The war between Israel and Hezbollah is a tragedy that cannot be described with words. Since the conflict has involved other groups and nations, such as the Palestinians, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, this war has been called the beginning of World War III.
The war began on July 12 when Hezbollah killed several Israelite soldiers and captured two others. The conflict escalated when Hezbollah, using its bases in Lebanon, launched katucha rockets against northern Israelite cities. Israel retaliated by bombing southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip.
From Israel’s perspective, the retaliation cannot be considered an act of aggression because Israelite leaders believe Israel was defending itself against enemies who had been attacking them. From an Arab perspective, Israeli retaliation was an act of Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people.
The tragedy of this war is that in this conflict, the innocent suffer. In the process of fighting this war, men, women, and children are being killed, hurt, and maimed. Thousands are becoming homeless by the devastation. Thousands more are becoming refugees who have to abandon everything they own in order to find refuge from the carnage and devastation.
Christians disagree whether the Bible allows or forbids Christians to be engaged in wars. The church has generally allowed Christians to participate in war when the cause is justified. Others believe that the teachings of Christ forbid Christians to participate in war.
The reason for this war in the Middle East is complicated. It involves land, religion and politics; it also involves pride and cultural values. In addition, the origin of this conflict is both old and new.
In 1947 the United Nation’s Partition Resolution gave Israel the right to have a territory in Palestine and in the 1948 war of independence, Israel annexed the Palestinian territories of Galilee, parts of the Gaza Strip, and parts of the West Bank. Then, in the 1967 war, Israel fought against Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.
But the struggle is much older than the establishment of the modern State of Israel. If the Palestinians are the descendants of the Ishmaelites, then both the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael were interlopers in the affairs of the people who lived in the land of Canaan.
If the Palestinians are considered the remnants of the biblical Philistines, then they were latecomers to the land of Canaan, just as Israel was. If the Palestinians were the remnants of the old Canaanite population, then it must be remembered that many of the people who became Israelites in the twelveth century B.C. were also Canaanites.
This is the reason both the Palestinians and the Israelis deserve a nation of their own. The only resolution to the conflict in Palestine is the two state solution. Both Israel and Palestine should become independent nations, living side-by-side with each other. But this solution means that both Hamas and Hezbollah must recognize the right of Israel to exist as a nation. But, as the situation stands today, neither Hamas nor Hezbollah are willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
War is a learned behavior. In explaining the reason the Canaanite nations were not completely destroyed, the writer of the book of Judges wrote:
“Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before” (Judges 3:1-2).
The new generation of Israelites who were living in the Promised Land had not experienced the wars of conquest. Now, there was a need to teach the technique of warfare to those who had not experienced the previous wars of conquest.
Soldiers must learn how to kill the enemies and how to defend themselves. They must learn how to use their weapons for attack and defense. Without gaining firsthand knowledge of weapons and tactics, Israelite soldiers would become easy prey to their enemies.
War is a learned behavior. Soldiers have to be taught how to fight. In a sense, soldiers must go to school to learn how to be soldiers, to learn how to kill.
But there is a better way. If war is a learned behavior, then war can be eliminated if people stop learning how to fight wars. This is the Messianic ideal. Writing about the Messianic era, the prophet Micah wrote:
“He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Micah 4:3).
“Neither shall they learn war anymore.” These words are a reversal of Judges 3:2. It means that the end of wars is possible. When nations come to a point in which they shall no longer teach their people how to fight wars, war will cease to be a human tragedy.
But the end of war requires one important thing: nations must be willing to walk in the ways of the Lord. As Micah looks toward the future, to a day where war shall be no more, Micah sees the nations coming together to find the resolution of their problems in God:
“And many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’” (Micah 4:2).
In order to end wars, nations must be willing to learn and accept God’s way of dealing with conflicts. When nations become willing to accept God’s way, they will not go to war and they will not even get a hold of weapons to prepare for war, rather, they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. On that day, a nation shall not lift up sword against another nation and for this reason, they will solve their problems without war.
But, if we want the end of all wars, we will have to wait until the end of time because, as the prophet Joel said, before nations beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, they shall beat their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears (Joel 3:10).
And this, my friends, is the tragedy of war.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: War, Hezbollah, World War III, Palestinians