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Armour, Arms

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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ARMOUR, ARMS . The soldier’s arms, offensive and defensive, are never so termed in our EV [Note: English Version.]; ‘ armour ,’ ‘whole armour’ ( Ephesians 6:11 [Gr. panoplia ], the ‘harness’ of 2Ma 15:28 , RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘full armour’), and more frequently ‘ weapons of war ’ are the terms employed. In RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ harness ’ in this sense has in most cases given place to ‘armour.’

1 . Offensive arms . In a familiar representation from an Egyptian tomb of date c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 1895, a band of Semitic nomads are depicted with the primitive arms of their race the short spear, the bow, and the throw-stick the last perhaps the handstaves of Ezekiel 39:9 . In OT the principal arms of attack are the sword, the spear, the javelin, the bow, and the sling. ( a ) The spear claims precedence as an older weapon than the sword. The normal Hebrew form, the chanith , had a stout wooden shaft with a flint, bronze, or iron ( 1 Samuel 13:19 ) head, according to the period. Like the spear of the modern Bedouin sheikh, it figures as a symbol of leadership in the case of Saul ( 1 Samuel 22:6; 1 Samuel 26:7; cf. 1 Samuel 18:10 ff. RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). The rômach appears to have been a lighter form of spear, a lance , and to have largely supplanted the heavier spear or pike in later times ( Nehemiah 4:13; Nehemiah 4:16 , Joel 3:10 ). Both are rendered ‘spear’ in EV [Note: English Version.] . ( b ) The kîdôn was shorter and lighter than either of the above, and was used as a missile, and may be rendered javelin ( Joshua 8:18; Joshua 8:26 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , Job 41:29 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘the rushing of the javelin’) or dart . The latter term is used as the rendering of several missile weapons, of which the precise nature is uncertain.

( c ) The sword had a comparatively short, straight blade of iron ( 1 Samuel 13:21 , Isaiah 2:4 ), and was occasionally two-edged ( Psalms 149:6 , Hebrews 4:12 ). Ehud’s weapon, only 18 inches long, was rather a dagger ( Judges 3:16 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] , RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘sword’). The sword was worn on the left side in a leather or metal sheath ( 1 Samuel 17:51 ), attached to a waist-belt or girdle ( 1Sa 17:51; 1 Samuel 25:13 , 2 Samuel 20:8 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). It occurs frequently in symbol and metaphor in both OT and NT. It is appropriately the symbol of war, as the plough-share is of peace ( Isaiah 2:4 , Micah 4:3 , Joel 3:10 ). In NT the word of God is described as a two-edged sword ( Hebrews 4:12 ), and by St. Paul as the ‘sword of the Spirit’ ( Ephesians 6:17 ).

( d ) The bow is common to civil ( Genesis 21:20 ) and military life, and vies in antiquity with the spear. It was made of tough, elastic wood, sometimes mounted with bronze ( Psalms 18:34 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , Job 20:24 ). Horn also was used for bows in ancient times, and those with the double curve seem to have been modelled on the horns of oxen. The bowstring was usually of ox-gut, the arrows of reed or light wood tipped with flint, bronze, or iron. The battle bows ( Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 10:4 ), at least, must have been of considerable size the Egyptian bow measured about 5 ft. since they were strung by pressing the foot on the lower end, while the upper end was bent down to receive the string into a notch. Hence the Heb. expressions ‘to tread (= string) the bow,’ and ‘bow-treaders’ for archers ( Jeremiah 50:14; Jeremiah 50:29 ). The arrows, ‘the sons of the quiver’ ( Lamentations 3:13 , RV [Note: Revised Version.] shafts ), were carried in the quiver, which was either placed on the back or slung on the left side by a belt over the right shoulder.

( e ) The sling was the shepherd’s defence against wild beasts ( 1 Samuel 17:40 ), as well as a military weapon ( 2 Kings 3:25 and often). The Hebrew sling, like those of the Egyptians and Assyrians, doubtless consisted of a long narrow strip of leather, widening in the middle to receive the stone, and tapering to both ends. At one end was a loop by which the sling was held as the slinger swung it round his head, while the other end was released as the stone was thrown. The Benjamites were specially noted for the accuracy of their aim ( Judges 20:16 ).

( f ) The battle axe ( Jeremiah 51:20 , RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] maul; cf. Proverbs 25:18 ), lit. ‘shatterer’ (no doubt identical with the ‘weapon of his shattering,’ Ezekiel 9:2 [RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘battle axe’]), was probably, as the etymology suggests, a club or mace of hard wood, studded with iron spikes, such as was carried by the Assyrians in the army of Xerxes (Herod. vii. 63). See Rich, Dict. of Ant., s.v . ‘Clava.’

2 . Defensive arms . ( a ) First among the arms of defence must be placed the shield , of which two main varieties are common to all periods, the small shield or buckler ( mâgçn ), and the large shield ( zinnah ), the target of 1 Kings 10:16 ff. The distinction between these is rarely preserved in our EV [Note: English Version.] ( e.g. Jeremiah 47:3 in Psalms 35:2 , Ezekiel 23:24 they are reversed), but the relative sizes of the two kinds may be seen in the passage of 1Kings just cited, where the targets or large shields each required four times as much gold as the smaller buckler. These, however, were only for state processions and the like ( 1 Kings 14:28 , but cf. 1Ma 6:39 ). The mâgçn was the ordinary light round shield of the ancient world, the Roman clypeus; the zinnah was the scutum or large oblong shield which more effectively protected its bearer against the risks of battle. The normal type of both was most probably made of layers of leather stretched on a frame of wood or wickerwork, since ‘both the shields and the bucklers’ might be burned ( Ezekiel 39:9 ). The shield, as a figure of God’s protecting care, is a favourite with the religious poets of Israel (Psalms, passim ). St. Paul also in his great military allegory introduces the large Græco-Roman shield ( Ephesians 6:16 ).

( b ) Of the shapes of the Hebrew helmets we have no information. Kings and other notables wore helmets of bronze ( 1 Samuel 17:5; 1 Samuel 17:38 ), but those prepared by Uzziah for ‘all the host’ ( 2 Chronicles 26:14 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) were more probably of leather, such as the monuments show to have been worn by the rank and file of other armies until supplanted in the Greek age by bronze, for the élite of the infantry at least ( 1Ma 6:35 ).

( c ) The same difference of material bronze for the leaders, leather for the common soldier holds good for the cuirass or coat of mail ( 1 Samuel 17:5; 1 Samuel 17:38 ). The latter term takes the place in RV [Note: Revised Version.] of the antiquated habergeon ( 2 Chronicles 26:14 , Nehemiah 4:16 ), and brigandine ( Jeremiah 46:4; Jeremiah 51:3 ). The cuirass, which protected both back and front, is also intended by the breastplate of Isaiah 59:17 (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘coat of mail’), Malachi 3:3 Malachi 3:3 , 1 Thessalonians 5:8 , Ephesians 6:14 . Goliath’s coat of mail was composed of scales of bronze, and probably resembled the Egyptian style of cuirass described and illustrated by Wilkinson ( Anc. Egyp . [1878] i. 219 ff.). This detail is not given for Saul’s cuirass ( 1 Samuel 17:38 ). Ahab’s ‘ harness ’ consisted of a cuirass which ended in ‘tassels’ or flaps, the ‘lower armour’ of 1 Kings 22:34 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] . The Syrian war-elephants were protected by breastplates ( 1Ma 6:43 ), and probably also the horses of the Egyptian cavalry ( Jeremiah 46:4 ).

( d ) Greaves of hronze to protect the legs are mentioned only in connexion with Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17:6 ). The military boot is perhaps referred to in Isaiah 9:5 (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ).

The armourbearer is met with as early as the time of Abimelech ( Judges 9:54 ), and later in connexion with Jonathan, Saul, and Goliath, and with Joab, who had several ( 2 Samuel 18:15 ). This office was held by a young man, like the squire of mediæval knighthood, who carried the shield ( 1 Samuel 17:7 ), cuirass, the reserve of darts ( 2 Samuel 18:14 ), and other weapons of his chief, and gave the coup de grace to those whom the latter had struck down ( 1 Samuel 14:13 ).

An armoury for the storage of material of war is mentioned by Nehemiah ( Nehemiah 3:19 ), but that this was built by David can scarcely be inferred from the difficult text of Song of Solomon 4:4 . Solomon’s armoury was ‘the house of the forest of Lebanon’ ( 1 Kings 10:17 , Isaiah 22:8 ). The Temple also seems to have been used for this purpose ( 2 Kings 11:10 ). See further the articles Army, Fortification and Siegecraft, War.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Armour, Arms'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​a/armour-arms.html. 1909.
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