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Is the spirit of YHWH a spirit of battle?

Autor:Ngoa Mathieu
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Kategorienachwuchsforschung
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Datum:2015-05-06

Inhalt

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1. Introduction

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The book of Judges, in the Bible, is the seventh in order. It comes after the Torah and the book of Joshua. The theme of Judges is in a very tight relationship with Joshua. After the long journey of the Israelites in the desert, they can finally enter into Canaan, the Promised Land. Chapters 1-12 narrate the conquest of the land, whereas chapters 13-21 present the repartition of the territory between the tribes of Israel; Jos  22-24, in a similar way to the book of Deuteronomy,  is a report of the last speech at Shechem of Joshua before his death. Judges is part of the so called "anterior"[1] or early prophets. After their taking  possession of the Land, the book of Judges continues the same theme by narrating the division of the land amongst the tribes of Israel. The book seems to respond to the question: "why had Israel never fully taken possession of the land that God had promised to their ancestors?" and the response to it seems to be: "It is because of the apostasy that followed the death of Joshua and that went on, despite the insisting admonition of God".[2] The dynamic of the whole book is built upon this and its plot results in a triangular relationship with the people of Israel at the centre: God ← Israelites their → enemies. This makes the narration a cyclical one: from the death of Joshua who took the place of Moses and was somehow the warrantor of the fidelity of the people to YHWH, the sons of Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord and he sold them in the hand of the surrounding people. The following schema is repeated in the cycle of every judge: apostasy of the people → punishment of God through the withdrawal of his protection to the people → distress of the people → repentance → forgiveness of the sin of the people by God → deliverance through a judge → temporary peace and then again → apostasy of the people...[3].

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The period of the Judges is to be situated between the twelfth and the eleventh century before Christ, while the book itself should have been written around the sixth century before Christ.[4]

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An overview on the book of Judges brings the reader to question the violence through wars and battles of any kind which characterise this book, as well as private or individual violence.[5] But the most striking fact is that such violence is ascribed to God in the sense that he is the one who commands all those wars and provides assistance to the Israelites throughout the battles.

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The scope of this article is to analyse such a phenomenon and principally the nexus between the spirit of YHWH and the setting out for war/battle, since one can notice that the two phrases "And the spirit of YHWH came/was upon him... and he set out for war/battle"[6] are interconnected.

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After the introduction on the book of Judges (1), the first section will examine the occurrences of the  noun רוח   (spirit) in the book of Judges. Specific attention will be paid to the context in which it occurs, as well as to its content (2). Then will follow an analysis of the relationship between receiving the spirit of/from YHWH and setting out for battle (3). After this, accent will be placed on the question whether wars wanted by YHWH correspond to the reality or they belong to the ideology of the mythical people of Israel in the AT (4). This point will lead take the ethical and theological problematic of a war wanted by God (5).  The whole analysis will be concluded by a kind of summary of the preceding developed main points (6).

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2. The occurrences of the noun רוח   (spirit) in the book of Judges

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The Hebrew noun רוח occurs eight times in the book of Judges (3:10; 6:34; 9:23; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6; 14:19; 15:14). Except in 9:23, it is used in the status constructus and it is generally coupled with the Tetragrammaton יהוה , while 9:23 mentions an evil spirit, which God sent between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. The spirit in Judges is therefore always the spirit of God. Even in 9, 23, it is said that he is the one who sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. The spirit can thus be considered a property of God that he can use at his will and pleasure. At this point, it would be fruitful to see the context in which each of the occurrences of the noun spirit is imbedded.

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2.1. Context and content of Judg 3,10

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2.1.1 The context

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It is the first occurrence of רוח in the book of Judges. This verse is one of those where the combination of spirit and YHWH is most evident. The verse states that the spirit of YHWH was on him (Othniel). The purpose of the spirit of YHWH being upon him is that "he judged/delivered[7] Israel" from its enemies.

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2.1.2. The content

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As a consequence of this, "he set out to war". The only way to fight ones enemies is to wage war against them. The near context is the deliverance of Israel from Cushan-rishthaim, king of Aram, into whose hand YHWH sold his people, as a consequence of abandoning him and serving the Baal and the Asherot (Judg 3:7-9). As we can see, the prime function of the spirit is not to motivate to fight a war, but to deliver the people of God from its enemies. But this is just a subtle way of trying to put everything right. It is very difficult to talk of enemies, of deliverance from them, without, at the same time, contemplating war and battle. It would be different if the text talked of rivals or adversaries instead of enemies. In this case it would be possible to think of dialogue and negotiation, which is impossible with one who is considered or presented as an enemy. Deliverance and war can thus not be disjoined. The action of the spirit in Othniel can then be considered a negative one in so far as it prompts him to a violent action, notwithstanding its religious motivation.

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2.2. Context and of Judg 6:34

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2.2.1. The context

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The context of Judg 6:34 is that of the calling of Gideon by YHWH to wage war against Madian who is oppressing the people of Israel.

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2.2.2. The content

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Although the effect seems to be different from that of 3:10, such a difference is just very slight. The word war doesn't appear in Judg 6, 34, but Gideon blows the trumpet to summon his allied in order to wage war against his enemies. The description of the war of Gideon against Madian will be described further in the text (Judg 7:16ff). Once again the consequence of receiving the spirit of YHWH leads to war and violence. The verb לבשׁ (to investor to cloth) which is used indicates that all which is to follow at of Gideon's should be ascribed not to him as a subject, but to YHWH.[8]

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2.3. Context and content of Judg 9:23

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2.3.1. The context

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Judg 9:23 belongs to a very different context. We have seen so far that the spirit usually invests one who is called to deliver or to judge Israel. In this case, the spirit is sent by God between Abimelech who has been proclaimed king in Shechem and the very men of Shechem, after Jotham's report of the treachery organised in the occasion of such choice of Abimelech as king. It is the only time we find the spirit accompanied by an adjective.

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2.3.2. The content

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Judg 9,23 speaks of   רוח רעה , an evil spirit which was sent by  אלהים(God). Although the  אלהיםis used here instead of the Tetragrammaton like in the previous two cases we have examined, the use of the same רוח רעה (evil spirit) attributed to יהוה in 1 Sam 16:14 and 19:9 allows to consider the two nouns as  interchangeable.[9] Here, more than in the two previous verses, the intention of creating contention between people through the sending of an evil spirit by God is evident.

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2.4 Context and content of Judg 11:29

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2.4.1 The context

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Judg 11:29 is very similar to 3:10 and 6:34. It brings again the motive of the spirit of YHWH being or coming upon someone who has to wage war against another people, in order to deliver Israel from the oppression of a foreign people; this time it's upon Jephthah who has to set his people free from the oppression of the children of Ammon.

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2.4.2. The content

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Like in the other verses where we have met the formula רוח יהוה...על  ותהי (and the spirit of YHWH was upon...), the direct purpose is to wage war, with the justification of delivering the chosen people. After a digression consisting of the vow made by Jephthah[10], Judg 11:32, which is the normal continuation of Judg 11:29, states that he crossed over (the Jordan) to the sons of Ammon to fight against them, and YHWH gave them into his hand. Once again, it is YHWH himself acting, not the deliverer.[11]

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2.5. The רוח יהוה and Samson in Judg 13:25; 14:6; 14:19; 15:14

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Amongst all the protagonists of the different sagas narrated in the book of Judges, Samson is the only one who repeatedly receives the spirit of YHWH in order to be in a position to fulfil his mission. Such reference to the רוח occurs in his cycle which is narrated in Judg 13-16.

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2.5.1. Context and content of Judg 13:25

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2.5.1.1. The context

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As the enemies of the people or Israel change every time, now is the turn of the Philistines to oppress them (Judg 13:1). Not only the enemies change, but also the protagonists of the tales of deliverance. The receiver/receptacle of the  רוח יהוהthis time is Samson.

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2.5.1.2. The content

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Judg 13:25 just states that the רוח יהוה started to move Samson in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. It is the following chapters that will narrate his different victories against the Philistines as a consequence of having received the spirit of YHWH and being assisted by it.

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2.5.2. Context and content of Judg 14:6

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2.5.2.1. The context

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Judg 14:6 is embedded in the larger context of the fights of Samson against the Philistines. Prior to face the enemy of his people, he has to defeat a personal foe: a young lion (Judg 14:5).  

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2.5.2.2. The content

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Contrarily to the other episodes where the spirit had the role of infusing force and courage into the protagonist so that he could face the enemies from which he had to deliver his people, Judg 14:6 has as counter figure of the protagonist: a young lion. This episode functions as a prelude to describe the extraordinary force and courage which the reception of the spirit has triggered in Samson. This is already noticeable in the verb used to describe the coming of the spirit. While, in the previous episodes we met the most common verb היה, from now onward we have צלח, which is generally translated by "to come mightily", but which primarily means "to rush".[12]

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2.5.3. Context and content of Judg 14:19

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2.5.3.1. The context

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The context of Judg 14:19 is that of the several challenges of Samson with the Philistines. Gideon had made a bet Philistines. It consisted of a riddle  that he put to them. They had to explain it and in case they succeeded in explaining it, he had to pay them thirty linen sheets and thirty festal change of garments. Now that they had managed to explain the riddle, he had to pay what he promised (Judg 14:12-18).

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2.5.3.2. The content

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Once again he receives the spirit that rushes upon him for the second time. The consequence is the killing of thirty men in Ashkelon in order to spoil them of their shirts and garments. This verse describes one of the most violent episodes of the book, which cannot be understood or justified, for these men had nothing to do with the whole situation. Samson, to satisfy his whim, has to kill innocent people whom he randomly crosses on his way.

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2.5.4 Context and content of Judg 15:14

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2.5.4.1. The context

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The receiving of the spirit takes place in the context of the frontal clashes between Samson and the Philistines. The Philistines attack Judah and occupy part of the Judeans territory.

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2.5.4.2. The content

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The aim of his reception of the spirit is to liberate the territory of Judah occupied by the Philistines. The consequence is the slaughtering of one thousand men by Samson using a jawbone of an ass. As in all the other episodes, his recption of the spirit leads to violence.

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3. Setting out for war: a consequence of receiving the spirit?

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The detailed analysis of the context in which the noun רוח occurs has shown that reception of the spirit doesn't lead to a pacific action or attitude. It does not lead to dialogue or negotiation. It always leads to a belligerent action. Such action can be classified into two sub-categories: wars waged by an individual and wars waged by an army.

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3.1. Wars waged by an individual

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This is the most diffused sub-category of people who fight after receiving the רוח יהוה in the book of Judges. To this category belong Othniel (Judg 3:7-11), Abimelech (Judg 9) who fights exclusively for very personal and selfish motives, Jephthah (Judg 10-12), Samson (Judg 1-16). With variations, the spirit of YHWH prompts whosoever receives it to wage war against the enemy who is oppressing the people/sons of Israel.

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3.2 Wars waged by an army

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To this sub-category belongs the case of Gideon (Judg 6-8) who is assisted by an army. The presence of the army at his side is justified by his excessive lack of courage. This is an episode that prompts the question if YHWH wants wars at any cost. In the other cases, those who receive the spirit of YHWH seem to be fighters by their own nature, whereas Gideon seems to be the contrary. Whenever the other protagonists would be endowed with the spirit, they would all of a sudden set out for battle, but Gideon, even after having received his share of the spirit (Judg 6:34), will continue to hesitate and ask for further signs that YHWH will assist him during his belligerent campaign (Jdg 6:36-40). The fact that YHWH complies with this request, the selection of the men who have to fight at the side of Gideon by YHWH himself (Judg 7:1-8), the continual assistance by means of special manifestations like dreams (Judg 7:9-15)[13], the fact that it's YHWH himself who "set every man's sword against his fellow" (Judg 7:22 KJV) in the camp of the Madianites, and the verb לבשׁ used to describe the coming of the spirit upon Gideon concur to win the conviction that, as the text presents it, the spirit of YHWH is a spirit that prompts to war and battle.[14]

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Thus, although the modern concepts of "holy war" or "war of religion" never appear in the text of Judges[15], all the battles which are narrated  in it can be considered as such. It's YHWH's wars.[16] This brings one to ask himself: how can God, who created and loves humankind, destroy the same humankind by means of war? Trying to find a response to this question will be the next step of this article.

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4. Wars wanted by YHWH: a reality or an ideology?

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The analysis made on the key passages where the spirit of YHWH is at work through some figures that have to deliver Israel from foreign oppression has evidenced the tight connection between the assistance of YHWH and the necessity of fighting. This is already evident in the process of taking possession of the "promised land", as stated in Josh 1:11: "Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, 'Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.'" (NAS). This sort of contrast between the gift of the land by YHWH and the necessity to fight in order to take full possession of it continues also in keeping it under the control of Israel. Kissling calls it "seeming dichotomy between the land as Yahweh's gift and the land as Israel's acquisition".[17]

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This fact raises many questions: Why is taking possession of the land, which is already a gift, bound to war and violence? What is the will of God in all this process and what belongs to the myth of Israel as a people? What is reality and what is ideology? The whole story of the biblical "people of Israel" is characterised by a trilogy of concepts which cannot be separate: Yahweh, the only true God; Israel, the chosen people; Canaan, the Promised Land. 

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4.1. Yahweh: the only true God

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It is a characteristic of every people to build its own history around a hero.[18] This contributes to nurture the sense of belonging. The chosen hero for the people of Israel is Yahweh[19], who figures as a federative element amongst the tribes of Israel.[20] All the human figures (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua...) who appear in all the books of the Old Testament are secondary ones. Yahweh is the avant-garde film director of all the narrated events.[21] This has also been underlined in the book of Judges, where most of the protagonists, not only receive the spirit to inspire them, but they also benefit from the effective assistance of YHWH during their battles. With dexterity, the situation is presented in religious/spiritual terms: the foreign nations represent a double danger for the people of Israel: first and foremost they worship other deities and risk to contaminate the faith of Israel,[22] secondly they constantly occupy the territory given to them by YHWH. Since faith and religion are at stake, the ideal fighter, at least in terms of inspiration, is YHWH.[23] But the whole dynamic of Judges shows that faith/faithfulness to YHWH is not the core theme of Israel in their reciprocal relationship. Already at this point their idea of God and their discourse on him can be perceived more as an ideology than a reality. The troubles experienced by Israel at the hand of foreign nations are interpreted as a punishment by YHWH for having abandoned him.[24]  YHWH is sovereign in all what he does as it could be read in Deut 32,39//1Sam 2,6. Such sovereignty concerns also exercising violence both on Israel and on its enemies.[25]  This question of religiously motivated violence is not exclusive to Israel and its religion, but seems to be a process that belongs to the monotheistic religions, as one can easily notice.[26]

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4.2. Israel: the chosen people

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The election of Israel by YHWH to be his delighted people is one of the banners of the idealisation of its history. Reading between the lines of Judges, one comes to the conclusion that at the time of the events that are narrated in this book, a united people of Israel does not exist, in spite of the insistence to use the "sons of Israel".[27]  Some of the indices that contradict this persistent use are the following:

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a) The conquest of parts of the land of Canaan by single tribes or by groups of allied tribes as it is depicted in Judg 1. But the victory of a single tribe will be presented by Judges as the victory of Israel. Howard, a. o. have summarised this attitude of Judges in the following words:

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"... Judges claims to describe what happened to the whole Israelite nation from the death of Joshua to the eve of the rise of the monarchy. The narrative is determined by the agenda that all Israel had travelled from Egypt to Israel and had fought against the Canaanites before the tribes separated to occupy their allotted land. The local leaders are presented as leaders of the whole nation, and the local enemies become the enemies of the whole people".[28]

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b) The constant unfaithfulness of the people to YHWH as the refrain ויעשׂו בני־ישׂראל הרע בעיני יהוה ("And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord")[29] shows, is a further indicator that there was neither a national consciousness, nor such a hypothetic consciousness was built around YHWH, the only one God of Israel.

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c) The inner feuds amongst the tribes of Israel is one of the strongest arguments against this ideology of a united people. This is visible in the battles which constantly put the Benjaminites in opposition to other tribes of Israel. This has been sharply underlined by Martin Rose[30] in the following terms: "This concept (of identity) is surprising, seeing that the whole history of the people had been marked by conflicts, at first conflicts among the tribes and then between the two brother kingdoms, Israel and Judah".[31]

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4.3. Canaan: The "promised land"

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The question of the land is one of the core themes in building the ideology of Israel as a united people in the Old Testament. The promise finds its roots already in the book of Genesis (Gen 12ff) and will mark all the periods of the history of the "chosen" people, either in terms of conquest, or in terms of its loss.[32] Most of the battles and wars of the Old Testament will have as scope either the conquest or the control of this territory. It is the land given by YHWH, the only true God to his chosen people. And this is also a central point in Judges.

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As a conclusion to this section, my position is that, more than a reality, the argument of wars wanted by God seem to be an ideology.  The analysis of the previous points shows that what Judges presents does not correspond to the reality. Israel as a nation does not exist at the time of the narrated events. There are tribes that more or less, are aware to be connected to each other, but have not yet developed the consciousness of being a nation. It is difficult to talk even of a common spiritual identity, since many of the tribes easily lapse in the worship of the Baalim, with a major tendency in the tribes of the north (Benjaminites), as compared to those of the south (Judah).  According to Rizzi, such a consciousness is artificially created by the final editor of the book, but does not belong to all the protagonists of Judges.[33] It might seem that the intention of the author/editor of Judges is to create such consciousness, by forging the idea of monotheism. The phrase ויעשׂו בני־ישׂראל הרע בעיני יהוה seems to have as scope to inculcate the conviction that without YHWH, all goes wrong.

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5. The ethical and theological problem of wars wanted by God

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That there is a lot of violence in the Old Testament is a matter of fact and another matter of fact is that many times such violence is ascribed to God, as this article has already underlined many times. Right from the beginning (Gen 4:1-16) facts of violence appear and continue throughout the whole of it. It reaches its paroxysm in the book of Judges, which reports both wars and private violence, and  almost only that. This arouses many questions at the ethical level. How can God incite war that can only generate violence?

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I am aware that there are many positions concerning war and that some, including catholic theologians, sustain what is usually qualified as a "correct/right war".[34] But, to my opinion, nothing  can ethically justify violence. Scherer has a good summary of such a position in the following terms:

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"Nicht zuletzt sich Religion immer wieder als Nährboden für Friedenshnsucht und Friedensarbeit erwiesen. Bis in die Gegenwart hinein erhebt Religion ihre Stimme gegen alle Widerstände für den Frieden. Der Glaube an den Gott, der nicht nur einzelne Völker, sondern die ganze Menschheit zur Gemeinschaft erwählt und verpflichtet, sollte eigentlich dazu beitragen, dem Streben nach Frieden oberste Priorität zu verleihen. Schalom ist allerdings auch dort nicht gegeben, wo sich das Unrecht ungehindert ausbreitet und Menschen schutzlos unter der Grausamkeit ihrer Bedrücker zu leiden haben. Insofern kann insbesondere der alttestamentliche Horizont den Raum für die  Frage offenhalten, ob es nicht unter ganz bestimmten Umständen auch eine theologisch legitime Form von Gewalt - auch von Kriegsgewalt - geben kann. Für einen solchen Grenzfall wird dann mit besonderem Ernst  zu bedenken sein, „daß nach dieser letzten Möglichkeit wirklich nicht wie nach irgendeiner anderen , sondern eben nur in der letzten Stunde des dunkelsten Tages werden dürfte“. Dabei gilt es immer, den Unterschied zwischen ,Ideologie‘ und ,Glaube‘ zu beachten. Der Glaube vertraut auch in verzweifelter Lage darauf, daß Gott die Macht besitzt, unerträgliche Verhältnisse zu verändern und Menschen aus der Gewalt ihrer Peiniger zu befreien. Ideologie steht ständig in der Gefahr, den Glauben für egoistische Machtinteressen zu instrumentalisieren. Dabei kann schnell der Gott der Befreiung zum Dämon der Unterdrückung werden. Christliche Theologie ist dem Auftrag verpflichtet, solchen Fehlentwicklungen entschieden entgegenzutreten".[35]

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So, following this statement, not even in case of self-defence can violence be justified.[36] How then could a believer be at ease with violence perpetrated with the approval of God? One could be tempted to question the reason why Judges came to be part of the canon of the Old Testament.

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The risk is that, ascribing the origin and cause of war and violence to God, all can be justified and it already happened and still happens in some religions.[37] What is at stake in a war is no less than the very human life, which is supposed to be something sacred and untouchable. But once a war is religiously motivated and theologically justified, even this absoluteness of the value of a human being  seems to be made relative.   Nothing can be above the will of God and no one can be against it. And it becomes much more delicate when the narration, like Judg 7:1-22, gives the impression that it is YHWH himself who leads the war.[38] This idea and conviction is evidently in contrast with Ex 20:13//Deut 5:17 that forbid to murder[39], but also with the most diffused conviction of the catholic theology as far as war and violence are concerned.[40] It even seems to contradict the very Idea of God, because for God, creation and peace belong together.[41] To avoid presenting such contradictions, the authors - in the case of Judges 6-8, the final editor - will present it as religious-theological: it's a problem between YHWH and other gods (Baalim). The human agent is just an instrument to show the power of the only true God against the false gods who shouldn't be worshipped.[42]

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6. Conclusion

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The analysis of the eight verses where the noun רוח (spirit) in the book of Judges has evidenced that it is always employed in connection with God. In seven occasions it is qualified as רוח יהוה (spirit of YHWH) and in one occasion (Judg 9:23) it is said that God sent an evil spirit between Abimelch and the men of Shechem. In the occasions in which it is qualified as spirit of YHWH, it always leads to belligerent actions. Therefore, the conclusion is that the spirit of God, as presented in Judges, is a spirit of contention that motivates to fights, battles and wars. Its action in the one who receives it is very ambiguous.[43]

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The next step has consisted in underlining how this presentation of the role of the spirit is dependent on a cultural, political religious, and theological ideology which is carefully built on the trilogy "one God, one people, one land". In this sense the book of Judges could be understood as a theology of the history of the people of Israel, as Rizzi[44] qualifies it. The presentation of the spirit of YHWH as a motivation to wage war could therefore be interpreted as a theologoumenon, inasmuch as it seems to belong to the aim of the final editor of the book who wants to create a national consciousness of being a nation, which does not yet exist amongst the different tribal groups that compose Israel. 

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This arouses the ethical-theological problem of motivating and justifying theologically wars that can only generate violence as it has been in all the eras of the history of monotheistic religions. It is generally qualified as "holy war". A few examples can be quoted, like the Muslim conquests from the foundation of Islam until the modern Jihad; the Christian crusades in the middle age, to which could be added the European wars of religion as well as the Thirty Years' War.

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The question is: should the canon of the Bible have been compiled in modern times with the dominant non-violent culture and sensibility, would Judges be part of it? This question could be answered ambivalently in that:

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a. If Judges is taken in its very literal sense, there should be no need of a book of the Holy Scripture which promotes violence. Human beings are already good at creating conflicts.

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b. But if the irony[45] that transpires in all parts of Judges is taken into consideration, then the book can also be understood as an indirect critic to wars. In this case Judges has its place in the canon of the Bible.

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Comments

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[1] Cfr. Georg Fischer, Theologien des Alten Testaments, in NSK, Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, Stuttgart, 2012, 57. There he quotes the Hebrew Bible which calls the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1 & 2 together) Kings (1 & 2 together),

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[2] Cfr. B. G. Webb, The Book of Judges, in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, William B. Eermans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K., 2013, s. 33f.

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[3] Cfr. B. G. Webb, The Book of Judges, in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, William B. Eermans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K., 2013, s. 33f.

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[4] Cfr. G. Fischer - M. Hasitschka,  Auf dein Wort hin, Berufung und Nachfolge in der Bibel, Zentrum für Berufspatoral Arbeitsstelle der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz, Freiburg, 1995, s. 34.

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[5] Cf. E. Assis, Self-Interest or Communal Interest? An Ideology of Leadership in the Gideon, Abimelch and Jiphthah Narratives (Judg 6-12), 3, describing these three figures he states: "The three leaders kill their fellow Israelites in situation of dispute and because they wish to protect their personal status".

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[6] Cfr. Jdg 3:10 and parallels.

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[7] The hebrew verb שׁפט in the context of Judg mostly mean to deliver, rather than to judge in the forensic sense of the word.

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[8] This is a very pertinent remark of  W. Bluedorn, Yahweh versus Baalism. A Theological Reading of the Gideon-Abimelech Narrative in JSOTSup 329, Sheffield Academic Press, 111. There we can read: " The unusual use of the verb לבשׁ to describe the giving of the YHWH's spirit implies that the spirit completely clothes and even overwhelms Gideon. Hence only YHWH should be recognised, and Gideon's actions and strength will originate in YHWH and must be attributed to him".

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[9] Cf. W. Bluedorn, Yahweh versus Baalism  , 233.

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[10] Cf. S. Gillmayr-Bucher, Erzählte Welten im Richterbuch. Narratologische Aspekte eines Polyfonen Diskurses, Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2013, 138.

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[11] Cf. G. Rizzi, Giudici. Nuova Versione, Introduzione e Commento, in I Libri Biblici (Primo Testamento) 7, Paoline, Milano, 2012, 334f.  

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[12] W. Gesenius, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1951, 852. The verb can also mean to prosper, but the present context requires the prior meaning, which underlines the strength, and to a certain extent, the violence with which Samson receives the spirit.

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[13] G. Rizzi, rightly underlines that the military contribution of Gideon in the battle is very limited. Cf. Giudici, 173.

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[14] Upon the biblical occurrences of the concepts of  מלחמת יהוה (wars of YHWH) cf. Num 21:14; 18:17; 25:28 and YHWH as warrior cf. Ex 15:3

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[15] G. Rizzi, Giudici, 173.

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[16] Cf. Werner Wolbert, Josua und Jesus. Zum Umgang mit biblischen Texten über Krieg und Gewalt, in Schlögl-Flierl, Kerstin/Prüller-Jagenteufel, Günter M. (Hg.), Aus Liebe zu Gott - im Dienst an den Menschen, Münster 2014, 477-487, 479: "Seit Gerhard von Rad hat sich für die gemäß biblischen Berichten im Zusammenhang mit der Landnahme Israels geführten Krieg die Bezeichnung ,Heiliger Krieg‘ eingebürgert, wobei sich der Terminus weder in der Hebäischen Bibel noch in der Septuaginta findet […] Da Gott selbst im AT solche Kriege (defensive oder offensive wie die Eroberung Kanaans) führt oder inspiriert, legt sich die Rede vom ,Heiligen Krieg‘ zunächst nahe, führt aber auch in die Irre, insofern sie die Möglichkeit einer klaren Unterscheidung von heiligen und säkularen Kriegen suggeriert".

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[17] P. J. Kissling, Reliable Characters in the Primary History. Profiles of Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, in JSOTSup 224, Sheffield Academic Press, 1996, 70. His whole paragraph sounds as follows: "In 1.11 Joshua instructs the people to cross the Jordan “to go in to take possession of the land which Yahweh, your God is giving to you to possess it”. The seeming dichotomy between the land as Yahweh's gift and the land as Israel's acquisition is made plain in this single clause. On the one hand, Yahweh gives the land. On the other, Israel must fight to win it".   

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[18] J.A. Soggin, Judges, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1987, 7, considers the whole history of Judges as a construction.

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[19] We know that at the time of Judges, monotheism as we know it did not exist. What the book presents is part of the idealization of the uniqueness of the people of Israel with YHWH. N. Lohfink, "Gewalt und Monotheismus. Beispiel Altes Testament" (Nicht gedruckt erschienener Vortrag an der Katholischen Akademie in Bayern, München, 9. Mai 2003), Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen Frankfurt am Main - Virtueller Leseraum, www.sankt-georgen.de/leseraum/lohfink23.pdf, 3, describes this process in the following terms: "Theoretischen Monotheismus kennt Israel  nur in den letzten Jahrhunderten vor Christus. Davor waren die Dinge anders. Aus den vielen Göttern war nur ein einziger der Gott Israels. Nur er wurde verehrt. In diesem Sinne war er auch vor dem Monotheismus schon der eine Gott. Ein Vergleich macht vielleicht deutlich, was in der religiösen Erfahrung vor sich ging: Es gibt viele Frauen in der Welt. Aber wenn in einem jungen Mann die Liebe entflammt, wird plötzlich eine einzige Frau zu seiner Einen. In ihr versammelt sich für ihn alles".

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[20] A. Scherer, Überlieferung von Religion und Krieg. Exegetische und religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu Richter 3-8 und verwandten Texten, Neukirchener Verlag in Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 2005: 421. The author notices: "Die starke Affinität zwischen JHWH und Krieg scheint in der Frühzeit Israels angelegt zu sein und konnte wohl auch deshalb bleibende Spuren im Glauben Israels hinterlassen, weil das Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl der einzelnen Stämme Israels durch Religion und deren unterstützende Funktion im Kontext militärischer und paramilitärischer Auseinandersetzungen nachhaltig gefordert wurde".  

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[21] Cf. C. Houtman & K. Spronik, Ein Held des Glaubens? Rezeptionsgeschichtliche Studien zu den Simson-Erzählungen, Peters, Leuven-Paris-Dudly, 2004, 13. They state that "JHWH, durch seinen Boten, ist der große Regisseur der Ereignisse".

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[22] Cf. W. Wolbert, Josua und Jesus, 487: "Im AT geht es um den Glauben Israels und Israels Erwählung, um jüdische Identität, die vor dem dunklen Hintergrund der zu vertreibenden Völker Kanaans umso heller hervortreten soll".

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[23] Cf. U. Fistill, „Lieber Gott“ - „Böser Gott“. Biblische Grundlagen und Lösungen zu einem altbekannten Problem, in Jörg Ernesti / Ulrich Fistill / Martin M. Lintner (Hgg.), Erben der Gewalt. Zum Umgang mit Unrecht, Gewalt und Krieg (= Brixner Theologisches Jahrbuch, Bd. 5), Brixen / Innsbruck 2015: 47-59, 54: "Die Rede vom „kämpfenden Gott“ betont nämlich zwei grundlegende Aspekte: (1) JHWH tritt grundsätzlich für sein Volk ein; es kann mit ihm in allen Situationen rechnen, in denen es von Feinden bedrängt wird, denn JHWH hat ein Interesse daran, sein Volk zu retten. (2) Wenn das Volk einen Sieg über seine Feinde davonträgt, so ist dies nicht sein Verdienst, sondern allein JHWHs Tat".

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[24] Cf. Judg 2:11 and parallel verses. Judg 2:11 is the first occurrence of this refrain and is also the most extensive in so far as it gives what the evil done by the people of Israel consist of: ויעשׂו בני־ישׂראל  את־הרע בעיני יהוה ויעבדו את־הבעלים׃  (And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim KJV). This will be the "Original sin" in the book of Judges. This will not stop YHWH from selling Israel at the hand of its enemies.

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[25] Fistill, Gott, 54f: "Wenn davon die Rede ist, dass Gott in den Kampf zieht, geht es nicht um den Ausbau seines Wirkungsbereiches oder um Gebietsansprüche, sondern um den Erweis seiner Souveränität, in erster Linie seinem Volk gegenüber, dann auch gegenüber der gesamten Welt".

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[26] Cf. Lohfink, "Gewalt, 2. The autor writes: "Judentum, Christentum und Islam. Sie gelten als die Religionen der Gewalt". Although Lohfink argues that violence does not belong to these three religions in an exclusive way, but that it is part of the history of the humanity, it could be noticed nevertheless that these are the only three religions that had promoted wars that are religiously motivated and theologically justified.

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[27] Cf. G. Rizzi, Gidici, 489. He has an excursus of one and a half pages, in which he demonstrates that the phrase "Sons of Israel", which occurs very often in Judges is a conscious straining to bring the reader to believe that Israel was by then a united people, with the awareness of being a nation, which is hard to prove.  

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[28] Howard, e. a. Bible, 116. Cf. Also G. Rizzi, Giudici, 174. "… saghe tribali originariamente più limitate sono state estese a tutto «Israele»…".

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[29] Cf. Judg 2:11; 3:7; 3:12; 4:1; 10:6; 13:1. To this we can add the other refrain:  בימים ההם אין מלך בישׂראל אישׁ הישׁר בעיניו יעשׂה  (In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes Judg 17:6: 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).  

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[30] M. Rose, Deutoronomistic Ideology and Theology of the Old Testament, in Israel Constructs its History. Deuteronomistic Historiography in Recent Research, (edited by A. de Pury - T. Römer - J.D. Macchi) in JSOTSup 306, Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, 2000 (424-455).

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[31] Idem, 44. What is to be noticed here is that, for Judges, we cannot apply the concepts of "brother kingdoms",  for we are still in the pre-monarchic period.  

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[32] Cf. M. Rose, Ideology, 428. According to him this issue of the land marks what is commonly called DH. He writes: "the question of the land is present in its opening just as in its final verses. We find at the beginning of the work the order from God to take possession of the land (Deut 1.8: 'I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of this land!'), and at the end, the theme of the loss of this land dominates, in so far as DH coming to the end at Babylonian exile".

On the same issue of the centrality of the land see also G. Rizzi, Giudici, 488. He states that the question of the land goes from Num 13 and involves the whole book of Joshua, as well as Judges.

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[33] G. Rizzi, Giudici, 490. After discussing the authenticity of "La coscienza di essere Israele" (Excursus from p. 498 to 490) he concludes: "Ma tale coscienza non sembra appartenere affatto a tutti i personaggi, protagonisti del libro, poiché si muovono spesso nell'ambito molto più circoscritto di una tribù o di alcuni suoi gruppi, oppure di un gruppo di tribù. Se la critica storica più recente ritiene anacronistica una coscienza d'identità , anche soltanto spirituale, di appartenenza ai «figli d'Israele» per quest'epoca premonarchica, è la prospettiva redazionale del libro a «prestare» siffatta coscienza, ritenendola fondamentale per l'epoca ricostruita attraverso la redazione del libro".

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[34] Cf. Moling, Kann man Krieg vermeiden?, in Jörg Ernesti / Ulrich Fistill / Martin M. Lintner (Hgg.), Erben der Gewalt. Zum Umgang mit Unrecht, Gewalt und Krieg (= Brixner Theologisches Jahrbuch, Bd. 5), Brixen / Innsbruck 2015, 87-100: 97: "Seit der Antike gibt es Denker, die den Krieg als naturgegebene und Kultur generierende Kraft ansehen und den Menschen von seiner Natur her als kriegerisches Wesen verstehen. Unter dieser Rücksicht ist Vermeidung des Krieges nicht möglich, aber auch gar nicht sinnvoll". But the author contiues his article affirming that "Dieser Sichtweise widerspricht das christliche Welt- und Menschenbild. Gott hat die Welt un den Menschen geschaffen und gleichzeitig eine Friedensordnung gestiftet. Aus diesem Frieden ist die gesamte Welt ausgerichtet. Krieg und Gewalt sind gleichsam ein Bruch dieser Ordnung".

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[35] Scherer, Überlieferung, 424f.  

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[36] In Gen 4:15, God himself puts a mark on Cain so that no one should kill him to avenge Abel. By doing this God sets the sacredness of every human being, be it a murderer like Cain.

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[37] The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian "war" is to be attributed to such a conception of war and violence. All rotates around the "promised" or "given land.

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[38] Cf. G. Rizzi, Giudici, 173. "Gdc è un esempio di guerra combattuta dal Signore, dove l'apporto militare di Gedeone è molto limitato: i madianiti si uccidono fra loro per la confusione e il panico subentrati".

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[39] It corresponds to the sixth of the "Ten Commandments". Interestingly a prohibition which not preceded or followed by any explanation, which could mean that it doesn't allow any interpretation or exception. It tends to point at the absoluteness of the human life.

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[40] Cf. M. Moling, Krieg, 89: "Doch grundsätzlich widerspricht die christliche Lehre dem Bellizismus und der Anschauung, dass der Krieg der Urzustand des Menschen ist. Christliches Denken sieht den Frieden als von Gott gewollte und gestiftete Größe".

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[41] Id. 90: "Am Ursprung der Welt nach christlichem Weltverständnis nicht der Krieg, sondern der Friede allein, den Augustinus in seiner Fülle nur Gott zuschreibt… Die christliche Sichtweise von Frieden hängt eng mit dem Gottes- und Schöpfungsbegriff zusammen. Sie stellt einen klaren Bruch zur heidnischen und bellizistischen Deutung der Naturgegebenheit des Krieges dar und sieht im Frieden den höchsten Wert, der dem keinerlei Wert besitzenden Krieg von Natur aus absolut vorgängig ist".

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[42] Cf. W. Bluedorn, Yahweh versus Baalism: A Theological Reading of the Gideon-Abimelc Narrative. JSOTsup 329, Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, 2001, 179: "The main theme of the Gideon narrative is not land or the deliverance of the people, but the theological question whether YHWH or some god has the right to be worshipped as God".

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[43] Cf. T. Butler Judges, in WBC vol8, Thomas Nelson, Nashville-Dallas-Mexico City-Rio de Janeiro, 2009, 66. He has underlined the contrast between this negative presentation of the role of the spirit and the one that occurs in other books of the Old Testament like Ezek 2:2 where the spirit serves to energize the prophet; 1 Kgs 18:12; 2 Kgs 2:16; Ezek 3:12.14; 8:3; 11:24; 37:1 where it is described as transporting people from a place to another.

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[44] Cf. G. Rizzi, Giudici, 489.

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[45] Just to bring a few examples, the following cases can be quotes: a) In Judg 4:4-10, the hero Barak would not fulfil his mission unless a woman, Deborah is with him. This one accepts the invitation, not without warning the hero that the victory would not be attributed to him, but to her. b) The description of the victory of Gideon and his three hundred men in Judg 7:16-22 correspond more to a theatre representation than to a scene of battle in a war: weapon is used by Gideon and his army, only torches and trumpets! c) The story of the vow of Jephthah in Judg 11:29-40 is a tragicomedy, where the sharp contrast between the great hero who wins great battles has to sacrifice his little daughter at the end of the day is underlined. d) The depiction of Samson corresponds more to a figure like Hulk than to a hero that has to save a nation: physically strong like a beast, but maniac and dull enough to the extent of not being able to choose the right woman even just once!

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