evil world, a community will sometimes need protection against an
invading army. A temporary military leader is the biblical solution to this problem.
Military leaders are only needed
when there is a threat of war, so this is a temporary role (permanent
military leaders are kings). If
the people are loyal to God, threats will be rare, so a permanent army
will not be needed.
Israel did not need a permanent military leader, because
God had promised his protection. Moses
and Joshua took the military leader role until
Israel had conquered the promised land. No
successor to Joshua was appointed; because the role was unnecessary once
Israel was in the promised land. God
has promised to protect his people and keep them safe from invasion.
only had need for a military leader when they lost
Godís protection by turning away from him.
According to the book of Judges, this happened quite frequently.
The people would be come complacent and stop trusting in God.
He would withdraw their protection and they would be invaded.
When the nation repented, God would send them a military leader
to rescue them from the invaders.
their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers
had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands.
Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the
judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the
judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under
those who oppressed and afflicted them.
But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more
corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving
and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and
stubborn ways (Jud 2:17-19).
is a sub-optimal option. Israel wanted a king because they had become dissatisfied with judge, because
they had lost Godís protection so frequently, that they wanted
permanent military protection.
Kings are dangerous, because
most wars are started by polical leaders (see Governments
Choosing Military Leaders
In the scriptures, God raised
up a new military leader whenever the people faced a new disaster.
The people would recognise the new leaderís military prowess
and agree to follow him. The
senior people in a community would sometimes make this choice (Jud
The book of Judges gives many examples. Othinel was a
nephew of Caleb, a man with a reputation for doing the right thing
(Judges 3:9). He
had helped Caleb to take his possession in Hebron (Judges 1:12,13). Ehud demonstrated guile and courage in killing an enemy king.
Shamgar was recognised as a leader when he killed 600 Philistines
with an ox goad. Often the
military leader will be the person to recognise the threat.
Sometimes a leading prophet
will identify the person who should command the troops in battle.
Barak took up the role when Deborah the Prophet announced that
God had anointed him to be a military leader.
In Old Testament times,
physical strength, courage a fighting skill were the most important
characteristic of a military leader.
In modern times, tactical sense and strategic understanding will
be more important. Strong
leadership skills will be needed to hold a volunteer army together.
Calling an Army
When danger arrives, the
military leader will call together an army. Once Ehud had established his credibility by killing an enemy
king, he sounded a trumpet.
He blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went
down with him from the hills, with him leading them. "Follow
me," he ordered, "for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands. So they followed him down (Jud
The sounding of the trumpet
was a call to the people to come together and form an army.
If the people did not recognise the leaders authority, they would
not bother respond. The
people make a person into a military commander, by coming together in
response to his call.
The people made him head
and commander over themÖ(Jud 11:11).
The trumpet is a ďcall to
Then the Spirit of the LORD
came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to
follow him. He sent
messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to armsÖ so that they
too went up to meet them (Jud 6:34,35).
Gideon sent out an email,
when the Holy Spirit came upon him.
A call to war should only be initiated by the Spirit.
Sometimes a prophet will call
the armies together. Samuel
made this call on one occasion (1 Sam 7:5-11).
When the Philistines saw the people gathered they attacked, but
God thundered and threw them into panic. Israel had a great victory.
The army will be built around military units be based in local communities.
They might have a role in provide civil defence and fire services
for their community. They
could also get together at weekends to develop their skills. By training
together, they will learn to trust each other. When
the alarm is sounded, these men will come together and serve as a unit
in the army. They will
choose one of their members who is wise and trustworthy to be their
The local communities that
are affected by the military threat will hear the call an join together
to defend their land. Connections
between people will determine the shape of the army.
There was no one to rescue
them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else (Judges 18:28).
The people of Dan had cut
themselves off from their neighbours, so no one came to assist when
trouble came. Maintaining
relationships with the people in neighbouring districts will be
important. If people know
each other well or are connected by marriage, they are more likely to
support those being attacked.
The leaders of the local
units would choose one of their members to command their company.
This leader will have to keep the confidence of the various units
that make up his company. If
the leader fails, another leader may emerge in his place.
The company leader will report to the overall military commander
for orders. The army
will be made up of local units, formed in to companies.
Each company will have their own officers serving under the
overall military commander.
Service in the army will
always be voluntary. When
Gideon gathered his army, he sent home all those who were afraid or
poorly trained (Judges 7:1-7). Only
a small army is needed, if God is with it. Ensuring that God supports the war will be more important that
getting a large army.
All soldiers must be volunteers. Anyone who is
faint-hearted or afraid should not be forced to fight. People who are at a critical stage in their lives should not be
forced into military service. For
example, men who have recently married, started building a house or
started a business should be freed from service, because they would not
be focussed on the battle (Deut 20:5-9).
Most of the soldiers will be
trained civilians who can be called up when a defence force is needed.
As they have other interests, there will be no danger of them
becoming over militant and fighting unnecessary wars.
However, because they will be defending their families and
friends they will be highly motivated.
Depending on a volunteer army
will change the nature of warfare. Military
commanders will have to maintain the respect and loyalty of their
troops. They will not be
able to order thousands of men to their death in pointless attacks.
If the soldiers stop trusting their commander they will be
inclined to walk. If there
is a risk of defeat, company officers will take their troops home to be
with their families, rather than continue a foolish war.
Their troops will be their friends, so they will be more loyal to
them than to the military commander.
Private Security Guards
Some wealthy people will have
private security guards will allow them to join the assembling army.
An example is Abraham.
When Abram heard that his
relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men
born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he
routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.
He recovered all the
goods and brought back his relative
and his possessions, together with the women and the other people(Gen 14:14-16).
This is a good example of
military leader in action. Abraham
had 318 trained security guards to protect his possessions. When
he heard that
and his household had been captured he immediately took action.
He tracked down the captives and rescued Lot.
The 318 security guards were
Abrahamís employees. He
had trained them to protect his flocks and herds from marauding bandits.
He was able to use them as an army in battle.
Esau is another example. He
had 400 security guards to protect his property (Gen 33:1-3).
The same could apply in the modern world.
Private security guards might take an important role in the army
called together to defend a nation from external attack.
Rules for military leaders
Deuteronomy outlines Godís
rules for the behaviour of kings.
Be sure to appoint over you
the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own
brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother
Israelite. The king,
moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make
the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, "You are not to
go back that way again. "He
must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not
accumulate large amounts of silver and gold (Deut 17:15-17).
Since kings are a suboptimal
option, these are really instructions for military leaders.
There are several important principles.
The military leader must be a local person, not be a foreigner.
Giving military power to an outsider is dangerous because he
will have mixed loyalties. He
might use his power to subjugate those who appointed him as leader.
stock of offensive military weapons should not be accumulated.
Horses and chariots were the main offensive weapon in Moses time.
They were used
when attacking a neighbouring nation, as they allowed soldiers to
advance quickly. The
role of the military leader is limited to defence, so he should not
need offensive weapons. He
should only build up weapons that can be used for the defence of the
military leader should not accumulate too much money.
This will keep him loyal to the people he is defending.
If he has large independent means he might be tempted to
start military actions that are not supported by the people.
He might also be tempted to plan the defence of the area in
the way gives priority to his own property.
If a military leader becomes too wealthy, he should step down
an allow someone else to take over the role.
military commander must not have a large ďstanding armyĒ.
An army that is constantly training for war is dangerous,
because it might start looking for action.
Professional soldiers might get bored with training and seek
real action in
unnecessary military adventures.
A permanent army requires enormous resources that could be
used for more productive purposes.
The burden for these wasted resources will fall on ordinary
military leader must be a man of God.
If a leaderís heart turns astray, he is no longer suitable
for the role.This next
command recorded in Deuteronomy fives an antidote.
is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from
that of the priests, who are Levites.
It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of
his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow
carefully all the words of this law and these decrees
and not consider himself better than his brothers (Deut
military leader should study Godís law every day, to love God and
understand his commands.
military leader must not start to think that he is better than other
people. If he has
physical strength and military acumen, these are a gift from God.
These gifts are not superior to the gifts that God has given
other people, they are just different.
God is with a people who are being attacked by a foreign army,
victory will come easy. A
few of them will be able to drive a powerful attacker away.
LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this
day no one has been able to withstand you.
One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God
fights for you, just as he promised.
So be very careful to love the LORD your God (Jos 23:9-11).
army of a few hundred can rout several thousands, if God is with them.
Gideon defeated a large army of Midianites with just 300 men
chosen by God (Jud 6:7:7).
A military leader should also
study the book of Judges. Christians
are generally not very enthusiastic about this book, but it contains
much of Godís teaching about military leaders.
Judges teaches that a military leader must not be given to much power.
When Jephthah was
appointed to lead the army, the people tried to make him their political
leader as well.
The elders of Gilead said
to him, "Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to
fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in
Gilead." So Jephthah
went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he
repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah (Jud 11:8,11).
This is a common mistake.
The people of
assumed that Jepthah would be a good political leader, because he was a
successful military commander. He
had been brought up by a group of adventurers, so he was a courageous
fighter, but this experience made him unsuitable to be a political
leader. The role assigned to
a political leader must be clearly defined.
He should not be given powers that he does not need. The military should not be given too much political power, as
they have a tendency to use war to solve every problem.
Paying Military Leaders
Samuel warned the people of Israel
that a king would be costly to maintain.
The reason is that a king is a permanent military leader with the
power to tax.
Military leaders are
dangerous because they have control of powerful weapons.
They have the means to impose their will on the people they are
supposed to protect. If they
also have the power to impose taxes, there are no limits their power.
A misguided military leader could build a large empire without
Giving military leaders
authority to levy taxes allows them to decide the level of military
protection needed by a community. This
is inappropriate because they will have a biased view of the value of
the services to their citizens. The
person providing a service cannot decide its value. Only the person receiving the service can decide its value.
Citizens are the only ones
who can decide what value they put on military protection.
Paul said that we should pay military leaders what they are owed,
based on the value of what we have received (Rom 13:7).
Citizens are the only ones one who can decide what I owe to the
If military leaders can
decide what they are owed, they will become dangerous.
They will tend to have an inflated view of their own importance
and will demand more than they are worth.
As military leaders have the power of the sword, they will be
able to force people to pay what they believe is needed.
This can only lead to tyranny.
The best way to limit the
power of a military leader is to limit the resources they control.
Just as payments to judges are voluntary, military leaders should
not have authority to impose taxes.
best protection against tyranny is to make payments to military leader
voluntary. They will then
have to persuade citizens that their service is of value to them.
In a peaceful situation, they may need to provide additional
services, like civil defence and fire services to encourage people to
The amount that people would
be willing to pay for military protection would depend on the risk of
invasion. If the nation were
loyal to God, the risk would be quite low.
If there was no permanent army, military protection would be
quite cheap. Insurance
companies might be prepared to pay some the cost of military protection,
but it would still be a voluntary payment and not a compulsory levy.
Most people freely pay house
insurance to get protection in case their house burns down.
In the same way, most people would be willing to pay a military
leader to provide defence against threat of external attack.
Some people would refuse to pay and freeload on those who did pay. We should not complain,
because we are all freeloaders on Jesus salvation.
A military leader that is
dependent on voluntary contributions will be forced to be a servant.
If he got too big for his boots, his income would rapidly
decline, so he would be forced to change his ways.
Voluntary payments for military protection are the best
protection against unruly military leaders.