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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(λόγχη, John 19:4; 2 Maccabees 15:11; γαισός, Judith 9:7; δόρυ, Judith 11:2; Ecclesiastes 29:13), the next most effective piece of offensive armor to the sword, being designed for fighting at a short distance. Of this weapon among the Hebrews we meet with several kinds, each of which appears to have its distinctive name. (See ARMS).

1. The chanith (חֲנַית ), a "spear" by eminence, and that of the largest kind, as appears from various circumstances attending its mention; It was the weapon of Goliath its staff like a weaver's beam, the iron head alone weighing 600 shekels, about twenty-five pounds (1 Samuel 17:7; 1 Samuel 17:45; 2 Samuel 21:19; 1 Chronicles 20:5), and also of other giants (2 Samuel 23:21; 1 Chronicles 11:23) and mighty warriors (2 Samuel 2:23; 2 Samuel 23:18; 1 Chronicles 11:11; 1 Chronicles 11:20). The chanith was the habitual companion of king Saul a fit weapon for one of his gigantic stature planted at the head of his sleeping place when on an expedition (1 Samuel 25:7-8; 1 Samuel 11, 12, 16, 22), or held in his hand when mustering his forces (22:6); and on it the dying king is leaning when we catch our last glimpse of his stately figure on the field of Gilboa (2 Samuel 1:6). His fits of anger or madness become even more terrible to us when we find that it was this heavy weapon, and not the lighter "javelin" (as the A.V. renders it), that he cast at David (1 Samuel 18:10-11; 1 Samuel 19:9-10) and at Jonathan (20:3). A striking idea of the weight and force of this ponderous arm may be gained from the fact that a mere back thrust from the hand of Abner was enough to drive its butt end through the body of Asahel (2 Samuel 2:23). The chanith is mentioned also in 1 Samuel 13:19; 1 Samuel 13:22; 1 Samuel 21:8; 2 Kings 11:10; 1 Chronicles 23:9, and in numerous passages of poetry.

2. Apparently lighter than the preceding, and in more than one passage distinguished from it, was the kidon (כַּידוֹן ), to which the word "javelin" perhaps best answers (Ewald, Wurfspiess). It would be the appropriate weapon for such maneuvering as that described in Joshua 8:14-27, and could with ease be held outstretched for a considerable time (Joshua 8:18; Joshua 8:26; A.V. "spear"). When not in action the kidon was carried on the back of the warrior, between the shoulders (1 Samuel 17:6, "target," and in the margin "gorget"). Both in this passage and in 1 Samuel 17:45 of the same chapter the kidon is distinguished from the chanith. In Job 39:23 ("spear") the allusion seems to be to the quivering of a javelin when poised before hurling it.

3. Another kind of spear was the romach (רֹמִח ). In the historical books it occurs in Numbers 25:7 ("javelin") and in 1 Kings 18:28 (lancets;" ed. 1611, "lancers"); also frequently in the later books, especially in the often recurring formula for arms, "shield and spear" 1 Chronicles 12:8 ("buckler"), 24 ("spear"); 2 Chronicles 11:12; 2 Chronicles 14:8; 2 Chronicles 25:5; and Nehemiah 4:13; Nehemiah 4:16-21; Ezekiel 39:9, etc.

4. A lighter missile, or "dart," was probably the shelach (שֶׁלִח ). Its root signifies to project or send out, but unfortunately there is nothing beyond the derivation to guide us to any knowledge of its nature: see 2 Chronicles 23:10; 2 Chronicles 32:5 ("darts"); Nehemiah 4:17; Nehemiah 4:23 (see margin); Job 33:18; Job 36:12; Joel 2:8.

5. The word shebet (שֶׁבֶט ), the ordinary meaning of which is a rod or staff, with the derived force of a baton or scepter, is used once only with a military signification, for the "darts" with which Joab dispatched Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14).

Other Hebrew words occasionally rendered "spear" are קִיַן, kayin, the shaft, or perhaps head, of a lance (2 Samuel 21:16); and צְלָצִל, tselatsal, a harpoon (Job 41:7 [Hebrews 40:31]).

In general terms the spear may be described as a wooden staff surmounted with a head of metal, double edged and pointed, and carried by the heavy armed infantry. Great care was usually taken in polishing the handle; and its entire length was under six feet (Jeremiah 46:4; John 19:34). Warriors of gigantic strength seem to have prided themselves on the length and weight of their spears. The "staff of Goliath's spear was like a weaver's beam, and its head weighed six hundred shekels of iron" (1 Samuel 17:7). The butt end of the spear was usually shod with a metal point, for the convenience of sticking it in the earth (2 Samuel 2:22-23).

Among the ancient Egyptians the spear, or pike, was of wood, between five and six feet in length, with a metal head, into which the shaft was inserted and fixed with nails. The head was of bronze or iron, often very large, and with a double edge; but the spear does not appear to have been furnished with a metal point at the other extremity, called σαυρωτήρ by Homer (Il. 20, 151), which is still adopted in Turkish, modern Egyptian, and other spears, in order to plant them upright in the ground, as the spear of Saul was fixed near his head while he "lay sleeping within the trench" (comp. Virg. En. 12, 130). Spears of this kind may sometimes come under the denomination of javelins, the metal being intended as well for a counterpoise in their flight as for the purpose above mentioned; but such an addition to those of the heavy armed infantry was neither requisite nor convenient. The javelin, lighter and shorter than the spear, was also of wood, and similarly armed with a strong two-edged metal head, of an elongated diamond or leaf shape, either flat or increasing in thickness at the center, and sometimes tapering to a very long point; and the upper extremity of its shaft terminated in a bronze knob, surmounted by a ball with two thongs or, tassels, intended both as an ornament and a counterpoise to the weight of its point. It was used like a spear, for thrusting, being held with one or with two hands, and occasionally, when the adversary was within reach, it was darted, and still retained in the warrior's grasp, the shaft being allowed to pass through his hand till stopped by the blow, or by the fingers suddenly closing on the band of metal at the end; a custom still common among the modern Nubians and Ababdeh. They had another javelin, apparently of wood, tapering to a sharp point, without the usual metal head; and a still lighter kind, armed with a small bronze point, which was frequently four-sided, three-bladed, or broad and nearly flat; and, from the upper end of the shaft being destitute of any metal counterpoise, it resembled a dart now used by the people of Darfur and other African tribes, who, without any scientific knowledge of projectiles and of the curve of a parabola, dexterously strike their enemy with its falling point. Another inferior kind of javelin was made of reed, with a metal head; but this can scarcely be considered a military weapon, nor would it hold a high rank among those employed by the Egyptian chasseur, most of which were of excellent workmanship (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1, 355 sq.). The Egyptian spearmen were regularly drilled and taught to march with steps measured by sound of trumpet. (See following page.) The prophet Jeremiah (ch. 41) intimates that the Libyans and Ethiopians formed the strength of the Egyptian heavy-armed infantry; but the spearmen represented in the accompanying engraving belong to a native corps.

The Assyrian monuments likewise exhibit specimens of heavy armed soldiers equipped with shield and spear. (See SPEARMAN).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Spear'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Spear, Elijah