Soldiers, Spies And Scripture Part I -- By: David G. Hansen

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 02:2 (Spring 1989)
Article: Soldiers, Spies And Scripture Part I
Author: David G. Hansen

Soldiers, Spies And Scripture
Part I

David G. Hansena

Military commanders have commonly attempted to gain as much information about the enemy as possible. In ancient times, when maps did not exist and the quality or number of the potential adversaries was practically unknown, the need for such knowledge could, and often did, mean the difference between survival or defeat on the battlefield. So obvious is the need for information about the enemy that Jesus used such imagery when He argued, “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31–32).

In military terms, information about the enemy is “intelligence.” The 19th century Prussian military theorist, Clausewitz, defined intelligence as “every sort of information about the enemy and his country - the basis, in short, of our own plans and operation.”1 Joab, King David’s military commander, knew the importance of intelligence and how it was collected. When Joab returned from a military campaign to fund that Abner, Ish-Bosheth’s commanding general, had visited David during his absence, Joab replied, “You know Abner, son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.” (2 Samuel 3:25).

The Bible describes the earliest existence of developed intelligence systems, a fact which distinguishes warfare in the Second Millennium BC from that of earlier periods.2 Although ancient military leaders began campaigning far from the safety of their borders well before the Israelites left Egypt, extra-Biblical sources do not detail how such armies gathered intelligence. Therefore, descriptions of how intelligence was collected during Old Testament times are important sources for military historians.

The Old Testament records that the Israelites obtained a comprehensive picture of the enemy when their objective was settlement of the land. Moses’ guidance to the twelve men selected to collect information about Canaan is an example. What Moses required of his agents was the same as what any modern commander would need before a major invasion.

Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? What kind of towns do they live

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