War and Ethics

My doctoral work produced an analysis of military ethics in Judah, Assyria and Israel, culminating in the publication of  War and Ethics in the Ancient Near East: Military Violence in Light of Cosmology and History (de Gruyter, 2009).

War and Ethics argues that the ethics of military violence in ancient Israel and in the Neo-Assyrian empire were closely aligned. Both were motivated by a theology of creation, especially the myth of the divine king’s battle against chaos, enacted on earth by the human king. The book took us beyond accusations of gratuitous Assyrian cruelty and the vague language of biblical ‘holy war’, by identifying the key paradigm which drove ancient military violence and allowing a nuanced understanding of ancient warfare.

For more about how I reached these conclusions, see here.

I have taken up the effect of Judah’s destruction on this paradigm in a series of articles emphasising the significance of historical context on ideology, including ‘Adapting the Cosmological Tradition in Isaiah 40-45’ and ‘Yahweh’s Battle against Chaos in Ezekiel: The Transformation of Judahite Mythology for a New Situation’, which I co-wrote with Casey Strine. The most significant of these, analysing the deconstruction of the traditional mythology of warfare, was ‘Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations in Light of a Royal Ideology of Warfare’.

I have also explored the wider implications of this work for Assyriology and other aspects of biblical studies, in ‘Ištar and the Motif of the Cosmological Warrior: Assurbanipal’s Adaptation of Enūma eliš’; ‘On Floods and the Fall of Nineveh: The Origin of a Spurious Tradition’; and ‘Made in the Image of God: The Creation of אדם, the Commissioning of the King and the Chaoskampf of Yhwh’.