The Land of Israel: Jewish Wars: War and Conquest in the Torah:
Why does the Torah condone war and conquest?
Though the Torah is timeless, it particularly addresses the people who lived at the time it was given ("the
Torah spoke in human language"). In this context, war was a fact of life. But the Torah was unusual in
emphasizing that no war was to be fought -- not even the mandatory wars against the Canaanites, the
Amalekites, etc. -- without first offering surrender terms. These terms included agreement to observe the
seven Noahide commandments. If these terms were accepted, no one was to be killed. (See Maimonides'
Mishneh Torah, Kings 5:1-2 and 6:1.) Thus the Torah recognizes the possibility of war, but regards
nonviolence as preferable.
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