Self-protection is certainly a sound reason for war. Therefore all laws agree that self-defense is to go unpunished, and he who kills another in self-defense is innocent in everyone’s eyes. On the other hand, when the Children of Israel wanted to strike at the Canaanites without necessity, they were beaten (Numbers 14); and when Joseph and Azarias wanted to fight in order to win honor, they, too, were beaten (1 Maccabees 5); and Amaziah, king of Judah, also wanted to wage war against the king of Israel, but read in 2 Kings 14 what happened to him. Again, King Ahab began to fight against the Syrians at Ramath, but he lost and was destroyed (2 Kings 22); and the men of Ephraim wanted to devour Jephthah and lost 42,000 men (Judges 12). And so you will find that the losers were almost always those who started the war. Even the good king Josiah had to be slain because he began to fight against the king of Egypt (2 Kings 23) and had to verify the truth of the saying: The Lord scatters those who desire war (Ps. 68:1). Therefore my countrymen in the Harz have a proverb: Verily, I have heard that he who smites is smitten. (Weimar edition 19, 647; Erlangen edition 22, 272f).
- Lectionary A