Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Book of the Wars of the Lord

BOOK OF THE WARS OF THE LORD (Heb. יהוה סֵפֶר מִלְחֲמֹת, Sefer Milḥamot YHWH), book, mentioned only once in the Bible (Num. 21:14), which apparently contained an anthology of poems describing the victories of the Lord over the enemies of Israel. The only extant piece contains a fragmented geographical note which is very obscure. According to a tradition preserved in the Septuagint and in the Aramaic Targums the words "The Wars of the Lord" are the beginning of the poetic quotation and are not part of the name of "the Book." The book referred to then would be the Torah. However, according to the Vulgate and medieval and modern exegetes, this is the complete title of a book which, like several other literary works, has not been preserved.

The extent of the actual quotation from this book is debated. Some think it comprises only verse 14 itself, others include verse 15 (JPS), while still others go so far as to include verses 17–20 ("The Song of the Well") and the poem in verses 27–30. The existence of such a book indicates that early written as well as oral traditions have been incorporated within the Pentateuchal documents. The date of the work is variously assigned to the periods of the desert (Kaufmann), Joshua, or David (Mowinckel).


Mowinckel, in: ZAW, 53 (1935), 130–52; Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 4 (1957), 33, 72; N.H. Tur-Sinai, Peshuto shel Mikra, 1 (1962), 167–9.

[Shalom M. Paul]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.