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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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סוס . Horses were very rare among the Hebrews in the early ages. The patriarchs had none; and after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, God expressly forbade their ruler to procure them: "He shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way," Deuteronomy 17:16 . As horses appear to have been generally furnished by Egypt, God prohibits these,

1. Lest there should be such commerce with Egypt as might lead to idolatry.

2. Lest the people might depend on a well appointed cavalry, as a means of security, and so cease from trusting in the promised aid and protection of Jehovah.

3. That they might not be tempted to extend their dominion by means of cavalry, and so get scattered among the surrounding idolatrous nations, and thus cease in process of time, to be that distinct and separate people which God intended they should be, and without which the prophecies relative to the Messiah could not be known to have their due and full accomplishment. In the time of the Judges we find horses and war chariots among the Canaanites, but still the Israelites had none; and hence they were generally too timid to venture down into the plains, confining their conquests to the mountainous parts of the country. In the reign of Saul, it would appear, that horse breeding had not yet been introduced into Arabia; for, in a war with some of the Arabian nations, the Israelites got plunder in camels, sheep, and asses, but no horses. David's enemies brought against him a strong force of cavalry into the field; and in the book of Psalms the horse commonly appears only on the side of the enemies of the people of God; and so entirely unaccustomed to the management of this animal had the Israelites still continued, that, after a battle, in which they took a considerable body of cavalry prisoners, 2 Samuel 8:4 , David caused most of the horses to be cut down, because he did not know what use to make of them. Solomon was the first who established a cavalry force.

Under these circumstances, it is not wonderful that the Mosaic law should take no notice of an animal which we hold in such high estimation. To Moses, educated as he was in Egypt, and, with his people, at last chased out by Pharaoh's cavalry, the use of the horse for war and for travelling was well known; but as it was his object to establish a nation of husbandmen, and not of soldiers for the conquest of foreign lands, and as Palestine, from its situation, required not the defence of cavalry, he might very well decline introducing among his people the yet unusual art of horse breeding. Solomon, having married a daughter of Pharaoh, procured a breed of horses from Egypt; and so greatly did he multiply them, that he had four hundred stables, forty thousand stalls, and twelve thousand horsemen, 1 Kings 4:26; 2 Chronicles 9:25 . It seems that the Egyptian horses were in high repute, and were much used in war. When the Israelites were disposed to place too implicit confidence in the assistance of cavalry, the prophet remonstrated in these terms: "The Egyptians are men, and not God, and their horses are flesh, not spirit,"

Isaiah 31:3 .

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Horse'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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