which have escaped the attention of readers and scholars.

Moreover, in some cases of particularly severe religious sins the biblical narrators give full justification for killing the sinner. We can see this in the description of Moses’ reaction to the golden calf (Exodus 32:27): “Thus said the Lord, God of Israel, put ye every man his sword upon his thigh, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor”. The same line of reasoning is applied in the case of Phinehas killing Zimri who had sexual relations with a Midianite woman in public, and because of that killing “the plague was stayed from the children of Israel” and Phinehas was praised with “a covenant of peace” (Numbers 25:7-13).

After Jephtah defeated the Ammonites he had to face accusations by the Ephraimites for not inviting them to join the war (Jud. 12:1-6). This accusation led to a fight between Jephtah the Gileadite, from the tribe of Menasseh, against the Ephraimites, and the story ends with 42,000 Ephraimites who had been killed. Two questions arise from this episode: 1) did it happen as the text claims that it did? 2) were so many people really killed without any good reason? Our assumption here is that the story is based on some actual event, even if it was embellished by the narrator. That is to say, it is highly probable that at some point during the pre-monarchial period, Menassites and Ephraimites fought and killed each other, even if not for the specific reason given by the narrator. Even if the specific story did not happen as told, it is based on a known reality of inter-tribal warfare. As for the second question, most modern historians assume that many of the numbers in the biblical text are somehow distorted and should thus not be considered historical.4 According to the methodology presented here, the question of numbers should be treated apart from that of the historicity of the narrative itself. In many of the cases treated here, our assumption will be that there may well be a historical basis to the narratives themselves, even if the numbers are exaggerated. This rule of differentiation between the episode and the number of people involved will be used throughout this paper.

Judges 19-21 describe a case in which the town of Gibeah was destroyed and almost all the tribe of Benjamin exterminated because of a concubine who had been raped and killed by some of the townsmen. One may doubt the historicity of this story, especially in light of the similarities between this story and that of the “earlier” destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19).5 Without trying to explain these similarities and their meaning, as already done by many modern scholars, the differences between the stories should be noted.

It looks that the main difference between the fate of Gibeah and that of Sodom is that Sodom was ruined by the wrath of God in a miraculous way while Gibeah was ruined by the wrath of men and the story is highly detailed with specific military tactics and number of those involved. For example, at the first stage 400,000 Benjaminites killed 22,000 of the surrounding Israelite warriors. The next day 18,000 more were killed and only later 25,100 Benjaminites were killed, and so on throughout the narrative. This type of detail is exactly the opposite of what we see in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The main issue there, like in the Flood narrative in Genesis 6-7, is that of divine wrath – emphasizing the story’s etiological nature. In the story of Gibeah the narrator focuses on the human nature of viciousness and how the city was ruined by man, not by God. The story also shows similarities to that of the destruction of Shechem (Genesis 34) as well as with the siege of Troy: all three cities were annihilated because of a woman.6 Moreover, the concept of demolishing a sinful city, albeit for the specific sin of idolatry, is stated in the Bible (Deut. 13:1-19), illustrating the reality behind the story. Once again, the huge numbers of casualties should not be taken at face value but the bottom line is that the Gibeah story is evidence of internal Israelite warfare in the days before the establishment of the monarchy.

An additional case of fratricide that the biblical narrator describes in detail is that of Abimelech son of Jerubaal. According to Judges 9:5, Abimelech “hired vain and light fellows” that killed his seventy brothers, sons of Jerubaal. Needless to say that seventy is a typological number that is not to be taken at face value. However our knowledge of many cases in other nations of royal heirs who killed their potential competitors gives credibility to the deeds of Abimelech. It seems that the pursuit of kingship can be used to justify any amount of killing.7

B. The Monarchial Age

Being a king means, inter alia, fighting against dissidents and rebels. Thus Saul attempted to kill David and David waged war against Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 2:12-28), Sheba son of Bichri (2 Sam. 20) and his own son Absalom (2 Sam. 13).8 No doubt, any king sees his crown as a justification for the killing of enemies of all sorts, including his own flesh and blood.

During the 10th-8th centuries BCE two “twin” states ruled over the much of the Land of Israel: Israel and Judah. This is not the place to discuss the full range of issues concerning the relationship between the two kingdoms and their relationships with their various neighbors; what concerns us here is only the conflict between the two Israelite kingdoms. However before we begin to deal with the two centuries of different kinds of wars between the two kingdoms, we wish to point out that there is only a single voice in the entire Bible that actually condemns all of this internecine bloodshed. Right at the beginning, just after telling how the northern tribes rebelled against Rehoboam son of Solomon and established the northern monarchy, the text reports the following:

But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying: Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, saying: Thus said the Lord: Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel; return every man to his house; for this thing is of me. So they hearkened unto the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way, according to the word of the Lord (1 Kings 12:22-24).

In this case, divine intervention averted a war between the two kingdoms, but surprisingly enough, this seems to be the only case in which God, in this case through a prophet, stopped such bloodshed between Israelite brethren.9 In most cases the people were not so lucky as to have a prophet like Shemaiah the man of God to stop the war between the kingdoms.10

In the following section, we will discuss the wars between the two kingdoms not by their chronological order but rather according their military nature. These wars may be divided into three types, each arising under different circumstances:

1. Battlefield wars.

2. Sporadic clashes of uncertain character.

3. Raids for no reason.

B-1: Battlefield wars

The authors of the Bible, unlike their Greek counterparts, were not generous in supplying information about the political or geographical details of wars. Therefore there is no way to analyze each and every war in its own right. Instead, we shall view the various conflicts as a chain of wars between the same enemies. Three wars that took place in the battlefield are mentioned in the Bible, each is described in a different mode and the lack of clichés only add to the impression that the descriptions of the wars are more or less authentic.

a) Abijah – Jeroboam

King Abijah (as he is called in Chronicles, or Abijam, as he is known in Kings) son of Rehoboam ruled Judah for a short period of time, in the years immediately following the split between the kingdoms (c. 911-908 BCE). The book of Chronicles describes his reign as follows:

In the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah… And there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. And Abijah joined battle with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men; and Jeroboam set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, who were mighty man of valour… But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them; so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them. And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind them; and they cried unto the Lord… Then the men of Judah gave a shout; and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah…And Abijah and his people slew them with great slaughter; so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men… And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Bethel with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and Ephrain with the towns thereof… (2 Chronicles 13:1-19).

In this specific case it looks the author made a real effort to supply details, as if he took part in the drama, although the picture is still not terribly clear and needless to say the numbers given for the opposing forces and the victims are exaggerated. However, the fact that the battle ended in border changes between the kingdoms shows the importance of this conflict.11

For some unknown reason the author of Kings, unlike the Chronicler, preferred to only hint at this conflict: “And the rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did… And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam” (2 Kings 15:7). From this opaque testimony one cannot guess at the details in the vivid description that appears in Chronicles and all one can do is to surmise why one author preferred to give a “full” description while the other mentioned the conflict only briefly, as if it was censored. This type of comparison between the books and trying to explain the source and motive of the Chronicler is much beyond this study, but it is hoped that future studies on the relationships between the two books will take into consideration the detailed descriptions of wars that appear in the “late” book as opposed its “predecessor”.12

b) Amaziah – Jehoash

King Amaziah reigned over Judah in the early eighth century BCE and the author of Kings gives details about how he went to war against Israel without specifying the reason, except the historiographer statement that the defeat of Amaziah was a divine punishment for worshipping the gods of Edom (II Chronicles 25:20). However, the narrator did not explain the motivation of King Amaziah, on the first place, to set battle against Jehoash, and the reason might be Israelite raiders that plundered and killed in Judea (see below B – 3: Raids for No Reason). It is stated as follows:

Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying: Come, let us look one another in the face. And Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying: The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying: Give thy daughter to my son to wife; and there passed by the wild beasts that were in Lebanon, and trod down the thistle. Though thou hast indeed smitten Edom, and will thy heart lift thee up? Remain at home; for why shouldest though meddle with evil, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee? But Amaziah would not hear. So Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face at Beth-shemesh, which belongeth to Judah. And Judah was put to the worse before Israel; and they fled every man to his tent. And Jehoash king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah… and came to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim unto the corner gate, four hundred cubits. And he took all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s, the hostages also, and returned to Samaria (2 Kings 14:8-14).

It should be added that there is no mention of victims, as if the battle was won without people being killed. No numbers of casualties are given (although details of the destroyed wall are specified) but still the unprecedented Aesopian fable, included in the story,13 shows not only his proximity to the Judean king but also his pretence to describe what happened the best he thought would be of interest to his intended readers.

c) Pekah – Ahaz

No reasons are given for the attack or Pekah son of Remaliah (reigned c. 734-732 BCE) together with Rezin the king of Aram on Judah (2 Kings 15:37; 16:5). The author of Kings does not explain why there was a battle on the first place but from Isaiah 7:1-9 and from Ahaz’ reaction (16:7-8), it is usually considered that the two kings joined forces to enthrone a new king over Jerusalem, who would join their anti-Assyrian coalition.14 At any event, the Chronicler skipped over all the background and began from the end:

For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah a hundred and twenty thousand in one day, all of them valiant men; because they had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the King’s son, and Azrikam the ruler of the house, and Elkanah that was next to the king. And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, sons and daughters, and took also away much spoil to Samaria (2 Chronicles 28:6-8).

Though details are not given it looks that the actual skirmish took place in the battlefield. No doubt the numbers are exaggerated but the story seems authentic. The three commanders that were killed show, apparently, that they ruled over one branch of the army when the other branch, under the King, stayed in Jerusalem, and those who stayed in Jerusalem were frightened for good reasons (Isaiah 7:4). The political situation as well as that on the battlefield is not clear but one thing is: both kingdoms attacked the other and the killing was mutual. The descriptions of the wars are very different from each other, showing that the narrator was not using clichés and this by itself is a mark of authenticity. The defeat of the king of Judah and the tragedy of the death of the king’s son (like the death in battle of King Saul’s sons) cannot be taken as a late invention, again adding to the feeling of the Chronicler’s authenticity.15

B – 2: Sporadic Clashes of Uncertain Character

The authors of Kings and Chronicles mention many wars fought by the kings they describe, especially as part of the summary formulae given at the end of each king’s reign. The authors do not supply details about these wars and their character is far from clear.

a) Rehoboam – Jeroboam

And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually (1 Kings 14:30; 15:6=2 Chronicles 12:15).

These continual wars and their character will be discussed later but one wonders if these fighters ever heard the words of Shemaiah the man of God, as quoted above.

b) Asa – Baasa

King Asa ruled Judah ca. 908-867 BCE and it is stated as follows:

And there was war between Asa and Baasa king of Israel all their days (1 Kings 15:16).

In 2 Chronicles 16:1 it is stated: “In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa, Baasa king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah”.16 Though no specific war is mentioned Asa took this act of blockade as Casus Belli and asked Ben-Hadad king of Aram to attack Israel, forcing Baasa to retreat. At any event the reasons for these wars are not clear.17

Summing up these “small” wars it should be noted that the authors did not try to explain what ignited these wars. On the contrary, the way they described the wars as a constant situation gives an impression that there was no need for a special occasion to go to war. It may be surmised that the authors had no political or military understanding or motivation and therefore their descriptions are so poor. As far as I am aware, only David Elgavish has tried to explain the roots of these wars, and they can be summarized as follows:18

1. Lack of a natural border.

2. Areas with an agricultural potential.

3. Demographic reasons.

4. Security reasons (such as achieving a strategic advantage).

I would like to add another reason for these “small” wars:

5. Greed for plunder.

This reason, like those listed by Elgavish, is not specified in the Bible. However, as we know from such ancient texts as Homer,19 plunder was a major motivation for war, and with human nature being what it is there is a good reason to think that just as in Homer’s wars plunder played a major role, so did it in ancient Israel as well. Greed was a major motivation in ancient wars, more than in modern times. And beyond comparative analysis, one should read the following discussion about an episode that is described in the Bible that reaffirms the idea that plunder played a key role in wars in antiquity, in Israel as well as among the Greeks.

B – 3: Raids for No Reason

In II Chronicles 25:5-13 there is a story that is unlike any other in the Bible. The story is told with much attention to details, many of which are not known elsewhere and thus they all give the story a color of authenticity. The story begins with the preparations of King Amaziah of Judah to fight the Edomites, a war that is also mentioned, in much less detail, in 2 Kings 14:7. First he gathered 300,000 warriors from Judah and then he hired 100,000 mercenaries from Israel, for a hundred talents of silver. Then a man of God came to the king and rebuked him for his reliance on the northerners, and told him that God can help him without the help of the mercenaries. The king asked the man of God: “But what shall we do with for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel?”, and the man of God promised him that God will help him. Here is how things played out next:

Then Amaziah separated them, to wit, the army that was come to him out of Ephraim, to go back home; wherefore their anger was greatly kindled against Judah, and they returned home in fierce anger… But the men of the army whom Amaziah sent back, that they should not go with him to battle, fell upon the cities of Judah, from Samaria even unto Beth-horon and smote of them three thousand, and took much spoil. (2 Chronicles 25:10, 13).

Thus, it is clear how these northern Israelites were quickly transformed from brothers in arms to enemies, just because their passion for war was not satiated. Needless to state that the numbers of the fighters seem to be highly exaggerated (and rounded off as well) and therefore unreliable.20 Not only are the numbers corrupt but it seems that the name of Samaria (= Shomron) is corrupted from Shomer, or Shemer, in the vicinity of Lod, not far from Beth-horon.21 However, these phenomena: corruption of numerals and two (or more) variants of the same name are very frequent in the Bible and they cannot be taken as measures against the validity of the text. Two factors seem to attest the story’s authenticity: 1) This is almost the only story about mercenaries in the Bible.22 Other biblical sources say nothing concerning this phenomenon, though, at least in the Greek world, it was very common. 2) The story about the evil-doers doesn’t serve any literary motive, and it gives the advice of the man of God a negative consequences. Therefore it seems unlikely that the Chronicler would have invented such a story, making it seem highly authentic.

The Chronicler placed the story about Amaziah’s challenge to Jehoash of Israel and the ensuing war between them (taken almost verbatim from 2 Kings 14:8-14) after the episode just mentioned and this seems very plausible. In doing so the narrator wanted to say that the Judean king and his people felt offended by the behavior of the Israelites in Judah and wanted to take revenge. In other words, the Israelite raiders were the political cause for the battle between Amaziah and Jehoash. At any event, this story tells of one very strong motive that people in antiquity had to kill others, including brother-Israelites: money (especially when one talks about mercenaries). As one may guess, people at the age of the fighters, 20-35, are not known for their ethics or moral, in whatever culture, and young people tend to fight for nothing. It is almost a human natural behavior to fight others, and brethrens are no exceptions

Being aware of the pitfalls that await anyone who deals in comparative history, especially in the sphere of ideas, it seems appropriate to quote a well-known historian about the situation of battles in Medieval Europe. Concerning the internal wars in Europe Robert Lopez writes as follows:

In spite of its reputation, the age of feudalism used only very small armies, and if it delighted in innumerable skirmishes, it fought very few pitched battles…
Some thousands of combatants, some hundreds of dead: these are the terms for evaluating the most bloody contests, those described in the most dramatic tones by the chroniclers.23

It seems that this observation was pretty well the case among Israel and Judah during the period of the two kingdoms: many clashes but with minor impact on the population as a whole.

Conclusions

The separation of Judah and Israel into two monarchies, small by any scale, yielded mutual killing for some two centuries, until the northern kingdom was destroyed and much of its population exiled far to the east. It looks like the biblical authors gave more attention to religious sins than to “plain” killing of innocent people.

The authors of the Bible were only partially aware of the problem inherent in internecine blood-shedding, although it seems the Chronicler was more interested in the subject than others, or at least revealed less a tendency to silence his sources. One cannot but surmise why the prophets, except Shemaiah, did not condemn this type of blood shedding.

The importance of the subject discussed above goes far beyond this study and it is hoped that in the future more studies will focus on this little-known aspect of Jewish social life in antiquity.

1. For two such examples of studies which ignore such internecine struggles see S. Niditch, War in the Hebrew Bible, New York – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 97-99; B.E. Kelle and F.R. Ames (eds.), Writing and Reading War: Rhetoric, Gender, and Ethics in Biblical and Modern Contexts (SBL Symposium Series 42), Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008.

2. S.W. Baron, History and Jewish Historians, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1964, pp. 63-64, 88, 96.

3. S.H. Blank, “The Death of Zechariah in Rabbinic Literature”, Hebrew Union College Annual 12-13 (1937-38), pp. 327-346; B. Halpern-Amaru, “The Killing of the Prophets”, Hebrew Union College Annual 54 (1983), pp. 153-180; I. Kalimi, “The Murders of the Messengers: Stephen versus Zechariah and the Ethical Values of ‘New’ versus ‘Old’ Testament”, Australian Biblical Review 56 (2008), pp. 69-73; idem., “Murder in the Jerusalem Temple – The Chronicler’s story of Zechariah: Literary and Theological Features, Historical Credibility and Impact”, Revue Biblique 117 (2010), pp. 200-209; M. Cook, “The New Testament: Confronting its Impact on Jewish-Christian Relations”, in S. Scholz (ed.), Biblical Studies Alternatively – An Introductory Reader, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003, pp. 291-307.

4. See H. Delbrück, Numbers in History, London: University of London Press, 1913; J.B. Segal, “Numerals in the Old Testament”, Journal of Semitic Studies 10 (1965), pp. 2-20; S.W. Baron, Ancient and Medieval Jewish History, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972, pp. 26-38; J.B. Payne, “The Validity of the Numbers in Chronicles”, Bibliotheca Sacra 136 (1979), pp. 109-128; 206-220.

5. The story has been analyzed once and again by many scholars from many standpoints and there is no need to mention them all. See, for instance: E. Leach, “Anthropological Approaches to the Study of the Bible During the Twentieth Century”, in E. Leach and D.A. Aycock (eds.), Structuralist Interpretations of Biblical Myth, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 7-32. See also R. de Hoop, “Saul the Sodomite: Genesis 18-19 as the Opening Panel of a Polemic Triptych on King Saul”, in E. Noort and E. Tigchelaar (eds.), Sodom’s Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretations, Leiden: Brill, 2004, pp. 17-26.

6. See A.A. Keefe, “Rapes of Women / Wars of Men”, Semeia 61 (1993), pp. 79-97. See also H. Shalom-Guy, “Three-Way Intertextuality: Some Reflections of Abimelech’s Death in Thebez in Biblical Narrative”, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 34 (2010), pp. 419-432.

7. See K.M Heffelfinger, “‘My Father is King’: Chiefly Politics and the Rise and Fall of Abimelech”, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 33 (2009), pp. 277-292.

8. For various aspects of these killings see K.-P. Adam, “Law and Narrative: The Narratives of Saul and David Understood Within the Framework of a Legal Discussion on Homicide Law (Ex 21:12-14)”, Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 14 (2008), pp. 311-335; K. Bodner, “Crime Scene Investigation: A Text Critical Mystery and the Strange Death of Ishbosheth”, Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 7 (2007), article 13 (http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/JHS/Articles/article_74.pdf); W. Dietrich, “David, Amnon und Abschalom (2 Samuel 13): Literarische, textliche und historische Erwägungen zu den ambivalenten Beziehungen eines Vaters zu seinen Söhnen”, Textus 23 (2007), pp. 115-143.

9. See A. Frisch, “Shemaiah the Prophet versus King Rehoboam: Two Opposed Interpretations of the Schism (1 Kings XII 21-4)”, Vetus Testamentum 38 (1988), pp. 466-468.

10. Another case in which fratricide is condemned is in Genesis 37:22: “And Reuben said unto them: ‘Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him’”.

11. For more on the possible historical background of this story see R.W. Klein, “Abijah’s Campaign Against the North (2 Chr 13) – What were the Chronicler’s Sources?”, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 95 (1983), pp. 210-217; G.N. Knoppers, “‘Battling against Yahweh’: Israel’s War against Judah in 2 Chr 13:2-20”, Revue Biblique 100 (1993), pp. 511-532.

12. For one such discussion see S. Japhet, I & II Chronicles – A Commentary (OTL), Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993, pp. 686-700.

13. In the bible there are two “Aesopian” stories (Judges 9:8-15; 2 Kings 14:9=2 Chronicles 25:18) that reflect their originality on the one hand and their affiliation with Near Eastern mode of thought on the other. See: W. Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in Early Archaic Age (trans. by Margaret E. Pinder and W. Burkert), Cambridge, Massachusetts – London: Harvard University Press, 1992, pp. 120-124.

14. For a survey and different views of this episode see B. Oded, “Ahaz’s Appeal to Tiglath-Pileser III in the Context of the Assyrian Policy of Expansion”, M. Heltzer et al. (eds.), Studies in the Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel in Honour of Moshe Dothan, Haifa: Haifa University Press, 1993, pp. 63-71; L.R. Siddall, “Tiglath-Pileser III’s Aid to Ahaz: A New Look at the Problems of the Biblical Accounts in Light of the Assyrian Sources”, Ancient Near Eastern Studies 46 (2009) 93-106.

15. It is worth noting the comments made by Japheth, I & II Chronicles, pp. 900-901. She sees this story as being different from other war-stories in Chronicles, lacking, for example, a reliance on divine intervention and such details as the locale of the battle and the numbers of troops on both sides. Her conclusion is that the story cannot be seen as a creation of the Chronicler, but as a report taken from an earlier source. The main purpose of the story, according the Japheth, “is the brotherhood of Israel and Judah… They are all ‘the children of Israel’ and ‘the people of the Lord’, and it is only their political circumstances, not any difference in national or religious identity, which estrange them.”

16. In the parallel verse (I Kings 15:17) the exact year (36) is missing and there is no reason for a later scribe to add such a detail in vain. However, this year (that is: numerals) should not be taken as granted to calculate the exact date for the tendency of numerals to get corrupted as mentioned above.

17. D. Elgavish, “Objective of Baasha’s War against Asa”, in G. Galil and M. Weinfeld (eds.), Studies in Historical Geography and Biblical Historiography Presented to Zecharia Kallai, Leiden – Boston – Köln: Brill, 2000, pp. 141-149.

18. D. Elgavish, War and Peace in the Relationships between Israel – Judah, M.A. Thesis, Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University, 1978, pp. 9-14, 31-33 (Hebrew).

19. N. Spiegel, War and Peace in Ancient Greek Literature, Jerusalem: Magnes 1986, pp. 25-38 (Hebrew).

20. The tendency to exaggerate in numbers of fighters is clearly seen in the Bible. In 1 Kings 20:29 it is stated the Israelites smote 100,000 Arameans in one day. Needless to add that there was no way in which Judah could raise 300,000 fighters, a number that would reflect a population of more than 3,000,000 people.

21. A. Demsky, “The Genealogy of Asher (1 Chron. 7:30-40)”, Eretz-Israel 24 (1993), pp. 68-73 (Hebrew).

22. The other one did not take place in Israel. See: 2 Sam. 10:6 (1 Chron. 19:6). The role of mercenaries among the Greek nations is well known, but their role in the ancient Middle East is far from being clear. See: M. Trundle‏, Greek Mercenaries: From the Late Archaic Period to Alexander, London and New York: Routledge, 2004.

23. R.S. Lopez, The Birth of Europe, New York: M. Evans, 1962 (rep. 1967), p. 119.