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Posted May 13, 2006
Great start for an understanding of biblical warfare
A comprehensive study of ancient Israelite history is both complicated and controversial to say the least. For most biblical topics that are brought up for discussion there will be several different experts with theories on how evidence proves that topic to be historically true, somewhat flawed or a complete myth. Far from being an all encompassing work on Israel¿s ancient history and beginnings, in Richard Gabriel¿s latest work what is provided is a military perspective on how the Israelite¿s could have accomplished many of the incredible events for which they are given credit. Never before have events such as the crossing of the Red Sea, the capture of the walled city of Jericho, and the halting of the sun over the Ayjllon Valley been analyzed as military history. Written in a style of a military narrative, it is well suited for graduate level students with a background in military studies. The book is an enjoyable read and a great starting point for the study of complex Near Eastern history. Gabriel begins this volume with a solid analysis of the geography of the Near East and brief sketches of the rival inhabitants. If for no other reason, the book is a worthy read due to the information provided on the historical importance of the Canaan/Palestinian land bridge. Easily as important as the Hellespont in Asia Minor during the Persian Wars or the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia during the American Civil War, the area was a key route which allowed ancient armies the ability to move their forces through Eurasia to the plains of Africa and vice versa. Excellent illustrations are provided in this section of strategic roads, passes and fortifications. Continuing with interesting overviews, Gabriel immediately moves to the topic of other armies of the Old Testament era. Here the reader gains an appreciation of the enemies the Israelites faced and how the nation¿s history was intertwined with four major enemy forces- Canaanites, Philistines, Assyrians and Egyptians who occupied the same land or portions of the land. Realized here is the fact that the history of this land is one of constant power struggles and competition for dominant influence. This section of the book should provide the reader an opportunity to compare each army¿s capabilities with the other. However, the synopses provided are too brief and tend to leave the reader with more questions than answers about the antagonists. Understandably, the author could not possibly provide in depth analysis of each adversary and for the sake of keeping the volume to a reasonable length this section offers limited information. The remainder of the book, six of the eight chapters, and the primary focus of the work is on the ancient Israelites themselves. Conspicuously absent is any discussion on the nation prior to their settlement and co-location with Egypt in the Goshen province. The author chooses instead to begin with Moses leading the fledgling nation through the wilderness and toward the ultimate goal of conquest with attention given to each successive leader ultimately concluding with King Solomon. One thought provoking feature of Gabriel¿s research is his chapter devoted to the Exodus. His consideration for the logistics, command and control and troop leadership challenge the reader to survey the staggering requirements to move the people the distances described in the Bible. Also of note is his insight into the possibility of military training for Moses. As a member of the Pharaoh¿s royal family certainly this would have been area of study for someone destined to rule the empire. The author points out that this could be a potential source of military training for a nation that had been primarily focused on building projects for their Egyptian masters for several decades. The author does a great job and possibly provides the highest quality of analysis when he focuses on the battles the Israelites fought. Gabriel¿s real gift here is his ability to loo
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