The Bible

Brutality or Compassion

The Old Testament of Hebrew Bible centers on the Israelites' claim and journey to their promised land, a struggle characterized by many wars against the civilizations that inhabit their God-given territory. The Iliad by Homer depicts fourteen days on the battlefield of the Trojan War to reclaim the most beautiful woman in the world. Warfare has a prominent role in both Biblical and Homeric societies, and through their analyses and depictions of wartime society, each text favors combat, but to varying degrees. The Hebrew Bible advocates an uncompromising eradication of ancient Israelite enemies through war, which is the means used by the Israelites to fulfill their covenant with God. This notion greatly differs from the Iliad's portrayal of war in that Homer depicts a mode of warfare that characterizes the gain of material wealth for individual measure and is more merciful than that of the ancient Hebrews.

Both the Bible and the Iliad depict the basic dichotomies of war: the brutality and the glory, the reality and the consequence. Even though neither text shies away from the most gruesome aspects of life and death on the battlefield, they hold the resulting triumph of victory in such high regard that it often...

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