Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

סוּס ,sias, ἵππος, of frequent occurrence; other less usual or proper terms and epithets are סוּסָהּ, susah', a mnare, rendered "company of horses," i.e. cavalry, Song of Solomon 1, 9; פָּרָשׁ, parash', A horse for riding, "horseman," of frequent occurrence; רֶכֶב or רָכִב, re'keb or Raakab,' a beast of burden, also a chariot, charioteer, or chariot-horse, especially a team, variously rendered, and of frequent occurrence; אִבַּיר, abbir', "strong," as an epithet of the horse, only in Jeremiah, as Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 47:3; Jeremiah 1, 11; רֶכֶּשׁ, re'kesh, a horse of a nobler breed, a courser, rendered "dromedary" in 1 Kings 4:8; "mule," Esther 8:10; Esther 8:14; "swift beast," Micah 1:13; רִמָּךְ, ramm-ak', a mare, rendered "dromedary," Esther 8:10. The origin of the first two of these terms is not satisfactorily made out; Pott (E'tym. Forsch. 1, 60) connects them respectively with Susa and Pares, or Persia, as the countries whence the horse was derived; and it is worthy of remark that sus was also employed in Egypt for a marme, showing that it was a foreign term there, if not also in Palestine. There is a marked distinction between the sus and the parash; the former were horses for driving in the war-chariot, of a heavy build, the latter were for riding, and particularly for cavalry. This distinction is not observed in the A.V. from the circumstance that parash also signifies horseman; the correct sense is essential in the following passages 1 Kings 4:26, "forty- thousand chariot-horses and twelve thousand cavalry-horses;" Ezekiel 27:14, "driving-horses and riding-horses;" Joel 2:4, "as riding-horses, so shall they run;" and Isaiah 21:7, "a train of horses in couples."

The most striking feature in the Biblical notices of the horse is the exclusive application of it to warlike operations; in no instance is that useful animal employed for the purposes of ordinary locomotion or agriculture, if we except Isaiah 28:28, where we learn that horses (A.V. "horsemen") were employed in threshing, not, however, in that case put in the gears, but simply driven about wildly over the strewed grain. This remark will be found to be borne out by the historical passages hereafter quoted, but it is equally striking in the poetical parts of Scripture. The animated description of the horse in Job 39:19-25, applies solely to the war-horse; the mane streaming in the breeze (A.V. "thunder") which "clothes his neck;" his lofty bounds as a grasshopper;" his hoofs "digging in the valley" with excitement; his terrible snorting are brought before us, and his ardor for the strife. The following is a close rendering of this fine description of the war-horse: Canst thou give to the horse prowess?

Canst thou clothe his neck [with] a shuddering [mane]? Canst thou make him prance like the locust? The grandeur of his snorting [is] formidable. They will [eagerly] paw in the valley, And [each] rejoice in vigor; He will go forth to meet [the] weapon: He will laugh at dread, Nor will he cower, Nor' retreat from before [the] sword: Against him may rattle quiver, Flaming lance or dart [in vain]. With prancing and restlessness he will absorb [the earth [by fleetness]; Nor can he stand still when the sound of the trumpet [is heard]: As oft [as the] trumpet [sounds], he will say, "Aha!" For from afar he can scent [the battle], The thunder of the captains and shouting.

So, again, the bride advances with her charms to an immediate conquest "as a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots" (Song of Solomon 1:9); and when the prophet Zechariah wishes to convey the idea of perfect peace, he represents the horse, no more mixing in the fray as before (Song of Solomon 9:10), but bearing on his bell (which was intended to strike terror into the foe) the peaceable inscription, "Holiness unto the Lord" (Song of Solomon 14:20). Lastly, the characteristic of the horse is not so much his speed or his utility, but his strength (Psalms 33:17; Psalms 147:10), as shown in the special application of the term abbir (אִבַּיר ), i.e. strong, as an equivalent for a horse (Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 47:3; Jeremiah 1, 11). Hence the horse becomes the symbol of war, or of a campaign (Zechariah 10:3; comp. Psalms 45:5; Deuteronomy 32:13; Psalms 56:12; Isaiah 58:14, where horsemanship is made typical of conquest), especially of speedy conquest (Jeremiah 4:13), or rapid execution of any purpose (Revelation 6).

The Hebrews in the patriarchal age, as a pastoral race, did not stand in need of the services of the horse, and for a long period after their settlement in Canaan they dispensed with it, partly in consequence of the hilly nature of the country, which only admitted of the use of chariots in certain localities (Judges 1:19), and partly in consequence of the prohibition in Deuteronomy 17:16, which would be held to apply at all periods. Accordingly they hamstrung the horses of the Canaanites (Joshua 11:6; Joshua 11:9). David first established a force of cavalry and chariots after the defeat of Hadadezer (2 Samuel 8:4), when he reserved a hundred chariots, and, as we may infer, all the horses; for the rendering "houghed all the chariot-horses" is manifestly incorrect. Shortly after this Absalom was possessed of some (2 Samuel 15:1). But the great supply of horses was subsequently effected by Solomon through his connection with Egypt; he is reported to have had "40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 cavalry-horses" (1 Kings 4:26), and it is worthy of notice that these forces are mentioned parenthetically to account for the great security of life and property noticed in the preceding verse.

There is probably an error in the former of these numbers; for the number of chariots is given in 1 Kings 10:26; 2 Chronicles 1:14, as 1400, and consequently, if we allow three horses for each chariot, two in use and one as a reserve, as was usual in some countries (Xenoph. Cyrop. 6, 1, § 27), the number required would be 4200, or, in round numbers, 4000, which is probably the correct reading. Solomon also established a very active trade in horses, which were brought by dealers out of Egypt, and resold at a profit to the Hittites, who lived between Palestine and the Euphrates. The passage in which this commerce is described (1 Kings 10:28-29) is unfortunately obscure; the tenor of 1 Kings 10:28 seems to be that there was a regularly established traffic, the Egyptians bringing the horses to a mart in the south of Palestine, and handing them over to the Hebrew dealers at a fixed tariff. The price of a horse was fixed at 150 shekels of silver, and that of a chariot at 600; in the latter we must include the horses (for an Egyptian war-chariot was of no great value), and conceive, as before, that three horses accompanied each chariot, leaving the value of the chariot itself at 150 shekels. In addition to this source of supply, Solomon received horses by way of tribute (1 Kings 10:25). He bought chariots and teams of horses in Egypt (1 Kings 10:28), and probably in Armenia, "in all lands" and had them brought into his dominions in strings, in the same manner as horses are still conducted to and from fairs for this interpretation, as offered by professor Paxton, appears to convey the natural and true meaning of the text; and not "strings of linen yam," which here seem to be out of place (2 Chronicles 1:16-17; 2 Chronicles 9:25; 2 Chronicles 9:28). The cavalry force was maintained by the succeeding kings, and frequent notices occur both of riding-horses and chariots (2 Kings 9:21; 2 Kings 9:33; 2 Kings 11:16), and particularly of war-chariots (1 Kings 22:4; 2 Kings 3:7; Isaiah 2:7). The force seems to have failed in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:23) in Judah, as it had previously in Israel under Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:7). Josiah took away the horses, which the kings of Judah, his predecessors, had consecrated to the sun (2 Kings 23:11). (See SUN). The number of horses belonging to the Jews on their return, from Babylon is stated at 736 (Nehemiah 7:68).


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Horse'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature.​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​h/horse.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.