Whenever I have read through certain portions of the Old Testament, those concerning battles and bloodshed, I typically have one of two responses: I am either unsettled by the violence of it all, or I dig around for theological depth in the text. Until picking up Boyd Seevers’ book, I had never stopped to consider that these were stories about people. These are stories about individuals who lived and breathed and perhaps shuddered like do at the thought of war. Seevers’ book has changed all that for me.
Warfare in the Old Testament is not just another history book, military or otherwise. While on the surface it is filled with the standard historical drawings and numerical data concerning battles, Seevers begins each section of his book with a fictional exploration of the life of a soldier. The Egyptians, the Philistines, the Persians; everyone is given a moment of intimacy. Seevers weaves historical information, military insights, and the personal factor that often gets overlooked, into a smooth narrative for each of the six Ancient Near Eastern cultures that he explores. To be sure, there is much for the history buff of warfare connoisseur to take in; it is the lay person who will be particularly surprised, I think. Seevers writes in a way that is affable and understandable. Couple this with the thorough research represented by the illustrations and diagrams throughout the text, and you find yourself in the most accessible history textbook I have ever encountered (which I think is high praise from a Humanities teacher).
When I first started the book, I had some hesitation. Not only am I not a student of war, but something about Seevers’ efforts smacked to me of realism (emphasis on the ism). As if there might be a less than supernatural description for much of the Biblical texts being examined. However, I found my fears unfounded. Seevers sheds light on the places of Israelite history where questions may arise, while simultaneously holding firm to the very orthodoxy he is exploring. This concerted effort only adds to the already engaging text. I came away from this book with an entirely new perspective on warfare in the Old Testament.
This is a book for every Christian, student of warfare, or historian. Seevers knowledge does not disappoint.