January 9, 2014
3. The Lord is a Master of war; the Lord is His Name. ג. יְהֹוָה אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה יְהֹוָה שְׁמוֹ:
The Lord is a Master of war: Heb. אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה, lit., a man of war, [which is inappropriate in reference to the Deity. Therefore,] Rashi renders: Master of war, like “Naomi’s husband (אִישׁ נָעֳמִי)” (Ruth 1:3) and so, every [instance in the Torah of] אִישׁ, husband, and אִישֵׁך your husband, is rendered: בַּעַל, master. Similarly, “You shall be strong and become a man (לְאִישׁ)” (I Kings 2:2), [meaning] a strong man. —
ה’ איש מלחמה: בעל מלחמות, כמו (רות א ג) איש נעמי, וכל איש ואישך מתורגמין בעל, וכן (מלכים א’ ב ב) וחזקת והיית לאיש – לגבור:
the Lord is His Name: His wars are not [waged] with weapons, but He wages battle with His Name, as David said [to Goliath before fighting him], “[You come to me with spear and javelin] and I come to you with the Name of the Lord of Hosts” (I Sam. 17:45). Another explanation: The Lord י-ה-ו-ה, denoting the Divine Standard of Clemency,] is His Name–Even when He wages war and takes vengeance upon His enemies, He sticks to His behavior of having mercy on His creatures and nourishing all those who enter the world, unlike the behavior of earthly kings. When he [an earthly king] is engaged in war, he turns away from all his [other] affairs and does not have the ability to do both this [i.e., wage war] and that [other things]. — [from Mechilta]
Master of Wars
At the crossing of the Sea when Pharaoh and his army were drowned, Moshe and the People sang praise to Hashem: The Song of the Sea.
In it we read the following verse: Exodus 15:3
“Hashem is a man of war, Hashem is His name.”
Hashem is a man of war – RASHI: [The Hebrew ‘Ish Milchama’] means the Master of Wars. As in (Ruth 1:3) “Ish Naomi” – “The husband (or master) of Naomi.” Similarly, (in Kings 2:2 when David speaks to his son, Shlomo) “Be strengthened and be a man” meaning, “and be a strong person.”
Rashi is translating the word “Ish” which literally means “man.” He gives it the meaning of “master.” Rashi’s translation, “master,” is more appropriate than the simple meaning of “man” For describing God as “man” is problematic. God is not a man. As the verse says “God is not man” (Numbers 23:19). If He is not a “man” why then does the verse refer to him as “Ish Milchama”?
Hashem is described here neither as a “man” in the sense of “man and not woman” nor in the sense of “man and not animal.” The word is now translated as “master” one who is in charge of, in control of, wars. In this way we have avoided any possible anthropomorphism, that is describing God in human terms.
Perhaps there is an apologetic note on the part of Rashi.
The words “a Man of War” convey the idea of an aggressive God, one whose chief characteristic and whose main pastime is making wars. This is not the Jewish view of God. But, in fact, it is the Christian view of the God of the “Old” Testament (i.e. as they see the Jewish view of God). It has often been said by gentiles that the Bible conveys God as a cruel, unforgiving deity; a harsh disciplinarian. Many verses throughout Tanach can be cited that refute this claim. But this is not the place to go into that. It is enough to see how Rashi’s sensitivity to this point may have prompted him to make this comment. God is not a “man of war” in the sense that He is occupied and preoccupied with making war. He is, rather, the Master of wars, in the sense that if wars must be fought, then His battles, which are on the side of justice and righteousness, are in His control. He is the Master of these wars and after these battles His values will prevail.
If I asked you to place a bet on 600 choice, armed chariots, plus all the other chariots of Egypt chasing fleeing slaves with women, children, the elderly and sick struggling at the rear. Who would you back to win?
But all you have to do is add mud into the equation. Heavy chariots get stuck in the mud whereas people fleeing on foot leave the scene. All HaShem needs is water and wind blowing in the right direction to turn the battle. Of course this allows the disbelievers to deny the miracle and say that it was just good timing……
I hope my Uk And Usa readers are keeping out of the wind, rain and snow!