Israel Refuses the Sword

The content below is an excerpt from the book Behold Your God by Fred Wright. It is referred to in the study of 1 Samuel 15:3 and included to show that man has the option to depend upon God for his defense in difficult situations as Jacob (Israel) did.

“Their [the Israelite people’s] decision to take up weapons of coercion and destruction was not made in complete ignorance of God’s will. Their Heavenly Father had faithfully communicated to them that the sword was to find no place among them whatsoever.

They were named after their revered father Israel [Jacob], whose history of victory over his foes was well known to them. God designed that this should be a witness to them of His ways. The lesson was especially pertinent, for there was a distinct parallel existing between Israel’s situation and theirs. As he was a prisoner of his scheming uncle, Laban, and desired to depart for the promised land, so they were held in Egyptian bondage and longed to leave for Canaan’s land.

When the patriarch set forth on his journey, he was pursued by Laban who was determined to bring his son-in-law back with him. It cost Laban seven days to overtake Jacob, seven days in which his temper had time to reach fever heat. When he found Jacob, “He was hot with anger, and bent on forcing them to return, which he doubted not he could do, since his band was much the stronger. The fugitives were indeed in great peril.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 193.

Jacob, knowing full well that he would be pursued, made every provision possible to prevent his being forced to return. But, in all his careful planning for the security of the ones he loved so dearly, he made no move to arm his servants with swords and spears. He put his entire trust in God as his Protector and so effectively did the Lord fill that commission, that not only did Jacob not go back to Laban’s home, but not one of his household was even so much as scratched.

This peril gone, with the pacified Laban returning to his place, Jacob pressed on to meet the greater peril of Esau who reportedly was coming to meet him with six hundred armed men. Esau had only one objective in mind—to ensure that Jacob could never dispossess him of their father’s wealth. The only way to assure this was to slaughter Jacob and his band. That would settle the question for all time.

As this deadly peril threatened Jacob, there were at least two different courses he could have adopted. The common human reaction is to turn to the power of weapons. Accordingly, Jacob could have chosen to divert from his course to spend time in arming and training his servants. He did not do this, for he rightly understood that this was not God’s way. Instead, he continued without deviation, his entire confidence resting in the assurance that God would faithfully fulfill His responsibility of protecting him and his entourage. On the night before the encounter he turned aside to pray, his deep concern arising from the fear that unconfessed sin would obstruct God’s work and leave him exposed to his enemy. There was no lack of faith in God’s power to deliver him. His only fear was that his own spiritual condition would make that power unavailable. The long hours of agonized wrestling brought the victory.

God did not force Esau to leave his brother unmolested. Instead He sent an angel to reveal to him the true character of Jacob, his sufferings, his spirit, and his intentions. Thus Esau was led to view Jacob in a new light. He realized that Jacob was not a threat to him and therefore did not need to be eliminated. His rage was replaced by sympathy, and the outcome again was that not a single one from Jacob’s households received so much as a scratch.

Here is a point worthy of emphasis. Whenever the children of Israel left to God the task of protecting them, not one of them lost their lives or suffered injury, but when they took the sword, there was nearly always loss of life which in some cases was very heavy.” (Behold Your God, p320-321)