Biblical Warfare: A ‘Hidden’ Command to Moses?

One of the issues of our weekly Torah portion is the war between the Israelites and Midianites. The most well-known Jewish philosopher of the middle ages, Rabbi Moses the son of Maimon, was also known as ‘Maimonides.’ From Maimonides, who lived in Spain, Morocco, and Egypt during the 12th century we can learn a very interesting thing from the following verse which talks about this war:

“They warred against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses…” (Numbers 31:7)

The original Hebrew word for ‘as’ is ‘Ka-Asher’ {כאשר} and could imply in Hebrew that there was ANOTHER command by God which is unknown to us and this fact aroused Maimonides curiosity who came up with a very interesting theory – which can be found in his book that deals with the laws of war.

There, based on the above verse from Numbers, Maimonides said that when an army goes to war it should surround the enemy camp from THREE sides and not from FOUR sides in order to let anyone who was wants to flee the war to do so.

Both because of humanitarian reasons and because of the clever way to conduct a war – if you do not give your enemy a way out you are forcing your enemy to fight until the end….