The Weapons of Our Warfare

The Weapons of Our Warfare December 11, 2014

In The Empty Men, his study of the heroic theme in the Bible, Gregory Mobley catalogs some of the odd weapons used by biblical warriors:

“In Judges and 1 Samuel, the relative inferiority of the weapons of the biblical heroes is emphasized. Shamgar ben Anat is lauded for killing six hundred Philistines with a malmad habbaqar, probably a wooden pole with a nail at the end, a cattle prod (Judg 3:31). In the prose version of the battle in the Jezreel Valley, the militia units of Naphtali and Zebulun, inspired in a sacred grove by the prophet Deborah and led on the field by the warrior Barak, must content against Canaanite infantry and, as constantly underlined through repetition, a huge chariot corps (Judg 4:3, 7, 13, 15, 16). Both the prose and poetic versions of this battle reach their climax when Jael, a Kenite woman in league with the Israelite clans, dispatches the Canaanite general Sisera with a hammer and tent peg (Judge 4:21; 5:26)” (56).

Samson fights with the jawbone of a donkey, David with a few stones in a sling. As Mobley summarizes, “Agricultural implements, domestic tools, ritual paraphernalia, wadi stones: the biblical heroes in Judges and Samuel are portrayed as artisans and pastoralists who, at best, beat plowpoints into swords, jerry-rigging victory against outfitted, diversified armies through a mixture of divine favour, tactical ingenuity, and resourcefulness” (59). Biblical heroes, in short, are not heroes in a classical sense at all. The weapons of their warfare are the weapons of productive work, domesticity, art. There’s a lesson in that.

Now, compare Iliad, Book 19.

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