Manners & Customs: Chariots
Chariots in ancient Biblical times
Description of ancient chariots. There have been numbers of pictorial representations of ancient chariots discovered by archaeologists. These give a fair idea of what they were like.
These implements so often used in warfare were very simple in style and yet very uncomfortable for the occupants. "They were semicircular boxes on wheels and of very small size. They were hung very low, so that the occupants could step in and out without trouble."
There were no springs, but the floor was made of a network of rope stretched so as to be elastic and thus overcome some of the effects of the jolting. Often two horses pulled one chariot. In battle it was customary to have two men in each chariot, one to drive the horses, and the other to do the fighting. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Chariot Scripture - 1 Chronicles 18:4
And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven
thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: David also
houghed all the chariot [horses], but reserved of them an
Chariot Scripture - 2 Chronicles 10:18
Then king Rehoboam sent Hadoram that [was] over the tribute;
and the children of Israel stoned him with stones, that he
died. But king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to [his]
chariot, to flee to Jerusalem.
Chariot Scripture - 2 Chronicles 1:14
And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen: and he had a
thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand
horsemen, which he placed in the chariot cities, and with the
king at Jerusalem.
Chariot Scripture - 2 Chronicles 1:17
And they fetched up, and brought forth out of Egypt a chariot
for six hundred [shekels] of silver, and an horse for an
hundred and fifty: and so brought they out [horses] for all
the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, by
Chariot Scripture - 2 Chronicles 8:6
And Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had, and
all the chariot cities, and the cities of the horsemen, and
all that Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in
Lebanon, and throughout all the land of his dominion.
Chariot Scripture - 2 Kings 10:15
And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the
son of Rechab [coming] to meet him: and he saluted him, and
said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart [is] with thy
heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give [me]
thine hand. And he gave [him] his hand; and he took him up to
him into the chariot.
Chariot Scripture - 2 Kings 13:14
Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died.
And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over
his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of
Israel, and the horsemen thereof.
Chariot Scripture - 2 Kings 5:26
And he said unto him, Went not mine heart [with thee], when
the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? [Is it] a
time to receive money, and to receive garments, and
oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and
menservants, and maidservants?
Chariot Scripture - 2 Samuel 8:4
And David took from him a thousand [chariots], and seven
hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David
houghed all the chariot [horses], but reserved of them [for]
an hundred chariots.
Chariot Scripture - Jeremiah 51:21
And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider;
and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his
Chariots in Easton's Bible Dictionary
a vehicle generally used for warlike purposes. Sometimes,
but rarely, it is spoken of as used for peaceful
The first mention of the chariot is when Joseph, as
a mark of
distinction, was placed in Pharaoh's second state
41:43); and the next, when he went out in his own
meet his father Jacob (46:29). Chariots formed part
funeral procession of Jacob (50:9). When Pharaoh
Israelites he took 600 war-chariots with him (Ex.
Canaanites in the valleys of Israel had chariots of
(Josh. 17:18; Judg. 1:19). Jabin, the king of
Canaan, had 900
chariots (Judg. 4:3); and in Saul's time the
30,000. In his wars with the king of Zobah and with
David took many chariots among the spoils (2 Sam.
Solomon maintained as part of his army 1,400
chariots (1 Kings
10:26), which were chiefly imported from Egypt (29).
time forward they formed part of the armies of
Israel (1 Kings
22:34; 2 Kings 9:16, 21; 13:7, 14; 18:24; 23:30).
In the New Testament we have only one historical
the use of chariots, in the case of the Ethiopian
8:28, 29, 38).
This word is sometimes used figuratively for hosts
2 Kings 6:17). Elijah, by his prayers and his
counsel, was "the
chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." The
of God in the phenomena of nature is also spoken of
similitude of a chariot (Ps. 104:3; Isa. 66:15; Hab.
Chariot of the cherubim (1 Chr. 28:18), the chariot
the two cherubs on the mercy-seat on which the Lord
Chariot cities were set apart for storing the war-
time of peace (2 Chr. 1:14).
Chariot horses were such as were peculiarly fitted
in chariots (2 Kings 7:14).
Chariots of war are described in Ex. 14:7; 1 Sam.
13:5; 2 Sam.
8:4; 1 Chr. 18:4; Josh. 11:4; Judg. 4:3, 13. They
were not used
by the Israelites till the time of David. Elijah was
in a "chariot of fire" (2 Kings 2:11). Comp. 2 Kings
vision would be to Elisha a source of strength and
encouragement, for now he could say, "They that be
with us are
more than they that be with them."
Chariots in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Chariot, sometimes including the horses (2 Samuel 8:4; 2
Samuel 10:18). Mentioned first in Genesis 41:43, where
Joseph rides in Pharaoh's second chariot; also Genesis
46:29. In the Egyptian monuments they occur to the number of
27,000 in records of the reign of Rameses II, 1300 B.C., and
even earlier in the 18th dynasty 1530 B.C., when Amosis I
used them against the shepherd kings. A leading purpose of
chariots was war. Pharaoh followed Israel with 600 chosen
chariots (Exodus 14:7). The Canaanites of the valleys armed
theirs apparently with iron scythes (Joshua 17:18; Judges
1:19). Jabin had 900, which enabled him to "oppress the
children of Israel mightily," because of their sins (Judges
4:3). The Philistines in Saul's time had 30,000 (1 Samuel
13:5). David took from Hadarezer of Zobah 1,000, and from
the Syrians 700; these to retrieve their loss gathered
32,000 (1 Chronicles 19:7).
God forbad their use to His people, lest they should
depend on human help rather than on Him (Deuteronomy 17:16;
Deuteronomy 20:1; Psalm 20:7), also lest there should be a
turning of the elect nation's heart back to Egypt and its
corrupt ways. Solomon from carnal state policy allied
himself to Egypt, and disregarded God's prohibition, as
Samuel foretold would be the case if Israel, not content
with God, should set up a human king (1 Samuel 8:11-12).
Solomon had 1,400 chariots, and bought each out of Egypt at
600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150; and taxed
certain cities for the cost, according to eastern usage (1
Kings 9:19; 1 Kings 10:26; 1 Kings 10:29). In Exodus 14:7
translate "captains (literally, men of the king's council of
30) over the whole of them." Not as some thought, "third men
in every one of them."
For the Egyptian chariots only carried two, the
driver and the warrior. The Assyrian chariots (Nahum 2:3-4)
depicted on the monuments often contain a third, namely, the
warrior's shieldbearer. In Exodus 14:9 "horsemen" are
mentioned. Hengstenberg thinks rekeb does not mean cavalry,
as they are not depicted in the Egyptian monuments, but
merely "riders in chariots." But Diodorus Siculus states
that Rameses II had 24,000 cavalry. Egyptian art seems even
in later times, when certainly cavalry were employed, to
have avoided depicting horsemen. The language of Exodus
15:1; Isaiah 31:1, can be reconciled with either view.
Ancient papyri allude to mounting on horseback (Cook, in
Speaker's Commentary). The men in the chariot always stood.
The Egyptian chariot consisted of a semicircular
frame of wood with straight sides, resting on the axle-tree
of a pair of wheels; and on the frame a rail attached by
leather thongs; one wooden upright in front; open at the
back for mounting. On the right side the bowcase and the
quiver and spearcase crossed diagonally. The horses wore
only breastband and girths attached to the saddle, and a
bearing rein fastened to a ring in front of it. In New
Testament the only chariots mentioned are that of the
Ethiopian eunuch of Candace (Acts 8:28-29; Acts 8:38), and
Revelation 9:9. The Persians sacrificed horses to the sun;
so the Jews under the idolatrous Manasseh dedicated chariots
and horses to the sun (2 Kings 23:11). Josiah burned these
chariots with fire, thus making the object of their
superstition, fire, to consume their instruments of worship.
Chariots in Naves Topical Bible
Ex 14:7,9,25; Jos 11:4; 1Sa 13:5; 1Ki 20:1,25; 2Ki
2Ch 12:2,3; Ps 20:7; 46:9; Jer 46:9; 47:3; 51:21;
Na 2:3,4; 3:2
-Wheels of Pharaoh's, providentially taken off
-Commanded by captains
Ex 14:7; 1Ki 9:22; 22:31-33; 2Ki 8:21
-Made of iron
Jos 17:18; Jud 1:19
-Introduced among Israelites by David
-Imported from Egypt by Solomon
1Ki 9:19; 2Ch 1:14; 8:6; 9:25
Ge 41:43; 46:29; 2Ki 5:9; 2Ch 35:24; Jer 17:25; Ac
-Drawn by camels
Isa 21:7; Mic 1:13
-Kings ride in
2Ch 35:24; Jer 17:25; 22:4
-Cherubim in Solomon's temple mounted on
Chariots of God
Ps 68:17; 104:3; 2Ki 6:17; Isa 66:15; Hab 3:8; Re
Chariots in Smiths Bible Dictionary
a vehicle used either for warlike or peaceful purposes, but
most commonly the former. The Jewish chariots were patterned
after the Egyptian, and consisted of a single pair of wheels
on an axle, upon which was a car with high front and sides,
but open at the back. The earliest mention of chariots in
Scripture is in Egypt, where Joseph, as a mark of
distinction, was placed in Pharaoh's second chariot. Ge
41:43 Later on we find mention of Egyptian chariots for a
warlike purpose. Ex 14:7 In this point of view chariots
among some nations of antiquity, as elephants among others,
may be regarded as filling the place of heavy artillery in
modern times, so that the military power of a nation might
be estimated by the number of its chariots. Thus Pharaoh in
pursuing Israel took with him 600 chariots. The Philistines
in Saul's time had 30,000. 1Sa 13:5 David took from
Hadadezer, king of Zobah, 1000 chariots, 2Sa 8:4 and from
the Syrians a little later 700, 2Sa 10:18 who in order to
recover their ground, collected 32,000 chariots. 1Ch 19:7 Up
to this time the Israelites possessed few or no chariots.
They were first introduced by David, 2Sa 8:4 who raised and
maintained a force of 1400 chariots, 1Ki 10:25 by taxation
on certain cities agreeably to eastern custom in such
matters. 1Ki 9:19; 10:25 From this time chariots were
regarded as among the most important arms of war. 1Ki 22:34;
2Ki 9:16,21; 13:7,14; 18:24; 23:30; Isa 31:1 Most commonly
two persons, and sometimes three, rode in the chariot, of
whom the third was employed to carry the state umbrella. 1Ki
22:34; 2Ki 9:20,24; Ac 8:38 The prophets allude frequently
to chariots as typical of power. Ps 20:7; 104:3; Jer 51:21;
Chariots in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
char'-i-ot (merkabh, merkabhah, "riding-chariot," rekhebh,
1. Chariots of Egypt
2. Chariots of the Canaanites
3. Chariots of Solomon and Later Kings
4. Chariots of the Assyrians
5. Chariots of Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks
6. In the New Testament
7. Figurative Use
1. Chariots of Egypt:
It is to the chariots of ancient Egypt that reference is
first made in Scripture. Joseph was honored by being made to
ride in the second chariot of King Pharaoh (Gen 41:43).
Joseph paid honor to his father on his arrival in Goshen by
meeting him in his chariot (Gen 46:29). In the state
ceremonial with which the remains of Jacob were escorted to
Canaan, chariots and horsemen were conspicuous (Gen 50:9).
In the narrative of the departure of the Israelites from
Egypt and of Pharaoh's futile attempts to detain them the
chariots and horsemen of Pharaoh figure largely (Ex
14:17,18,23,15; 15:4,19). It was with the Hyksos invasion,
some centuries before the Exodus, that the horse, and
subsequently the chariot, were introduced for purposes of
war into Egypt; and it may have been the possession of
chariots that enabled those hated shepherd warriors to
overpower the native Egyptians. The Egyptian chariot was
distinguished by its lightness of build. It was so reduced
in weight that it was possible for a man to carry his
chariot on his shoulders without fatigue. The ordinary
chariot was made of wood and leather, and had only two
occupants, the fighting man and his shield-bearer. The royal
chariots were ornamented with gold and silver, and in the
battle of Megiddo Thothmes III is represented as standing in
his chariot of electrum like the god of war, brandishing his
lance. In the battle the victorious Egyptians captured 2,041
horses and 924 chariots from the Syrian allies.
2. Chariots of the Canaanites:
The Canaanites had long been possessed of horses and
chariots when Joshua houghed their horses and burnt their
chariots with fire at the waters of Merom (Josh 11:6,9). The
chariots of iron which the Canaanites could maneuvere in the
plains and valleys proved a formidable obstacle to the
Complete conquest of the land (Jdg 1:19). Jabin had 900
chariots of iron, and with them he was able to oppress the
children of Israel twenty years (Jdg 4:3). The Philistines
of the low country and the maritime plain, of whom we read
in Judges and Samuel, were a warlike people, were
disciplined and well armed...
David and Horses
King David's use of horses. David made some use of horses in battle. On the occasion of his victory over Hadadezer, King of Zobah, "David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots" (II Samuel 8:3, 4). Doubtless he wanted these chariots and their horses for battle use on the Hat ground of his country. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Horses and Chariots
Use of horse and chariot impractical in much of Canaan. This was due to the mountainous character of much of the country. This was especially true of most of Judea and Samaria, except on the main roads through this territory. This is the reason for their absence in the battles that took place there.
Horses and chariots not used in conquest of Canaan. Joshua did not make use of them in his conquest of Canaan. There is no record that he made use of either cavalry or of chariots in his warfare. But Moses had predicted that Israel would have to face enemies that did have their horses and chariots. "When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 20:1). When Joshua went against such foes and conquered them, he was commanded by GOD to cut the hamstrings of captured horses and to burn the chariots thus secured. The Bible records his obedience to this command (Joshua 1:1:6,9).
War chariots used by Israel's enemies in the days of the Judges. When the Canaanites oppressed Israel in those days "the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he [i.e., the Canaanitish king] had nine hundred chariots of iron" (Judges 4:3). But the LORD gave Israel victory over these chariots without the Hebrews themselves using such implements of warfare.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Horses and Chariots in Times of Peace
Use of horses and chariots in time of peace. It was mainly kings or men of wealth or position who used chariots drawn by horses in times of peace. As prince, Absalom rode in a chariot, and King Rehoboam and King Ahab had their chariots in which they rode in state (II Samuel 15:1, Absalom; I Kings 12:18, Rehoboam; I Kings 18:44, Ahab).
And Jeremiah made this prophecy concerning the city of Jerusalem: "Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes" (Jeremiah 17:25).
In New Testament times the use of chariots was also limited to men of prominence. The Ethiopian eunuch of Queen Candace rode in a chariot when Philip joined him and won him to CHRIST (Acts 8:28f). In the Revelation, the noise of the judgment locusts is compared to "the sound of chariots of many horses" (Revelation 9:9).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Kings of Israel and Horses
Use of horses and chariots by kings of Judah and Israel. Following the example of Solomon, the kings that followed during the history of the divided kingdom, made use of horses and chariots. King Ahab died in his battle chariot in war with the Syrians (I Kings 22:35). And the prophet Isaiah warned the kings of his day against going down to Egypt for help in securing horses for the day of battle. "Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and
trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong, but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 31:1).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Solomon and Horses
King Solomon's excessive use of horses. He disregarded the Law of Moses, and began to import great numbers of horses and chariots from the land of Egypt. "And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt . . . and a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty" (I Kings 10:28, 29). He had many stalls made for his large number of chariot horses and cavalry. These animals were stationed in chariot cities where the stalls were constructed (I Kings 4:26; II Chronicles l:14; 9:25). Archaeologists have uncovered the ancient city of Megiddo, which was one of Solomon's chariot cities, and there in the southeast comer of the tell (ancient mound) was discovered that which gives every evidence of being the stables of Solomon.
Between four and five hundred of these stables were laid bare with nearby quarters for the grooms who cared for the horses. A manger was located in front of each horse. Massive stone hitching posts remain with holes in them for inserting the halter-shanks. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Symbolism of Horses and Chariots
Figurative use of chariots and white horses. Chariots and white horses were often used as figures of speech in the Bible. Chariots are referred to as symbols of power. Thus GOD "maketh the clouds his chariots" (Psalm 104:3). The LORD is said to have his army of angels and many chariots: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels" (Psalm 68:17).
And concerning the coming of the LORD, Isaiah prophesied: "The Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind" (Isaiah 66:15). The coming of CHRIST to fight the battle of Armageddon is predicted to be on a white horse, and the armies that follow him from Heaven will be upon white horses (Revelation 19:11, 14).
Generals of armies have usually been known to ride upon white horses, and so as General of a great army, CHRIST will ride such an animal; and since His saints share with Him in the victory, it is appropriate that they too shall ride upon white horses.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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