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Chariot [EBD]

a vehicle generally used for warlike purposes. Sometimes, though but rarely, it is spoken of as used for peaceful purposes.

The first mention of the chariot is when Joseph, as a mark of distinction, was placed in Pharaoh's second state chariot (Gen. 41:43); and the next, when he went out in his own chariot to meet his father Jacob (46:29). Chariots formed part of the funeral procession of Jacob (50:9). When Pharaoh pursued the Israelites he took 600 war-chariots with him (Ex. 14:7). The Canaanites in the valleys of Palestine had chariots of iron (Josh. 17:18; Judg. 1:19). Jabin, the king of Canaan, had 900 chariots (Judg. 4:3); and in Saul's time the Philistines had 30,000. In his wars with the king of Zobah and with the Syrians, David took many chariots among the spoils (2 Sam. 8:4; 10:18). Solomon maintained as part of his army 1,400 chariots (1 Kings 10:26), which were chiefly imported from Egypt (29). From this 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In the New Testament we have only one historical reference to the use of chariots, in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts. 8:28, 29, 38).

This word is sometimes used figuratively for hosts (Ps. 68:17; 2 Kings 6:17). Elijah, by his prayers and his counsel, was "the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." The rapid agency of God in the phenomena of nature is also spoken of under the similitude of a chariot (Ps. 104:3; Isa. 66:15; Hab. 3:8).

Chariot of the cherubim (1 Chr. 28:18), the chariot formed by the two cherubs on the mercy-seat on which the Lord rides.

Chariot cities were set apart for storing the war-chariots in time of peace (2 Chr. 1:14).

Chariot horses were such as were peculiarly fitted for service 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 translated in a "chariot of fire" (2 Kings 2:11). Comp. 2 Kings 6:17. This 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."

Chariot [NAVE]

For war, Ex. 14:7, 9, 25; Josh. 11:4; 1 Sam. 13:5; 1 Kin. 20:1, 25; 2 Kin. 6:14; 2 Chr. 12:2, 3; Psa. 20:7; 46:9; Jer. 46:9; 47:3; 51:21; Joel 2:5; Nah. 2:3, 4; 3:2.
Wheels of Pharaoh's, providentially taken off, Ex. 14:25.
Commanded by captains, Ex. 14:7; 1 Kin. 9:22; 22:31-33; 2 Kin. 8:21.
Made of iron, Josh. 17:18; Judg. 1:19.
Introduced among Israelites by David, 2 Sam. 8:4.
Imported from Egypt by Solomon, 1 Kin. 10:26-29.
Cities for, 1 Kin. 9:19; 2 Chr. 1:14; 8:6; 9:25.
Royal, Gen. 41:43; 46:29; 2 Kin. 5:9; 2 Chr. 35:24; Jer. 17:25; Acts 8:29.
Drawn by camels, Isa. 21:7; Mic. 1:13.
Traffic in, Rev. 18:13.
Kings ride in, 2 Chr. 35:24; Jer. 17:25; 22:4.
Cherubim in Solomon's temple mounted on, 1 Chr. 28:18.
Chariots of God, Psa. 68:17; 104:3; 2 Kin. 6:17; Isa. 66:15; Hab. 3:8; Rev. 9:9.
Zech. 6:1-8; 2 Kin. 2:11, 12.


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. (Genesis 41:43) Later on we find mention of Egyptian chariots for a warlike purpose. (Exodus 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. (1 Samuel 13:5) David took from Hadadezer, king of Zobah, 1000 chariots, (2 Samuel 8:4) and from the Syrians a little later 700, (2 Samuel 10:18) who in order to recover their ground, collected 32,000 chariots. (1 Chronicles 19:7) Up to this time the Israelites possessed few or no chariots. They were first introduced by David, (2 Samuel 8:4) who raised and maintained a force of 1400 chariots, (1 Kings 10:25) by taxation on certain cities agreeably to eastern custom in such matters. (1 Kings 9:19; 10:25) From this time chariots were regarded as among the most important arms of war. (1 Kings 22:34; 2 Kings 9:16,21; 13:7,14; 18:24; 23:30; Isaiah 31:1) Most commonly two persons, and sometimes three, rode in the chariot, of whom the third was employed to carry the state umbrella. (1 Kings 22:34; 2 Kings 9:20,24; Acts 8:38) The prophets allude frequently to chariots as typical of power. (Psalms 20:7; 104:3; Jeremiah 51:21; Zechariah 6:1)


CHARIOT - char'-i-ot (merkabh, merkabhah, "riding-chariot," rekhebh, "war-chariot"; harma):

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 and their possession of chariots gave them a great advantage over the Israelites. In the war of Michmash they put into the field the incredible number of 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen, only in the end to suffer a grievous defeat (1 Sam 13:5; 14:20). In the battle of Gilboa, however, the chariots and horsemen of the Philistines bore down all opposition, and proved the destruction of Saul and his house. Of these chariots there have come down to us no detailed description and no representation. But we cannot be far wrong in turning to the chariot of the Hittites as a type of the Canaanite and Philistine chariot. It is not from the monuments of the Hittites themselves, however, but from the representations of the Kheta of the Egyptian monuments, that we know what their chariots were like. Their chariotry was their chief arm of offense. The Hittite chariot was used, too, for hunting; but a heavier car with paneled sides was employed for war. The Egyptian monuments represent three Hittites in each car, a practice which differed from that of Egypt and attracted attention. Of the three, one guided the chariot, another did the fighting with sword and lance, and the third was the shield-bearer.

3. Chariots of Solomon and Later Kings:

The Israelites living in a mountainous country were tardy in adopting the chariot for purposes of war. David houghed all the chariot horses of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, and "reserved of them for a hundred chariots" (2 Sam 8:4), and Adonijah prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with a view to contest the throne of his father (1 Ki 1:5). But Solomon was the first in Israel to acquire chariots and horses on a national scale, and to build cities for their accommodation (1 Ki 9:19). In Massoretic Text of the Old Testament we read that Solomon had agents who received droves of horses from Egypt, and it is added: "And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for 600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150; and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means" (1 Ki 10:29). On the strength of a warrantable emendation of the text it is now proposed to read the preceding (1 Ki 10:28): "And Solomon's import of horses was from Mucri and from Kue; the king's traders received them from Kue at a price"--where Mucri and Kue are North Syria and Cilicia. No doubt it was Egypt out of which the nation was forbidden by the Deuteronomic law to multiply horses (Dt 17:16), but on the other hand the statement of Ezek (27:14) that Israel derived horses, chargers and mules not from Egypt but from Togarmah--North Syria and Asia Minor--agrees with the new rendering (Burney, Notes on Hebrew Text of the Books of Kings, in the place cited.). From Solomon's time onward chariots were in use in both kingdoms. Zimri, who slew Elah, son of Baasha, king of Israel, was captain of half his chariots (1 Ki 16:9). It was when sitting in his chariot in disguise beside the driver that Ahab received his fatal wound at Ramoth-gilead (1 Ki 22:34). The floor of the royal chariot was a pool of blood, and "they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria" (1 Ki 22:35,38). It was in his war-chariot that his servants carried Josiah dead from the fatal field of Megiddo (2 Ki 23:30). The chief pieces of the Hebrew chariot were (1) the pole to which the two horses were yoked, (2) the axle--resting upon two wheels with six or eight spokes (1 Ki 7:33)--into which the pole was fixed, (3) a frame or body open behind, standing upon the axle and fitted by a leather band to the pole. The chariots of iron of which we read (Jdg 4:3) were of wood strengthened or studded with iron. Like that of the Hittite, the Hebrew chariot probably carried three men, although in the chariot of Ahab (1 Ki 22:34) and in that of Jehu (2 Ki 9:24 f) we read of only two.

4. Chariots of the Assyrians:

In the later days when the Assyrians overran the lands of the West, the Israelites had to face the chariots and the hosts of Sennacherib and of the kings (2 Ki 19:23). And they faced them with chariots of their own. An inscription of Shalmaneser II of Assyria tells how in the battle of Karkar (854 BC) Ahab of the land of Israel had put into the field 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers. But the Assyrian chariotry was too numerous and powerful for Israel. The Assyrian chariot was larger and heavier than the Egyptian or the Hebrew: it had usually three and sometimes four occupants (Maspero, Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria, 322). When we read in Nahum's prophecy of "chariots flashing with steel," "rushing to and fro in the broad ways" (Nah 2:3,4), it is of the Assyrian chariots that we are to think being hastily got together for the defense of Nineveh.

5. Chariots of Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks:

In early Babylonian inscriptions of the 3rd millennium before Christ there is evidence of the use of the war-chariots, and Nebuchadrezzar in his campaigns to the West had chariots as part of his victorious host (Jer 47:3). It was the Persians who first employed scythed chariots in war; and we find Antiochus Eupator in the Seleucid period equipping a Greek force against Judea which had 300 chariots armed with scythes (2 Macc 13:2).

6. In the New Testament:

In the New Testament the chariot is only twice mentioned. Besides the chariot in which the Ethiopian eunuch was traveling when Philip the evangelist made up to him (Acts 8:28,29,38), there is only the mention of the din of war-chariots to which the onrush of locusts in Apocalyptic vision is compared (Rev 9:9).

7. Figurative Use:

In the figurative language of Scripture, the chariot has a place. It is a tribute to the powerful influence of Elijah and Elisha when they are separately called "the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof" (2 Ki 2:12; 13:14). The angelic hosts are declared to be God's chariots, twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands (Ps 68:17). But chariots and horses themselves are a poor substitute for the might of God (Ps 20:7). God Himself is represented as riding upon His chariots of salvation for the defense of His people (Hab 3:8). In the Book of Zec, the four chariots with their horses of various colors have an apocalyptic significance (Zec 6). In the worship of the host of heaven which prevailed in the later days of the kingdom of Judah, "the chariots of the sun" (see article) were symbols which led the people into gross idolatry and King Josiah burnt them with fire (2 Ki 23:11).


Nowack, Hebrew Archaeology, I, 366 f; Garstang, Land of the Hittites, 363 f; Maspero, Struggle of the Nations and Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria; Rawlinson, Five Great Monarchies, II, 1-21.

T. Nicol.

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