This study is a primer of ancient Jewish military history for the lay reader and consolidates much of the scholarly work done on the subject to date.  My particular focus is on the Biblical accounts of the ancient Jewish rulers and their military exploits, in order to assess where these accounts can be verified by the actual historical record, and where, controversially, they cannot be verified.  In chapters 4 and 5, I present new scholarship of interest also to experts in the field on the subject of Israel and Judah, the two Hebrew states whose identity has been confirmed outside the Bible.

My original plan was to investigate fully the three great Jewish rebellions against the Roman Empire, two of them in Judea and one in a large portion of the Diaspora, almost two thousand years ago.  I wanted to solve the riddle of how the people of one small nation found the audacity to take on such a great military power not once, but three times in a period of sixty-six years.  Currently accepted explanations did not satisfy me, and I have emphasized certain non-rational elements in order deepen our understanding of the Jewish wars.    In the course of my research, however, I found that I needed to understand the heritage of Jewish warfare extending back to the beginnings of discernible Jewish existence.  In studying ancient military sources, I found that the Jews were great fighters, and that this was known to other nations of their time.  As David Biale puts it, “The Jews were a remarkably contentious people in antiquity, and developed a well-deserved reputation for military prowess."  Warfare was a constant feature of all the peoples in the ancient Middle East, and this included the Hebrews.

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