Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book Review: Battles of the Bible, 1400 BC--AD 73, From Ai to Masada

It's been a while since I've read a military history book.  While Biblical History isn't my favorite era, I do find it very intriguing that at this given point in time, Scriptures and warfare coincided.

There are a number of books on biblical warfare, including the well-regarded work of Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichon.  However, instead of tackling such a scholarly book, I went for this version of Battles of the Bible because it had lots of pictures and maps.

This book was a collaborative effort by several historian/authors:

Phyllis G. Jestice

Rob S. Rice

Martin J. Dougherty and

Michael E. Haskew

These writers divvied-up the 20 chapters and focused on particular battles, campaigns or an entire wars fought within the near-1500 year span that comprises the Biblical Era (roughly 1400 B.C to 74 A.D.).

While the book primarily dealt with military operations, some larger-than life biblical heroes were mentioned in passing, such as Samson...

...and David's "celebrity deathmatch" with the Philistine champion, Goliath.

I found the book to be enjoyable, easy to read and informative. 
However, two out of the three reviewers on Amazon didn't think so.  Both 2-star raters felt that none of the authors had little, or no knowledge of The Bible and Biblical History.

I wouldn't know. 

As a Catholic, I must admit I have a typical Catholic's near-ignorance of what's in the Good Book.  (Hey, we get everything we need to know when we attend mass, right?).  So I'll have to accept the 2-star ratings "as gospel" for now.

What I did notice is the narrative throughout the book avoided any hot button issues and topics to the point of being politically correct.  For example, the region in question was commonly referred to as "Palestine," as opposed to Israel/Judea (or "Iudea" as the Romans spelled it).  While on the battle maps, Israelite forces were depicted in red (normally used for opposition, "opfor," or "bad guys"), despite Israel's national colors being dark-sky blue and white.

I suspect the publisher wanted to avoid offending readers, which despite my comments about political correctness, was largely achieved.  None of the chapters attempted to refute The Bible, but instead tried to reconcile Scripture with history.

Maybe that's why none of the authors chose to write about Battle of Jericho and how the "walls came tumblin' down."  The Crossing of the Red Sea also isn't mentioned either, despite the book cover sporting a dramatic, "Cecil B. DeMille" style painting of the Pharaoh's Chariot Corps about to get a divine dunking.

Whether the authors know anything about The Bible, or not, there was one recurring moral that was often touched upon:  Thou shall have no other gods before me.
Yup.  In many cases the Israelites found themselves on the outs with God, because they blew past the other nine commandments and violated Commandment Numero Uno.  The god Baal, in his various guises, was often the recurring villain who led the chosen people astray.  But then God would dispatch a hero, even a heroine, who would convince the people to turn from their wicked ways and save the Israelite people from their enemies.
Overall, I give this book 3-stars.  It doesn't appear as scholarly as Professor Herzog & Gichon's work of the same title (which I haven't read yet).  However, Battles of the Bible from Ai to Masada, provides a good introduction on the topic, along with useful graphics for wargamers.


DeanM said...


Interesting post - not the least of which is your admission of your Catholic faith. As far as the book is concerned, do they mention anything about the Greeks under Alexander? He is prophesied in the Book of Daniel as the He-Goat from Greece. An instrument in God's plan.

Best, Dean

Ted Henkle said...

Yes, there's one chapter about the Alexander's siege of Tyre. I never heard of him referred to as the "He-Goat from Greece." The term certainly implies a lot about the man!