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The king of Israel mentions another stratagem, which has been more than once successfully tried in the east. It is thus described by the sacred historian : “ And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will now shew you what the Syrians have done to us; they know that we are hungry, therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, when they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city."d In the history of the revolt of Ali Bey, we have an account of a transaction very similar to the stratagem supposed to have been practised by the Syrians. The pasha of Damascus having approached the sea of Tiberias, found sheik Daher encamped there; but the sheik deferring the engagement till the next morning, during the night divided his army into three parts, and left the camp with great fires blazing, all sorts of provisions, and a large quantity of spirituous liquors, giving strict orders not to hinder the enemy from taking possession of the camp, but to come down and attack just before the dawn of day. In the middle of the night, the pasha thought to surprise sheik Daher, and marched in silence to the camp, which, to his great astonishment, he found entirely abandoned ; and imagined the sheik had fled with so much precipitation, that he could not carry off the baggage and stores. The pasha thought proper to stop in the camp to refresh his soldiers. They soon fell to plunder, and drunk so freely of the liquors, that overcome with the fatigue of the day's march, and the fumes of the spirits, they were not long ere they sunk into a profound sleep. At that time two sheiks, who were watching the enemy, came silently to the camp, and Daher having repassed the sea of Tiberias, meeting them, they
d 2 Kings vii, 12.
all rushed into the camp, and fell upon the sleeping foe, eight thousand of whom they butchered on the spot ; and the pasha, with the remainder of the troops, escaped with much difficulty to Damascus, leaving all their baggage in the hands of the victorious Daher.e
It was the custom of the Greeks, before they engaged in war, to send ambassadors to the state that had given them cause of complaint, to demand satisfaction for the injuries which they had received; for it was an established maxim in their policy, that however well prepared for war, peace, upon honourable terms, was always to be preferred. This custom of demanding satisfaction, and offering conditions of peace, had been transmitted to them from the founders of their commonwealth ; for Statius, as quoted by Potter, relates that Tydeus went in the character of an ambassador from Polinices to treat with his brother Eteocles, king of Thebes, before he proceeded to invest that city. Nor was the Trojan war undertaken till conciliatory measures had been tried in vain; for Ulysses and Menelaus were dispatched on an embassy to Troy to demand restitution. The equitable proposals of these ambassadors were rejected by the Trojans, overruled by Antimachus, a person of great repute among them, whom Paris had gained over to his party by a large sum of money. Invasions without notice they considered rather as robberies than lawful wars; as designed rather to ravage the property of the innocent and unsuspecting, than to repair the losses they had sustained, and prevent the renewal of outrage. Instances, however, occur of wars com. menced without previous notice, even by nations of higher
e Burder's Orient. Cust. No. 908. f Iliad. lib. iji, 1. 205.
& Iliad. lib. xi, 1. 124.
reputation for justice and humanity ; but this was done only when the provocation was deemed so great, as no recompence could atone for it, no submission expiate, h
What custom enjoined on the Greeks, the law of God required of his chosen people: before they declared war against an offending neighbour, they were commanded to settle the dispute, if possible, by negociation. Maimonides asserts, that in obedience to this law, Joshua sent a messenger with offers of peace to the seven nations of Canaan, before he entered their country. And the most ancient Jewish writers agree with him, that Joshua sent three messengers to the seven nations before he invaded them, although he had undertaken to destroy them by the command of God; and those that accepted the conditions were suffered to retain their possessions. This account receives no little confirmation from the frequent notices respecting the remains of these people, which occur in the sacred Scriptures.
But whatever might be the law of war with regard to the seven nations, the people of Israel were bound to offer conditions of peace to the surrounding states before commencing military operations. The terms proposed were three : 1. that they should take upon them the observation of the seven precepts of Noah, and consequently, renounce idolatry; 2. pay an yearly tribute ; 3. become their subjects, and live in due subjection to them as their governors, who, though they could not make them slaves, might employ them in the public works. If the conditions were refused, every male approaching to a state of manhood was to be destroyed; but the women, the male and female
h Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. ii, p. 64, et seq.
children were to be spared, while all the property of the vanquished became the booty of the victors.
The Amalekites were the only exception to this law; and the reasons for dooming them to utter destruction, are assigned by the inspired writer, with sufficient clearness and precision : “ Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when you were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary, and he feared not God.”p That cruel and rapacious nation attacked the chosen people, when they were just escaped from a long and grievous bondage; when they had no country for the Amalekites to seize, and when, by keeping at a distance from their territories, they gave them no just cause of alarm. The phrase, “ he met thee by the way,” seems also to intimate, that Amalek sent no herald, according to the established custom of those times, to declare war, and to state the reasons of it; they fell upon them in a treacherous and cowardly manner, suddenly and without provocation ; they did not offer them battle like a generous enemy, but hung upon their rear, and cut off the faint and the weary, that were not able to keep up with their brethren, but reduced to linger behind. Add to all this, that Amalek feared not God, who had given so many stupendous proofs of his power in Egypt and at the Red sea, for the deliverance of his people, and who was still seen in the visible symbol of his presence, the pillar of cloud and fire conducting them through the pathless desert ; all this they disregarded from a spirit of malignant hostility to Israel, and impious contempt of Jehovah, the God of that chosen and holy nation. For these reasons, the Amalekites were to be exterminated, not immediately, but after the Hebrews had obtained the quiet possession of Canaan. This injunction was never to be forgotten, but was to be imprinted deeply on their hearts; for Jehovah swore, he would have war with Amalek, from generation to generation, till the remembrance of that devoted race was utterly blotted out from under heaven.
p Deut. ii, 5, 18.
Aware of the dangers and calamities of war, ancient Israel were accustomed to perform very solemn devotions before they took the field : and it would seem, they had certain places particularly appropriated to this purpose. Samuel convened the people to Mizpeh, in order to prepare, by a solemn address to the throne of Jehovah, for the war which they meditated against the Philistines. “ And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord.”! At other times, they asked counsel of God by the Urim and Thummim, or by a prophet of the Lord. Such a custom was common in Egypt, when Pococke visited that country. Near Cairo, says that traveller, beyond the mosque of sheik Duisse, and in the neighbourhood of a burial-place of the sons of some pashas on a hill, is a solid building of stone about three feet wide, built with ten steps, being at the top about three feet square, on which the sheik mounts to pray any extraordinary occasion, when all the people go out at the beginning of a war, and here in Egypt, when the Nile does not rise as they expect it should ; and such a place, they have without all the towns of Turkey."
When they were resolved to begin the war, it was customary to offer sacrifices, and make large vows, to be paid 9 1 Sam. vii, 5.
Pococke's Trav. vol. i, p. 36.