Book Review: “Warfare in the Old Testament” by Boyd Seevers

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I don’t think it’s a secret that the Old Testament is often much harder to understand than the New. There could be a variety of reasons given for why this is the case, but I think one of the most significant reasons is that the nations that are involved in conflict are much different from the Western world in the 21st century. Although Israel is the main nation of interest in the Old Testament, other nations such as Assyria and Babylon also play critical roles. A variety of questions could then be asked about these nations, but one topic that Boyd Seevers has attempted to answer in a comprehensive fashion is “warfare.” Seevers is an ideal candidate for writing on such an issue, having spent several years in Israel, working in teaching and archeology, and more recently working as a professor of Old Testament at the University of Northwestern St. Paul. Warfare in the Old Testament can be a valuable resource for students of biblical studies.

Seevers’ research covers the organization, weapons, and tactics of nations in the ancient Near Eastern armies. Beginning with Israel, Seevers proceeds to discuss the warfare of Egypt, Philistia, Asyria, Babylon, and Persia. It is quite obvious that Warfare in the Old Testament is well researched and documented as best as possible. Some insights are drawn straight from the biblical texts, but much is also taken from other sources. Although much of the text is somewhat tedious to read, I would say that Seevers gave much effort to keep things interesting. Opening the chapters on each nation, he provides a fairly detailed “historical fiction” scenario to spice things up. The book as a whole gives a look at the Old Testament in ways that grant substance for a better historical understanding.

One drawback from the book, and this isn’t necessarily to the author’s fault, is that there was not a whole lot of theological application. For example, the questions of “genocide” in the Old Testament were mostly absent. I think there was room for these types of discussions, but since I failed to look into the book’s main thrust prior to reading (organization, weapons, and tactics), no blame can be given to Seevers.

Should you purchase Warfare in the Old Testament? If biblical studies are of interest to you, particularly Old Testament studies, then Seevers’ text would be a valuable addition to your library. If history is your passion, particularly of the nations mentioned, then again this text might be quite helpful. But if neither of the two are of interest, then Seevers’ book may not peak your interest, but I could be wrong. Either way, Boyd Seevers has contributed to the field of Old Testament studies in a tremendous way.

Thank you to Kregel Publishing for providing a free review copy. All opinions were my own.

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