Book review: Battles of the Bible

by Martin J. Dougherty

★★★★★

As a teenager, I was enthralled with wargaming. Though I outgrew the tendency of boys to glorify battle, I never did outgrow my interest in military strategy. Well, here is a book for battle aficionados, with a Biblical setting.

I picked this book up from the bargain shelf at a Barnes and Noble, and really, it’s a fun read. It covers battles in Palestine from 1400 BC to 73 AD. Some are in the Christian Bible and some are not. For example, the Seleucid wars will be found only in the Catholic Bible, which includes the deuterocanonical books about the Maccabees, and the fall of Jerusalem is predicted by Jesus but happens after the time frame of the Bible.

The authors researched the battles from multiple sources, and do not give the Biblical accounts more credence than are warranted. Biblical exaggerations are toned down in many places. However, it was still a challenge for the authors, as it’s very difficult to know how much to trust each historical source. The battle description of Masada, for example, includes Josephus’s story of mass suicide, and the battles in the time of Joshua presume a very large invading army from the exodus of Egypt.

Twenty different battles are narrated, and each battle highlights the who, what, when, where and why, before presenting the full story, accompanied by an easy-to-read battle diagram.

Whether you use this book as a coffee table conversation piece (it’s very beautiful, with full-color pictures), as a reference book, or read it all the way through as a military history of Palestine, the way I did, I’m sure you’ll be satisfied.

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