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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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In the NT, as in the OT, the horse is always the war-horse, never the gentle, domesticated creature beloved by the modern Arab. Asses, mules, and camels were the beasts used by the Jews in common life, both for riding and burden-bearing.

(1) When Christian art depicts the conversion of St. Paul, it usually represents him as falling from an affrighted horse to the earth. The narrative in Acts does not state that he was riding at all, but it seems probable that as the emissary of the High Priest, engaged on important and urgent business (Acts 9:1 f.), he would not make a journey of 150 miles on foot. His task and his spirit were warlike-he was breathing threatening and slaughter-and he may have taken a small troop of horsemen with him. Strict Pharisees, however, never rode on horseback, and it is at least as likely that he and his companions were mounted on asses or mules.

(2) When St. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, and had to be taken beyond the reach of conspirators, he was escorted to Caesarea by a company of 70 horsemen (Acts 23:23; Acts 23:32). These cavalry, which had been temporarily assisting the Roman garrison in Judaea , had their headquarters at Caesarea. Josephus makes repeated reference to an ala of Sebastian and Caesarean horsemen that was attached to the auxiliary cohorts (see Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] i. ii. [1890] 52). The single cohort which was stationed in Jerusalem all the year round was apparently re-inforced at the time of the Passover by cavalry and infantry from Caesarea.

(3) St. James (James 3:2 f.) uses the bridling of the horse, whose ‘whole body’ is thereby turned at the rider’s pleasure, to illustrate the complete self-control which a man achieves by merely bridling his lips. It is generally true that if the tongue does not utter the angry word, the hand does not grasp the sword, the feet do not run to evil and make haste to shed blood.

(4) The horse is conspicuous in the symbolism of the Apocalypse (15 references). Like the fiery steed in Job (Job 39:19-25), he goes forth to meet the armed men, and smells the battle from afar. Whether he belongs to the Church militant, or to some worldly power, or to the under world, he is always the war-horse-always ‘prepared unto battle’ or ‘running to battle’ (Revelation 9:7; Revelation 9:9). He is familiar with ‘the sounds of chariots’ (Revelation 9:9). When he appears, we expect to see the rider’s drawn sword (Revelation 19:21); we are not surprised at the sight of blood; and in one gruesome scene the deep pools of gore come up to the horses’ bridles (Revelation 14:20). A white horse represents victory, a red horse carnage, a black horse famine, and a pale horse death (Revelation 6:2-8). One victorious trooper carries a bow (Revelation 6:2); he is the light-armed Parthian, whose shafts were so dreaded by the Romans-‘fidentemque fuga Parthum versisque sagittis’ (Virg. Georg. iii. 31). A host of fiendish mounted horses, 200,000,000 strong, armed with breastplates of red, blue, and yellow (of fire and hyacinth and brimstone, Revelation 9:17), are more like the steeds of those heavy-armed Parthians who appeared at Carrhae ‘with their helmets and breastplates flashing with flame … and the horses equipped with mail of brass and iron’ (Plut. Crassus, 24). But these fiend-horses are monsters, which have the heads of lions, and breathe fire and smoke and brimstone (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 11:18; Virg. aen. vii. 281). Against the armies of earth and Hades Christ comes forth from the opened heavens sitting on a white horse, and all His followers ride on white horses and are clad in white uniform (Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:14). The combined forces of evil make war in vain against this Rider and His horsemen (Revelation 19:19), who are, in the phrase of a later time, Knights of the Holy Ghost.

James Strahan.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Horse'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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