Israel's Wilderness Wars Timeline

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This second timeline in our chronological series on wars found in the Bible covers the first two battles that took place during Israel's forty years in the wilderness. Other Biblical war timelines are listed at the bottom of this article.

The first war against Israel, after it left Egyptian bondage, was a sneak attack by the Amalekites. It was carried out less than two months after God's people were miraculously freed. This was followed by Israel, a little more than a year later, foolishly attempting to claim their inheritance of land after being warned not to do so!

1445 B.C.
Amalekites launch surprise attack!
Exodus 17

Unsurprisingly, Israel's huge migration out of Egypt did not remain a secret for long. News of their journey quickly spread among the people living in the Sinai and surrounding regions. The first nation to go to war with God's people and attempt to take advantage of their military inexperience (Deuteronomy 4:38) were the Amalekites.

The Amalekites, descendants of Abraham through Esau (see Genesis 36:15 - 16), carry out unprovoked raids against Israel less than two months after being freed from slavery. At Rephidim (Exodus 17:8) they target those who are sick, the elderly, women and children, and anyone else at the back of the line struggling to keep up with those traveling to Sinai to receive God's laws (Deuteronomy 25:17 - 18). The Bible states they perform such acts of war because they do not fear God (Deuteronomy 25:18).

Moses responds by commanding Joshua to gather up fighting men and battle the Amalekites. While the fighting rages in a valley, he stands on top of a hill overlooking the battlefield with his staff in his outstretched arms. With the aid of Aaron and Hur He is able to keep his arms up and allow the miraculous victory of Joshua's forces to take place (Exodus 17:10 - 13).

The unprovoked and brazen attacks by the Amalekites earns them God's promise to eventually wipe them off the face of the earth (Exodus 17:14 - 16, Deuteronomy 25:19)!

Autumn 1444
Israel defeated due to their sins
Numbers 14

Israel, after keeping the Passover in the second year after leaving bondage (Numbers 9:1 - 3), migrate to the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 12:16, 13:3). They arrive near Hazeroth when it is the season for the first ripe grapes to appear on the vines (roughly August, Numbers 13:20).

Moses selects and sends twelve spies to collect information about the Promised Land and bring back samples of its abundance. The spies return after forty days of gathering intelligence and retrieving fruit from the land (Numbers 13:17 - 20, 25).

Ten of the twelve spies (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) give a faithless and fearful report on Israel's chances of possessing their land inheritance. God, after the people choose to believe the ten spies, punishes his people with forty years of wandering the wastelands (Numbers 14:29 - 35).

Israel is shocked by the punishment for their lack of faith. Although warned by God not to do so, they foolishly attempt to begin claiming their inheritance by going to war with the Amalekites and the Canaanites. They end up, near the wilderness, battling and being slaughtered by the enemy at Hormah (Numbers 14:42 - 45).

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